It has been a few weeks since David McCollough addressed a Massachusetts class of graduating high school students with his observation that “they were not special.”
He has been championed, chastened and dissected. He has spent the first weeks of his vacation traipsing to news venues to explain himself. As I have watched him gently relate that his was an exhortation to the graduates to go into the world, do special things, work for a greater good than college admission, I had to wonder- did no one read the entire speech?
There no consideration of the larger point: that these were young lives, largely the product of parental molding and scolding, and that it was time for these individuals to differentiate themselves with actions, not packaging?
Alas, the news, even with 24/7/365 outlets, is still cut into digestible, microscopic sound bites.
The generation that cut its teeth on Sesame Street snippets is programmed to want its information in tidbits, too. What the viewer receives is like a movie trailer: it may or may not be an accurate picture.
Where is Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” when we need it? Attention spans are so short circuited these days that no one sticks around for it.
These are of concern to me, because the world is growing more complex as we are inundated with the shallows. Can any important problem be solved without the arduous process of studying and analyzing? With a few keystrokes, Wikipedia and Google can deliver “truth” to a searcher. No higher level thinking is required to adopt these words as facts. These “facts” can then be communicated in 140 characters, further constraining analysis.
David McCollough is a master teacher. He knew his audience on graduation day, and they knew him. No offense was intended, none was taken. I like to think that most kids are self aware enough that the participation trophies and the co-authored college applications are not a reflection of their essential value. If they are convinced that there are inherently special, life will divest them of that valuation in due time. School is hard, life is WAY harder. Improving the world through work and action will make it a better adventure.
They got it.
How ironic that his charge was repackaged so that commentators could opine about parenting and narcissism.
I guess a dialogue about improving the world in order to be truly special is less riveting.
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