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William McGuinness
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Entries by William McGuinness

David Foster Wallace's Brilliant 'This Is Water' Commencement Address Is Now a Great Short Film

(33) Comments | Posted May 8, 2013 | 8:20 PM

Take a break from reading and watch this fantastic short film -- an adaptation of David Foster Wallace's major commencement speech delivered on May 21, 2005 at Kenyon College. Don't forget to come back, though, to learn why I keep forgetting about it.

THIS IS WATER - By David Foster Wallace from The Glossary on Vimeo.

As celebrities' commencement addresses become headlines, it's important to note that "This Is Water" is perhaps the greatest commencement speech of all time. In a genre dominated by easy maxims and encouraging one-liners speakers aim at graduates more likely to immediately forget a theme than to carry it with them into their futures, Wallace's endures. I could never forget this theme, so it's perhaps surprising that I don't lean on it more.

Wallace, an Amherst College graduate, does his alma mater proud in a speech that defends the purpose of a liberal arts education -- a popular topic these days in the age when the cost of a college education is scrutinized with greater fervency than its quality -- but no one has done it like Wallace at Kenyon. The speech warns that much of life is a routine filled with long lines, dead-eyed clerks, empty phrases and scores of minor annoyances that, in total, can either drive a person insane or simply turn him into sort of a dick. He argues that the ability to choose what to think and how to perceive, coupled with an allergy to the automatic responses to our daily annoyances, inform the sympathy and awareness that are the purpose of a quality education.

Wallace and I shared a professor of moral literature who first passed this speech to me to inspire a column I was to write, and eventually did, as a senior. (It lives still in Google.) I graduated in triumph -- and miraculously -- after a hellish semester that featured the worst grades I'd ever received, shaky job prospects and the sudden and unexpected death of my father at 46 years old. Since I was celebrating and reflecting on a difficult moment I should have learned from, I was eager to summarize, print out and hand in my college experience, and that semester packaged neatly with Wallace's lesson to keep it together. Having digested the speech's essence and having quoted it somewhat gracefully, like many do nowadays, I did just that.

The only thing that's capital "T" True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of real education, of how to be well-adjusted. You get to decide what has meaning and what doesn't. That is real freedom. That is being educated and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness.

Woah. I was conscious. I was changed -- sort of.

Now, I smile when the speech inevitably surfaces every commencement season. Because the key word in the above passage is "try" and because it takes continuous effort to reframe, contextualize and tolerate the destructive elements of routine, I only remember how good it is about once per year, like I remember how amazing those Reese's Easter Eggs are when April rolls around. My routine eventually overmatched Wallace's epiphany. Turns out, who he describes as an enlightened, fundamentally educated person needs to remind himself of this education millions of times in a week. I know this because I accused a cab driver of taking "the scenic route" last night, mostly because I liked the sound of the line and my "default reaction" is pretty dickish. Constantly trying is pretty damn trying.

I expected what fog remained around Wallace's message to gradually lift and further guide my life. In the space between now and then, though, it didn't. I was mixing metaphors. This is water not fog.

My point, I suppose, is simply that I'm glad the speech is now also a really amazing short film. I plan to watch it often. Kudos to, the company that possess the genius to produce the video, and in May to boot. It's on its way to greater Internet virility, which is a good thing. Tuck it away and watch it again and again after graduation, will...

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Wikipedia Wormholes: Avoid These Crazy, Possibly True Wikipedia Distractions (SLIDESHOW)

(10) Comments | Posted May 6, 2013 | 4:50 PM

It happens every day, but when finals roll around and cramming begins, falling victim to the siren song of a Wikipedia wormhole can eat up precious time students need to study facts, figures, equations and all that. Since HuffPost College really wants our readers to do well this week, we've...

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Orchard Gardens Principal Andrew Bott Fires Security, Hires Art Teachers, Revitalizes School

(162) Comments | Posted May 2, 2013 | 3:14 PM

Most would think that firing the security staff of a poorly performing, inner-city school is a dangerous idea. But at Orchard Gardens pilot school in Roxbury, Mass., eliminating security and replacing it with a corps of art teachers has sparked a dramatic turnaround, NBC News reports.

In 2003,...

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Oregon Teachers Fail Active Shooter Drill As Masked Men Shoot Blanks At Surprised Faculty

(198) Comments | Posted May 1, 2013 | 6:09 PM

Cammie DeCastro, principal of the Pine Eagle Charter School in Halfway, Ore., admits that the plan she had to protect her school from an armed gunman is in tatters after two masked men stormed in and appeared to open fire on a meeting room full of teachers last...

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Best Ivy League Schools: Payscale's Return On Investment Ranking

(19) Comments | Posted April 30, 2013 | 11:23 AM

As rising college tuition and fees push more United States consumers into record amounts of debt, it's helpful to know which colleges and universities offer graduates the greatest chance of receiving a positive return on their investment.

At Ivy League schools, the cost and prestige are typically higher....

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Announcing HuffPost Live College Week

(0) Comments | Posted April 23, 2013 | 10:52 AM

Before finals start and the semester ends, the nation's students will flood the site during HuffPost Live College Week -- a full plate of special programming that starts today and will spotlight the issues that matter most to students in colleges, community colleges and universities.

Each day,

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'Jews Are Evil' Assignment Results In Student Boycott

(2278) Comments | Posted April 12, 2013 | 1:43 PM

An Albany High School teacher raised eyebrows and a flurry of complaints when an assignment required students to write from the perspective of the Nazis, New York Magazine reports.

Students were tasked with writing an argument that Jews are evil.

"You must argue that Jews are...

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Staten Island Kindergartener Banned From School Over Vaccine That Could Endanger Baby Sister

(2108) Comments | Posted April 11, 2013 | 2:48 PM

FrankieElizabeth Staiti, a kindergartener in Staten Island, N.Y., is in educational limbo after school officials banned her from class because she hasn't received the vaccine against chickenpox, the Staten Island Advance reports.

Mom Elizabeth Wagner told the newspaper that the family's pediatrician refuses to administer the vaccine to...

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HuffPost Live College Week 2013: Join In

(1) Comments | Posted April 10, 2013 | 10:03 AM

Want to take over our new streaming network HuffPost Live? Now's your chance.

Starting April 23, we'll be holding HuffPost Live College Week.

During this week-long event, we want you to voice your opinions while we discuss a host of issues that affect the lives of America’s college students....

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Instagram Arrest: Canadian Student To Face Trial For Instagram Posts

(24) Comments | Posted April 8, 2013 | 5:25 PM

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Jennifer Pawluck is either a symbol of the millennial generation oppressed by its government or a firebrand inciting violence against police officers, one Instagram photo at a time.

Canadian authorities asserted last week that Pawluck's Instagram account was grounds to arrest the student activist, who...

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University of Houston Smear Campaign Publicizes Student Candidate's HIV Status

(1036) Comments | Posted April 5, 2013 | 1:23 PM

Kristopher Sharp, a social work major at the University of Houston-Downtown, hoped to be the student body's vice president before a nasty smear campaign drove him to consider transferring immediately instead, the Houston Press reports.

At least one person posted fliers around campus telling students that if they...

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Randi Weingarten, Teachers Union Head, Sounds Off On Atlanta Cheating Scandal

(924) Comments | Posted April 2, 2013 | 7:18 PM

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, blamed "test-crazed" education policies in sharp comments released Tuesday regarding a massive standardized-test cheating scandal in Atlanta.

A 65-count indictment, announced by prosecutors Friday, alleges that more than 35 educators were involved in a conspiracy to inflate students' test...

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William And Mary Law School Went On High Alert Over Class Exercise

(0) Comments | Posted April 2, 2013 | 2:44 PM

Administrators at William and Mary Law School put the institution on high alert Monday after a student informed them of a rumor about what might have been -- but wasn't -- a mass shooter's warning, reports.

The website published an email sent to students from Associate Dean...

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Tim McDaniel, Idaho Teacher, Explained 'Vagina' In Sex Ed Class, So He's Being Investigated

(4002) Comments | Posted March 28, 2013 | 1:34 PM

Parents in Dietrich, Idaho, say the word "vagina" has no place in a 10th grade science class, according to news website

A small group from Dietrich, population 332, complained to the Idaho State Department of Education, which launched an official investigation of science teacher...

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Student Debt Is Chief Concern Of College Applicants: Princeton Review Survey

(42) Comments | Posted March 26, 2013 | 4:18 PM

What weighs most on students and parents choosing among colleges? Is it premier faculty, a prestigious reputation or an engaged and exciting student body? According to respondents in the Princeton Review's "Hopes and Worries" survey, it's potential debt load.

Some 39 percent, the plurality, said they were most...

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Natalie Morales's 'The More You Know' Features Strange Elevator Tip

(12) Comments | Posted March 25, 2013 | 5:47 PM

NBC's "The More You Know" public service announcements may have won Emmy awards, but more often they're met with a yawn. So imagine my surprise when I found myself paying attention, never mind enthralled by the bizarre information coming from the box on my wall.

I had to rewind and...

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Grover Norquist: Put Cameras In Every Classroom (VIDEO)

(1409) Comments | Posted March 20, 2013 | 1:01 PM

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist wants a camera in every classroom in America, an idea that may raise an eyebrow at first but one that also might be a good point.

“I think that it makes sense to put a television camera in the back of every state college and university...

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KKK In Classroom: What Can Hatred Teach Kids?

(184) Comments | Posted March 19, 2013 | 6:30 PM

Popular knowledge suggests that hate is learned, like writing or reading. So who is the most effective teacher, and what happens when professors and teachers invite hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and the Westboro Baptist Church into the classroom?

The answer, of course, isn’t simple. An engrossing...

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ACLU Claims Sultana High School Administrators Bully LGBT Students

(242) Comments | Posted March 19, 2013 | 9:00 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California claims administrators at Sultana High School are bullying students in an 11-page letter that threatens legal action. [Read the full letter below.]

Melissa Goodman, senior staff attorney with the ACLU chapter, said in an emailed statement that school administrators...

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Tennessee Counseling Bill Would Let Student Psychologists Reject Gay Clients Without Punishment

(859) Comments | Posted March 13, 2013 | 3:21 PM

A bill proposed in Tennessee would let psychological counselors refuse to treat gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clients, prompting the Raw Story to run the headline: "Tennessee bill allows Christian counselors to reject suicidal LGBT students."

While arguably sensational, the headline is true. Tennessee's HB 1185 would prohibit...

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