Saturday, June 16, 2012

Almost everyone missed the point.

I read about the teacher that gave the "You're not special" commencement address.  Talk about hyperventilation!  Both sides--the side that's disgusted by the special snowflakes, and the parents of special snowflakes--went into heaving spasms about this part:
"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."
Those of us who despise the special snowflake mentality love that part, and go into panting hysterics that finally, finally, someone gets it, and has the testicular fortitude to stand up and say it.

Parents of special snowflakes are screaming that that teacher just doesn't understand the delicate genius of their spectacularly wonderful little darling.

Both sets are so busy focusing on the message of " the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it" that they completely miss the real message.  The real message of "so go out and change that.  Make something of yourselves, besides just another statistic or special interest group."

Both parents and spectators missed the whole "Do what you love because you love it," missed that this teacher sees the students for who and what they are, and believes in them anyway.  

I would be willing to bet that a lot of the students got that.  They may not be able to follow written directions worth a damn, but they're excellent at detecting the BS that flies around them 24/7 in the name of protecting their delicate self-esteem. 

I wonder, sometimes, if (like the rape victim who's told that it's not his/her fault often enough that they start to wonder if maybe it is) our students begin to wonder if they're truly capable of actually being successful, wonderful adults, and have no idea how to begin to try, much less handle the inevitable failures before they find the success.  I wonder if the herculean efforts to protect their not-so-fragile egos from even the hint of failure leads them to believe that the reason they're told they're perfect the way they are is because they can't improve.

 And I wonder how many of them give up because of that belief.


  1. excellent! HH "testicular fortitude" charming phrase! the rat


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