Speech

Below is the video and transcript of the Coxsackie-Athens HS Class of 2010 valedictory speech that went viral on the web, thus proclaiming me as the 'valedictorian who spoke out against schooling.'

Here I Stand
Erica Goldson

June 25, 2010



        There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years." 
The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast - How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if Ireally, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" 
Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."
        This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.
        Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. 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.
        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 cinderblock 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. (Gatto)
        To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the notion of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?
This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.
        And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.
        We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.
        The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.
        For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. 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.
        For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.
        For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.
        So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.
        I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

130 comments:

  1. Good for you for speaking the truth. I'm surprised they let you finish.

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  2. Excellent! A++ My advice for you is to find that goal the Zen master talked about - Everyday! Finding your goal is not as easy as one may think, due in large part because we are not trained to think "outside of the box", as you know. Let your heart decide what you truly want - you may need, nay, you will need to train your mind (read: Think and Grow Rich - not necessarily to get rich, but to open your understanding mind and to train your sub-conscious what and how to think. Your goal may well be to help the school systems change the way our children are taught; maybe to have them fully aware of the "real world". I do know that I wish my kids were more aware, because now that they are in their twenties, they are wondering what they want to do with their lives.
    Blessings and Peace and Love and Joy to you and yours.

    Oh PS. - Congratulations on your achievements:)

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  3. I truly believe and feel that this speech has just altered my live in ways that I cannot fathom right now but hope to discover soon. Absolutely amazing!

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  4. You have a privileged place on my tumblr blog (escapethamatrix.tumblr.com) I'm with you. Let's create a better system of education, economics, and the rest. Check out this speech by Salman Khan: http://youtu.be/gM95HHI4gLk. Exciting stuff!!

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  5. As an educator, mother, and human being, I thank you for saying the truth. I am currently working on my doctorate in Educational Leadership, simply for the paper that says I'm "smart enough" for people to listen to me. I think like you think and will be vehemently working on creating a better future for future generations.

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  6. Thank you so much - you are brave and wiser than many. I could have spoken these words about my character and accomplishments when I graduated but I was still busy feeling the only thing important about me was my good-girl test-taker record. Today after many trials and much suffering I'm a happy person raising (unschooled) kiddos - kids far more self-validated, intelligent, caring, and brave than I ever was. When I see young people such as yourself speaking out this way I feel so excited for the new generation. Wonderful stuff.

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  7. I watched your video just now and reposted it a few times. CLEARLY TOTALLY AWESOME ERICA!!! That was great! I'm very happy you spoke truth. You are truly very smart to speak up to make people aware. Fucking awesome! I went through college working the whole time and taking honors classes and when I got out all that praise didn't mean anything because I suddenly became and indentured servant who had to work off her $30,000 school loans.

    I have had to work shitty office jobs making advertising propaganda for shitty money-centered non-humanistic people all so I can just get to what I love which is art. I'm so glad there are people your age smart enough to wake other people up so this system gets reorganized. Education should be FREE for anybody who wants to learn and it should be structured differently to bring out people's real true talents.

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  8. When I hear the quote, "FREEDOM isn't FREE" it kinda makes me wonder... Then what is it actually? Isn't "freedom" actually a self-defining adjective? This is like saying "the state of being FREE, COSTS." Well, if something costs, then why even call it FREE and then tell me it costs?

    This is the kind of bullshit that brainwashes stupid people. This is why young people like you are awesome to make people truly realize they are conditioned drones until they wake themselves up with self-honesty like you did.

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer, The phrase "Freedom isn't free" refers to this country and the "freedoms" we have compaired to other countries that don't have the privilages we do. And to keep these freedoms from being taken away from us by other jelous countries, we have to pay a price. The price being lives lost keeping the ill intentioned parties, be it whole countries or bands of thugs, at bay and not on our soil. The price can be high at times as it has in the past. Granted, some wars, declaired or undeclaired (unlawful) are started with ulterior motives by certain powerful global financiers. But our freedom to live the way we desire is slowly disentergrating under the current government system which has grown beyond the powers originally intended by our founding fathers. I'm getting off tract but our freedom does come at a cost.

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  9. This speech is simply amazing and wonderful...I feel hope when I read something like this....
    The most important thing is being grateful for what/who takes us to the point where we are now...& the choice to break free from a system that takes away from the truth & our potential.
    THANK YOU

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  10. Wonderful speech Erica. I have shared it with many of my home educating friends. I have been home educating all of my children for many years now because of the horrible condition of the public schools. My children range in age of 31 down to 13 now.

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  11. I'm just a random guy that you will probably never know nor meet. Your speech was amazing and touching. Thank you.

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  12. I always thought the same way as you but you actually had the courage to speak up. The rules of the system is simple, complied with it and you'll have security whether it be job/family/area you live in. I used to learn and now I complied because I couldn't find a job without a title. I will still remain the slave of this system until the system gives me a title that tells me I'm worthy. Tell me how everything turns out for you after college.

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  13. i found a transcript of your speech last year and posted it on my Notes on Facebook. i just wanna say thank you for saying what you said. keep doing what you do.

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  14. I herd about your speech at the HS i went to 30 miles west of Albany. Im graduated but i plan to disrupt next years HS gradution at my HS. Any ideas on how to disrupt a public event?

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  15. Nyrere Steven NorfleetSeptember 16, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    You are what I expect of the future. You have instilled so much hope in me that you cannot fathom. Why? because now I know that I am not the only one who feels as you feel about the realities of our education system. I always felt that this world did not fit what it is to be normal,especially considering how we all begin our lives via the education system. It is a flawed construct that must be completely revised. Erica, you are a hero in my eyes and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. You are a true light bringer. Let your illumination shine on all. I honor you and may god bless you.

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  16. As a long time middle school wage-slave, I was thrilled to find that your avant-garde English teacher challenged you to question the point of playing the 'grade game' in assembly-line schooling. There is a growing understanding among educators that students, rather than teachers, are best qualified to determine what they should study and how. My son is 'unschooled' and it is with great pity and respect for my students that I continuously redirect learning in my classroom to critical and constructive thinking and collaboration. You have given us all hope for a future of free thinking and compassionate friends. Thank you.

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  17. I must say that speech blew me away.
    A true free thinker.
    No matter which road you take you are a winner.

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  18. Erica,

    You had the courage to speak the truth, hats off to you.

    Come over to zerohedge.com and join in the worldwide informed. We are the resistance.

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  19. Powerful words... FANTASTIC SPEECH, and a FANTASTIC brain. The courage it took to call out the establishment is all that is required to truly succeed.

    Good luck to you,
    Stranger in Phoenix

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  20. Erica,
    I have felt the same way since I was a teenager back in the early seventies. I have tried my whole life to stay far away from the center of the matrix yet participate and and carry my own weight in society. The main ways that I have done this is hold tight to my convictions and own my own business. It is wonderful and hope inspiring to here one as young and smart as you fearlessly speak the truth. You have shown me that enlightenment is just barely being swept under the carpet and may come bursting out at any time. As young as you are, you are light years ahead of Hilary Clinton and I nominate you as her replacement effective immediately. Thank you and all the best to you.

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  21. Your speech is a dead-on accurate assessment of the Amerikan educational institution. It is a crying shame that the sheeple have no idea that TPTB has set the goal of serfdom for all but the elite.

    Your speech made it into the ZeroHedge blog: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/student-loans-hit-all-time-record-one-high-school-valedictorian-gets-it

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  22. Thanks for you wonderful and thoughtful speech! It delivered a little glimmer of hope on an otherwise stormy day. Good luck on your future endeavors, and keep on thinking.

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  23. May you always keep this flame lit up inside, and may God bless you in many, many ways.

    Thank you for being truthful to your essence.

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  24. Your eyes are open, you must of Swallowed the Red pill! Welcome to the Matrix! Question Everything! You will wake some up, but there is a sea of Lost out there.. Very good Job on your Speech.. I'm sure most that listened to it, didn't get it though. It is sad to say, you were speaking over their brain washed minds !

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  25. wow! erica you totally rock! thanks for telling it exactly as it is, respect, kudos, and yes love for such a spirited, aware speech. great comments too!
    awesome...

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  26. I appreciate your speech and agree with much of the unrest about the current problems.
    So I am of an opinion that it is possible to do anything that would help everyone. But it is not easy and needs to be done in a way everyone can accept and be happy about.
    However, I have heard that those funding acorn or acorn projects have done rather ill fated projects that have been less than legit. One such example is voter fraud that was done in town. They were paying people to vote a particular way, as a quick way to make money. (This was told to me by a trusted friend, and their word I wouldn't question on such a matter.) So, no I've not first hand but still. There are things out there that I don't trust about it.

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  27. If only I had heard this speech before spending 23 years in education getting a PhD !

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  28. Right on, Erica! I followed this link from zerohedge.com and gained an even deeper appreciation for your speech by being able to read it.

    It is really rare for those in your age-group to be questioning (openly) what many of us older Americans have known for years. The fact that you used your graduation platform to deliver the message and express those thoughts was really courageous. Kudos.

    I hope a fulfilling future unfolds for you, and that you find yourself in an occupation that is enjoyable.

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  29. thank you for having the courage & insight to speak your words :)

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  30. Well said -
    and brave in so many ways.

    Do not worry about your own missed opportunities.
    You've awoken in plenty of time to listen, discover and enjoy your passions.
    Good journey.

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  31. You've got big brass ones, my dear! Outstanding. The fact that you've figured this out at such a young age, and had the GUTS to say it...I'm speechless.

    I'm 39. I look at most teens these days and I'm convinced we're all doomed. You just made me question that assumption.

    You freakin GO girl!

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  32. PS... Here's the link to you on ZH: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/student-loans-hit-all-time-record-one-high-school-valedictorian-gets-it

    Three and a half million monthly readers just saw your speech. Well, so far, 20 thousand. :-)

    As an aside, ZH permits an unmoderated discussion, and many posters there are highly disgruntled; please understand that reader comments are sometimes vicious in a manner that may seem unprovoked or unwarranted, and sometimes there are unserious cruelties just for the sake of a laugh. If somebody calls you a 'valley girl', brush it off. Or bite them in the neck.

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  33. I am grateful to zero hedge for our introduction. Hi and thank you for many things but especially for sharing your gifts. As a father of three, the daily struggle to awaken my "comatose" children is raging. A light like yours is both uplifting and reassuring that there can be more than a world of "iPurchase, therefore i am".

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  34. A time not too distant in the past, I was a valedictorian as well. You've performed a speech that I've only ruminated about in my head during my younger times. As you know, being intelligent and young, the world often has a way of defying logic.

    I tend to think those who are able see the sea of possibilities standing on the docks of reality often experience a deep disconnect. The more you understand of the world, you will see that change happens, much like the sea. To the naked eye and one sparkling with intensity, it is maddeningly slow. But to the weathered gaze, it is powerful as it is vast.

    Here's the thing: for many, there will always be a disconnect, as well there should be. As the world shifts in its own reality, so will the ideals of possibilities. The trick is to not become burdened at the perceived gap, but to look at with hope of what could be. This trick often goes by another name, which is that of patience.

    I wish you the best with your future and especially in dancing.

    I leave you with this last bit, a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5THXa_H_N8

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  35. I showed this speech to my father and all he said was "just another jewish girl reading a speech written by her father"... I was speechless...

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  36. I have posted your comments on facebook and passed it around to so many of my friends and family and so too have they. Everyone is inspired by your speech. Many people seem afraid that our youth have lost their way in this labyrinth of a world we have created but you give us great hope that some of our youth are in fact "waking up" to their true potential. There are many of us who support what you said and we wish you great success and happiness in your future in addition to what you want for the world around you.

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  37. I am so lucky that a friend posted this enlightened speech on my Facebook Profile page! This is the perfect outlook for a young woman or man and gives me a sliver of hope for mankind. If all young people are thinking you do Erica, and they are really waking from the slumber of our failing system, the United States will become a better place to live. The education system may be flawed, but seems to have taught you very well. Give your parent or parents or whomever raised you an A++, too. They/him/her probably had a major impact bringing you out of the darkness and into the light, but that one English teacher who you said enlightened you, give her the credit for the success you're going to certainly find in a social world. I believe when going into college, you'll escape the matrix even more so, there's a lot more enlightenment in front of you, you're one of the few who have both eyes open. Use your knowledge for the good of mankind, and I promise, you can only receive blessings so GIANORMOUS, that you'll constantly be looking for ways to continue kindness.

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  38. Yes! The youth of our great NATION IS ALIVE! Beautiful words young lady! We are awake....

    Ask questions, demand answers! Love it!

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  39. I have printed this speech out and saved it to my pc. I want my daughter and son to read these inspiring words sometime in the future when they can comprehend the full meaning behind this! I was never validictorian nor would I ever have been because your thoughts have been my thoughts while I was growing up. However this made me rebellious in my teenage years and didn't want to and was not interested in school anymore. When I dropped out I was on the honor roll my junior year of high school. What was really a disappointment is when I actually did put some effort into my work I did fantastic and a teacher actually gave be a B- and wrote the comment on the top of my paper "Who wrote this???" meaning she didn't believe I had the potential to write a paper like that myself and I remember it to this day it was a paper on Beowulf. After such incidents kept my motivation down I said enough of this. I went and got my GED which I passed with flying colors just to get out of that wretched enviroment called school! I praise you for your courage, wisdom and knowledge. Being able to speak your mind even when you know you will be criticized is one of the hardest things a person can do! God Bless and I wish you a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment! You have made a difference in this world!

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  40. At the age of 31 I discovered that many of the philosophies that I was taught in our public schooling system where about creating worker bee's not free thinkers. It is amazing to me to see a young lady be so aware that she discovered in in half the time. I have a new saying to tell people now when they ask me what I do, I can respond, "I'm unschooling myself"

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  41. Internet helped liberate me from the confines of the system as well.

    My father had me online in 1994 when I was 11. By the time I was 16 I had begun learning my interests almost exclusively online in my schools library via the addition of broadband internet.

    As a result of skipping my English class for two weeks, to attend films at the cinema which had greater importance to me, I was let go from the class. I was re-positioned more appropriately into another English class with a socialist leaning mentor, who liked to show films in class. I don't ever remember being consulted about this move, or my parents ever being called by the school. However, I suspect that somebody worked in my interest to place me there, as when I arrived I encountered the privilege to do what I wanted, and to discuss with other thoughtful learners our interests.
    Political Economy, Nutrition, IT (web dev and networking) mostly.

    I still showed up to my psychology class (the only interesting one I had, thanks in a large part to the mentor at the front of it), and went to history class once in a while to debate my teacher on the merits of American Imperialism.

    In so doing, I became the only friend of an Iranian boy named Mohammad, who I am friends with today (even though he was deported to Iran after 9/11) Mohammad was more studious in class than I, aiming to please his parents who were more strict than I. Although, he did skip class with me a few times to learn alongside me in the library, where I could usually be found mon-fri from 9am-6pm, long after everyone else had gone home. Mohammad and I skipped class one time to attend a lecture at SFU by one of the humanitarian co-ordinators of Iraq as well.

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  42. It was as though those learners who couldn't be led with a carrot and stick, were amalgamated into thus one class. One day I arrived at class, to discover a film being shown which had a BIG impact on me at the time. It was the Julia Roberts film about the story of Erin Brockovich, who led and won the largest class action law suit in American history, for the cover up by PG&E of the cancer causing chemical contamination of the drinking water of a rural California community.

    After being graduated without completing 3/4's of my classes by a high school councilor who simply gave me a "standing grant" in the areas I had no completed, I went onto work in IT while learning on the job, as a courier of organic groceries where for a year while listening to auido-books and university lectures from the teaching company. I got into personal development, NLP, and sales at this time as well. I landed a job a in IT again, while also working as a commissioned sales person utilizing the skills in interpersonal communications (NLP) I pulled from the internet. I sold 90% of the dept's software, and was promoted to sales. There I met the executive assistant to the CEO of the company who was 4 years older than myself. We began dating, and eventually I adopted her son, who had significant challenges as a result of abuse they suffered in the past.

    Her son expressed that he was not happy with school. At the time I was living with the founder of selfdesign.com's son, in his co-operative home he set up when he was 20. He himself was adopted, and the relationship he had with his father I modeled whilst contracting with the Self Design program as a means of income and learning.

    I further mentored with the founder from the age of 24-27. We also placed our son in his learning program and I have been home learning with him up and until a few days ago, when he decided to try public school again.

    He's now in a happy loving relationship with his mother, curious and motivated and passionate about several interest: marine biology, engineering, acrobatics, etc. Part of his desire to join, were the new changes to the public system in BC that we heard about two weeks ago...bcedplan . ca


    Isaac Asimov, one of my cherished mentors, long ago said this day would come... the day when we the entire planet would have their own personal learning machine.... youtube dot com /watch?v=CJAIERgWhZQ

    My mentor Joel Bellenson, facebook dot com/equalwatts ) whose company first annotated and sequenced the human genome, pointed out a while ago to me that personal learning is a phenomena that works well currently for the wealthy. But also, has found an exponential historical trend in solar power, whereby the price has been dropping 75% / decade, since ~1940. Extrapolating out, this means the entire planet will be solar by 2030 and exceeding 400% of our current energy consumption globally. As we sit currently, Moore's law is bringing us computer power doublings every 18 months, and solar cost reduction and growth is pumping right alongside of it. Africa is being wired, both by wired and wireless internet. A NA 1995 internet moment is beginning on the continent, and soon the globe will be one machine programmed and operated by US.

    youtube dot com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE

    wired dot co dot uk/news/archive/2011-11/04/get-rich-move-to-africa

    It's an excting time to be alive.

    But let us not forget, that the global south/China are still far less developed, and only by advocating for an Equal Watt's revolution globally, will we provide the material conditions necessary for global personal learning mediated by internet, let alone pull the planet out of cyclical generational economic crises and war.

    The biggest question I never got a satisfactory answer to in school. Was why did the great depression happen, and could it again?

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  43. I agree, with what you said...

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  44. I didnt get it but it was cool

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  45. I hope that you also inspire school administrations to change things for future generations :)

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  46. the best of my public school education, as i remember it, was the affirmation of my intermittent dissent by those on the margins of the school (who stood against the common denominator). for brief moments, i subjectivized and reclaimed my education as a result of this dialectical movement. what will happen if this vision materializes or comes to any sort of systemic fruition? will a monolith of open minded folk stride forth across the earth hand in hand, empowering creativity and crushing epistemological oppression?

    those who are now empowering us (the youth) from the blurred and disenfranchised margins of the school (like her avant garde teacher) might very well become the oppressors, forcing themselves and their subjective vision (once the subjective vision of the underdog, now the objective, common denominator) upon the youth.

    i am a cynic where process is concerned in the application of the principles necessary for the coming-into-being of this vision, respectfully, erica, although i do cheer for your brazenness and courage.. i would NOT have had it in me to do this!!! dissent is potent when it comes from the fringes.. (like this speech).

    when it is institutionalized, standardized, and diffused, i believe it may lose its potency. :)

    ReplyDelete
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  48. I just saw this on a friend's facebook page today. Way to go girl! I wish I had known this before feeling like a giant failure for not wanting to go to college after high school. Even though I never got a college or university degree my learning never stopped. I am constantly teaching myself about things that interest me and now, as a mother, will be homeschooling my daughter.

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  49. Erica, I hope one day you come back to this blog to see what seeds have sprouted. It seems your speech is making some rounds lately, it popped up on my FB feed so I was inclined to check it out. It reminds me of a farewell speech I made over the PA on my last senior day, though I was just cracking at the surface of what was wrong with our system. It'd take me a solid year to figure out the problem extends to the very root of elementary. I've taken a few years off from school and I've decided to return to an engineering course of study, though I dipped my toe in economics with the intention of studying education and history as well. I realized that I can accomplish that outside of school while learning engineering, something I'm truly gifted and interested in. I have some projects in mind and if you ever meander this way I'd love to bounce some ideas off of you. They're along the lines of economic rejuvenation, fostering creativity, and networking ideas. It's minds like yours, that have been freed from a contagious apathy, that are instrumental in steering the direction of our new systems. You have an invaluable perception. I'll check back.

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  50. Thank you SO much for sharing this with the world. The education system is in MUCH need of transformation, all over North America, and your message is VERY timely! I am a homeschool mom of four brilliant kids and very, very proud to be! Your speech was full of wisdom and grace and, well, it took guts girl! You GO! :)

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  51. Very well said....and sooo true. I am angry and annoyed that this is what has become of education. It is a complete misuse of the word!! The word "education" means "to draw out"...not fill with useless facts and information just to be tested on it later. Educators need to seek what is inside of each student and help them use their passion to find meaning in their own lives...ahh, that would be nice!!

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  52. Wow. You have balls, girl.

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  53. you speak the truth! Sadly the system has nearly destroyed that creative and adventurous mind i hold so dear but I'll be graduating high school in a month and then I can start anew!

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  54. Bravo!!!! you go girl!

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  55. A very true statement about global educational system not only in America but worldwide. I had exactly the same feeling while leaving the university with a diploma in my hand.
    I have become a teacher thanks to my chosen path at the university. Now I don't want to do it anymore because 90% of what I teach is a complete rubish a waste of time of everybody present.
    Wake up people school is not everything, in fact your mind will better of without the indoctrination of the education system.
    We need to know about our heritage as human species, about our place in the universe not about all the silly wars that we fought between each other.

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  56. I can only hope that you in all of your insight have continued to learn more of what matters and have found a path in the ideals of Dr. Paul. If not, well, "Ideas spread, you can't stop them. An idea whose time has come cannot be stopped by any army or any government!"~Dr.Paul
    Dr. Paul knows of the problems in the education system and believes that the Department of education is part of the problem. He wants to get rid of the Dept. of Ed. and get America's schools back on track.
    Of course there are many other ideas that will help restore America, please look them up, if you haven't already.

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  57. You're right on the mark, and you said it very well. I know it's a year later now.

    I couldn't wait for the system to be fixed, so I chose to homeschool my kids. They are freeform learners who question everything!

    I wish I had the answers for how to reform the education system. There is so much money at stake, and the teacher's union really doesn't want it changed.

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  58. Yes! Perfectly said!

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  59. I enjoyed your speech. I think you might under-value much of what you have learned during your time at C-A. Yes, some classes surely placed too much emphasis on memorizing facts that would soon be forgotten, but you could not have done so well if you hadn't also been able to learn some skills that will be useful to you later on. I bet you can read a complicated passage and determine what is truly important. I bet you can look over a classmate's lab report and figure out where he/she went wrong. I'm sure there are many other skills that you have sharpened during your endless hours at school, but there is one minor skill that you obviously haven't learned. That skill is the selection of readable fonts. Yes, the script font looks cute, but it is such a chore trying to read the comments that others have left above. Perhaps the school system has failed you after all...

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  60. I love this blog! There is alot of useful information online if people take the time to search it out. One great site for student loan debt is www.federalstudentloanadvisory.us

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  62. "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."


    You're way to humble. Even though you were a slave, you were still hardworking. And the other people who didn't work hard in school most likely were goofing off rather than composing music or learning things on their own. Of course a few may have done those things, but not many. Better to be a hardworking slave than to be a lazy freeman.

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  66. I totally loved your awesome speech, I think you are So Right! I was the round peg that never fit into the square hole at school, no matter how hard they banged away at me. I'm autistic, and my particular place on the spectrum means I'm high functioning with Asperger's, but that doesn't mean the school was an environment in which I could ever have excelled. Far from it. I loved learning, but hated school. If only they had fostered my genuine love of learning and helped me, rather than try to beat me into the shape they wanted.

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  67. You are an INSPIRATION! I thank you deeply for your courage to speak out and the beauty with which you did so. I am a mom who unschools her teenage son and I am so grateful for your speech. It was uplifting and filled me with HOPE!

    Thank you!!!

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  68. thank u.. thank u...

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  69. Anyone feels the irony?

    The rotten education system she condemned was the one that made her capable of writing this beautiful speech and critical thinking. By the standard of this 'indoctrination' a critical student like her is a valedictorian.

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    Replies
    1. No irony in my book. Sure, she may have learned some writing skills and wide vocabulary. But those things on their own don't lead to joy in success. There are plenty of people out their who have many skills, but do nothing with them.
      They are sad, angry, depressed, hopeless. Why? Possibly, because they were never challenged or allowed to discover how to find joy in life.

      Anyone, at any stage or status of life, can wake up and realize that the state they are in is not the state they want to be in--that they are not happy. They can realize that they have been led along, instead of receiving guidance and encouragement to chart their own course, to make mistakes and learn from them, to discover themselves and what drives them and gives them joy.

      Education should not be all facts and figures. It should also provide an individual with a tangible sense of self worth, empowerment, and the knowledge that they can find joy in anything that they choose to do, and that those things can make a difference. This was her message.

      Delete
  70. thanks for inspiring me :)

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  71. Amazing courage! I read this speech every few months and am continually struck by it. I wish I had heard stuff like this when I was having the life sucked out of me during my "12 year prison sentence" known as public education. It's funny, I couldn't tell you the topic of any graduation speech I ever attended, and that includes the rants of several well-known (and highly paid) personalities, but I'll remember this speech forever. I hope you are doing well and wish you the best.

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  72. Bravo to You! For being the valedictorian? No ... For being true to who you are! For standing up for what you believe in! You are 100% correct about the purpose of education .... I am hoping you will go on to teach this so your generation can indeed make the changes that are necessary!

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  73. A very, very good speech from such a young woman. I am so glad that the public school system hasn't deceived everyone of it's students. You mentioned some key points about (Corporations) (Secretive government) and also the end result of the public school system to create servants of the system rather than critical and creative thinkers. I would like to encourage you to learn more about the (Corpratocracy) by reading a book called (CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN)by John Perkins and about the (secretive government) AKA "One World Government" or "The New World Order" if you Google those you will find tons of evidence. The reason why I tell you this is because it will bring to light the driving force behind all the things that are happening in the education, financial, political, medical and even the false religious systems of the world. I would also like to encourage you to discover the reality of Christian faith in the Bible. I have been studying it for over 13 years now, and can tell you that most of the prophesies in it have been fulfilled and only a few left to be fulfilled. Here is a website of bible related archaeology that proves the Bible is true wyattmuseum.com and world history also proves that it is accurate to the letter. The truth in all of this I pray will lead you and others to eternal salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the fact that the one and only GOD that created all things Loves You and wants to have a relationship with you now, and in life everlasting!!! In closing you will find that this world is run by corrupt and godless men that have no good intent for you or I, their plans are from the enemy himself, BUT God and His children (believers) win in the end and live forever in paradise with Him,,,Learn about Gods saving plan for your life in serving Him, and in the Life to come, and His son JESUS CHRIST that paid the price for our sins Past Present and future. May God Bless you as you move on in life!!!

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  74. Thank you for open my mind...
    you just regain the lost spirit for me. and I'm sure there are so many other out there get what I've got from your wonderful speech. Thank you

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  75. Thank you. You just said everything I felt my entire life in school. I was fortunate enough to have the teacher you described in 1st and 2nd grade. She taught us to think, not memorize. By the time I reached high school I could have taught every class I took. It was the same BS as the year before with a little extra added in and it was disheartening to the point that I gave up. I chose to take in all of life had to offer those four years instead of mindless memorization and regurgitation and had the best four years of my life. I am now 40 and regret not molding to the institutionalization of the education system simply because of the benefits that would have came along with it (better paying jobs...etc). But I will never regret having truly lived like I never will be able to again. Bless you for having the guts to stand up and say this. I wish more young people like you would stand for what they believe just as you have called for them to do.

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  76. Let's go for it!

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  77. Thank you for voicing it out for us (or me at least). Till this very day, I'm still lost.

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  78. Just so you know, someone created a comic out of this: http://zenpencils.com/comic/123-erica-goldson-graduation-speech/

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  79. As an educator, I cannot applaud this enough. This is basically what a lot of schools have reduced students to, without even realizing it.

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  80. Please tell your graphic designer that the comments font is very, very difficult to read.

    I definitely agree with the speech to a large extent but not completely. When I was 15, I had the same thoughts, especially being in IB and having to cram my high school courses alongside first year university courses, then passing two sets of standardized tests (one provincial and one international). Life felt quite bleak and pointless. But we're young, and the world is an exciting place. Yes, the world may put rules around you to try to coop you in, to try to restrain you, so it is our job to break free of these boundaries. We're all the same on the inside. Don't feel like you're more enlightened than anyone else. You might be the one to put it into words, and it resonated immensely within everybody because it's something we all feel.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that institution does NOT control you life. You control your life. You may choose to have it clip your wings or you can become a bystander. Experience the restraint in order to fly out and seek new freedoms. You're your own person now. The world is a big place, there are lots to see, lots to experience, and lots to do.

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  81. I too am an educator and I couldn't agree more with this speech and assessment of public school. I do what I can with the students I have to encourage them to explore and follow their passion rather than be obedient drones. But I hope everyone understands that it is NOT the teachers union that is promoting the mindless drivel, the teach to the test mentality, the school is about getting a job perspective. This is coming from the federal governement via corporate giants who are funding the privitization of public schools. There have always been teachers whose efforts have been focused on drawing out what is in each child. We are being forced to test kids to death or get out of the profession. Truly heartbreaking stuff. I have chosen so far to be the rogue teacher that supports my students over the system.....but who knows how long they will let me continue?

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  82. I watch your speech is great, but in indonesia if anyone want to speech like that, the teacher will be angry, hihihi, serious.
    So, I want to know how US student study, I hear in USA people have good education system, really? please answer

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  83. Congratulations!! I wish I could leave my thoughts in spanish, but I will try to express myself in English. I am from Mexico City, I studied for many years and then my carrer was for Interior Design, all my life have being working with the airlines, and now that I am 54 I know I could had been a great journalist. Well...I have a son and a daughter, I really believe that all my suffering ( economical) has been because of their expensive schools, I dont understand why we need to be at school for so many years learning something that we are not going to use and always talking about world wars. Is enough. Why they dont teach us: 1. How to love better and . 2 How to save and invest money and make business. 3. Languages 4. Meditation 5. How to be happy 6. Everything brelating to the death . 7. How to eat well , nutrition. etc.
    I really agree with everything that in this video its said. Congratulations and if ever I can help to make a change..please contact me. my e mail mariliavillarreal@yahoo.com.mx

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  84. Inspiring. Impressive. Implementable.

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  85. Dear Erica,

    I came across this blog by chance while searching for an old article of my own -- Goldson is not a common name. As a high school teacher of twenty years, I wonder if your teachers are as impressed with you as I would be if you were my student. Clearly, you were fortunate to have a teacher like Donna Bryan who encouraged you to think critically... sadly, there are too many teachers afraid being challenged by students who think.

    However, do not assume that your years of diligence and discipline were wasted. The best rock musicians were classically trained; the greatest writers and artists spent years of painstaking effort developing their techniques. Academic discipline is the foundation of authentic intellectual creativity -- the problem comes from never departing from the mundane and reaching for the supernal.

    Daniel Patrick Moynahan famously said, "You are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts." Nevertheless, most people today place more values on feelings than on facts. If you can take your talents, your training, and your inspiration and combine them with vision and determination, you can truly accomplish all that you hope to achieve.

    May you have great success in all your efforts.

    Rabbi Yonason Goldson

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  86. wonderful speech!!

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  87. This font sucks ass

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  88. I assume that you are going to go into education in order to make a change? Otherwise you are just a critic, yet one who is very poetic due to the very people you are criticizing.

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    Replies
    1. I guess she is just calling stuff by its name, and you have to criticize the current state of things right now cause the US is not doing really good, not only in education. She doesnt have to become a teacher to make a change, she already inspired hundreds of people with her words! its up to the listeners as well and not only up to the speaker to act. Its like this guy said: hear the truth, from whoever speaks it.

      Delete
  89. I am from India, in Grade 12! Yeah, your speech fits our education equally well.

    It's not just America which is clutched in this dilemma. With what I have seen and people I have met, it's just the whole world.

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  90. I ran across this online journal by chance while looking for an old article of my own - Goldson is not a regular name. As a secondary teacher of twenty years, I doubt that your educators are as inspired with you as I might be whether you were my learner. Obviously, you were favored to have an instructor like Donna Bryan who swayed you to think basically... unfortunately, there are an excessive amount of educators perplexed being tested by understudies who consider.

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  91. his is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work

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  92. Thank you so much :)

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  93. This speech is truly perfect. I have always felt that the education system was flawed and dismissal. Hopefully, Erica's speech will be able to introduce a new era where students actually look forward to school, rather than dread coming into an environment where creativity and individuality are suppressed.

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  95. It is more important that you love what you do rather than to do what you love to do.

    You are what you think you are. If you think you are a slave, you are that.

    Perfection in action calls for doing what you are supposed to do ( what your heart tells you to do) and then do not bother about the results. Be rest in peace. You must find the peace ion the battle field of life.

    What the Zen Master referred is that you can not attain Zen by just hard work only and working like a slave. You must perform work with love, with out selfishness and with out sense that "I am doing the work". To find the Zen, you will put your 100 % effort ( that will be equal to 25% of the total work ) your Master will put in 25
    % of the work and God's Grace will do the rest of 50% of the work. It is to prove to you that you will not attain by your efforts ONLY, that the Zen Master has told that story.
    Best wishes,

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  96. Powerful speech, and how timely to read it on World Teachers' Day. :) I've been teaching undergrad physics to engineers for five years and counting. The coursework is rigid in content and in execution, but there's still enough room to inspire students: encouraging alternative solutions to a problem, reminding why they need this for their work in the future, showing fun applications and even analogies to current events or life in general. Teachers need to remind the class *why* something needs to be learned, so we ourselves need to be convinced of the significance of each topic. Every now and then we have "joke time" to keep things light, and I always start the class by writing a verse from the Bible.
    I've always been an outlier, anti-establishment student, so now I am working *against* the flaws of the system but working from within. I'm happy to say that many students respond to my approach without compromising the standards of the school (and ultimately the companies who will hire them).
    Of course, the issue of which subjects to teach would be up to the schools and local government. And parents/families should also reclaim their responsibility as the primary educators and role models of their children.
    Thank you for this video. God bless and be with you more!

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  97. thank you , really I appreciate your brave attitude . It`s essential problem which must be solved . I have faced the same when I was studying at collage .

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  98. Dear Erica,

    U know, I will graduate in about 2 weeks and now that it is over I feel the same way u did with respect to the fact that the past is long gone. I wasted a lot of my fucking time and mind in stupid prerequisites to go into the faculty of business. Thank god I am not you and I did like shit in said prerequisites so I did not get in. I instead had to go with my original plan, go study economics!! that subject I always felt attracted to. Yeah I do like econ, but I enjoy history more than economics, and cooking and music and fucking fancy photographs (tho I cant take a decent one). I noticed that almost at the end of my degree and it was a little late for me, tho I made my last months worth a lot. Well, if you did go to university you should be close to getting your certificate of 'fit for employment', well good luck with that shit b/c in this economy you cannot even get a decent job, the system you criticized is not even able to enslave us fucking decently. You know, I was gonna give u some advice for the remainder of your schooling period, but what can I tell to the girl that when finished high school came to the same realizations I came to when finishing college?? (and worded them way better), maybe just this: fucking enjoy your last years of schooling, it is the last time in time when LEARNING is so constant (tho sometimes youll be learning shit) and truly last year of college is pretty damn good.

    ps: change your font for god's sake, you can barely read the comments!

    best wishes,

    DFC

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  99. ape kek kenen coment2 ni..

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  100. So great speech!!! I can't agree with you more. I've been translated to Vietnamese. Thank you for your speech! You will change the world!

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  101. Thanks, that I finally found this original speech. I've heard this since long time ago but I just found the translation. Now I have to tell my colleagues to say good bye to America's educational system. As I found this transcript, I shared it in fb.
    Thanks, Erica. You've just open our eyes. Congratulations!

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  102. This has actually made me think a lot, well done!

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  103. You're an inspiration, and know that there are more out there like you.

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  104. She couldn't manage to do well in school and develop interests at the same time? This is not the norm. Christ, I hate rich white girls.

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  105. Absolutely inspiring.

    My experiencing in public school was a lot more positive: quite a few of my teachers made it a point to focus on making sure students LEARNED, and didn't just study for state tests, but I'm acutely aware I got lucky.

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  106. Amazing. Thank you.

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  107. A real informative blog like this is an exceptionally cool helping resource for a needy information seeker like me! Thanks a lot for sharing.

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  108. As a dyslexic I struggled hugely with grade school--a "B" grade was a great grade for me. However, that rote learning process helped me uncover my most important lesson in school--specifically how to cope with learning with my different mind. College was challenging, but less so as I took more advanced classes. My masters program, in finance, was very challenging and ridiculously rewarding--my final GPA was 3.6 (undergrad was 2.6). My point is that there is truth in your words but not as much as most would ascribe. While many will be drawn to your call to action to overturn the current program, I don't believe it is as broken as you describe. And the uncollege movement is driven in part by our country's obsession with everyone getting a college degree. That's just not the best path for everyone. However getting a degree, in any subject, helps many people think more effectively, understand how to break down problems and create solutions, sometimes innovative ones. For every Mark Zuckerberg who made his billions dropping out of college there are tens of thousands who didn't but still dropped out of college. I admire your spirit and I expect you'll accomplish great things. However I also expect your views will moderate over time, particularly if you become a parent.

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