Friday, May 31, 2013

To The Class of 2013

One more year and one more time that the Teaching Underground hasn't been invited to share a graduation message at one of the nation's elite educational institutions. But, our very own Mr. Lindsay will have the honor of reading the names of our high school graduates at this year's commencement exercises.

As in 2011 and 2012, I've once again attempted to write the graduation speech that won't be delivered to the class of 2013. Enjoy.

To the class of 2013. Remember privacy.

You live in a world where data rules. From “MoneyBall” to SOL tests, from Algorithms suggesting friends to music that you might enjoy.

Much of this is nice. Decision-making is difficult. By the time you’re my age, like me, you will be sick of the conversation that starts with, “what do you feel like for dinner tonight?”

Movie recommendations on Netflix, friend suggestions on social media, food suggestions from supermarkets based on your purchase history—this is empowering. You don’t have to waste so much time on meaningless decisions anymore. Now that brain power is freed up, liberated.

To do what?

I’ve heard the President doesn’t even pick out his clothes for the day because of the mental energy devoted to making choices.

I don’t have as many important decisions in the day as the President, so I’ll keep picking out my own clothes. For now.

And you probably should too.

Adults might hold the ideal that we just need to get out of the way and let you become who you’re meant to be. You might like that idea too. But when I get out of the way, something else will step right in to take my place.

Your generation probably deals with more influence from the outside world than any before you. Part of it is because they know so much about you it’s easy to manipulate your preferences and likes.

I’m not trying to be a Luddite, but I want you to know, if you’re not careful about outsourcing your decision-making, eventually you won’t even realize that someone else is in control of your life.

It’s only natural. You may have heard of choice paralysis. Sometimes when we have too many options, we don’t know what to do. I like having the supermarket push items in the weekly sales ad that fits my shopping profile. I don’t like it when marketers or political pollsters know the balance on my mortgage and what that predicts about my future behavior.

These will be the most important decisions about life that you will have to make in the coming years. How much of myself will I expose to the world and how much will I hold back.

And in the age of information, if you choose to expose, there’s no going back inside.

Good luck navigating the twenty-first century.

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