You Are Not Special: ... And Other Encouragements

You Are Not Special: ... And Other Encouragements

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by David McCullough Jr.

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A profound expansion of David McCullough, Jr.'s popular commencement speech—a call to arms against a prevailing, narrow, conception of success viewed by millions on YouTube—You Are (Not) Special is a love letter to students and parents as well as a guide to a truly fulfilling, happy life.

Children today, says David

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A profound expansion of David McCullough, Jr.'s popular commencement speech—a call to arms against a prevailing, narrow, conception of success viewed by millions on YouTube—You Are (Not) Special is a love letter to students and parents as well as a guide to a truly fulfilling, happy life.

Children today, says David McCullough—high school English teacher, father of four, and son and namesake of the famous historian—are being encouraged to sacrifice passionate engagement with life for specious notions of success. The intense pressure to excel discourages kids from taking chances, failing, and learning empathy and self-confidence from those failures.

In You Are (Not) Special, McCullough elaborates on his now-famous speech exploring how, for what purpose, and for whose sake, we're raising our kids. With wry, affectionate humor, McCullough takes on hovering parents, ineffectual schools, professional college prep, electronic distractions, club sports, and generally the manifestations, and the applications and consequences of privilege. By acknowledging that the world is indifferent to them, McCullough takes pressure off of students to be extraordinary achievers and instead exhorts them to roll up their sleeves and do something useful with their advantages.

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Editorial Reviews

Every year, thousands of high school and college commencement speakers deliver ringing homilies about climbing the ladder of personal success. At Massachusetts's Wellesley High School, David McCullough, Jr., delivered a graduation message so different from such moral uplift that it soon became a viral sensation. This mild-mannered high school teacher made a sensation by suggesting that graduates seek involvement with life, not grasp after corporate success or stardom. For many parents and graduates, this tough love talk struck a chord of deep agreement. (P.S. McCullough is the son of famed historian David McCullough.)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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You Are Not Special:...And Other Encouragements 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Jody22731 More than 1 year ago
I grew up in the world of privilege Mr. McCullough describes, but only because my childhood home was located inside an upper middle class school district. I was also a victim of some pretty horrific abuse as a child, the details of which can and should remain private. With a mutilated body and soul, I was reduced to being terrified as graduation approached, terrified of going out into the world to make my own way, because I'd been dehumanized to a point where I did not believe there was any chance I could survive on my own. At the commencement, we received an address similar to Mr. McCullough's. Although I was sitting amongst the pampered and the privileged, it was the exact opposite of what I personally needed to hear. So I stayed at home in the literally horrific conditions I'd grown up in, and failed to launch into life. Several years later, my paternal grandmother asked to speak to me. Having some inkling of the environment I'd grown up in, she held my face in her hands and told me I was indeed special, created in God's image, and the owner of a unlimited potential that I needed to share with the rest of the world. Of course it was baloney, but it was what I needed to hear. I launched, and have done just fine. Amazing what impact a few minutes can have on a person's life. For the sake of those like me, please let commencement addresses be a sacred cow; let it be the one event where we don't practice tough love and pragmatism. Let it be the event where dreams remain safe, encouraged and praised and promoted. This is a powerful and wise and incisive book, and it raises many important issues, but I listened to an audio tape of portions of Mr. McCullough's commencement speech, and while I heard laughter on occasion from the audience, it was joyless, nervous laughter. We need to let graduation ceremonies remain occasions of joy. The difficulties and hardships of life present themselves soon enough, and without fail. We discover soon enough that most of us are just faces in the crowd. We should still be launched on our journey with words of praise and encouragement..
Reality-Man More than 1 year ago
Having spent over fifty years in public education this book should be read by every student and parent and most pf all by POLITICIANS who set the regulations for public education knowing little and understanding less about what they preach. If the Feds and State would get out of education and leave it to educators our public schools would be much more respected. This was an excellent book written by a man who spoke the truth and wasn't concerned with political correctness. Unless one has been in the classroom and experienced what teaching is al about it its impossible to understand the child. Unfortunately the only time any politician has been in a public school classroom is for a photo shoot. Does this book apply to all students and parents? No, but far to many. We all feel we are the exception to the rule whether it be smoking, drugs etc. but the best thing a student or parent could do after readng this book is look in a mirror to see if it pertains to you and face reality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A brilliant, insightful and articulate author, with a premise I don't like as regards this book. Millions of American children get little or no validation or encouragement from the parents and teachers who are supposed to provide it to them. And the problem is that there is too much indulging and "helicoptering" for American children? Perhaps for some. For many others, parents and teachers have failed to be nurturing. If you cannot on some occasion look into your child's face -- or student's face -- and say, "You are special, magnificent, wonderful, and all the world awaits you," then you should have remained single or found another calling. Because that is precisely what many of our children need to hear. For many, the encouragement and hope they derive from a parent or teacher is what they will survive on for the rest of their lifetime. And it comes across as passive aggressive behavior to toss at them: "You are NOT special." Yes, David, you are a writer amongst writers. And a man among men. And an intellectual head and shoulders above most intellectuals. But it also would appear you needed affirmation from your own parents that you did not receive. You obviously turned out just fine. The same isn't always going to be true for others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting and engrossing look at the world we privileged raise our kids in and the pressures us and they face to be "the best". For me, it has been life changing.  Highly, highly recommended. If you have a teen in your life, get them this book. My guess is, it may be a life changing book for them also!