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No Fake News and No Hype: Discovery University's Graduation Ceremony

April 17, 2018

In our times of Fake News and its little brother, Hype, it was inspiring to witness the honesty and straightforward decency of the recent graduation ceremony for the students of Discovery University.

Discovery University, a program run by the Ottawa Mission, brings in professors to teach various courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences to clients of the Mission.

Over the years I have been to several ceremonies for various universities and programs, but nothing quite matches what I witnessed the other day.

Graduation ceremonies typically have scripted speeches by directors, professors and University Presidents.  Discovery University does that as well.

But Discovery University adds a twist. 

At the end of the ceremony, students were invited to come up to the microphone and volunteer a few words.  Unscripted.

Imagine a student who tells you, very briefly, how not too long ago she was barely able to walk into a crowded room, look others in the eye, let alone speak to anyone.  That very same student is now standing in front of a crowded room, to her own astonishment, making a speech about her experiences with Discovery University.

In a similar light, imagine another student who tells you, at a graduation ceremony, that the course was not really about gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge or learning about something for the sake of a skill.  Rather, that very student stressed that the course was all about connecting with others, being able to become part of a community.  The knowledge acquired was great, but in the end it was only a bridge to others.

Those are the kinds of reflections that I heard.

In the allegory of the cave, Plato speaks of how we are all in a cave, much like a movie theatre, but we’re chained to our seats, constrained to face the wall as shadows flitter across it.  Our minds stew in these simulacra, cooking up false beliefs that we senselessly consume as truths.

Suddenly, one of us—the philosopher—breaks free, leaves the cave and encounters the real world.  Despite the great joy in witnessing knowledge, engaging with the real world, the philosopher then returns to share the story with the others as to how the world really is.

A beautiful story indeed, one that links learning and morality: to learn is to become responsible for sharing what you know.

But the Discovery University students present another way to read and think about Plato’s allegory.

It is not just that the philosopher that breaks free, leaves the cave and then returns with the gift of knowledge.

Rather, we all break free.

Through the encounter with knowledge, we all break away from our imprisoning and isolating theatre seats.  We break free from a fake community united solely through blindly watching a circus.  Through the Discovery University students, I have seen knowledge as a means by which we liberate ourselves, turn to each other and become members of a real community.

No Fake News.  No Hype.


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Susan Gray      April 19, 2018 at 19:20
Great post!