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Customer Review

74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some great advice and insights, March 18, 2014
This review is from: You Are Not Special: … And Other Encouragements (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a former high school English teacher, I am a kindred spirit with David McCullough, Jr. "You Are Not Special," an expansion of a commencement address he gave to his school's graduating seniors in 2012, contains an incredible amount of wisdom, but it is subversive in that it runs counter to most prevailing thought about what children need and how best to provide for them. Addressed mainly to middle and upper-middle class "strivers," this book points out the hazards of excessive parental involvement and its consequences--an infantilizing of young people, delaying their maturation far into young adulthood and in some cases crippling them for life.

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.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 18, 2014 5:05:54 PM PDT
Betty K. says:
Wonderful review and extremely helpful!

Posted on May 26, 2014 8:41:12 AM PDT
Eric Selby says:
I too am a retired English teacher who spent many of those years teaching in Middlebury, Vermont (home of Middlebury College). And what I recall is how different those parents, on the whole, were from the ones this author has written about. Only a few of those parents were pushy. Maybe it was the community, a small one, that made that it more possible for parents to be less pushy.

In reply to an earlier post on May 26, 2014 4:50:20 PM PDT
K. Blaine says:
I am happy to read that your experience was so good. I, too, had many students whose parents were wonderfully supportive of teachers who had high expectations. However, I was in despair over those parents who wanted, as one of my colleagues put it, "a highly demanding, college-level class that everyone can get an A in." But despite this, I look back on my teaching years as mostly wonderful. I am happy I was a teacher, and now I am happy I am a retired teacher! Thanks for your comment.
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