Brown, Tina, Newsweek
Byline: Tina Brown
What's really different about the class of 2012?
When schoolteacher David McCullough Jr. delivered a commencement address that told the graduating class at Wellesley High School that they were "not special," his words became a viral sensation on YouTube and Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Was he out of his mind, reversing the mantra that every affluent American kid imbibes with his or her daily Adderall? Surely helicopter parents across the country would unite to kick this dissenter to the academic curb.
Not so. McCullough found himself deluged by positive emails, more than 700 of them. Only four emails, he tells us, were critical of him. It seems there was a pent-up parental rage out there about the very syndrome the parents themselves have created. Having spent their kids' school years barging up to the head teacher's office to insist their sons and daughters did not deserve to get a mere B-plus, did deserve to make the soccer team, must be given the history prize, should be applying only to Ivy League schools, it seems that affluent parents now have a major beef with how their offspring ... correction, the offspring of others ... are turning out. Just a bit entitled perhaps? A little unrealistic in expectations? A little complacent?
There's a growing dystopian groundswell of opinion that we've given our children everything--except for the thing they need most and the thing no one can provide, the ability to find their own core passion without artificial support. And the understanding of how much work, how much sheer effort, it takes to succeed. In McCullough's My Turn essay on page 26, he describes his recent experience of waiting nervously in the greenroom at CBS with economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. The episode spurs McCullough to wonder about the source of Krugman's accomplishments--and to conclude that they have flowed from a mixture of innate ability and self-motivation.
Grade inflation, constant shielding from reality, all the things that result in the excess of amour-propre that afflicts affluent young Americans would have been absent, McCullough reckons, in Krugman's upbringing. …