Awesome Valedictorian Speech

Someone emailed me this speech this week and I thought this is something everyone ought to read and then have your high schoolers and college students read it as well. I knew it was great but when I came on this passage I knew this bright student was well aware of the “critical” issues we face in education.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.”

To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

And this one.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

Here’s a video of most of the speech if you’d rather listen to it, but I think it’s best read.

6 Responses to “Awesome Valedictorian Speech”

  • Lewis B:

    Good speech poking holes in No Child Left Behind. Shame on both the Republicans and Democrats for pushing such a measure which is nothing more than a misguided effort to control local schools at the federal level.

  • Pam :

    I can understand why so many have thought this a great speech. This young woman raises the same concerns most of us thought or perhaps even vocalized during our journey through the education mills we call high schools. No one can dispute that few teachers “inspire” or teach students to think critically. No one can deny that our schools are places where kids are “brainwashed” then spit out to fit into the “complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government”. She complains that she “did what (she) was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, (she) 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, (she) never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, (she) decided to do extra credit, even though (she) never needed it.”

    My question is, who is the better self-disciplined, who is better equipped to actually function in those “large corporations and secretive governments”? And tell me, what is wrong with that? While I agree there is much to improve in our current education system, I think in some ways our system has already tried to take education in the direction this young woman is promoting, and THAT is part of the problem. In the name of “education” we are abandoning the basics for the “higher” learning that she seems to be promoting. Without the basics, the foundation of the boring tedium of multiplication tables and parts of speech, etc, there really is little to build upon. Let me give you an example. An enthusiastic young woman, fresh out of college, goes to teach in a “good” school in a highly educated, well paid area. She is to teach writing. She is quickly told that when grading her students' papers, she must not correct their spelling, grammar or punctuation, because that would hinder their creativity, their willingness to share their thoughts. Their spelling, grammar and punctuation was autrocious. She was told it was not her job to worry about that. (I know the young woman this happened to.) Look at the reports of the level of ability of today's HS and college grads compared with those of 40 years ago. THAT's where this “new education” is taking us, and it sounds to me like this young woman is promoting more of the same, but to a greater degree. She didn't want to be bothered with the repetition of boring assignments. Her classmates were doodling and writing music in class while she was doing the assigned work. So who is better able to contribute to society in the end? (Who can learn to run before they learn to walk? It happens, but is the extremely rare exception.) Maybe it takes both, but the way I see it, the elites in the education system are abandoning the very things this young woman disdains. I think that is a big part of the problem in education.

  • Millie:

    Dear Pam,

    This response is not what she is about. She is asking for teachers that thoroughly understand their topics and can teach to the child in a way that allows the child to truly think for themselves. We need people who can field problems and fix them. Not people who just say, “yes sir” and “yes maam” (not referring to manners). People who teach with out proper concepts destroy education. Coming up to a standard of excellence is not what she is talking about. She is talking about the suffocation of having one perfect answer for everything and that is the teachers answer for the test or that particular text book answer.
    In real life we all have problems with having more than one answer for a problem and several answers which could be right. We want to teach the people to find those answers . . not to be slaves of the test. We all know that text books are the product of individuals with colored lenses (viewpoints) or a myopic view some of them blatantly wrong historically. Each of us chooses our own myopic view or we create our own. Really fine Teachers teach children how to think well and find their own answers. They don't teach them what every answer is.

  • I am so impressed that this young lady had the gumption to deliver this speech. It is excellent! I wonder how much longer people will tolerate the inferior education system that we have.

    My favorite part was watching the administrators behind her squirming…

  • Jon F:

    Standing ovation!

  • Skyler:

    Absolutely Amazing! I felt very similarly in high school. Man…I wish I could date this girl. ;)