Sunday, September 29, 2013

Words of Wisdom

from a recent NPR interview with Garrison Keillor. While I've occasionally tried giving similar advice to students insisting that their grade in my class will ruin their transcript/life, I don't think I'm nearly as persuasive.

An excerpt from the "Address to the Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Sanders Theatre, June 2008" 
O brave young achievers, you have now achieved the pinnacle
And forgive me if it sounds cynical
But as we gather to celebrate ya and hail ya
It is time for you to think about the benefits of failya.
Failure is essential, a form of mortality.
Without failure, we have a poor sense of reality. 

Story here. The transcript has the full poem in paragraph form, but the audio is a far better way to experience it.


  1. For over 70 years, psychologists at Harvard have been doing a longitudinal study, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s. They were hardly typical American youths---one was John F. Kennedy---but then, the homogeneity of their privileged backgrounds may in some ways helped in the inquiry, "What Makes Us Happy?" There was an article on it in the Atlantic in 2009, here:

    And of course, there was at least one exceptionally privileged case that had no real adversity until relatively late in life, and went all to pieces when it did hit.

    1. P.S. Whenever I get a student insisting that their grade in my class will ruin their life, I suggest they join the military, the way I did at 19. That stops them in their tracks, every time.