A Little Something About Our Education System

This was written as a speech to be deliered to the staff and students of an imaginary graduate business school on their convocation, by an alumnus. 

Thank you Director, for those kind words of welcome; had anyone told either of us, when you taught me all those years ago that one day you would say – or be forced to say – all these nice things about me, that too in public; I daresay I would have asked him to bugger off. So would you, but maybe a little more politely.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and lastly distinguished members of the faculty, please don’t let the platitudes fool you, I was and remain the foremost blot on the face of this institution –which is why I was hugely surprised and not a little shell shocked to have been ambushed by the invitation to be the keynote speaker at this convocation.

I do not propose to detain you for any longer than I have to. Not that long ago I sat in those very same chairs watching all sorts of posturing idiots pontificate from this pulpit and although suitably nauseated by the hypocrisy of this situation, I remember how it felt.

So, let me first begin with an apology for being the reason for your being dragged here. I have a theory that the “powers that be” in this place have their annual pay reduced if a student is found to be happy and contented with his life here. That’s why you don’t get proper holidays and the class timings are fixed with their comfort at the fore. If you believe that you are paying for a service, then surely it should be your convenience that’s the primary factor indecision making right? Obviously not.

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk to you about something that’s probably never addressed in a formal way in – what we call; for lack of a better word – our educational system. Happiness. When was the last time someone told you, or taught you to be happy? Just happy, no frills attached; no conditions. Nothing.

It’s not actually their fault. They are teaching the same hackneyed stuff that they were taught and this cycle can be traced back to time-immemorial. Please understand that almost none of what you learn in classrooms  here and elsewhere will ever be of any use to you. Ever.

On the contrary, what you will need is usually taught to you in the corridors and roof-tops of the hostels here. And that is how to deal with people, their prejudices and emotions. How to help someone, without expecting anything in return; what you learn there is what will enable you to network, conspire and wriggle your way to wherever you are destined to be.

But I digress. I was talking about happiness.You see, you are judged, and even you will ultimately judge yourself by the platitudes of others. That in turn depends on the number of shiny objects that adorn your living room. In order to buy those shiny objects you’ll have to sell your soul to the highest bidder and that’s why you have come here. To be bought and sold, by the dozen. I don’t blame you. I did it too. And not a day goes by that I don’t regret it.

All our lives we’ve run races. In school,college, universities and even in B-schools, we run against one another. At the end of the day, when we can’t run anymore, we realise that in the course of the race, we’ve done little else; and worse, lost those things that we were most proud of in ourselves.

We have nothing to show for our efforts.Sure, we may have the penthouse apartments and the large cars and the huge flat-screens; but do we have what we truly want? Do we have friends? Do we have contentment, or do we live with regret; like I do?

So, if happiness won’t come from being rich and having a large house and a German sports saloon; where does it come from? Simply put, it comes from within. It comes from wanting to be happy. It’s harder than it sounds, I assure you. Its not easy being content with little; being OK with someone else’s success. Society may call you unambitious. It probably will call you a lot worse.

But remember, they don’t teach you anything worthwhile in class. They don’t teach you how to love someone, how to tell someone you love them, how to tell someone you don’t love them, how to deal with losing, how to deal with dying, how to deal with a friend’s success, how to comfort someone, how to be awed by something, how to treasure something, how to laugh with someone, how to do something meaningful in life, how to express yourself, how to define your goals,how to make friends, how to stand up for something, how to believe; they teach you nothing of value.

They just tell you that you need to maximize shareholder value.

My parting words, my friends, is that don’t me; or a standardized version of what people believe you should be. Be happy. That’s all folks!!



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