America, we have a new hero. His name is David McCullough Jr., and he's being dragged through the mud today by the kind of parents who make me embarrassed to have procreated. It seems some moms and dads are mad because the long-time English teacher did something daring in a graduation speech this month: he told the Class of 2012 they are "not special."
Gasp! How dare he? McCullough was supposed to stand in front of the kids at Wellesley High School and tell them exactly what every other commencement speaker at every other high school in the country was telling the graduating class: that they are unique, incredible, amazing individuals!
Only one problem here y'all!
Everyone else has already done that.
The only choice McCullough had was to try something different. And boy did he. His 12-minute speech, which I'll post below in video form because it's that worth seeing, literally included the words "You are not special," but this wasn't some crusty old kid-hating curmudgeon trying to make the seniors feel like worthless pieces of dog doo doo. If that were the case, I'd be right up there with the parents who are giving McCullough what for today.
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Instead he explained that being "special" seems to apply to everyone these days. And he's right. There are schools that refuse to give kids a 0 on homework ... even if they didn't hand it in. There are parents who insist their kids "deserve" exceptions to even the most basic rules at every turn (dare I mention the parents who recently sued the school that kicked their kid out of a class for cheating ... after he'd signed an honor code that warned him of exactly that consequence?).
The result is a generation of narcissistic brats, fed up teachers, and parents who can't control their kids. And yes, I realize I'm raising a member of that generation. Heaven help me, it's a crowd I hope she's never popular in.
Because as McCullough so aptly put it: "If everyone is special, then no one is."
I'll take it one step further. If every kid fresh out of high school is so great, why should they bother working at all? Going to college? Starting at the bottom rung of a company ladder?
Graduation is a wonderful time for our kids, and something they should be proud of. But the parents who don't like McCullough's address because he did not pat these kids hard enough on the back are forgetting that high school graduation is but one step in the road. They aren't done yet. And if we can't bear to even tell them that, what good are we as parents?
Our job isn't to tell our kids they are the most special and best in the world. It's to tell them they have to chance to be the most special and best, and the tools to get there. That's what David McCullough was trying to say. That makes him the kind of teacher I'd want in my kid's classroom.
Watch McCullough's speech and tell us: do you think it was an appropriate speech for graduation?
Image via WellesleyChannelTV/YouTube