This Is Water Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has taught high school history in several states with a master's degree in teaching.

These discussion questions will help shape a deep discussion of the commencement speech by author David Foster Wallace. These questions are meant for post-secondary students, as there is some adult language in the speech.

''This is Water'' Discussion Guide

David Foster Wallace, an American author and professor, gave the commencement address at Kenyon College in 2009. He begins by poking fun at the traditions of this type of speech but moves on to give meaningful observations and advice on the purpose of education and how to serve the world as working adults. In this resource, you will find a series of discussion questions about topics Wallace covers. The questions are broken down into the value of education and the importance of remaining conscious. Use this guide to help your students think critically about what Wallace discusses.

Questions on the Value of Education

  • Near the beginning of the speech, David Foster Wallace states that the he disagrees with the fact that the value of education is to teach you how to think. Instead, he says that the true value is in making the choice of what to think about. Do you agree or disagree with this?
  • How can education help us to remove the lens that has us believing we are at the center of the universe? In what ways has your education helped you do this?
  • If what David Foster Wallace proclaims is true, the American public education system needs to change in order to help people think beyond themselves. Can you think of any curriculum or structure adjustments that would help make this change at the elementary, middle and high school level?
  • It is difficult to imagine someone who would disagree with the thinking that we should make ourselves less of the center of the universe. With this in mind, what specific steps can you take to make yourself as less of the center of the world? How will this change the way you go through your day-to-day activities?
  • If you could summarize the main points of this speech, what would you say? What wisdom from this would you pass along to a friend?

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