David McCullough, Jr.
David McCullough, Jr. started teaching English in 1986. After his controversial speech, he appeared on and/or was interviewed by such media outlets as CNN, NBC Nightly News, CBS This Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered, ABC News, Boston Herald, Boston Globe, and Time Magazine. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and children.
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“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.… But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not,” remarked David McCullough, Jr. in his 2012 commencement speech at Wellesley High School. From Berlin to Beijing, Facebook and Twitter, the address went viral quickly with more than 2 million views on YouTube. Now, the English teacher and father of four expands upon his firm but affectionate message to students, calling for them to roll up their sleeves and do something useful with their advantages in his witty and insightful new book, You Are Not Special: And Other Encouragements.
A high school teacher for 26 years who has taught more than 4,500 students, McCullough notes how he has witnessed, in growing numbers, teenagers becoming ever more preoccupied with success—often at the expense of important formative experience. “In this new culture of exceptionalism,” writes McCullough, “to be average, just a regular kid—for most an unavoidable statistical fact—is to be thought inferior. To be ordinary is to be left behind.” Taking on entitled students, helicopter parents, questionable educational goals, club sports, college prep courses and other symptoms of privilege, YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL examines the intense pressure that today’s teenagers have to excel. Although opportunities are plenty, high school students today are so afraid of failure that they miss the opportunity to make—and learn from—mistakes.