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 as a guide to a truly fulfilling, happy life.
Children today, says David McCullough—high school English teacher, father of four, and son and namesake of the famous historian—are being encouraged to sacrifice passionate engagement with life for specious notions of success. The intense pressure to excel discourages kids from taking chances, failing, and learning empathy and self-confidence from those failures.
In You Are (Not) Special, McCullough elaborates on his now-famous speech exploring how, for what purpose, and for whose sake, we're raising our kids. With wry, affectionate humor, McCullough takes on hovering parents, ineffectual schools, professional college prep, electronic distractions, club sports, and generally the manifestations, and the applications and consequences of privilege. By acknowledging that the world is indifferent to them, McCullough takes pressure off of students to be extraordinary achievers and instead exhorts them to roll up their sleeves and do something useful with their advantages.
About the Author
David McCullough, Jr. taught for sixteen years at Punahou School in Honolulu and has been teaching at Wellesley High School near Boston since 2002. He lives with his wife and four children in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
“Drawing on his teaching and parenting experience, You Are Not Special calls on teenagers to use their privilege and considerable talents to solve the increasingly complex and dire problems plaguing our world... It’s a lovely notion… and the book is fantastic.” — Chicago Tribune
“…a success. May its salvos ring from Cambridge and Arlington to the hinterlands of Wellesley, Weston, and Way-wayland. You Are Not Special is also big-hearted - and clearly forged in a hearth of caring, doubt, and fear. Aphorisms could be lifted from every page and blossom into memes.” — Boston Globe
“... McCullough scores an A+ with this volume for teens and parents. Rich in literary references and poetic in cadence, the author ... offers plenty of hilarious and pointed comments on teens and today’s society. ” — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Despite the somewhat disparaging tone of the title, McCullough’s graduation book is anything but a downer. The high school English teacher ...expands on his viral commencement address with words of encouragement: Do what you love, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and remember-we’re all in the same boat.” — Bookpage
“…to open You Are Not Special…and Other Encouragements is to enter a deeply intellectual and thought-out analysis of the forces that shape modern teenage life, both at home and in the classroom. . . Even if you didn’t agree with McCullough’s speech, this is essential reading.” — The Swellesley Report
“The author tackles big issues ... with searching sincerity, open-heartedness, and a deft, light touch.” — Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Every once in a long while, a voice seems to come out of nowhere, and you wonder how you ever managed without [it]. David McCullough, Jr. has that startling, insightful, wry, reassuring, helpful voice and You Are Not Special may be the wisest ‘parenting’ book I’ve read in decades.” — Madeline Levine, author of author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well
“A clear-eyed but affectionate polemic urging kids to stop trying to be perfect and to take chances, even at the risk of failing. A profound celebration of the life well lived.” — Clayton Christensen, author of How Will You Measure Your Life?