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You Are Not Special: … And Other Encouragements Hardcover – April 22, 2014
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“Drawing on his teaching and parenting experience, You Are Not Special calls on teenagers to use their privilege and considerable talents to solve the increasingly complex and dire problems plaguing our world... It’s a lovely notion… and the book is fantastic.” (Chicago Tribune)
“…a success. May its salvos ring from Cambridge and Arlington to the hinterlands of Wellesley, Weston, and Way-wayland. You Are Not Special is also big-hearted - and clearly forged in a hearth of caring, doubt, and fear. Aphorisms could be lifted from every page and blossom into memes.” (Boston Globe)
“... McCullough scores an A+ with this volume for teens and parents. Rich in literary references and poetic in cadence, the author ... offers plenty of hilarious and pointed comments on teens and today’s society. ” (Publishers Weekly (Starred Review))
“Despite the somewhat disparaging tone of the title, McCullough’s graduation book is anything but a downer. The high school English teacher ...expands on his viral commencement address with words of encouragement: Do what you love, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and remember-we’re all in the same boat.” (Bookpage)
“…to open You Are Not Special…and Other Encouragements is to enter a deeply intellectual and thought-out analysis of the forces that shape modern teenage life, both at home and in the classroom. . . Even if you didn’t agree with McCullough’s speech, this is essential reading.” (The Swellesley Report)
“The author tackles big issues ... with searching sincerity, open-heartedness, and a deft, light touch.” (Kirkus (Starred Review))
“Every once in a long while, a voice seems to come out of nowhere, and you wonder how you ever managed without [it]. David McCullough, Jr. has that startling, insightful, wry, reassuring, helpful voice and You Are Not Special may be the wisest ‘parenting’ book I’ve read in decades.” (Madeline Levine, author of author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well)
“A clear-eyed but affectionate polemic urging kids to stop trying to be perfect and to take chances, even at the risk of failing. A profound celebration of the life well lived.” (Clayton Christensen, author of How Will You Measure Your Life?)
About the Author
David McCullough, Jr. taught for sixteen years at Punahou School in Honolulu and has been teaching at Wellesley High School near Boston since 2002. He lives with his wife and four children in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
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My favorite parts of the book dealt with the gaming of the system that goes on in the college admissions process. From massaging your GPA, to trying to outsmart the SAT, to hiring admissions "advisors," every point he made rang true. How often will a student take a class from an "easy" teacher rather than challenging him- or herself with the chance to actually learn something from a more demanding teacher? Unfortunately, the answer is, nearly every time. How often will a parent complain if a child gets less than an A in a college prep class? Unfortunately, too often. Students take five AP classes (I remember a time when our high school limited students to two) and wonder why they are not getting A+ in each of them. They join clubs or teams to improve their resume for college admissions officers, not because of any real interest. It is obvious that parents and students alike are pursuing short range gains at the expense of their child's long term best interests, but once you are in the fray of college admissions, it is as if you have lost your sanity. McCullough is trying to restore some of that sanity, and he does an excellent job.
My only reservation about this book is that it will not reach the audience it is intended to reach. I cannot imagine a teenager reading this book, unless he or she were required to do so for a class, which is unlikely. Parents will be a little more likely to read it, and even agree with many of its main ideas. I suspect that the book will resonate mainly with grandparents, older people with a bit of experience and history, who can see what has happened with our education system and have a little more perspective.
About that last point, I hope I am wrong. I hope this book is a smashing success and reaches high school students and their parents, for it has great wisdom and insight. Highly recommended.
Easy to tell Mr. McCullough is an English major and teacher. His grammar is impeccable and his literary references are many; some very obscure.
I think many teachers in high school could learn a great deal from his technique in instruction.
I certainly wish I had one like him, and hope my daughter will.