Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling

I just loved every minute of watching this Valedictory speech by Erica Goldson:

The full transcript can be read at her blog.

One of my favourite section from the speech is this:

School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

‘I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme.’

Powerful stuff Erica.   Definitely worth a watch!

  1. #1 by Alison Robertson on October 7, 2010 - 7:43 am

    Yes it’s powerful, but I think she’s being far too generous to many of her class members who frankly I suspect were not doodling to become great artists and not doing their homework because of reading stuff they were passionate about.They were surfing the internet, updating their facebook pages, playing on-line games and having a great time not doing their school work! If the American education system were better then she wouldn’t be the top student by being indoctrinated or doing what she was told to the extreme, but by thinking and challenging and really exploring powerful and big ideas. That’s certainly what I see my top Year 12 students doing! I suspect she’ll have a great time when she gets to college and has the opportunity to work out exactly what she is interested in and follow her dreams there. Getting the good marks will allow her that privilege, one that many students in the US miss out on, but don’t get me started…

  2. #2 by Troy on October 8, 2010 - 9:10 am

    I loved this too, thanks for passing it on. I am caught though, between the DET/BOS/Mainstream view of education as the establishment of worthy economic citizens and my personal/professional views. Traditional methods of teaching, chalk and talk, route learning work, are supported by the system we live (not just work) within.
    As for our HSC it has the same time, space, outcomes based (yes a little better than trying to pick the answer in the teachers/markers head), weightings, rankings restrictions as the US.
    Asking my year 11s: what do you want me to do? (After a year of trying to convince the group of the ideal of more quality learning can occur outside of the classroom, of having an active online space and supporting student choice, direction, with portfolios of planning, drafting, peer editing and publication, after suggesting that prior to assessment tasks that I wouldn’t be giving out ‘the answers’) Most said they wanted more notes, good marks. Think about the prepared answers you recieve when HSC marking. Our students excel at conforming to the standards set, well how about we change those standards away from once a year ‘asssessment’, into interactive, progressive, student directed learning?
    In the end it wasn’t ‘thinking and challenging and really exploring powerful and big ideas’, it was what they had conforming to since arriving at secondary school.

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