Common Sense

As many of you know I read a lot of newspapers and such on-line to stay au currant as they say. I read several college newspapers to keep up with what the next generation is concentrating on and one of these newspapers is the Harvard Crimson which claims to be the oldest college newspaper in the U.S. I started reading he Crimson twelve years ago after lecturing a group of Harvard/MIT post doctoral students and while my daughter was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government.

Remember these are supposed to be some of, no not some, the brightest young minds in the U.S. with foreign students from all over the world adding to the brilliance of the 6,600 undergraduates that comprise the college. After twelve years of reading the Crimson, as well as the newspapers of other elite colleges, I have several take aways two of which are: #1, there is no way I would encourage any of my offspring to attend these colleges; #2, I am appalled at the lack of common sense, not just on the part of the students but the faculty as well. It’s as if they have no experience of the real world and they exist in this idealistic chrysalis from which they will emerge fully formed butterflies to be admired not for their colored wings but for the lofty levels of knowledge they will add to the common understanding of the world.

There seems to be a dearth of common sense and basic economic knowledge among these academic high performers. I could give you any number of examples but I’ll just use the latest. In the March 18 edition of the Crimson is an editorial by a Junior computer science student which talks about “The Myth of Taxpayer Money.” This young man believes because government prints money that it is capable of just printing enough to money to bring everyone out of poverty and provide incomes for anyone living in America. He doesn’t realize that capital is simply labor raised exponentially and that by laboring each of us seeks to increase our capital but to do so in an orderly society we must pay taxes to the group we charge with maintaining order in that society, namely the government. He also does not seem to grasp that which is common sense; the more people who do not labor within the society decrease the available resources for those who do.

I doubt the student has reached this conclusion on his own so should we not investigate his professors and fellow students. Has not someone tried to dispossess him of this completely intractable view of the world, labor and government? Obviously not or he would be singing the praise of those who do vice those who simply are.

From this and other examples I encourage those of you with children or grandchildren approaching college to consider that placing them in situations where they can experience the real world is much better than sending them to bastions of idealism where they will be taught things that will have to be unlearned upon contact with the “real world.” I discovered in almost fifty years of work that it isn’t from whence you get you education or training but what you do with it that separates out those to achieve from those who do not.
Attaining common sense and real world experience is much more important that attaining a degree from anywhere.

One thought

  1. When one of my daughters asked me once why I said that I hoped they would experience the agony of defeat and that they would never have all that they thought was owed to them, I answered “Because lack of having/getting what you want builds character, and that is what makes a really strong person.” Character cannot be bought, it can only be earned! May you be overflowing with character!

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