Harvard President Drew Faust: The Case for College – It Teaches Us to “Think Slow”!

Dear Commons Community,

Drew Faust, President of Harvard University, addressed a class of teens at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas, promoting the importance of staying in school and going to college. In addition to the financial rewards of a college degree, Faust mentioned the following reasons for going to college:

First, college will take you to places you’ve never been before. Some of you will choose a college or university in a different city, or state, or even country, and you will learn a lot from these new surroundings.

Second, college introduces you to people you’ve never met before. This is true both literally and figuratively. Even if you go to a school that is local and continue to live at home, your classes will be full of people you’ve never encountered, with views and experiences new to you.

Third, college helps you to discover dreams you’ve never dreamed before. College can offer you the satisfaction of hard, intellectual work—a paper or a project or an experiment—or play or a musical composition—that you are proud of.

Fourth and perhaps most important, college teaches us to “Think Slow.” No one denies the value of speed, connectivity, and the virtual world in an economy that thrives on all three. But college can also help you to slow down. And that, perhaps, is a lesson that you don’t hear taught all that often: Slow your processors down. College teaches you to sift through an enormous amount of daily information, to assess it, to use it critically. In other words, you learn to reject information as well as receive it. The ability to examine a piece of information skeptically, before deciding whether to accept it or not, is a vital skill in the workplace, and a vital skill in life. A dean at Harvard used to tell students that being able to detect when someone is talking rot was the main purpose of education.

“Information” is everywhere; but real “knowledge” and “understanding” are harder to achieve. That is what college will ask of you.

Faust concluded: “I have called this speech “the case for college” because I believe that college changes lives. It opens opportunities, …Perhaps even more important, it opens minds and worlds—in ways that stretch us—almost pull us—to become different people.”

Wonderful advice!


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