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You Are Not Special: And Other Encouragements Hardcover – 22 Apr 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco Press (22 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006225734X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062257345
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.9 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 808,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

A profound expansion of David McCullough, Jr.'s popular commencement speech--a call to arms against a prevailing, narrow, conception of success viewed by millions on YouTube--You Are (Not) Special is a love letter to students and parents as well a

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By J Morrow on 24 Nov. 2014
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 92 reviews
66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Some great advice and insights 18 Mar. 2014
By K. Blaine - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a former high school English teacher, I am a kindred spirit with David McCullough, Jr. "You Are Not Special," an expansion of a commencement address he gave to his school's graduating seniors in 2012, contains an incredible amount of wisdom, but it is subversive in that it runs counter to most prevailing thought about what children need and how best to provide for them. Addressed mainly to middle and upper-middle class "strivers," this book points out the hazards of excessive parental involvement and its consequences--an infantilizing of young people, delaying their maturation far into young adulthood and in some cases crippling them for life.

My favorite parts of the book dealt with the gaming of the system that goes on in the college admissions process. From massaging your GPA, to trying to outsmart the SAT, to hiring admissions "advisors," every point he made rang true. How often will a student take a class from an "easy" teacher rather than challenging him- or herself with the chance to actually learn something from a more demanding teacher? Unfortunately, the answer is, nearly every time. How often will a parent complain if a child gets less than an A in a college prep class? Unfortunately, too often. Students take five AP classes (I remember a time when our high school limited students to two) and wonder why they are not getting A+ in each of them. They join clubs or teams to improve their resume for college admissions officers, not because of any real interest. It is obvious that parents and students alike are pursuing short range gains at the expense of their child's long term best interests, but once you are in the fray of college admissions, it is as if you have lost your sanity. McCullough is trying to restore some of that sanity, and he does an excellent job.

My only reservation about this book is that it will not reach the audience it is intended to reach. I cannot imagine a teenager reading this book, unless he or she were required to do so for a class, which is unlikely. Parents will be a little more likely to read it, and even agree with many of its main ideas. I suspect that the book will resonate mainly with grandparents, older people with a bit of experience and history, who can see what has happened with our education system and have a little more perspective.

About that last point, I hope I am wrong. I hope this book is a smashing success and reaches high school students and their parents, for it has great wisdom and insight. Highly recommended.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Excellent - fun, informative, stimulating 7 April 2014
By A reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thoroughly enjoyed this book by David McCullough, and found so much to identify with there. Though clearly he is often speaking about (and perhaps to) a privileged subset of today's youth, his insights are both keen and refreshing, with an appealing mixture of candor and humor. I very much enjoyed his imaginative use of language, and his thoughts about so many subjects: teaching, grades, college, kids today vs. kids in earlier years, parents, racial issues, etc. etc. etc....also about the value of reading (beautifully stated,) fascinating people like Thoreau, Emerson, and Melville (often so moving) and McCullough's own approach to teaching as it has evolved through the years.

He speaks openly and eloquently about the intense pressure on students for grades, and the extent to which kids are pushed to think more about getting into college tomorrow than about enjoying learning today. His empathy for students as well as parents shines through much of the time.

I found his descriptions of his own teaching so appealing.

"Studying Herman Melville - or, rather, dipping a toe into the great tossing sea of Herman Melville...matters not in the grades a high school student might achieve...nor the college or career toward which it will move him closer. It matters in his excitement at discovering what's there...for the holy-mackerel-would-you-please-take-a-look-at-this moments available to anyone willing to observe and to think about what he sees. When enthusiasm builds into wildfire, it's all pure joy; intellectual growth, information, skills honing and shiny grades will surely follow...What begins in delight, said Robert Frost, ends in wisdom."

I find this kind of thinking irresistible, and was therefore glued to this book from beginning to end. The only part of the book I was less thrilled with is the section about gender differences; however, the rest of of the book more than made up for that small part.

Highly recommended to anyone interested in teaching, learning, and today's youth.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Lessons from Your Favorite Teacher 30 Mar. 2014
By Peter A. Greene - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As noted in every review, this is the book deal that McCullough scored after his commencement speech went viral. It's tough and curmudgeonly in tone, but what was unexpected is that the book really speaks English teacher to English teacher. Many of his observations are based in classic works of literature, and I love that this book not only serves as a nice series of life lessons, but also grounds them in great literature that is not as well known as it ought to be ("The Open Boat" never gets enough respect).

So this book reads like a series of really good and honest lectures from the English teacher that the kids like because he is not only smart, but authentic and grounded.

McCullough's writing style is vigorous and free-wheeling. It just pops with energy and vitality; not at all dry and professorial. This is an entertaining and thoughtful read; I'll be recommending it to my fellow English teachers but it's a great book for anybody.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
if everybody gets a trophy... 20 Mar. 2014
By Patricia R. Andersen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
trophies are meaningless. It seems like it shouldn't take a rocket scientist or an English teacher to figure this one out. If I get a trophy for just showing up and breathing while you have been busting your buns over the work and you get the same sort of trophy, what does it teach me? What does it teach you?
David McCullough Jr's graduation speech has been more thoroughly explored in this book. I would think many educators will embrace this book and the concept behind it. It has to be amazingly difficult to deal with parents and kids who expect nothing but straight A's and blame the teacher when it doesn't happen. All parents should be required to read this book to get a better understanding of how the 'you're special" praise does not lead to a good outcome.
I recommend this book highly, for educators and parents alike.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Terrific Book from Popular Graduation Speech 4 Mar. 2014
By James Strock - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David McCullough, Jr. is a secondary-school educator, son and namesake of the popular historian and PBS narrator. His book, 'You Are Not Special,' is expanded from his popular commencement address from June 2012. Social media made the speech a viral sensation.

McCullough is a serious person who has a lively sense of humor and history. He's a premature curmudgeon. His lesson is a bit of tough love for American teens and their helicopter parents.

For those who might like to start from the start--and haven't already read it--the book's afterword includes the text of the original commencement address.

McCullough inveighs against the rampant self-satisfaction and overall self-centeredness he witnesses in America today. Many young people, he reports, are prisoners of their own limitations, not learning to think for themselves, whiling away the hours sharing trivial information through social media. They are cossetted yet pressured by parents who are well intended but whose attitudes foster a focus on the form of things, on superficial accomplishments, rather than real risk and accomplishment and daring.

This relatively brief book is easy to read. It's filled with wisdom and erudition that can serve anyone, of any age.

One could well imagine 'You Are Not Special' to be a fitting graduation gift for many families this year.
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