Valedictorian speaks out against schooling!

Approaching graduation next semester we are all going to sit at commencement and listen to our valedictorian give a final graduation speech. We can assume that it will be filled with thought provoking questions that call us to take our Denison experience into the real world and how it has so adequately prepared us for what is to come. We don’t anticipate to hear them talk about how our education system essentially fails us in the end. One girl did however. After watching this clip I was completely taken back by what she had said. She begins to defend her self as valedictorian by saying that she is not more intelligent than the rest of her peers, but simply a better test taker and  a follower of directions. She goes on to say that the way our education system is currently structured doesn’t foster our thirst for knowledge, it simply standardizes us to achieve a goal- pass tests, graduate, and get a slip of paper that tells us we did so.  Even though this clip is 9 min long, I really encourage you to watch the full thing- it really is motivating!

Here the valedictorian is presented with a rhetorical opportunity to address the public during commencement. Her ethos is well established (she is the valedictorian after all) and she continues to satisfy logos throughout her speech. She gives logical evidence as to why our education system isn’t necessarily the best for learning and attaining knowledge. She offers ways in which the audience can help change that, a call to action so to speak. We are the future, and with that said we should strive to innovate our world with what we have learned, not simply settle into the labor force and diminish our potential. This statement therefore feeds into pathos where we are then forced to think about the validity of what she has said, and honestly I was a bit sad after doing this! She continues to point out that no other child should have their potential suppressed by our education system. We are all explorers of knowledge that is so wealthy in our world and we should be able to attain anything we want. She then continues to use a power quote that states that a tree can grow only if its roots were given a good foundation. I think this is a great example of a rhetorical opportunity, what do you think?

– Catherine Jakubowski

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4 comments so far

  1. kws221 on

    After watching this video, I must admit that I was surprised by the angle this Valedictorian decided to take with this speech. She was speaking to an audience of proud parents and faculty of the school who were expecting to hear about how great the educational system was and how well it prepared all of the students to enter the real world, and yet she boldly claimed the opposite. For the first few minutes, I felt awkward listening to this speech solely because of this fact, and I was concerned that she was being to harsh towards her school in front of the very faculty people that it is comprised of. However, I was pleased as I continued to listen to the speech because she used certain tools to justify her position and remove any offense that the audience may have taken (i.e. I am no smarter than my peers at beginning or to focus more on learning than on grades). Overall, I thought that this was a well-prepared speech by the Valedictorian and it was well presented. – Kevin Schneider

  2. dupublicaddress on

    I really enjoyed this speech…particularly the part where she compares a diploma to an insignificant piece of paper that says someone is qualified to work. While many people in the audience may have been displeased with her message, the Valedictorian definitely kept their attention. Ethos is crucial here because had it been just any student speaking about how grades don’t matter and class rank is a matter of being able to test well and follow directions, the audience would likely see that student as bitter or misinformed. Because this speech was given by the top student in that class, however, it does give her some credibility and makes it clear that she is not bitter toward the system (since she came out on top) but truly believes the system is flawed and not a true reflection of students’ capabilities.
    Ali Sehringer

  3. irene531 on

    I appreciate the fact that the valedictorian took the challenge of arguing against what her audience expected. In a way, she took the exigency to an extreme revealing that there is a problem that most of the audience doesn’t even realize exists. I agree that although she is speaking to family, friends, peers, and faculty that are expecting to here about her appreciation for benefits of the education system, she still manages to create a fitting response that keeps the attention and motivates the audience. Though I do believe that many schools are not trying to encourage what she questions to be true “critical thinking,” she makes the logical point that having a grade system and a society based on making money confines those who “follow the rules.” By using herself as an example, explaining that although she is the valedictorian of her class, she enters the world with fear and without direction, she establishes that she is human like everyone else, and her message becomes more humbling rather than critical. In this way, the audience is more likely to accept her message rather than retaliate.

    Irene Tsai

  4. sritch15 on

    I must say, I was pretty taken aback by this speech, as I am sure many others were as well. She was speaking to a crowd filled with proud parents and relatives, peers and faculty who have gathered at this commencement ceremony for the sole purpose of celebrating the educational accomplishments of these young adults. I’m sure everyone was expecting to hear the typical, “Let’s take what we’ve learned and go out into the world” speech, but what they heard was this instead. On the other hand, though, I give this Valedictorian a lot of credit for using the opportunity she earned in order to speak about something she feels strongly about. Obviously, there is an exigence, and she is using this opportunity that most people will never have to address a problem. She automatically has credibility; she is the valedictorian after all. I think she does a fantastic job of developing rapport with her classmates and with the audience by saying things like, “I am no smarter than my peers…” I was not sure how I would feel about this speech, but after watching the speech I think this is a very well-written speech that the speaker did a good job of presenting.

    -Sarah Ritchey


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