Y!: ‘You’re not special’ graduation speech sparks buzz

1 07 2012

I realize this is old news at this point, but I was on vacation when this “story” broke and didn’t want it to pass without commenting on it.

Frankly, I think the people who are outraged by this are completely missing the point, or are perhaps so completely out of touch with reality that they needed to hear the message more than anyone.

As educators, should we be teaching our students that they are special? Well, yes. We need to encourage them, let them know that they are capable of accomplishing great things, and that they are just as important, valued, and loved as anyone else.

But should we reinforce a sense of entitlement? Encourage an unrealistic mindset that they are somehow “owed” something, or that they shouldn’t have to compete in order to succeed? That they should be rewarded for their efforts regardless of their results and accomplishments? If we do that, we’re setting our kids up for major disappointment in the “real world.”

– dEV

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By Pueng Vongs | The Lookout – Fri, Jun 8, 2012

Social media was buzzing about a Boston-area high school teacher’s blunt commencement speech that told students they “are not special.”

Wellesley High English teacher David McCullough Jr. told graduates “You are not special. You are not exceptional,” quoting empirical evidence:

“Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians … 37,000 class presidents … 92,000 harmonizing altos … 340,000 swaggering jocks … 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs,” he said in the speech published in the Boston Herald.

He added: “Even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.”

McCullough makes a statement on parents who overdo it in a modern society focused on collecting achievements. “You’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped … feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.” But he adds in a video on Wellesley Channel TV YouTube page, “You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. … We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.”

McCullough’s address does push students to recognize real achievement: “The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life is an achievement,” and he encourages graduates “to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.”

(Full Story with Video)





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