Sociologist Arnold Alamon (MSU-IT) shares a meaningful message to sociology graduates in his 7 April column in Sun Star CDO. Here’s an excerpt of the piece:
A Sociology commencement exercise is a tricky thing. How are you supposed to be inspired now at the moment of your graduation when your four years of Sociology training has taught you seemingly nothing but the exact opposite?
One can say that the enduring message of every Sociology course is to treat all phenomena with suspicion – that nothing is what it seems; that behind social events are the evil machinations of power; that for every personal opinion lurks the danger of subjectivism; that every conviction can be distilled according to the perspectives of our three holy saints — Weber, Durkheim, and our favorite, Marx and more, and each will be judged accordingly. So is it actually the case that what you take with you after four years is cynicism – the exact opposite of inspiration?
All of us your teachers, including me, who have nurtured each one of you for four years of your academic life will disagree and I don’t treat the word nurture very lightly because I have witnessed how your thesis advisers labored through your final requirement with such diligence and care. We do not labor in this sometimes thankless task of teaching, especially when you do not read your assignments or just go through the motions of surviving in this reputable University, just to teach you to be cynical. What I believe we are doing is to nurture within you a quality of mind, not for cynicism, but for something else. What is this something else?
You have been given the rare privilege of understanding yourselves and the society you are part of – from the inner murmurs of your solitude to the perpetual grinding of the cogs of history. Not all who receive a college education is given this sensitivity. You can, in a manner of speaking, see the forest for the trees. But you know the trees, the bark, their medicinal properties, how old and how young. But you also know the forest, its expanse, its role in the ecosystem and the whole natural universe. This quality of mind sets you apart.
Read the column here.