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Thread: Teacher under fire for graduation speech for telling grads "they're not all special"

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    Elite Member hustle4alivin's Avatar
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    Default Teacher under fire for graduation speech for telling grads "they're not all special"

    'You're not special': High school teacher under fire for commencement speech | National News - KFI AM 640 More Stimulating Talk Radio

    For those of you who have long since gotten sick of the trend among education experts toward “self esteem” rather than actual learning, this story will be extremely cathartic.

    Wellesley High School teacher David McCullough, Jr. (son of historian David McCullough) had apparently had enough of feeding blithering platitudes to his students and decided to tell the truth. The result sparked controversy among the parents, who didn’t like hearing their children accused of being cosseted and pampered little brats who believed they were special for no reason. But sometimes the truth hurts. Read the greatest hits below:
    You are not special. You are not exceptional.

    Contrary to what your u9 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.

    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. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! [Editor's upgrade: Or The Swellesley Report!] And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

    But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.[...]

    “But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.

    If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another-which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality – we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point – and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.

    No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.

    It’s an epidemic – and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You‘re it or you’re not.


    Read more: 'You're not special': High school teacher under fire for commencement speech | National News - KFI AM 640 More Stimulating Talk Radio


    The transcript of the entire speech is here: Wellesley High grads told: “You’re not special” | The Swellesley Report

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I read the whole speech, and I think he was too heavy handed on this part, considering what his ultimate point was.

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    Elite Member nancydrew's Avatar
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    I get his point, and I agree. But is the stick up his ass so big that he had to try and mar their graduation ceremony? Lighten up, old man.
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    Elite Member Trixie's Avatar
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    Awwww, all those little snowflakes (and their helicopter parents) crushed.

    Hope he's still around when all the "attachment kids" graduate. He'll probably have an aneurysm.
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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    pretty much agree with everything he said, but it's true that that speech had no place at a high school graduation.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    he totally has a point and high school IS the right place to say it before going to college and the real world where the competition will be stiffer and mum and dad won't be there to tell you how special and unique and brilliant you are.
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    Give this guy a bravery award [\irony]. It's about time someone stood up and told the truth. But this would be better said at the start of the kids school career than the end when their gross sense of entitlement has well and truly taken over.
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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    he totally has a point and high school IS the right place to say it before going to college and the real world where the competition will be stiffer and mum and dad won't be there to tell you how special and unique and brilliant you are.
    I completely agree high school is definitely the right place to say it, but I think it would have fared better as an orientation speech than a graduation speech.
    shedevilang likes this.
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    Elite Member SillyME54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    he totally has a point and high school IS the right place to say it before going to college and the real world where the competition will be stiffer and mum and dad won't be there to tell you how special and unique and brilliant you are.
    Yup...couldnt agree more.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    The guy is an idiot.

    1. There are a million ways to get the message out that "you are not special", without actually saying it directly.

    2. The first rule of giving a speech is to not immediately piss off people who you are speaking to. Because at that point, they aren't going to be receptive to what you have to say.

    3. He spent more of his speech explaining how they weren't special than he spent telling him what they should do about it.

    4. He is a teacher. Thus, opening himself up to the line, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

    5. He forgot that in about 20-30 years, he will be cosseted and coddled, having his mouth and ass wiped for him again. And probably someone from this generation of students he was just talking down to. I hope they don't hold a grudge.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Pfft, fuck that. Stupid children are so coddled today. No red pens for marking cuz it "hurts their feelings".. no playing tag because "it hurts their feelings".. everybody gets a trophy even if they don't do anything.

    This guy for president of everything.
    shedevilang and greysfang like this.
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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    Right message, wrong time to give it.
    OrangeSlice and Lobelia like this.

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    guy has a point.

    most of this generation of pussies won't figure out they aren't special until they get fired from a job, because you don't get trophies in the real word just for showing up, and only mom and dad are going to allow you to run the show.
    Last edited by witchcurlgirl; June 11th, 2012 at 08:32 PM.
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Authority View Post
    Right message, wrong time to give it.
    When else could he have? They didn't get it as kids. They didn't get it in elementary school. They didn't get it in high school, and they're about to go off to college.
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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    giving it some more thought, I guess better late than never, but I still think this kind of speech is going to fall on deaf ears by the time high school graduation comes along. A graduation speech should be about the future and hope, and the lesson he's giving should already be instilled in kids. I agree with what he said, I agree it should be said, I just think it should be instilled in kids a lot earlier than this.
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