Writer Owen Marshall gave the address at the university of Otago’s graduation ceremony last weekend.
Among his wise words were these:
. . . if the university as a whole “ever loses that essential love of knowledge for its own sake, that scholastic enthusiasm and tolerance, then the spark will be gone”.
The university was then likely to be “a place of formal, empty pedantry, meal-ticket mentality, or a debased, bums-on-seats democracy”, . . .
. . . “Everyone seems to be an expert on education, and a good deal of vehement and often ignorant criticism is advanced, for always there are people who are eager to find fault in the performance of others, yet unwilling or incapable of taking responsibility themselves.
“Of course we need accountability, efficiency and a response to modern youth and modern society.
“We also need to preserve and commend those values that are at the heart of the best universities – scrupulous scholarship, academic enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, a fellowship of the heart and mind, and a desire to pass on knowledge.”
He emphasised the need for gratitude, which was “not much in fashion these days”.
“We hear much of rights, accountability, consumers, performance and delivery, all in a mechanistic way, but not much about gratitude, and not much about dedication.”
Graduates owed gratitude not only to family and friends but also to Otago University itself.
And he thanked Otago staff who had “persevered through the squalls of restructuring and the doldrums of educational policy, to maintain a vision of senior study that upholds opportunity based on talent, an openness to intellectual possibility, the value of reason and knowledge of life generally.” . . .