Our "unconventional wisdom" for college graduates has become all too conventional
The Wall Street Journal's most popular article at the moment is "10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You," by Charles Wheelan. And with reason. In general, it's an excellent warning against the pitfalls of hypercompetition. But it's also a reminder of how conventional unconventional wisdom has become.
Take point two, "Some of your worst days are ahead." Especially now, with high rates of young adult unemployment, that's hardly a new or shocking idea. Speakers have been preaching resilience for years, and with reason.
Likewise point point four, "Marry someone smarter than you are," used to be the de facto rule for women -- at least to help sustain the illusion that a husband was smarter. But since young women's earnings and educational attainments have been exceedng young men's for at least several years, looking for a spouse with better career prospects is also hardly a novel concept.
But the puzzling entry is number 7:
Your parents don't want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which isn't always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices. Theodore Roosevelt -- soldier, explorer, president -- once remarked, "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." Great quote, but I am willing to bet that Teddy's mother wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer.
I haven't found what Roosevelt's mother really wanted for her son, but Edmund Morris does note, in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, that his father was sympathetic to young Theodore's original plan to become a professional naturalist instead of joining the family plate-glass importing business. The strenuous, adventurous outdoor life was exactly what he, and probably his wife, wanted for their asthmatic boy.