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Going Rogue About Education – October 24, 2010
The academic environment is not one that takes well to coloring outside the lines. Innovation, inquiry, intellectual discussion, and even dissent used to be cornerstones of education, but now schooling has become a way to get a job. And valedictorians of graduating classes are among those supposed to be the most disciplined – presumably they’ve been good (obedient) students in order to graduate at the top of their classes. However, two young people have recently opened a window and let in a breath of fresh air with their cheeky yet principled use of the podium to state opinions that weren’t too popular with the establishment.

In July, Erica Goldson graduated as valedictorian from high school in New York State. She gave a zinger of a speech criticizing the institution of school as she experienced it. She cited John Taylor Gatto and other deschooling writers as she urged that everyone to rethink education and to work together to revolutionize it.

And, more recently, a valedictorian at the University of Winnipeg has made political waves. Graduating student Erin Larson used her speech at the fall convocation to protest the awarding of an honorary degree to a federal politician whose right wing views she said compromised the university's integrity. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has been criticized by many people for public statements he has made about crime, immigration, and same-sex marriage.

Both young people have been praised and derided for their speeches, with some critics saying they abused their platforms and even made people “uncomfortable.” But I think that is just the sort of time and place to make political statements and congratulate these brave and principled valedictorians. I am heartened to see that there remains passion, insight, and intellect among young people, in spite of the dumbing down of schools at all levels. Imagine what will happen once we allow young people to direct their own lives and learning! (And I do believe that time is coming.)
Posted: 2010/10/24 6:20 PM


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