An English teacher in Massachusetts gave the commencement speech to a local high school and delivered a rarely heard message in such settings: “You are not special,” David McCullough Jr. told students in Wellesely. “You are not exceptional.” The students applauded in honor of McCullough’s “bald honesty and overdue dose of reality.”
The self-esteem movement that swept schools nationwide about 20 years ago—think inflated grades and seventh-place ribbons—has done an awful job preparing kids for the real world.
Luckily for the students in Wellesley, they had McCullough to tell them that “what will make them exceptional—or not—are their actions, not their beliefs about themselves.” So when they run into that first hurdle in college, maybe they’ll find a way around it themselves instead of whining to mom. “If so, they’ll have learned something worthwhile on commencement day.”