Alan: For seven years, I taught at Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina. During my tenure, it became apparent that America is committed to an education process that prizes academic success so highly that non-academic pursuit is (at least implicitly) held in low esteem, if not contempt. As a nation we seem committed to creating a citizenry ideally comprised of "all chiefs and no Indians." Any lopsided disproportion -- no matter what ideals motivate it -- will not result happy outcome. Aquinas held that loss of proportion/perspective was a necessary condition for the commission of "sin." And so our children suffer a regime in which "the gifted" (and many who are not gifted) consider themselves abject failures if they do not secure admittance to an "Ivy League" school.
Any educational system worth its salt would prevent this outcome.
You are not special. That was the message behind a controversial commencement speech by a Massachusetts high school teacher that went viral on social media. In a new book, he defends his argument that teenagers are profoundly harmed by the growing pressure to be exceptional.
High school teacher David McCullough, Jr. gave a commencement speech at a school outside of Boston. He thought his audience was the graduating class, but the electronic world was eavesdropping. The 12-minute speech went viral. Suddenly he received emails from around the world and CNN and NBC wanted interviews. McCullough’s speech startled many because he told students they were not special. He criticized well-meaning but micro-managing parents for the intense pressure put on teenagers to excel. He argued that students are so afraid of failure that they miss the opportunity to make and learn from mistakes, and ultimately could miss out on having a fulfilling, happy life.
David McCullough, Jr.
author and high school English teacher in Massachusetts
Watch The Speech: "You Are Not Special"
Watch David McCullough deliver his speech at the 2012 Wellesley High School Graduation.
Audio File: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-05-26/david-mccullough-jr-you-are-not-special-rebroadcast
David McCullough Jr. is son of the well-known American historian.