A high school teacher told students "what they needed to hear” when asserting, during a recent graduation speech, you’re “not special;" while that’s the same theme of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” celebrating its 30th anniversary in June.
You’re “not special,” is what Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough Jr. told high school students during his recent high school commencement speech because, he said on CBS This Morning June 11, “they needed to hear it.” Meanwhile the subject of slacker high school youth is being celebrated this month with the 30th anniversary of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” that hit America’s theaters back in June 1982 when Sean Penn starred as high school senior Jeff Spicoli in this coming-of-age teen comedy film written by Cameron Crowe from his book of the same name. In turn, McCullough defended his scathing attack on high school graduates on "CBS This Morning" that recently changed its name from “The Early Show,” as CBS attempts to “rebrand” its morning news program. Thus, as part of its “Today’s Eye Opener” TV segment the new CBS This Morning featured this Massachusetts high school English teacher who said he's "floored by the reaction" to his recent graduation address in which he told the graduates nine times that they were simply “not special.”
"My intention was a little hyperbolic drollness to get their attention so they would be paying attention by the end when I told them what I really wanted," McCullough said during a June 11 interview on This Morning; while also explaining how he ended his speech with, "Selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special - because everyone is. Congratulations, good luck. Make for yourselves, please for your sake and ours, extraordinary lives."
High school students think they’re special
"I've been teaching high school kids for 26 years," McCullough said. "In that time, one comes to see what kids need to be told. These are wonderful kids. And one grows very fond of them and proud of them, but that doesn't mean you should indulge them with things, with platitudes or false encouragement. I wanted to give them a notion that with their privilege comes responsibility."
McCullough, the son of famed historian David McCullough, is upset that he's become the story.
"We were there to celebrate their achievement, their beginning. Now the cameras are on me. They really shouldn't be,” he added.
At the same time, Sean Penn playing the high school senior who likes to surf, smoke marijuana and even order pizza’s delivered to him in class, is being celebrated with special TV broadcasts this month marking the 30th anniversary the 1982 cult movie classic “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
While this film came out long before high school students became Internet fans; many high school students are still “surfing” (the Net) but not in the same way Sean Penn’s character surfed in real life as a high school senior who seems lost.
And, like many high school youth today - who are viewed by some parents and teachers as "slackers" - Fast Times at Ridgemont High features a lot of parents and teachers bashing students with this same theme of you're "not special."
In turn, Coos Bay, Oregon, teacher and parent Lynn Kelly thinks "David McCullough is correct in calling his high school graduates 'not special,' because, let's face it, what have they really done but survived high school; with many of them working harder to avoid their lessons than actually learning something."
For instance, Penn plays Jeff Spicoli’s who is being hassled by his strict teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) who says in Fast Times at Ridgemont High that he has no patience with Spicoli’s carefree attitude, and especially not with Spicoli wasting class time. Spicoli simply chases girls in this film about high school life; while never doing his homework.
Jeff "Sean Penn" Spicoli gets a lesson
Finally, on the evening of the graduation dance, Mr. Hand shows up at Spicoli's house and informs him that since he has wasted eight hours of class time over the past year, Mr. Hand intends to make up for that time now. They proceed to have a one-on-one tutoring session that lasts until Mr. Hand is satisfied that Spicoli has understood the lesson.
In the end, Mr. Hand informs Spicoli that he’s not special but simply a high school kid who has lots to learn.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High is adapted from a book Crowe wrote after a year spent at the real Clairemont High School in San Diego, California, that he says is a “true story” about high school youth just wanting to surf and get wasted on pot; while, perhaps, that’s why they not special at all when it comes to their high school graduation. Ridgemont High also includes Nicolas Cage in his first feature film role as, you guessed it, another stoned and wasted high school youth.
At the same time, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or asthetically significant.” In turn, Cameron Crowe said in his book “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” that what’s significant about his high school experience is how much effort high school youth spend in trying to avoid their school work so they can play.
Image source of the film poster for the 1982 “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” that’s celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. Photo courtesy Wikipedia
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