by James Dinan, CNN
(CNN) - Most commencement speeches aren’t very memorable. The commencement ceremonies I’ve attended, both as a graduate and as a guest, featured speeches that sounded like the speaker just phoned it in and could have cured insomnia. All of the speeches talked about reaching for the stars and keeping your feet on the ground – it’s as if Casey Kasem wrote every commencement speech ever recited.
This takes us to David McCullough, Jr., an English teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts. McCullough’s recent commencement speech to Wellesley’s Class of 2012 could be pared down to one sentence: You’re not special.
McCullough, son of the famed historian, told the graduates that they’ve been pampered all their lives by parents, teachers and others, but now they need to slip up and make mistakes as they try to make it as adults. You can catch part of McCullough’s speech in the above video.
Despite the bluntness of McCullough’s remarks, many critics are heaping praise at the speech, saying it is a wake-up call for a generation some say is self-centered and over-protected.
What do you think of McCullough’s speech? Was he mean-spirited, or was he just telling the truth?
CNN should take its own advice. Ya gotta work for that "special" thing.
After watching the above video and this accompanying story, I knew I had to try and find the original commencement speech (luckily posted on youtube). You, JAMES DINAN, should be ASHAMED to call yourself a journalist, and so should everyone at CNN associated with this story. Why is it so hard to do a little research so you can put things in some semblance of context? Your soundbite reporting does a disservice to the public and your profession. I can only imagine what you do with stories of real consequence. Get a grip! Clearly, you could have benefited from being in the crowd at David McCullough's address. And no, watching this soundbite again is not going to get you any closer to understanding what I'm trying to say. Take a critical thinking course, get out of journalism....do anything but what you are currently doing. Seriously, do yourself a favor.
Context in any story is important - and I don't think the article provides a lot. The median family income in Wellesley MA is almost $140,000, almost triple the national average. In addition, it has quite a few families earning over $1, $2, or even $3 million a year.
In other words, you have a town full of very accomplished, very driven parents who expect the same from their children. To that end they provide a fantastic school, tutors, and the extracurriculars to shape their graduates into people who, compared with the national average, probably look pretty darn special on paper.
Considering the average graduate there probably speaks a second language, plays at least one instrument, is far above national proficiency in most subjects, and is decent at sports to boot, it’s easy to see how students would be inclined to think they are the best thing since sliced bread. And, in a sense, they are. Their adult life has just started and they are about as far ahead of the rest of the pack as they could be.
The message of the speaker seems multifold, here are a few useful points he seems to be hitting:
1. To learn you’re in the 90th percentile in reading in the country is a misleading statistic. The bottom 80% of people aren’t even in the running for high paying jobs, so being in the 90th makes you pretty average.
2. While at this point these kids are quite accomplished (and did have to work hard) they also had considerable advantages that others don’t have. When you grow up surrounded by that level of wealth it’s easy to believe that you’re playing on the same field as everyone else.
Again, context is king. This speech would have made little sense if directed at a group of inner city youth who had fought their way through crime and drugs to graduate.
I finally had to quit as an adult scouter where I live (Utah) because the young men were coming in for their advancement reviews and had no idea what they'd done to earn an advancement. The other adults made all kinds of excuses for them: too busy; have other things to accomplish that are more important. Then they approved the advancement over my objection...against BSA policy. In short, adults are largely to blame for the era of kids being interested in image and not in substance. I won't be hiring any of these young men if they can't prove they earned their eagle award, which is always listed on their resume. This commencement speech was a gem!
But, they are special. They have doctors who will give them scripts for Adderall, enough for friends, too. They can ask for extra time on tests. Their parents did this for them. That's why I won't be hiring them in a few years.
You are soooooo right. Anyone that took his speech wrong, is the problem. There is an old saying that says: "If you throw a stone into a pack of wolves, the one who howls, is the one it was meant for" My son graduated from high school this month and is off to college. I told him, with my wife sitting next to me, that we think he is special. But NO ONE else does. Get into that world and prove you are special to everyone else, not just us.
You won't be hiring them in a few decades either. That's because you're an idiot who never had the ability to actually hire anyone. If youi did, you would be running your business, not pecking out stupidity on CNN! LOL!
You won't be hiring them in a few decades either. That's because you're an idiot who never had the ability to actually hire anyone. If you did, you would be running your business, not pecking out stupidity on CNN! LOL!
Every generation kvetches about the next one. These kids are going to have to clean up the huge mess we Baby Boomers made. WHO's selfish?? I have seen much more engagement, innovation, and imagination in the Millennials than in the Baby Boomers, Tweeners, or Gen X. It's our fault if we don't see it – we're too lazy to get up off our fat butts to look closely.
The speech was good. It was given to kids in a pretty privileged area who have had much handed to them, and the point that EVERYBODY is special, and everybody matters, is dead on. "From those to whom much has been given, much will be expected." What's pathetic is that so many people lauding the speech are twisting it into an attack on the NON-privileged and those who try to level the playing field for them, and into justification for supporting Koches, Bushes, Romneys, Limbaughs, Waltons, and all the other born-on-third-base folks who were handed their legacy educations, their niches in family businesses, their priceless connections to those who owed Daddy a favor, their second and third and twenty-seventh chances when their ventures failed or they screwed up with drugs or alcohol, their utter security in the knowledge that there would always be a bailout. Yes, let's honor those folks to show how much we value personal responsibility and individual effort! While I don't believe in giving children constant, meaningless praise, it's sad and funny to see how many people think cheap T-ball trophies for little kids are destroying America when the restoration of hereditary aristocracy had their enthusiastic support.
@ Stepk...you couldn't have said it better. Parents who run to the school everytime their kids get detention and defend their children for violating the rules, and demand heads on plates for violating their child's rights, just don't get it. Your kid isn't special. He could have been in special ed, but you wouldn't allow it, cause he was too smart by your standards, even though he was a C/D student in normal classes. Start holding kids accountable for their actions and effort and you will see a child who is loved and knows, he is special to you, but not to everyone else.
Wonder why no one is jumping CNN for empty stories like this. This being right after 'the media' have been coming down on Jay Carney's comment, ""You all ought to do your jobs and report on context." CNN: why bother? Just post something that catches attention, draws readers to our site, and call it a day. Sad.
JennT68: From the upper right hand corner of the page: "About this blog:
Subscribe CNN’s Schools of Thought blog covers education from a variety of perspectives that include policies, practices and people. From pre-kindergarten through college, for parents, teachers, students – and anyone who has ever been a student – Schools of Thought offers food for thought in the national conversation on education.
Do you feel like this story doesn't fit that description?
To assume that every graduating student is privileged is idiotic. For some of those students – who get beat at home or bullied at school – getting through a day is enough of a struggle. So to those students, I say: you are special.
I hope this fool enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame. Sounds like he's still bitter from not living up to what his father accomplished
If there is an unfortunate prevalence of bullied or abused students, by the speaker's definitions, they are not special. There are many others facing the same challenges who will come out of their commencement ceremonies with an equivalent piece of paper. You just conferred a status of "special" onto an anonymous, uncounted percentage of the population, and his very point was that the word loses its meaning in those cases.
I don't know how you possibly "diagnosed" any bitterness or "daddy-issues" out of his speech. His speaking style was very light-hearted and peppered with humor. The kids clearly found it relevant and entertaining by their reactions.
The "fool" also did nothing actively to seek his 15 minutes. He made a speech to the kids he knew, and it got posted. His actions certainly don't warrant your apparent spite.
Try debating the merits of his position without attacking him personally. You'll have more credibility.
CNN has very little journalistic integrity, as further proven by this sensationalized pabulum.
The last 4 minutes were worth watching. The 'you're nothing special' was merely a backdrop to the real message.
I think his point is that life (and worth) should be measured by one's ability and desire to contribute to the well-being of oneself and others, and seeking that feeling of 'special'-ness only makes you dependent on the thoughts and actions of others.
Sounds like a good message to me.
Good catch. And Carlin is (likely) not the first; many others have said the same thing.
Thumbs up! He's right! I have children of my own who know they are special TO ME, but they must earn their "special" status in the world, and they're doing well. One thing I will always thank my parents for is that they never babied me.
America has gone down the tubes because crappy parents raise children without ever allowing them to grow up.
Blame the right, blame the left– it doesn't matter.
The Generation S is here.
That's "S" for selfish.
Didn't we already have a 'me' generation?
Yes. And then they had KIDS.
Sho Yano, who recently finished medical school at the age of 21 with a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and cell biology clearly gets the point. Most would argue that he is both exceptional and special. Yet, having accomplished by 21 what a very few will accomplish in their lifetimes, he understands that their is a mountain ahead that remains unclimbed.
“I’d love to make a great contribution.... We’ll just have to see where life takes me, but really, I haven’t done anything yet.”
Now that's perspective, and undoubtedly one of the major themes of this speech!
He should go on the road with his nit wit opinions along with Bill Press, the National Anthem hater. Go away. Maybe take your message to an inner city graduation ?? hmmm. Let's see how YOU and LZ Granderson feel about that !
Audex: Let's make a comparison. This educator carefully prepared a speech for his specific event and audience. He skillfully blended pop culture references and classic literature and philosophy. He researched statistics and crafted a message based on his daily interactions with this group of young adults. He delivered it in an eloquent, pleasant and thought-provoking way. It "went viral" not by any of his own actions or intentions.
Your comments, on the other hand, were "carefully" crafted in, at most, minutes. You use phrases like "nit wit opinions," "Go away," "stuffed shirt," and "good for nothing colleagues." You seem to have taken his message to his class as a personal attack on you and your own family (if I can read through your numerous typos).
Maybe this is his point. Because you are presented with a video link, that video is not about you. Because you hear something you don't like, you don't have to "retailiate" or express your ill will to the speaker. Give more consideration to someone who has prepared a view point, rather replying with a gut reaction. Consider the context next time you denigrate someone else's effort.
Why does he wait for a grandiose event to vent his views on personal achievement and debilitating ego-centrism. Why didn't he give this unasked for opinion during the school year at a more appropriate time where the students would have time to digest his message and respond in kind. His sugar coated sermon on the what's wrong with society and specifically our children had no place at this ceremony nor was it even remotely original. Teachers....they think they have the moral high ground on all issues and defend their own self centered world like musk ox.
Those that can't do .... teach. Amazing. Kinda profiled the entire class and made assumptions. My kids don't think that they deserve special treatment or were coddled by us parents. Where does this stuffed shirt get off criticizing everyone based on his warped perception ? Take a good look at yourself McCullough and your fellow good for nothing colleagues.
First off, "those that can't do, teach" is a load of crap. The brightest minds can generally be found in higher education. I'd guess just by your comment, that you're one of the Evolution denying Bible thumpers that supported George W and his attacks on intellectuals...
Audex, you're a fool.
For just a second, I'm going to treat you as an elightened individual; you've offered an adage which makes very little sense to most thinking people about teachers being those who cannot...please then, tell us who should be teaching?
My guess is that you've never been given the honor of standing in front of a classroom, for hours on end, having to make multiple presentations to (often) unwilling audiences regarding topics that many of them do not consider important or worthy of their attention. Who then, should be instructing our youth? If you've cast all of them as those who cannot, who is it who can?
My guess is you do not have an answer, but instead are like too many americans who simply prefer to offer some antiquated bumper sticker philosophy in an attempt at finding someone to blame.
Here's your challenge: go try to be an effective teacher for a year – see what it takes to communicate to young people and have them comprehend the lessons you've spent weeks preparing; grade the papers, the projects, the quizzes and the tests of 130 or so students; make a living from the pittance provided; give it everything you have – then come back and tell us all how teachers "can't."
Here's part of my answer. If the job is so awful and fulfilling why do you have policies where teachers have total job protection. You also only work about 180 days a year and have tremendous benefit packages that do not have any link to performance. Coddling ? Self centered ? Over Protected ? Sounds like the Teacher's Union to me.
If everyone thought as you do, then God save the children. I CHOSE my profession and applaud his honesty.
To assume that every graduating student is privileged is idiotic. For some of those students – who get beat at home or bullied at school – getting through a day is enough of a struggle. So to those students, I say: you are special.
I hope this fool enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame. Sounds like he's still bitter from not living up to what his father accomplished.
There's a statue of Michael Jordan outside of the United Center where the Chicago Bulls play. It reads, The best there ever was, The best there ever will be. You want your kid to have his own statue, then he MUST be as good as Michael Jordan at what he/she does. Anything less and they are just another also-ran.
Well, it seems that this year's elections are all about owning up to reality. Who created the mess we are in. A lot of pseudo-special people. Time to accept the principle of comparative advantages. We may not be the best at anything, but those that are don't have the time to do it all. There is room for us non-special people. We just have to know that at home, we're special.
Each of us would have delivered this speech differently, I myself would not have ventured far from what he said. Most celebrate mediocrity, most parents have created an environment for their kids where the accomplishing the most basic of human requirements are celebrated. People ask what is wrong with society,, THIS is what is wrong, there is no such thing as a level playing field,, nothing in life is fair. We ALL must work to succeed,, and we ALL fail at some point. We ALL cannot be superior.
you can be superior if you put the time and effort into it. If you study and practice a subject long enough and hard enough you will master that subject and be superior at it. Give it a try and watch what massive effort can do.
Anyone who thinks this speech is inappropriate or off the mark needs to read the entire speech to the end - not assume the snippets that are taken out of context are the whole story. Think for yourselves a little. Once again, the media tries to make up a sensational story by serving up one or two sentences and not conveying the entire intended meaning. And people buy it!
It's a great speech, funny and warm and affectionate and wise. Don't be fooled by mass market media.
The Root cause is with the education system itself, we require all children to meet a High Standard when we know not all of us will be Doctors/Lawyers/Physicists etc. some of us will contirbute to society as Mnaual Labor/Trade Skills etc. and there is nothing worng with that as long as your happy. We hear stories of great individuals that drop out of college and become huge success's. Other wait until they perhaps have grown up abit and become more motivated by families or whatever to complete educaations, but to make everyone succeed at the same time does not work the slower learners hold the great ones back, the great ones leave the slower ones behind we need to figure a way out to let students learn at there own pace. I dont have the answer for that but I think thats where the missing varialbe lies.
Did any of you bother to listen to the whole speech? He was pragmatic and honest without being cruel, and he never suggested that the graduates "sucked", only that they are just one of very very many, hence not "special" to anyone other than their family.
And he encouraged them to grow as people, not for the "A" but for the sake of growing, to achive for the sake of the experience, not for the trophy. As these folks move into the "real world", his sentiments will become much more useful than another "reach for the stars" BS speech.
Exactly. The speech (when read completely), was very positive and told the students that from this moment forward, it is in their hands to make themselves something special. It was great.
 Look at Wall Street & the financial industry. Look at our do-nothing congress. Look at the oil companies, big business, and professional sports. Now tell me – which generation is self-centered? a LOT of them.
 In his address to the graduates at our high school commencement this year, the acting town manager stated that he knows that some of our graduating students will be dead by this time next year. I am not kidding, he really said that along with some other very disturbing remarks.. Why isn't THAT in the news? It's a little more shocking than being told you're not special. Enough with these "harsh reality/wakeup call" speeches to graduates. The address should be positive, uplifting, and inspirational – not some nastygram that leaves everyone shaking their heads. Graduation is a special time for these kids – they don't need a slap in the face on graduation day.
A wonderful speech. Brought tears to my eyes as I read it.
"The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special. Because everyone is."
I wholeheartedly agree!! This guy has it exactly right.
The crime is we send kids all the way through high school without teaching them the ability to think for themselves. But gosh, they can be pretty good at filling in those little Scantron bubbles...
Good for him. You would think that with the way our society is complaining about a lack of jobs there would be more understanding of an educator doing what is necessary to prepare these students for the challenges to come. They aren't special. You aren't special. I'm not special. Those aren't hurtful words unless you want to make them hurtful because, ultimately, it's on you to make or break yourself in this world. For entirely too long we, as a society, have tried to hide our children from the experience of 'loss' where everyone gets a trophy and everyone is a winner for trying. Not the case and never will be.
If you actually listened to the WHOLE speech, then you would know that he basically says that they are all equal, all on even ground and they all have the same chances that everyone else has. And i think its good that the kids hear that they are not 'special'....he's right....there were millions of high schooler's graduating this season, all trying to get into college, or into the job field, all trying to make something of their lives. No one is going to treat them with special courtousy simply because they graduated high school.
No child left behind is a joke. As parents, as an education system, and as a country we need to make the bar higher, we NEED to educate our children rather then pacify them into the next grade. These children will run the country one day and they have been practically GIVEN the answers to tests their whole lives. Even when i was in school, it felt like all we were was cattle being shifted from one grade to the next. In order for the school to get its money, we were given answers, helped out when we should have, ect. All that did was teach us how to be catered too.
We need them to be accountable, to be able to think and act on their own. It starts with the parents, and then we are legally obligated to get them educated, and then POOF....they are in the real world.
Read or listen to the whole speech. It's magnificent (except when he calls "pursuit" a verb).
A harsh message but on the mark. We all have to strive hard to succeed. When we went to high school, we didn't amount to shoe scrapings. it takes a lot of years of work to make it here.
You're not special. You're not exceptional. I think he should have added the word "yet". However I get the point of his speech and agree with it. Each of these kids are sitting among other people who just accomplished the same exact thing he / she did. Not to belittle it, but welcome to reality.
The "special" ones may object though.
I hope to not be a crochety and ugly as some people when my child hits this age.
He probably could use some educating in Tactfullness.... but really isnt the teachers that think they are special? they demand tenures and their Unions negotiate for benfits the regular folks can't get, and all this when our education system ranks well below other countries in the World. I have 4 Children and I dont know how many times a teacher sent my child home without any instruction on teh subject matter relying on the Child to learn from the textbook and parents, I understand I have to get involved in my childs education, but not to the point that the teacher is not attempting to do what they are being paid for. I will say most teachers are doing an admiral job, I do not know this guy from Adam, for all I know he isone of those that are jsut collecting a paycheck, and they are a few of those in this occupation that for the most part is recession proof and this alone attracts less than attractive applicants.
Wow, "Badley" (probably supposed to be "Bradley"). You probably should stay OUT of your children's schooling, based on your inability to spell properly or write grammatically-correct, coherent English sentences. You've managed to garble typical Republican Tea Party talking points into mush, and you've allowed yourself to be hoodwinked into believing that teachers and union members generally are not US. They are US, and they're fighting for exactly the same things YOU want for yourself. The corporate interests that are enriched when workers are low-paid and have fewer benefits are the ones promoting the idea that unions are trying to rip off the rest of us . They ARE us.
I apolgize for the spelling, its really more of a typing problem, and I am as far from a "Tea Partier" as you can get, I don't want to see unions abolished either, the Tenure thing really gets to me when you have a underperforming teacher and the system cannot do anything about it. (diaclaimer: grammer and spelling may not be correct)
Your kids aren't paying attention in school & from reading your post you didn't either.
Tactfullness…. isnt … benfits…. don’t… the… childs… isone… just ??????
I have to agree with you concerning “ … our education system ranks well below other countries in the World.”
This person may as well told the graduates "you have wasted your time ,you are losers " That is NOT what is appropriate remarks to people who just finished their H.S, careers and may be looking at uiniversity. Thse remarks
might make them think before trying to get ahead be that bthrough work or university. This speaker should be disinvited from further commencements and if he is employed by ANY scholl, any level be dismissed
I understand your point – and it is a good one – but my experience teaching college students is that many of the students coming out of high school have not really "earned" anything – or gone through the practice of having to really work hard. There is a consistent problem with work ethic, a desire to have notes made available to them instead of taking their own notes, a need for study guides, tutors, practice quizzes, sample papers, etc. Graduating high school – at least in many public schools – is no longer a real achievement, it is merely an exercise.
ABSOLUTELY agree with your rlast remarks. A high school diploma is a joke these days... what's important in school is Glee Club, Athletics, Choir, Driver training, etc ... what about a REAL EDUCATION. College Freshmen in the USA are mostly so unprepared for college life...
I think you should read the transcript. It's very well-thought out and appropriate. Inspiring, in fact.
Your post serves as an excellent illustration of his point. Your spelling and grammar are very poor, yet you feel empowered to call for this educator's firing. You are not special enough to judge this man's career, much less end it.
Fabulous speech. He wasn't at all crotchety or harsh. He was inspiring. He said "everybody is special, so no one is." What he said was, don't rest on a sense of "I'm special". Instead, you each EQUALLY have in you the POSSIBILITY of making an extraordinary life. It will take constant effort, but don't–and you shouldn't–settle for less. It will be worth it. Anyone who says this man is crotchety, harsh, etc. didn't listen to the whole speech.
Disinvited? Wow. Have your mom explain what the guy said first, or just turn on Fox News – they'll tell you what to think.
This is the contradiction of Education in the U.S. We push for greater reform in education, wanting "no child left behind" yet the marjority of commencement speeches talk about perseverance if the face of failure. Yet, failure is not an option for schools and teachers, even when it is the studnets who decide to not put forth the effort. Then we wonder why we have such a large college drop out and remediation rate, after years of holding teachers accountable for actions of students. Doctors can not force people to eat healthy or excercise, yet teachers charged with almost forcing students to learn even if they don't want to. Think about this, students pend an average of 185 days in school for approximately 6 hours in class, what are the students doing for the other 180 days and rest of the hours, people forget that students spend more time outside of school and class than in them and yet the product of their learning and progression is soley put on the hands of teachers that might teach algebra for 50 minutes a day. This by no way resolved teachers of the obligation to do their utmost to reach their students and impact change, however the system that allows a teacher 30 students to be taught for 50 minutes a day essentially equates about 2 mintues of personal attnetion for each child, so lets be realisitic, students learn from teachers, parents and community not by JUST teachers.
It was inappropriate, it's like raising a glass at a wedding toast and saying, "Well chances are 60% or better that this marriage won't last. That vow you just made, for better or worse, well you just weren't being honest with yourself or your new spouse. Kids need to hear those things but, not at a celebration in their honor. It unfair and mean spirited.
How about a wedding toast that challenged the newlyweds to break out of the statistics and love each other for life? That's more analagous to the speech/event nexus we have in this case. I suggest you listen to it again. Think of it as a challenge this time, not an untimely poke-in-the-eye.
Well said D Doran, the problem is, all the negative comments are the one's this speech should be directed towards. Some just find it hard to think "outside" the box. The students were educated enough to know what the "true" meaning behind this speech was, why do you think they have not protested it. I can see this speech applying to many of the comments on here... I do agree he could have used the word "yet". Other than that, I think it was well said. The products I have seen in the work force and the ones still looking, well, I think enough is said...
Sometimes the truth hurts. Very appropriate and well-timed.
Hear, hear luvscout! Perhaps more wedding toasts should go like that though. 🙂
I use this one on people when they are full of themselves, "The world only paused when Kennedy was assassinated and you are not even close to being Jack Kennedy so get a grip". Can't use it on my Grand-kids yet, they don't know who Jack was.
And they may never learn who Jack Kennedy was. Youtube is riddled with classrooms of kids too busy singing praises to Obama.
Do not worry..we are not singing the praises of Obama in our classrooms..we cut music and history isn't tested..All we do is prepare for tests...<3
Do you sit in your lurkum waiting for an opportunity to pounce onto a blog and spew you venom about the President? Are you seriously that disenfranchised that you can only well up the hate inside you, only to express yoru hatred at one man who probably never did anything to you personally – except get elected by the rest of us?
Very good one indeed!
Are you saying our grand-kids don't know Jack?
I agree with the sentiment, but not the timing.
Agreed. A celebration like this should be filled with the HOPE for the future. That's what these kids and their completion of school represent. But we definitely have a couple of pampered children who exhibit all the shortcomings of the trust fund babies of old. Young adults have little work ethic and fall short on the character that will make them successful. Much of this is due to changes in our society and the rise of children being financially worthless but emotionally precious.
Yup, hope it's not to late for them to hear the truth. To really try you have to stretch and you will fail at times. Admit the failure and learn will make you much better. Duck the failure, make a bunch of excuses and I'll just hire someone else.
"It's where you go from here that matters." An excellent speech : . The entire speech .youtube.com/watch?v=_lfxYhtf8o4&feature=related
Fantastic speech – simply brilliant!
The irony of the baby boomers, AKA the locust generation – because they've eaten through the American dream, calling others soft is audacious – and typical of the most nihilistic and destructive generation in American history. If these kids are soft and self-centered it’s only because they are following in the footsteps of their elders.
Have to agree with this guy. I'm a parent of two young kids, who know full well they will need to earn their way to wherever they end up. We have never looked to blame others for our woes, instead looking at how we could impact it internally through different strategy, actions or reactions. Some parents (and you know who you are) are so up in their kid's lives via sports and academia, steering decisions, forcing changes, really insulating their kids from any reality of pecking orders, earned status, and sometimes injustice. Those are the kids who's first exposure to adversity/failure will come far too late in life.
Unfortunately, these kids are also growing into voters. And BOTH parties love to tell prospective voters today the same things their parents have been saying all these years. "It's not your fault, it's THEIR fault". "You don't need to be responsible for your actions, THEY will need to pay". "Effort doesn't matter, only equity". If those messages don't sound familiar wait until the barrage of political commercials (the ones that aren't Super PAC mudslinging) fire up in the summer.
People love to hear that it's going to be OK, and that we don't need to do or change anything to get there. That message, like our position as economic King of the World is becoming more hollow by the day.
If unions are going to be debated, how about professional athletes' unions? MLBPA wouldn't let AFraud go to Boston for 2 million less than his $25million/year salary because it "set a bad precedent." (a) You're kidding, right? (b) he'd have made up the difference in local commericals in no time (c) is that why unions were created, to "protect" the workers who cannot protect themselves – the multi-milion dollar athletes? Teachers, firemen, policemen NEED protection; yes, the system needs a revision, no question; yes, there still needs to be a way to rid all of these sectors of unsatisfactory workers who are no longer capable or who no longer care; how we do that is part of the problem – standardized testing is not the answer, but what happens to a ball player who gets injured for a year (or more) or who gets arrested or who misbehaves at work? Nothing. He still makes the same salary while performing nothing. Yet people are so willing to overpay for professional sports, merchandise, concessions, even autographs. The same people will say teachers or firemen or policemen get paid too much, but no one says anything about the athletes...where are we setting the priorities? They're not on education, that much is for certain. Kudos to the speaker – look up the definition of "special"; it's reserved for the few, not the many.
The speech was mixed with equal parts wisdom, sarcasm and perpective, packaged and delivered with skill and verve. I hope the message was not lost on those who most needed to truly understand it. I suggest that if you took it as a slap in the face, then some self-reflection and serious introspection may be endeavors you should consider very soon. And he was speaking as much to the parents as the graduating youths. My generation has conspired to swing the pendulum from excess and self-absorption which we attributed to our parents, to excessive doting, smothering and coddling in an effort provide what we believed we were denied. In the end, we have focused far too heavily on the prize and not nearly enough on (perhaps depite of) the process; the destination, mindless of the journey. The speaker did not disparage the individual who has worked hard and will endeavor to achieve greatness. In a way he praised the individual who will go forth and live a meaningful life, take risks, and innovate. This was a challenge more than a rebuke. However only those who understand the principles that undergird his thesis will understand this. Chances are, the small few in the group that truly accept the challenge will go forth and carpe the heck out of the diem. The rest will live the rest of their lives retelling the tales of the mediocre achievements they garnered as adolescents while missing the true lessons they should have learned instead.
This is perhaps the most thoughtful and well-articulated response I've read. I think he was stating facts for the most part: Most of the graduates likely haven't had to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and at some point they are going to have to stand on their own. If they have any self-awareness at all, they understood what he meant.
I was a teacher at a private school. I had a student injure another child. Took the offender to the principle's office to be punished. His parents stroked a check for a new piece of equipment and all was right with the world. I tendered my resignation on that day and have never been back in a classroom. To this day, this child is still a bully. And as long as his parents are willing to 'bail' him out, he will never know the consequences of his actions. Sad, sorry, state of affair our educational system has become.
Yeah Nan, I doubt it very much. If this were true you never would have worked there in the first place because all of those parents must have written a check for tuition. Maybe you use that as an excuse to soak up public assistance?
Obviously you didn't bother to fully read Nan's post. No where does it say she is on public assistance. I would assume she chose a different career path out of total disgust of the negative school experience she lived through as a teacher.
What a delightfully witty and dare I say subversive nom de plume you have chosen for your missive! It truly reflects the depth of wisdom and value behind your response. Both are equally well thought out and meaningful.
It is a good thing you left teaching...you cannot even spell principal! This is what is wrong with our schools...incompetent teachers.
Some of those kids are special, I saw them licking the little bus window on the drive in!
Did those criticizing the speech miss the last line which says – Everyone is !?! Apparently, the speech was too long for those criticizing numbnuts to get make it until the end and receive the complete message LOL
I told my children they could do anything wanted in life, but they had to earn it. I have 2 children in late 20's with masters degrees and one with a BA that they paid for with their own efforts. They worked through high school and college for their BA's and held full time jobs while perusing their Masters. Too many children have it handed to them and they have not put in the effort, but I can truly say that has not happened in this family. Their employers have seen the difference and have rewarded them for their effort. Wake up parents or your children will be lost at low end of the life cycle.
Ashleigh Banfield used to be special, but shes aging terribly.
hoo rah......it's not going viral for nothing...
Nah – she was never 'special', Freido Pinto is though – yum, yum..
Well done. Enjoy a few minutes of a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace a few years back. An excellent listen if you stop and think about what he's saying.
http://youtu.be/M5THXa_H_N8 (This is Water 1)
http://youtu.be/uSAzbSQqals (This is Water 2)
DFW's speech was fantastic. Highly intellectual and through provoking.
You know what's not special? Having one of your own faculty members give the commencement address.
Why would they be "special"? the guy is 100% correct. When you leave college, the "world" doesn't give a rat's ass who you are, jobs aren't given out because you have a HS diploma, or even a degree. 99% of us have to EARN our way. The real world is a tough, often cold place, and this teacher is just telling them the facts.
LOL...seriously, this kind of rhetoric has been written before...it's called "Fight Club"...
The speech was fine. Graduates should hear that the hand-holding is pretty much over. The days of everyone getting a trophy so feelings aren't hurt are now in the past. Doesn't mean that we won't try to help, support, and encourage but it is time to begin making their own ways. One side note – be careful not to paint all with the same brush as many, not most, get it and have been held to high expectations and standards and work hard to overcome obstacles and reach lofty goals.
Whoa. Read or listen to the entire speech. It's a brilliant speech. CNN is trying to make it "controversial".
He's right on the money. As a former teacher it was evident everyday.If the task was too difficult students would whine and cry and say it's not fair, it's too hard. Mom and Dad would cuddled them and tell them it was ok and it's the teacher's fault.
Not so special is everywhere all the way to Congress and the white House.
Never forget you are unique... just like everyone else!
In order to really know what this guy was talking about you have to see the full youtube clip. The point of the point of the speech is that too many people are doing things just for the reward and that the kids should do things for the experience. Watching the whole clip myself, he did a very nice job. I think CNN is making this speech more controversial than it actually is.
Totally agree with you, Sean34. The address was right on, and if what someone took away was that they are not special, then they didn't listen to the full talk. C'mon CNN. You can do better than this.
That's their job, turning a mole hill into a mountain.
Wanda: Most of the teachers I know would rather work through the summer. There are almost always more teachers wanting a summer school slot than there are slots for them to fill. Those teachers who don't get a summer school slot often take a summer job to make ends meet. The problem isn't a lack of desire to work through the summer, the problem is that if we moved to an all year round system all these teachers have to be paid which means either higher taxes or higher deficits.
whoever came up with the concept that kids are supposed to be special? 99.9998% of them are just cannon fodder for society. Get used to it.
Yeah, let's all lie to the kids and tell them that the real world is sunshine and rainbows. That isn't the case, the real world is a very cold and ugly place and it will beat you down and keep you there permanently if you let it. Telling kids that it's all easy and there will be no problems and that every single one of them is a rock star, you are going to raise a kid that will go into the real world with no clue.
I think he hit it on the head. Kids need a reality check. When you get to college or in the workplace you are shark or sharkbait...period. I know because I've been a shark since I finished undergrad and it has taken me far in my career. I am happy, successful and well respected in my field and I got there without any pampering.
"Shark or Sharkbait". Graduated over 50 years ago from Mission High School in San Francisco. John Taylor Gatto's "Dummy Down" philosophy had not yet hit the education system full force. How the media jumps on this and provides their "opinion" speaks well of how they were educated to become one of the 86% illiterate. You were lucky U had some sensible guidance to become a shark. There are millions out there who still provide the bait as their life's work. This speech, to me, is a breath of fresh air for it challenges those to whom it was addressed to think, as U did, I will move forward on my own to become what I perceive as "special".
Well, aren't you special...
and I suppose our generation grew up that way on our own? Let's not forget which generation has parented us...
Isn't it amazing that the previous generations talk about what is wrong with the generations THEY MADE. Parents always say, "I don't understand this generation." Well your generation made it. Perhaps if parents took responsibility for their actions and didn't do what "feels good." There would be something different. I know too many middle class people in their 40s living out of their parent's wallets, or recklessly financially. Their 60-something parents contribute to that situation, setting it up to happen. Retirees are tsking at the behaviors of the younger–but they trained them to be that way. God only knows what the kids being raised today will act like when they join society in their 20s and 30's.
Could not have said it better!
you're missing the point
Parker. it is ignorant children such as yourself this speech was directed at. You really need to pull up your big boy panties and understand you cant blame your parents for your future failures. You need to take responsability for yourself. If you are to succeed from this point forward you will need to work hard and earn it. If you fail, its your fault not your parents.
Great Speech. Being slapped out of love gets your attention. George Carlin did a nice bit on the whole concept of not keeping score during kid's games. Right on point.
Apparently, no one actually listened to what the speaker said. We reward mediocrity. That's what he's saying. If you want to be special then you have to EARN it. Making a mark is just something that most people are not going to do. How many people who are commenting have cured cancer? Negotiated a peace treaty for the Middle East? The best many people can do is to help make the world a better place one small good deed at a time, most of which just won't be remembered. That's life and it's a frightening component to actually look at. Other than the children you leave behind, what is your real true lasting impression on this earth. For most people (myself included) the answer is most probably: nothing. But if you aren't willing to examine hard truths like these, then you leave yourself unprepared for all of the good things you can do that while they may not be remembered will help to make this world a better place for future generations. So the man gave students a hard truth. Congratulations to him. Teachers are supposed to teach and not everything that has to be taught is easy or simple. In fact, anything worth learning is usually ungodly difficult. And bravo @rhondaks for telling it how it is. I teach at community college and many students are completely unprepared for the level of information they are required to know if they want to become things like nurses, researchers and doctors. The world is brutal and schools don't teach that (I think they used to). Parents yelling at teachers that their little Johnny is special and how dare you give them a D, so let's move to a check-check plus system so no one feels bad is teaching kids that life is easy and you get what you want. And most emphatically doesn't teach them how to deal with adversity.
I find it funny that the ideology espoused by most of the people here is just as bad as the ideology that it criticizes. So many people are right to criticize the belief that we can be anything that we want. And how there are few how are remembered for their affect. But we forget that for every giant of humanity there is an army of people necessary to make it possible. Einstein is credited with genius, but he didn't develop the bomb. Oppenheimers team did, but even then we foget about the miners, the transporters, the construction workers, the military men, the engineers, the politicians, and everyone else involved. We remember einstein and oppenheimer. We have ideas like tomb raider 2 were some psycho is developing a bio weapon to wipe out all but the 1% to whom he will sell the cure. The problem is that if you wipe out the 99% there is no support system for those people to survive much less thrive. I find it funny because the leaders of the world would be hard pressed to make all the things that need to thrive, imagine if they had to grow and prepare their own food, or do all the work themselves. How many could do that. It takes alot of cogs working right to make the world machine go. So in a way everyone is special, just not in that way. I would love to see you sharks survive with no fish. Once your done eating each other, you will be to injured to survive. I'll keep my fish and wait all of you out, mmm shark fin soup.
After 13 years of the teachers telling our kids they are soooo wonderful and special....they then say they aren't. Hmmm. Interesting. Now go say this big speech to a group of minority students and see if that is allowed. It's so easy to berate the children of white people who actually pay all the property taxes. On another note...Obama put his not so special kids in a private school.
Wow. A bit racist don't you think? On another note...Chris Christie sends his kids to a private school as well. What does Obama have anything to do with this argument? You mentioned earlier that the teachers should leave. Why didn't you leave when you saw your property taxes going up and your home value declining? But I guess it's easier to blame some body else.
Who decides who can be special? This guy spoke to a crowd of privileaged children at the end of their schooling. Would he give the speech if they were new to the high school? Probably not–the preciousl MCAS scores would go down. What about at the start of every school year? Moreover, let this white guy give this speech to an inner city school and see the reaction. Oh he would not have the courage to come teach in an all black school where the history of graduating high school may be so much lower than greenback Wellesley. What about the kid from an inner city school who is new to the country and going to Harvard–are they not special? Really who is he to say who is special. He probably got the job because of his daddy being an author.
Only white people pay property taxes? Such deluded generalizations negate any value your argument may have had. As for Obama sending his children to a private school, how is that relevant to the article?
What does this have to do with race/ethnicity?
@Loki, "after 13 years schooling"? This guy wasn't speaking to high school kids. These were young adults and yes, mostly white middle class college grads. They can handle it. The only place you're gonna see this many minority college grads is Spellman or Howard. They too could handle it. Re property taxes. Your property taxes go to the school district you live in. If you have a problem with your property tax money going to ungrateful minority children, move to a house in an area with more white children. But I don't think you'll find them any more grateful.
Jenn, before you go correcting someone else it seems to me that you need a lesson in reading comprehension. The article clearly states that the English teacher was speaking to a class of graduating high school students at Wellesley H.S. And just as an aside...I am black, graduated from a major university in the midwest, my children did the same and their grandparents did the same. We all own homes and we all pay taxes.
So after the MCAS scores are in and the college acceptance letters received and they are leaving, this guy tells the students they are not special. Really? He benefits as a teacher and makes a living from all the things he is critical about. IF he believes their background and experiences is so bad then leave WHS.
Timing is everything. The culmination of 4 (or more years) of education, the day to celebrate isn't the place to remind people that they aren't much to talk about. If the man truly believes this to be true, perhaps he should be teaching it everyday in his class rather then waiting to rain on the parade of everybody. Those parents sitting out there watching their child graduate didn't need to hear this guy say what he did.
Seems to me that the speakers real motive was to grab a headline. And he did.
Have you had to fight to get a job lately, get a mortgage lately, or seen someone make a dumb mistake? Those kids aren't special and they need to know it so that can get on the fast track to being responsible adults. I hate to see their reality check after college.
Grab a headline? How many high school commencements have you attended?
As an HR Mgr. who spends a lot of time recruiting and interviewing people I can say he's just doing them a favor and prepping them for real life. Not everyone gets the job the first time out, some people stand apart because they are better prepared. Just a fact.
What a ridiculous comment.
Perhaps the true audience for his speech was the parents, not the students. What other opportunity did he have to tell the parents to quit coddling their kids?
From what I can see, it was a good speech. If you read one of the most inspiring speeches in history, "I have a Dream", it also starts with negative connotations, describing the state of affairs and telling the truth that few wanted to recognize. Then MLK moved into why things had to change. Same principle applied by this teacher in his commencement. Besides... Is he saying something that isn't true?
I think if the only message you got from that speech was, "You're not special," then you weren't reading very closely. The part about divorce at the beginning probably shouldn't have made the final cut, but other than that the speech was on point, memorable, had a great message, and in the end probably didn't deserve this much publicity.
Why do these pathetic posters always blame the messenger? So he came from a distinquished family. Are you -people envious or simply used to missing the point on just about everything?
Way to speak truth to power! It's about time young people discover like previous generations did long before that not everyone deserves a trophy!
Not only are they not special but given the state of public education in America they are a whole lot dumber! We keep graduating functional illiiterates who can't write, can't spell and have their faces constantly buried in a device that allows them to "text", shorthand for stupid. I don't feel a bit sorry for them since the country will always need hamburger fllippers. If they can't make it they should sue the teacher's union for stealing their education and their parents for stealing their childhood.
So true.... so many of the younger people I work with simply are unable to participate in a meaningful conversation (with appropriate facial expressions, gestures, and otherwise human-like mannerisms) because they've lost that skill, due to the 24/7 incessant texting and otherwise solely computer or cellphone interaction they spend all their time on. What is worse, nowadays half of them are either ADD or bipolar, so it's even harder for them (and us) to interact w/them interpersonally.
How about year-round schools? Summers are a working parent's nightmare. European countries go to grade 13. Common sense tells us we need to do more with schools and student outcomes. Wake up teachers – no one else gets the summers off. Step up to the plate and teach year round – our students need this. Our future needs this. A school system based on some long ago agriculturally compatible schedule is not working well for us – for at least the last 3 generations.
Teachers don't have that much power. And you would have to change the structure around to take the load off during the school year. During the school year I work 50-60 hours per week. I teach up to 160 students, some teachers teach even more students. By the end of the school year, I am so burned out, if I don't get a break, I'll end up in the hospital. I would love to teach year round, if my student load was smaller. But that would take more money to hire more teachers. Are you ready to pony up more taxes to pay for more teachers? The message I'm getting is most people want good education for free.
chanda...You are assuming that teachers somehow control the length of the school year. They don't get to control over anything; not the length of their class, not what is taught. I really don't know where you get your information. Maybe they do where you live, but not in my state. State governments decide on the length of school years, subject matter and classes. I've had more friends leave teaching over the years because they had such little control and they hated how they were being forced to pass all students and teach to the lowest level of the class. Start with parents if you want to change the system. Parents usually get what they want and the State will listen to them first.
If you truly believe that teachers have the power to make year-round school "happen," you're the one who needs the wake-up call. I agree that year-round school would be beneficial and I would love to see it happen, but when the rest of society is off complaining about the "inflated" teacher's pay and how we funnel too much money into education already, how do you suppose the funding will be secured for year-round schooling?
There needs to be a paradigm shift, and it needs to start with you (not "you" specifically; I am using the term in its broader sense). When education becomes a valued part of society again, we will see positive changes.
His speech was spot-on. I graduated high school in 2004 and had many classmates who would have benefited from his speech (myself included).
Sue the teachers union for stealing their education?! It is the students and their parent's responsibility to assure they are striving to achieve an education. Teachers in some of the rougher public schools are trying to corral a three ring circus. If students and parents took a greater roll or put a higher value on the education of our young people then perhaps that is when you will see a change. Go visit your child's school. Sit through a class. You decide who's at fault.
Telling the truth – this PC "specialness" is a fiction. When you get outside the bubble your family has made for you – you are just one of the crowd.
If anyone thinks he's special it is McCullough who rode his fathers fame and tells kids to "make their own way". Who is he to deliver a message of personal achievement ? If after we pay these teachers a wage for life, they then scorn the people who pay them handsomely and say that their children are worthless unless they live up to their "so called" standards...GO AWAY. Leave if you agree that they are unprepared for life.... You failed, not them. Go Wisconsin !!!
How do you figure he rode his father's fame, he's a high school teacher fer chrissakes! As for teacher's receiving, as you put it, a handsome wage; you're really kind of out of touch with what teacher's get paid, aren't you. The man's message was clear to anyone with a 85 IQ or better, perhaps that leaves you out. what he is saying is that if they desire to become special, it's up to them, it ain't handed out on a silver platter. You really should get a clue!!!
Teachers in my district make 6 figure salaries. My school taxes ruined my property's value.
The speech wasn't addressing the speaker, it was addressing the kids who are graduating. Kepp focused on what was said. And by the way, they are not special. They are just like everyone else. They have to prove that they can be productive and do a good job in the workplace, before anyone they are working for and with, will think they are special.
Loki. You seem very bitter. What's the scoop?
As the son of a teacher/principal and husband to teacher, I can truly tell you that what this teacher said needs to be said more often. Both my father and my wife are no nonsense teachers who expect their kids to perform, expect them to do their own work (not let their parents do it) and have no problem telling parents the truth about their kids. And both my father and my wife have received accolades through their careers from their former students. Isn't it time we are truthfull with our kids? You can be supportive without lying. You can help your kid overcome hurdles without removing the hurdles for them. The point of this speech is that once a kid is in the world trying to make it, they are without protection and need to fail a little in order to succeed. My father helped me when I needed it by making me confront my own problems not by stepping in and supporting me not by solving them for me.
The fact that you would praise Wisconsin shows me how little you really understand what is going on. I am not a fan of Walker, but he has already parted ways with Romney over the latter's comments that we don't need more teachers. He feels the opposite. His is just against unions in general and the teacher's union is easiest to fight because of people like you who really don't take the time to look at the real issues. So maybe you should read a little more before you write. Oh, and please don't tell your mommy to reply to me because I was being mean.
Loki, I teach in Wisconsin and would like to know where I can find one of these six-figure salaries... I make 36K/year. My interest has been piqued, please elaborate.
It is about time that someone tell the truth to these kids! My daughter just graduated from high school and the last four years have been a joke. High schools today do NOT prepare kids for the real world like they should be doing. Instead, they give multiple extensions for late work (what boss does this?), give higher grades than students deserve based on their work, and the teachers are more worried about being friends to the students rather than teachers. It is sad. One of my daughter's friends told me that George W. Bush was our first black president. And she graduated! And we wonder why our students are behind others in the world!!
Public education has changed due to a generation of parents that think their child can do no wrong. When the parents of today were students, their parents sided with the educators. Parents would use the rod first and ask questions later. It reared us well, yet many of our peers can't or won't raise their children under the same proven method that they were raised under. Today's parents first reaction is 'my kid won't do that'. They are quick to blame everyone else and/or develop excuses why their kid didn't learn, behave etc. This approach has spun off all of these special 'disabilities' to help excuse away a childs lack of performance. ADHD was treated 30 years ago with a swat on the backside and it worked in nearly all cases.
The education system today is a direct result of the parents. If they parented their kids and held them accountable instead of a teacher, the system would drastically improve. Parents need to parent and to stop having kids as a trendy accessory. If you want them, raise them. For every bad teacher, their are hundreds of bad parents. For the record, I am not a teacher nor employed in public education. I am a parent that would not let my kids off the hook. It seems to have worked well. They are young adults making their way.
But they can play football and basketball, so that makes them "special". See how far your football experience in high school gets you on the outside...
I've had my tutor (head of department in Architecture, UK University) tell me this. It did not help me in any way. I was already struggling and to have a tutor make a direct personal comment like that to you can really damage your self confidence.
You have to have self belief! Every successful person in history has had strong self belief, regard those who would put you down with little respect.
No, no, no, no, no!! This is exactly the PROBLEM with kids in their 20s. They've been praised for mediocrity since they were children by parents worried about their self-esteem. Trophies for last place. You DESERVE to know you suck if it's the truth! If you come into adulthood thinking you're the cream of the crop and then can't understand why your knitted cupcake bikeshop isn't a successful business, you need to be able to accept that YOU were the problem. When you're not good at something, you can improve. When you're not good and told that you are, then you just see yourself as misunderstood, overlooked, or unfairly judged. Self-esteem coddling is one of the worst things ever to happen to this country and it has infected an entire generation...
There is nothing wrong with telling someone they need to actually work for what they want, but telling someone they "suck" isn't going to make them work harder either. Both extremes are not true. If someone isn't good at something you tell them they need to work on it, or they need to find something else, but you don't completely berate them as a human being, just as you don't coddle them either. Maybe the whole "kiss the babies backside, and tell them they are wonderful", movement started because the parents of those people kept telling them they were losers and they didn't want their kids to feel like a piece of @*&%. So they over compensated and it backfired.
joey...The truth sometimes hurts. That is life. Why not prove your tutor wrong by working harder and improving yourself. If you don't, you have truly proven that his assessment was correct. Once you reach college, there are no more gold stars for showing up or just trying. Sorry.
If my brother was a famous historian and I had to teach The Chocolate War year after year - then I would be a little cranky too
Way to go Dave, what are you going to do for an encore? Kick a puppy?