Reexamining the Obvious: “This is Water”

Below–well, after a blurb that I pulled from the speech–are embedded clips (there are two parts, about ten minutes each) to the commencement address that the late writer David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005.  Wallace considers the implications of suggesting that a liberal arts education teaches people “how to think”…  Give it a listen.

“So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think”. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about.”