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Teacher tells students: 'You're not special'

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Ah, high school graduation. Few days stand out as proud reminders of the hope and promise of youth than commencement day. It's usually a time for keynote speakers to instill supreme confidence and triumphant messages in the young minds of today, the leaders of tomorrow.

Sure, a little perspective is necessary, but the straight talk a teacher delivered Friday to the class of 2012 at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts is getting a lot of attention for its buzz-killing reality.

Wellesley English teacher David McCullough Jr. lauded the students for their individual accomplishments that brought them to graduation, pointing out that their gowns were exactly the same and that their diplomas are exactly the same.

“All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special,” he was quoted as saying in the Boston Herald.

Wait, what?

“You are not special. You are not exceptional,” he continued. “Contrary to what your U-9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh-grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.”

Think that's tough love? McCollough, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough Sr., tore into any sense of entitlement or privilege the kids had managed to hold on to up to that point.

“Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again,” he said.

Wow, talk about mood-killers. How about this dagger? “Think about this: 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.”

by on Jun. 8, 2012 at 9:07 PM
Replies (11-20):
offrdngal
by on Jun. 8, 2012 at 11:11 PM

 I thought it was a great speech....so very true!!!

Quoting silvercrow:

its the damn truth and its about time someone said it

 

dfollin
by Member on Jun. 9, 2012 at 7:12 AM
NOT! Every person is special in their own way! This person does not have a right to be a teacher!And the ruin there very speciaal day. :(
fullxbusymom
by Bronze Member on Jun. 9, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Good for him......It is the truth!!

GertieK
by Silver Member on Jun. 9, 2012 at 11:58 AM
1 mom liked this

Excellent speech...not sure about the timing though.  This problem is more than kids being a pain in the butt when raised to believe they are more special than others.  Raising kids to believe they are special no matter what has been the source of many problems since the "self-esteem movement" was launched in 1986 by a guy named John Vascoconcellos.  That was when California launched the "Self Esteem Task Force".  Sadly, there is no correlation between goodness and high self esteem.  After a lifetime of study of violent behavior by Florida professor Roy Baumeister, he has concluded that there is a correlation among violent criminals and high self esteem.  Kids with undeserved high self esteem are less likely to have good moral character.  In a survey of American high school students and seven other countries, American students came in last in their mathematical abilities, but first in their self esteem about their mathematical abilities.  This is not to imply that parents or teachers should never praise the kids.  However, the praise does need to reserved for stuff that has actually been earned.  Getting a trophy just for playing diminishes the honor of those who did win.  What does electing 6 valdictorians instead of one to make 5 others feel good about themselves say to  the one who busted their butt?  Why reward kids for acting in a way that any human should act?  Delegating someone as "special" for the everyday process of living and growing removes any incintive to excel.  We are all unique, but truth be known, we are not all special.    Self esteem needs to be acquired the way it was until about 25 years ago... it should be earned.

emelymac
by Member on Jun. 9, 2012 at 12:01 PM
1 mom liked this

 Well, it's the truth and most kids nowadays need to hear it before they head out into the real world.

Connie04
by Silver Member on Jun. 9, 2012 at 1:29 PM

It may not have been the proper place to say it, but it's very, very true.

SunnyJoJo
by on Jun. 9, 2012 at 2:13 PM

well.... it's totally true. I mean these people will go out into the adult world and it doesn't matter how special they thought they were in highschool.

sheramom4
by Member on Jun. 9, 2012 at 2:20 PM

It's called a reality check, something those kids probably needed and it was his last chance to say it. Because had he said it in class, he probably would have been fired. I love my children, but I don't praise them for every little thing. In fact when it comes to their activities I usually tell them both what they did well and what they need to improve on. They get a good dose of reality in our house. My DS (almost 17) was convinced a couple of years ago that because he played varsity football as a Freshman that he was going to one, get a full-ride football scholarship and two, play for the NFL. When it comes to football, he is good, but he isn't anything special, he's just not. We sat and we talked about it. He still plays, he still loves it, but he knows that there is no scholarship coming his way for a variety of reasons.

Yes my kids are special to me and my husband. But in reality, besides grandparents and other close family and friends, those are the only people they are special to. In the eyes of the world, they have yet to discover if they will be truly exceptional through their accomplishments and good works...

redress
by on Jun. 9, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Agreed!

Quoting silvercrow:

its the damn truth and its about time someone said it


redress
by on Jun. 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM

wow. brilliantly said. and so true.

(although, that said, i shall stand for no cali-bashing! :) californians are shiny, happy, progressive, forward-thinking, gentle, and did i say, happy, folk)

Quoting GertieK:

Excellent speech...not sure about the timing though.  This problem is more than kids being a pain in the butt when raised to believe they are more special than others.  Raising kids to believe they are special no matter what has been the source of many problems since the "self-esteem movement" was launched in 1986 by a guy named John Vascoconcellos.  That was when California launched the "Self Esteem Task Force".  Sadly, there is no correlation between goodness and high self esteem.  After a lifetime of study of violent behavior by Florida professor Roy Baumeister, he has concluded that there is a correlation among violent criminals and high self esteem.  Kids with undeserved high self esteem are less likely to have good moral character.  In a survey of American high school students and seven other countries, American students came in last in their mathematical abilities, but first in their self esteem about their mathematical abilities.  This is not to imply that parents or teachers should never praise the kids.  However, the praise does need to reserved for stuff that has actually been earned.  Getting a trophy just for playing diminishes the honor of those who did win.  What does electing 6 valdictorians instead of one to make 5 others feel good about themselves say to  the one who busted their butt?  Why reward kids for acting in a way that any human should act?  Delegating someone as "special" for the everyday process of living and growing removes any incintive to excel.  We are all unique, but truth be known, we are not all special.    Self esteem needs to be acquired the way it was until about 25 years ago... it should be earned.


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