7 Jun

Open Thread – ‘You’re Not Special’ Edition

                                       

Man, do we ever need more of these type of teachers. Wellesley High teacher David McCullough Jr. commencement speech to the graduating class:

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.

If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

…The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness-quite an active verb, “pursuit”-which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.

About Curt

Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 20 years.
This entry was posted in Open Thread. Bookmark the permalink. Thursday, June 7th, 2012 at 6:01 pm
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18 Responses to Open Thread – ‘You’re Not Special’ Edition

  1. Bastiat Fan says: 1

    So is he headed off to a Gulag now for telling the truth and upsetting the delicate geniuses and their parents?

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  2. Skookum says: 2

    No, not a gulag or Guantanamo, but telling pudding heads the truth and exposing them to the harsh realities of life prematurely, may well be rewarded with termination papers.

    We are being indoctrinated to accept mediocrity and the fairness of equal results. Once we accept the fact that we are all deserving of the same standard of living, there should be no complaints because some work and others don’t. We are all entitled to the same standard of living. Everyone but the Elites, they deserve a higher standard of living because of the stress and responsibility of directing the lives of three hundred million people. They deserve frequent vacations, his and her’s jets, to be serenaded by rock stars, and many golf games.

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  3. I think he is telling them that the COMMUNIST ARE HERE TO LEVEL THEM ALL AS ONE CROWD OF ROBOTS ADVANCE IN TECHNOLOGY BUT SIMILAR MARCHING UNDER TO THE DIRECTION OF THE VOICE LEADING THEM TO THE CLIFF, WHERE THEY ARE ALL SO EXPANDABLE, THAT IF THEY MAKE A SINGLE
    MOVE ON THEIR OWN WILL, THEN THE OTHER WILL PUSH THAT ONE DOWN TO THE PIT,
    WITHOUT MERCY AS DIRECTED BY THE SUPREME LEADER WHICH HAS ACTIVATE HIS ARMY
    TO CONTROL ALL OF THEM , ALL OF THEIR MOVES, ALL OF THEIR DREAMS FROM WHEN THEY WHERE THE GIANTS OF A REAL AMERICA BUZZING WITH CREATIVITY, BUSY WITH MAKING THE MIND ORDER THE DREAM TO BECOME VISIBLE AND USEFUL FOR THE NEED OF THE COLLECTIVITY, ON ANY FACETS OF THE VIBRANT SOCIETY AT WORK WITH DREAMS OF SEEING THE WORLD IN THEIR VACATION TIMES, OR BUILDING THEIR HOUSE FOR MAKING ROOM FOR THE NEW YOUNG ONES THEY HAVE CREATED OUT OF LOVE, OR WORKING ON THEIR HOBBIES WHICH WOULD END UP ON THE MARKET PLACE FOR REPLICATING THE MODEL FOR OTHER ‘S USEFUL ADDITION TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF SO MANY, MAKING THE FIRST PROTOTYPE OWNER RICH AND POWERFUL TO ADVANCE HIS SKILL IN OTHER GRANDIOSE FIELDS AND BY THE SAME TOKEN GIVING JOBS TO A MULTITUDE TO WORK ON PURSUING HIS DREAMS HIS RESEARCH WHICH GOT AMERICA TO THE MOON ,
    ONE DAY, WITH A SMALL STEP FOR THE HUMAN AND A GIANT STEP FOR HUMANITY,
    YES AMERICA WAS TRULY THE LAND OF GIANTS ; EAT YOUR WORD BILL PRESS WHO SAID THE SONG DOESN’T RHYMED ON YOUR RADIO, WIPE IT UP TO CLEAN UP YOUR IDIOTIC SPIT,
    YOU WHO ARE COMING IN THE REAL AMERICA YOU ARE SO SMART AND SPECIAL TO HAVE CONQUER BY ABSORBING THE SKILLS OF LEARNING TILL YOU GET THAT CERTIFIED PAPER,
    THE NEED FOR YOU IS TO DREAM OF CREATING WHAT YOUR SKILL IS CAPABLE OF EXPANDING
    IT INTO A PRODUCT , WHEN WE WILL BE ABLE TO SEE IT OR FEEL IT, OR TASTE IT OR HEAR IT,
    OR BEING HEAL BY IT, OR SMELL IT, TILL WE CAN USE IT FOR OUR OWN USE, AND BETTERNESS,
    YES YOU ARE UNIQUE EACH ONE, FROM YOU WILL MEN AND WOMAN WILL SEE THE FUTURE IN A BETTER WORLD WHERE NO MORE COMMUNIST WILL TAKE HOLD, BECAUSE IT WILL BE THROWN OUT
    BY YOU ALL THE YOUNG PEOPLE WITH A VISION TO PROTECT THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICA
    FOREVER FROM THE HATER’S ONLY GOAL IS TO MAKE YOU ALL THE ROBOTS WITOUT ANY DREAM FOLLOWING THE LEADER’S NEFARIOUS COMMUNIST AGENDA,

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  4. joetote says: 4

    Wonderful words of wisdom. Brutal reality and truth mixed in the end with a message of hope as to the kids futures. And yes, ice cream is important :)

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  5. Pecozbill says: 5

    I like his message and the fact that he was brave enough to share it with a high school class of seniors in 2012! That took courage.

    But I do feel that he could have had a lot more of an ‘upper’ celebration speech by expanding his ‘challenge’ in a last few paragraphs. Whether it’s Leadership 101, or military TI training 101, the number one rule after tearing someone down…. is to build them up and challenge them in the final crescendo.

    Sorry, I don’t see that here — that last paragraph wasn’t a challenge or a waving flag – it was a total ‘downer’!
    I’d grade Mr McCullough’s commencement speech with an ‘A’ for intent and a D+ for performance.

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  6. CharlieGee says: 6

    You are not special now get to work if you wish to accomplish something… better than the dreamers who say: ‘you are special now let the people through the government support your dreams’. Work to realize your goals not your father’s dreams… Too bad about ‘I’ll Have Another’ hope it can!

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  7. THE SOOTHSAYER says: 7

    High School Diploma: “Ready – Get Set – Work”! My young people each had a working resume’ when they graduated high school. They learned that the Johnny Tremain (p: Easter Forbes, 1943) story was about a teenager with a job and ideas (Sons of Liberty) that contributed to American Independence and social freedom. Regardless of unionista tyranny Johnny Tremain worked as an apprentise to a silversmith at the age of fourteen.

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  8. THE SOOTHSAYER
    YOU ARE EXCEPTIONAL
    BYE

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  9. FAITH7 says: 9

    Excellent! Great wisdom this man sent these kids off with, I hope it resonates. God Bless this Teacher…never thought I’d say that either!

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  10. Liberal1 (objectivity) says: 10

    I wish everyone on this site would take this speech seriously—rather than just giving it lip-service.

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  11. Hard Right says: 11

    libtard pile of #2, I wish you’d stop projecting your own shortcomings onto us. The litle blurb about building something in Guatemala solely to pump up one’s ego? You and your ilk to a “T “.

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  12. howiem says: 12

    I wish I could read the speech the way others have, but I cannot. Not once does McCollough mention the word “unique”, which each person is. And he is wrong about “special”, because each individual can be special if they prove it by earning the accolade by finding their niche in life. In addition the end of the speech encourages all the students to be selfless. Anyone who understands the first thing about individual freedom, about free market capitalism, about business, who has read Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, De Toqueville, Adam Smith, Henry Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, etc., knows that people should work in their own self-interests. Working in one’s own self-interests to create or assist in creating wealth brings benefits to others far in excess of an individual trying to be “selfless”. Being selfless is what Communists (community above self), Fascists (State above self) and other collectivists preach. So just because McCollough recognizes that schools pamper students and give them awards for existing, it does not mean that he is giving them good advice.

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  13. howiem
    yes, I LIKE YOUR OBSERVATION,
    TRUE, EVERYONE IS UNIQUE, and that’s why AMERICA WAS SO SUCCESSFUL,
    ONE CAN BE GOOD AT WORKING AS FOR BOSS, AND THE OTHER , WORKING AS FOR THE PARTNER OF THE BOSS WHO IS THE ONE WHO HAS THE PRIME IDEA OF WHAT HE WANT OTHER TO WORK ON,
    AND OTHER WANT TO OWN THEIR BUSYNESS, AND OTHER TO THINK OF DOING ANY WORK BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEIR SKILLS ARE UNTIL MANY YEARS LATER, ANOTHER WILL FOREVER WONDER AROUND THE GLOBE ON THE DOLE OF THEIR PARENTS, BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS RAISE THEM TO SPEND ON ANY THING AS LONG AS THEY SPEND, AND THE ONES WHO ARE THIRSTY TO LEARN TO PURSUE WHAT THEY WANT TO FIND, THAT IS THE SECRETS OF THE WHAT MAKE ONE THICK, WHY THIS IS THAT AND NOT THIS.
    YES WE HAVE TO BE UNIQUE UNTIL WE FIND THE PERFECT HALF OF WHAT WE ARE,
    AND SOME NEED MANY TRIALS AND ERRORS.
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT VERY TRUE.

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  14. Larry Uloth says: 14

    @Skookum: Oh My Gosh what a perfect time to make mandatory two year national service…no excuses everyone has to go…including all sons & daughters of any and all federal, state or local govt. workers (yes congress critters too)….national service, minimum wage, no bene’s etc…etc….you don’t like military, anti-war…we have lots of yards to rake, streets to clean, food kitchens to work in you name it and we can find you a job.

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  15. Larry Uloth
    I take it that you are offending my friend SKOOKUM,
    WHAT’S YOUR POINT?

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  16. howiem says: 16

    Urging youngsters to be “selfless” is like urging them to be good mindless, little Communists (Commune above self), Fascists (The State above self). Statists (The Government above self). Perhaps some readers of this post have heard of Rotarians. They have a motto, “Service Above Self”, but I have yet to meet a poor Rotarian. In other words they look after their self interests first, and then, when they are able to accumulate time and wealth in excess of their own needs and the needs of their families, they try to help others. So what Dave should be telling the children is, “Stand Up, Work Hard, Find your Niche, Stand Out, Create wealth, and through your efforts many will be helped to prosper.

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  17. howiem
    absolutely yes, when a teacher of such learned minds, has to speak to them,
    he must not lead them to crawl , they have already done that, and before they reach success they will again for when the blockage come in front of their wheels they will have to take steps back to analyze
    their problems, it’s for everyone a happening at times. and that’s when they search in their memory of the learned, plus their gift of judgement would together demolish those block and get the wheel to roll
    further toward achievement of their goal.
    those young minds are the ones to have other listen to and obey to their ideas of creating in their future if they haven’t mess up their brain with drugs before.
    bye

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  18. howiem
    hi, I found a jewl,here it is;
    if you’re a soon- to-be or newly minted college graduate, you can count on one thing:
    receiving plenty of free sdvice for succeeding in the ” real world”
    it will come from commencement speakers, family members, neighbours,
    and even total strangers. MUCH of what you hear will center on how to get ahead in your career.
    OF course, theses words of wisdom will be of little help if you’re still looking for that coveted first job.
    because reaching that first rung of the career ladder begins with writing a foolproof resume,
    here are six qhick tips on what to do and examples on what not to do.
    consider it my own free advice.
    1 . target your resume to each job opportunity.
    OBJECTIVE: I am seeking employment in any of the following fields: legal, banking, fashion, design
    not for profit or politics.” WE recommand you start by narrrowing your list. 2.oOFFER concrete details about your skills and qualifications.
    QUALIFICATIONS: super intelligent [note: I can prove it, because I have never taken an IQ TEST."]
    WE’LL TAKE YOUR WORD FOR IT. SKILLS: I inflict goose bumps upon others.”
    THIS RESUME IS LIKELY TO RECEIVE A CHILLY RECEPTION. 3 FOCUS ON YOUR ABILITY TO PERFORME THE JOB. ” THINGS I CAN DO: beat the original LEGEND OF ZELDA”
    it’s game over for this candidate. 4. display self-confidence, not arrogance.
    RESUME: ” YOUR COMPANY is messing up! And do you know why? Because I am not employed there.”
    THAT’S ONE WAY TO MESS UP A RESUME. 5. Carefully proofread for clarity and grammatical mistakes.
    EDUCATION: Minored in physiology” THIS RESUME NEED A CHECK UP. 6 CURTAIL THE CUTESINESS.
    ABOUT ME: I am the original SNAG [Sensitive new age guy].”
    YOU’RE TRYING TO SNAG A JOB NOT A DATE.
    IT COME FROM MAX MESMER CEO OF ROBERT HALF INTERNATIONAL, A SPECIALIZED STAFFING FIRM. SEND EXAMPLES TO RESUMANIA, c/o robert half international 2884 SAND HILL ROAD, SUITE 200, MENLO PARK, CALIF. 94025 OR VISIT, http://www.resumania,com

    ReplyReply

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