When Erica Goldson delivered her graduation speech condemning the education system that had just honored her as valedictorian, there were only 100 or so fellow students and their teachers, friends and families listening. In the weeks since she first posted her speech online, the audience has multiplied thousands of times over. The idea that has so many people talking? She asks that we reconsider whether our education system really promotes learning.
In reflecting on her experience as a student, she describes herself as “a slave of the system”, and became valedictorian having “successfully shown that [she] was the best slave”. Words worthy of the stir that they have created. Reflecting on the opportunities lost during her years in that system, she quotes John Taylor Grotto:
“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.”
She challenged those yet to graduate to break from the path that she had taken:
“You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse ‘You have to learn this for the test’ is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.”
Her speech has been viewed over 100,000 times, has generated a healthy debate among commentors, and has been the genesis of a growing number of blog posts, each generating debates of their own. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read Erica’s speech in its entirety.
While some are saying that she’s just naive or flat out wrong, her speech is working – thousands of people are challenging each other on the topic.
Where do you stand?