May 13 was the first commencement ceremony I attended as a faculty member. It was so different from the feeling of walking into that arena as a graduate, and in many ways, it was so much better.
I looked around at all the proud families, and I had a sort of meeting of the minds with a granny on the front row near my seat. I hope I run into that beautiful lady somewhere around town in the future. The rest of her family was occasionally excited, but often seemed bored and tired. She, however, never lost her enthusiasm. She was electrified by it and she became the universal embodiment of a Granny for me. She jumped up and cheered when her grandgirl crossed the stage, and I applauded then, too. :) I admit I thought of my own grandmothers and how they would have been proud of me* in a similar fashion.
I also looked around and reveled in a room full of people who were gathered for a purely joyous occasion. There was no mention of politics or sports. The day was simply a celebration, entirely sweet, and as short as they were able to muster.
Some people spend a lot of time and energy slagging off university education**, but the truth is that it's a necessary system in a modern society. Despite my own frustrations with aspects of university, people DO need to go through a series of tests and trials to prove fitness for work, particularly in professional fields of a highly specialized nature, especially medicine.
Many people don't understand how singular the American university system is. In other nations at college level, once a student has declared a major, their training becomes exclusively relative to that field, be it law, engineering, medical, etc. However, the American system is a more broad degree, and in other countries, at least until recently AFAIK, American degrees have an added value aspect of being generalist in nature. Prospects for a job who have degrees from American institutions have received education on state, federal, and international government, economics, history, literature, writing, maths and sciences, depending on the degree track of the individual. This should, ideally, produce a more well-rounded individual who can synthesize meaning across a wide variety of data.
A college degree doesn't make a person intelligent. I know many people with degrees who are book-smart and profoundly unwise. My parents didn't go to college, and they are two of the most brilliant people I've ever met, in addition to being incredibly wise. And they made a wonderful life for our family, and provided a beautiful and safe home for us. Frankly, I'd take wisdom over book-smart any day of the week. I pray that unwise people figure it out before it's all over, but wisdom is something earned, and often hard-won. It doesn't arrive on any kind of schedule, and sometimes it never comes for some people.
By no means do I believe that all people to should go to college. There's more than one way to have a great life, and a person can have a glorious and prosperous life without stepping foot onto a college campus. However, I think if a person desires the education, or if they need it for a particular career or certification, it can be the making of the person.
I'm not going to take a poll, but I hope most professors feel as I do about the privilege of teaching at a university. The commencement ceremony is a tiny thing, but it is profound and wonderful. The 700-odd students who graduated that day represented hundreds of thousands of cumulative hours of study, labor, and anxious hope on the part of the students and their families. It's an incredible achievement for a family, and we live in a most precious and blessed moment that a mere common person like myself can aspire to a college education. It's a big deal. I am honored for my humble role in that journey for so many people. I pray I never become jaded about what an incredible thing that ceremony represents.
*My grandmothers were proud of all their grandkids, and I'm not the first to graduate from college. Also, if they had favorites, I was never aware of it, and I'm not suggesting that they would have valued any of their grand-ducklings as superior to the others. Or at least, if they had favorites, I don't want to know about it!
**On the matter of social engineering and professors who waste precious educational time using the classroom as their personal therapy session or to inculcate impressionable young people to the professor's social/political worldview, I believe there will be a day of accountability for all people, and for those who abuse the privilege of teaching children, there will be Hell to pay. I just do the best I can to prepare them for their own future university and professional careers, because I believe that is why they are paying me. People DO have valid reasons to criticize proselytizing in the classroom, but I pray that type of "teaching" is the exception, rather than the rule. Remember that such professors are merely helped along by the many young folk who have have been lovingly pre-lobotomized by Reddit, Tumblr, TikTok, and the like. It bears repeating: Hell to pay.