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Powerful...posted in its entirety. Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling in Graduation Speech                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          by Erica Goldson The following speech was delivered by top of the class student Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School in New York on June 25, lasuna in canada 2010 Here I stand There is a story of a young, lasuna in canada but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, lasuna in canada and asked the Master, lasuna in canada "If I work very hard and diligently, lasuna in canada how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, lasuna in canada then replied, lasuna in canada "Ten years." The student then said, lasuna in canada "But what if I work very, lasuna in canada very hard and really apply myself to learn fast – How long then?" Replied the Master, lasuna in canada "Well, lasuna in canada twenty years." "But, lasuna in canada if I really, lasuna in canada really work at it, lasuna in canada how long then?" asked the student. Lasuna in canada "Thirty years, lasuna in canada" replied the Master. Lasuna in canada "But, lasuna in canada I do not understand, lasuna in canada" said the disappointed student. Lasuna in canada "At each time that I say I will work harder, lasuna in canada you say it will take me longer. Lasuna in canada Why do you say that?" Replied the Master, lasuna in canada "When you have one eye on the goal, lasuna in canada you only have one eye on the path." This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. Lasuna in canada We are so focused on a goal, lasuna in canada whether it be passing a test, lasuna in canada or graduating as first in the class. Lasuna in canada However, lasuna in canada in this way, lasuna in canada we do not really learn. Lasuna in canada We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective. Some of you may be thinking, lasuna in canada "Well, lasuna in canada if you pass a test, lasuna in canada or become valedictorian, lasuna in canada didn't you learn something? Well, lasuna in canada yes, lasuna in canada you learned something, lasuna in canada but not all that you could have. Lasuna in canada Perhaps, lasuna in canada you only learned how to memorize names, lasuna in canada places, lasuna in canada and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. Lasuna in canada School is not all that it can be. Lasuna in canada Right now, lasuna in canada 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. Lasuna in canada I am graduating. Lasuna in canada I should look at this as a positive experience, lasuna in canada especially being at the top of my class. Lasuna in canada However, lasuna in canada in retrospect, lasuna in canada I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. Lasuna in canada I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Lasuna in canada Yet, lasuna in canada here I stand, lasuna in canada and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. Lasuna in canada I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, lasuna in canada in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. Lasuna in canada But I contend that I am a human being, lasuna in canada a thinker, lasuna in canada an adventurer – not a worker. Lasuna in canada A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. Lasuna in canada But now, lasuna in canada I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. Lasuna in canada I did what I was told to the extreme. Lasuna in canada While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, lasuna in canada I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. Lasuna in canada While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, lasuna in canada I never missed an assignment. Lasuna in canada While others were creating music and writing lyrics, lasuna in canada I decided to do extra credit, lasuna in canada even though I never needed it. Lasuna in canada So, lasuna in canada I wonder, lasuna in canada why did I even want this position? Sure, lasuna in canada I earned it, lasuna in canada but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, lasuna in canada 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, lasuna in canada and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, lasuna in canada not learning. Lasuna in canada And quite frankly, lasuna in canada now I'm scared. John Taylor Gatto, lasuna in canada a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, lasuna in canada asserts, lasuna in canada "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, lasuna in canada adventure, lasuna in canada resilience, lasuna in canada the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, lasuna in canada texts, lasuna in canada and tests, lasuna in canada by introducing kids into truly competent adults, lasuna in canada and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. Lasuna in canada But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, lasuna in canada we are all expected to be the same. Lasuna in canada We are trained to ace every standardized test, lasuna in canada and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, lasuna in canada and therefore viewed with contempt. H. Lasuna in canada L. Lasuna in canada 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. Lasuna in canada ... Lasuna in canada Nothing could be further from the truth. Lasuna in canada The aim ... Lasuna in canada is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, lasuna in canada to breed and train a standardized citizenry, lasuna in canada to put down dissent and originality. Lasuna in canada That is its aim in the United States." To illustrate this idea, lasuna in canada doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking?" Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. Lasuna in canada But if we are not critical when processing this information, lasuna in canada are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth? This was happening to me, lasuna in canada and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, lasuna in canada Donna Bryan, lasuna in canada who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, lasuna in canada I would have been doomed. Lasuna in canada I am now enlightened, lasuna in canada but my mind still feels disabled. Lasuna in canada 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, lasuna in canada a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, lasuna in canada a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. Lasuna in canada We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, lasuna in canada for work that need not be done, lasuna in canada for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. Lasuna in canada We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Lasuna in canada Our motivational force ought to be passion, lasuna in canada but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, lasuna in canada rather than inspires us. We are more than robotic bookshelves, lasuna in canada conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. Lasuna in canada We are all very special, lasuna in canada every human on this planet is so special, lasuna in canada so aren't we all deserving of something better, lasuna in canada of using our minds for innovation, lasuna in canada rather than memorization, lasuna in canada for creativity, lasuna in canada rather than futile activity, lasuna in canada for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, lasuna in canada to then get a job, lasuna in canada so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. Lasuna in canada There is more, lasuna in canada and more still. The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. Lasuna in canada 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, lasuna in canada and worst of all, lasuna in canada they are completely unaware of it. Lasuna in canada I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. Lasuna in canada I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. Lasuna in canada This part of my life is over, lasuna in canada and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. Lasuna in canada We are human beings. Lasuna in canada We are thinkers, lasuna in canada dreamers, lasuna in canada explorers, lasuna in canada artists, lasuna in canada writers, lasuna in canada engineers. Lasuna in canada We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. Lasuna in canada A tree can grow, lasuna in canada 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, lasuna in canada do not be disheartened. Lasuna in canada You still have the opportunity to stand up, lasuna in canada ask questions, lasuna in canada be critical, lasuna in canada and create your own perspective. Lasuna in canada Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Lasuna in canada Demand that you be interested in class. Lasuna in canada Demand that the excuse, lasuna in canada "You have to learn this for the test" is not good enough for you. Lasuna in canada Education is an excellent tool, lasuna in canada if used properly, lasuna in canada but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades. For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, lasuna in canada I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. Lasuna in canada You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. Lasuna in canada I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. Lasuna in canada You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, lasuna in canada how to teach it, lasuna in canada and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Lasuna in canada Our potential is at stake. For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, lasuna in canada I say, lasuna in canada do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Lasuna in canada Do not abandon those that come after you. 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Lasuna in canada It was all of you who were my competition, lasuna in canada yet my backbone. Lasuna in canada In that way, lasuna in canada we are all valedictorians. I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, lasuna in canada those who maintain it, lasuna in canada and those who stand with me and behind me, lasuna in canada but I hope this farewell is more of a "see you later" when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. Lasuna in canada But first, lasuna in canada let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!