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A Different Graduation Speech

Erica Goldson gave a very different speech at Coxsackie-Athens High School Coxsackie, New York. The class valedictorian gave the commencement address many students over the years claimed they would make if they ever got the chance. She began by stating that her goal in school was to get out as soon as she could.
I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave.  I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared.

You can read the entire speech and some reactions at Swift Kick Central. Link -via Holy Kaw!

(Image credit: Flickr user Clever Cupcakes)

Nothing wrong with that speech, it's honest. I had the same feeling but I didn't even try to be the best, I just wanted to do well enough for people not to bother me.

But looking back, I certainly could have worked to make my schooling more focused on my abilities, talents, and interests instead of the standard fair. If you're respectful and self-disciplined, even public schools will allow you all sorts of freedom. I remember taking days off school to listen to people give book lectures simply because I asked the teacher to do it.
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This is hardly a new subject. It goes back to Rousseau's "Emile", and centuries before that.

First, I'm surprised how often it's forgotten that formal schooling is only PART of a child's education, and a supplemental part, at that. Parents are the primary educators. Family, church, community... These teach the most important lessons.

Second, is it just me, or do I sense a feeling of entitlement here? Twelve years of State schooling is only a table of contents, there to give you an idea of what life holds in store. There's a world of knowledge out there -- but the student must REACH OUT and grasp it himself.

I did. I graduated High School with Honors, and was Valedictorian at my college. Since then I've traveled the world and continued learning. I'm happy and prosperous.

Oh, and my Valedictorian speech? I didn't give one. I went to the beach instead.
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I had the same revellation as this person did going into my junior year. The problem was since i wasn't quite valedictorian level i couldn't "slack off" as some would call it as much as i wanted to. By the end of my senior year my GPA had dropped some but i got SO much more out of it because i went with learning than passing except for a select few classes. This along with a few other things tie down the system right now.

I fear for my nephew and niece. I really hope they don't fall into this trap of learning to take tests rather than learning about something interesting, useful, or beautiful in this world.

I'm only happy that this year i can enter a college that has the philosophy of what this person describes as being vital.

The funny thing too is i knew my valedictorian for two years and they were locked into that 'slavery' of sorts. Sure they had interests and they even had a boyfriend but their entire life seemed like passing rather than learning.
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Kalel while i do understand where your coming from the problem seems to be that school tries to engulf you. I kept from keeping a full workload that would take too much of my time to be worth it but some people simply HAD to spend nearly all of their waking hours preparing for the next big test. I know some brilliant people that worked hard but nearly didn't graduate because they learned a lot but simply couldn't do tests well unless they went for the 'learn then forget' method.
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I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system.

Well done, Grasshopper! Now apply this lesson to all of your future endeavors.
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I think being the best at doing what one is told and working the system is surprisingly underrated, given the flak that it tends to take. We all need good followers, don't we??
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I think it's a very good speech and for the most part, I identify with it. I think many who take issue with it fear change in the current situation.
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My high school vetted our graduation speeches before we were allowed to give them. I think one guy vetted a fake speech and changed it for the actual graduation. They made a big stink about not giving him his diploma, but eventually they gave in and gave it to him.
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No one expects you to leave high school as an enlightened 18 y.o. - teenagers are way too immature to really understand the importance of learning. That comes later on, when you are older, unfortunately.

Her take on public school is a sham. You get back what you invest in your schooling and then some. Teachers cannot force you to be interested in every subject. They are happy if you show interest in one or two. They aren't Robin Williams standing on desks and inspiring the world! But American schools do have art, music, theater...as part of the school day, for pete's sake! Go to other countries and see how much of that you get without your parents having to pay for it at private academies and such.

Yet another spoiled product of parents who probably sit around and whine about how not everything is handed to Americans on a silver platter.

May she grow up to be more appreciative of the opportunities afforded her here.
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Lulu, I agree with you 100%. The young lady in question is missing the point of the lesson. It's not that she became the best "slave", but rather that she cultivated mental discipline; what my father called "stick-to-it-ive-ness"... something she'll appreciate in years to come.
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