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Valedictorian Exposes Education Sham

August 5, 2010

 val.jpgThe following speech was delivered by top of the class student Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School on June 25, 2010. (Erica is not pictured at the left.)

[Abridged by Henry Makow]

 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.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that."

 Between these cinder block walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not "to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else."


The Whole Speech

Related, Makow - "How University Betrays Students"

Scruples - the game of moral dillemas

Comments for "Valedictorian Exposes Education Sham "

John MD said (August 6, 2010):

She has proved that she is willing and capable to be a success in life, college or not. For all the "human" things like curiosity, adventure, novelty, creativeness there are millions of failed humans because they couldn't, wouldn't, didn't do the necessary WORK to fulfill the curiosity. Ask any successful person, with success defined by group or individual standards how he or she got there and see how much work was involved. Tenacity is critical.

And she shouldn't forget that colleges are much more competitive to enter and there are going to be much more motivated people around.

If you want to be a professional you're going to have to work at it.

Brian said (August 6, 2010):

That girl said a mouthful.

The main function of the public education system is to turn out uncritical worker drones who will follow orders and who will unquestioningly accept as fact all pronouncements uttered by authority figures - (politicians, scientists, professors, experts, etc). Some of the dullest people I have met are college grads, and I am not saying that to be bitter in any way.

Check out this link listing many successful high school drop outs. Lots of notable people on the list - William Faulkner, Duke Ellington, John Huston, Groucho Marx, Sidney Poitier, Herman Melville, et al.

Chris,teacher in Malaysia said (August 6, 2010):

She mentioned the bottom line: that she is a human being. What I can say is that her awareness means that she could try very hard to "detox" from her current predicament. I wish her success in this difficult task.

In the artificial countries of the Third World, which John Perkins has described as the area where economic hitman and others fulfill the dictates of the global elite and corporations, the educational system is tailored for complete uniformity and ease of control; the Professors here will not do research if if does not bring in an ISI ranked publication of high impact and to achieve these goals, they relate to the power-brokers in the "advanced" countries that manage and manipulate the media monopoly in Science to get into a well-prepared niche and they measure their greatness according to the universal metrics that have been created. Curiosity is utterly lacking, nor interest in human beings. So I can see the gradual transformation of the educational system in the so called "advanced countries" towards the level of control, dumbing down and the surrendering of value to some external standard that becomes the new motivating factor even in the haughty and lofty domains of advanced manipulators.

John said (August 6, 2010):

For someone so young her speech is amazingly perceptive and mature. She is obviously a lot more intelligent than she realizes

Peter said (August 6, 2010):

I agree with this young lady. Here is an alternative. There is a college in Southern California called Thomas Aquinas College. It is a Catholic institution. The philosophy of this school is to have students read the Classics for the entire 4 years of college. Students do not "select a major". Rather, students will graduate with a generic degree of Humanities. The philosophy of this school is to teach students "critical thinking". This is what a college is meant to be, to train the mind to think critically.

Stephen said (August 6, 2010):

My ex-wife was valedictorian of the college she attended. She has no curiosity or desire to learn. She only learned when it meant a promotion or a grade. She never learned how to cook, treat a man or do much of anything useful.

Unfortunately she passed this attitude to our children, some of whom have been in gifted programs. They have no curiosity, and outright refuse to learn something new that doesn't involve a grade or money. They look upon my love to learn as a waste of time, I look upon their lack of curiosity as a waste of their lives.

Erica Goldson, you are right and I felt the same way when I was in high school, but it doesn't change when you get to college. The blinder the follower the better the grade. They need to train sheep and not people that question the status quo.

David said (August 5, 2010):

All I can say is “Wow!” She earned her valedictorian by this speech alone, even if she thought she was unworthy of an award.

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at