In a moment of pure untamed brilliance English teacher David McCullough went off on the graduating class of 2012 at Wellesley High, critiquing modern parenting techniques by saying that children are “pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped… nudged, cajoled, wheedled .. feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.”
He has a point – it has long been argued that a lot of modern parenting focuses on the reward system that gives a child a feeling of entitlement without actually having done something. It might seem like a long shot to correlate childhood mollycoddling with obnoxious behavior later on in life but sweet tapdancing Jesus have you ever worked with a 20 year old intern who thinks the sun shines out of their own ass and that they’re going to get your job within three months? You haven’t? Try it sometime. It’ll show you an entire childhood of bad parenting in a single eye-roll when you ask them to change the paper in the printer. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
Where was I? Oh yeah. David McCullough’s entire speech can be found on Boston.com, but we’ve collected a few of our favorite highlights here.
On statistics and Uggs:
Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.
On being special and entitlement:
“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?”
On the fouding fathers and YouTube:
You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.
Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.