Kids, You are not Special!

Selflessness is Key
“Selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself,” David McCullough said at a high school commencement speech at Wellesley High in Boston. Be yourself in a world that is trying to tell you you’re special when you win a prize. But does competition does not mean that you are better than someone else? You don’t need a trophy and for someone to say that you are special. You need to feel it and realize that even those who didn’t get the trophy are special. David McCullough, Wellesley High School English Teacher, gave the commencement speech and told the graduates that they are not special.

David McCullough’s commencement speech was taken in different ways. Read the speech and watch the Youtube video and share your thoughts. What do you think he meant and was he right or wrong in his statements?

“Kids are not Special” Commencement Speech

Who is Special?
McCullough told the audience that “The recognition is that you’re not special, because everyone is”. We can all be special, but it’s hard “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Are Emerson’s words still relevant today? Is the truth hard to face? Is David McCullough right? What is the role of school? Is the truth hard to bear?

Live Life to the Fullest
I applaud David McCullough for giving a great speech and telling the kids “As you commence and scatter to the winds, do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance”. He gave the kids and their parents great advice that they can hopefully keep close their hearts. You don’t need to be told you’re special, you need to live a special life and realize that everyone is special. We need to live our lives and not live a life that we think others want us to live.

School for Life
High school kids need to learn about living to the fullest. They need to learn to respect and encourage their peers to do the same. What would life in school be like if respect and self-discovery were part of the curriculum along side each of the school subjects?

Critics of the Truth
According to ABC news, there may be many critics of McCullough’s commencement speech, but the kids and their parents loved it. Apparently, Mr. McCullough is one of their favorite teachers. McCullough promotes active learning by providing “discussions over lectures, arranging desks – including his” and providing the students with projects. Yes, the criticism from the news media, such as the Daily Mail is overwhelming.

CNN reporter, LZ Granderson, was able to see value in the speech. Why are the headlines making news with “Kids, you are not special” and leaving out the rest? Is the truth and great advice hard to bear or are these reporters trying to defend an age old idea that only a select few are special and no one else?

Does David McCullough need to defend his speech? Watch and share your thoughts.


Dr. Nellie Deutsch is an education technology and curriculum consultant, faculty at Atlantic University in the MA transpersonal and leadership studies, teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. She organizes Moodle MOOCs and online conferences. She earned her doctorate in education and educational leadership with a specialization in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix Her dissertation research (available on ProQuest & Amazon) focused on instructor experiences with integrating technology in blended learning contexts in higher education around the world. Nellie offers free teacher training courses on teaching with technology, action research and Moodle for teacher courses to new, veteran, and future teachers who wish to teach online, face-to-face or in blended learning formats. She also provides online courses to teachers and ICT people on how to be administrators of Moodle websites. She integrates Moodle and WizIQ live virtual classes in all her courses.

Comments

  1. I believe that altruistic goals and mutual efforts within any community are a good thing. The trouble, within the educational system, is that we do not have a balanced approach. The general trend of liberal leaning educators is to remove all competitive aspects in the young years of development. This extreme view, while worthy of discussion, is why presentations like the one above attract a large amount of detractors.

    In America, we seem to be a nation of extremes. Particularly of late, we tend to polarize the public discourse about everything. While this makes for great politics and TV news, it hardly ever furthers the reasonable evaluation of ideas.

    I certainly find value in the topic as I suffered somewhat from the overly competitive environment I grew up in. To this day, I cannot say that it was bad but I would hope that there might be more choices for today’s youth. On the other hand, no competition? Competition and the great motivational aspects of gaming and by extension all learning activities would not only hamper the pursuit of excellence. It would arguably put a student at a disadvantage in the real world aspects of how performance is measured and achieved when the leave the doors of school, both daily and in life.

    Let us continue this discussion in a “both/and” context rather than an “either/or” one. In the past, learning institutions had to settle on a “one best” methodology to efficiently produce schooled citizens. Is that the case anymore? I, for one, hope not.

  2. I believe that altruistic goals and mutual efforts within any community are a good thing. The trouble, within the educational system, is that we do not have a balanced approach. The general trend of liberal leaning educators is to remove all competitive aspects in the young years of development. This extreme view, while worthy of discussion, is why presentations like the one above attract a large amount of detractors.

    In America, we seem to be a nation of extremes. Particularly of late, we tend to polarize the public discourse about everything. While this makes for great politics and TV news, it hardly ever furthers the reasonable evaluation of ideas.

    I certainly find value in the topic as I suffered somewhat from the overly competitive environment I grew up in. To this day, I cannot say that it was bad but I would hope that there might be more choices for today’s youth. On the other hand, no competition? Competition and the great motivational aspects of gaming and by extension all learning activities would not only hamper the pursuit of excellence. It would arguably put a student at a disadvantage in the real world aspects of how performance is measured and achieved when the leave the doors of school, both daily and in life.

    Let us continue this discussion in a “both/and” context rather than an “either/or” one. In the past, learning institutions had to settle on a “one best” methodology to efficiently produce schooled citizens. Is that the case anymore? I, for one, hope not.

    • George, you made great points about balance and having multiple alternatives. You got me thinking about being ourselves in a world that is trying to make us into something. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have the quote in my email signature because that’s what I have been struggling with since I remember.

      It would be great if we could see ways other than our own and appreciate them as being OK for someone else. It shouldn’t be either/or situation because who would fit in? People cannot be labeled as either/or, so why are we doing it to each other? Why are we categorizing people to fit into either/or groups? How do we can out of the loop? There may be comfort in knowing that we are not alone and there are others like us, but is that true? Is anyone the same as we are? If we want be ourselves, why are we trying to resemble someone else? Why can’t we allowed to be our own authentic selves?

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