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Here I Stand, by Erica Goldson……….

July 21, 2010

Greetings To All My Spiritual Family,

I have something to share with you today that, at first, may seem a bit odd to find on a site such as this one. Yet, once you read it I have a feeling you will see that it does indeed have a very spiritual message within its words.

As a homeschool mom myself, I may be inclined to be a bit biased on this subject, but I think this young woman has struck a nerve within our society that needs to be more fully exposed, looked at, and then healed.

At the end of her speech you will find a link to her blog site where she has posted her Valedictorian speech.

To you, Erica Goldson of New York, I send you my respect, adoration and loving energy to light the patheway for you as you begin your journey anew.

Thank you for your words, your message, your courage and the love, hope and joy you have already given to this world.

In Lak’ech Ala K’in

Blessings to You from All Realms of Creation

Essence Ka tha’ras


I now share Erica’s words with you all.


Coxsackie-Athens Valedictorian Speech 2010

Here I Stand

Erica Goldson

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, 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. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, 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, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. 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. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, 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. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. 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, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. 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, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, 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, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

18 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2010 11:22 am

    Thanks for passing this on Essence. Reminds me of someone else we have come to know.
    I get this magazine called ODE and in the latest copy there is an article about out brain being like a rain forest – and speaking of neuro-diversity and how the boxed education system and cultural system in general does not fit many and even lowers the self esteem of many.
    It was so refreshing to read that article and now this…. gives hope.
    Thanks again, Rainy

  2. Erica Goldson permalink
    July 23, 2010 10:40 pm

    I am so happy to hear about all the good vibes many are sending me.

    Thank you, Essence.

    • Essence Ka tha'ras permalink
      July 23, 2010 11:32 pm

      Dearest Erica,

      I want to take a moment to thank you from the core of my being for taking time to comment here on The Purple Pathe.

      Your now famous speech, struck such a cord with me, for so many reasons.

      You have touched the world in an amazing way, and truly the world is a better place because of you and your courage.

      I send you love, pride and adoration for all you do. I send these energy gifts to you as a homeschool mom, as one who too broke away from the confines of the “small box”, but above and beyond all else, I send them to you as a human being; an independent, free-willed, “free thinking” Human BEing.

      In Lak’ech Ala K’in

      Blessings from All Realms of Creation

      Essence Ka tha’ras

  3. Brendan permalink
    July 30, 2010 11:30 am

    Thank you so much Essence, Erica and Rainy. Erica, you seem to be going through the exact same sort of emotions I have been. I just graduated from Western Michigan University and I refused to go to the ceremony because I didn’t want people to view me any differently. I didn’t want to be viewed as being more successful because I had the opportunity to go to college. I feel like if we are going to judge people on how successful they are then we should at least use a set of rules that can be applied to everyone such as whether or not they are a successful human being. By that I am referring to a successful human being as doing things which lend a helping hand or care for one another. Learning forced information does propel us into a more prosperous future but singling out those who have the money and support to go to college should not be considered more successful in my opinion.

    Thanks for the story, Erica.


    • Essence Ka tha'ras permalink
      July 30, 2010 12:47 pm

      Greetings Brendan,
      So nice to hear from you.
      Thank you so much for visiting my site and sharing. Your energy is always so pure and loving.

      I’m sure you know who it is Rainy and I know whom Erica’s speech reminded us of…

      In my humble opinion, you, she and so many others just like you ARE successful Human Beings.

      Thank you for all you do and give to the planet and Humankind.

      In Lak’ech Ala K’in

      Blessings from All Realms of Creation

      Essence Ka tha’ras

      • Brendan permalink
        August 16, 2010 2:41 pm

        You’re welcome Essence!
        I just read through my comment and I noticed I said “thanks for the story.” That should have been thanks for the truly incredible speech! I’m blown away that Erica was able to build up enough courage to give a speech like that. Truly remarkable.

  4. kelley permalink
    August 7, 2010 12:02 pm

    this brought me to tears

    • Essence Ka tha'ras permalink
      August 7, 2010 9:28 pm

      Greetings Kelley and Welcome to The Purple Pathe,

      I wanted to thank you for taking the time to comment on Erica’s wonderful speech. As a homeschool mom, I fully understand the emotions her courageous words evoke.

      May you Be Blessed each day of your life.

      Essence Ka tha’ras

  5. Rick permalink
    August 7, 2010 8:02 pm


    Thanks for a very insightful valedictory speech. I am an elementary teacher of many years, now retired. You have become painfully aware of the very dilemma for students that I see. Let me quote you, if I may:
    Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, 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, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

    Graduating from high school and not knowing in which direction to go for your lifework is, in my opinion, the unforgivable tragedy we call Public Education.

    Now let me tell you in just a few words how we remedy this terrible situation. Each and every child is born a learning machine. And we humans are the masterpiece of learning machines on this planet. You cannot not learn. There is no off button. So who is it that knows just exactly what children should be learning. It’s not the school board, it’s not the principal, it’s not the teacher, it’s not even your parents. It’s is YOU my dear. You know what is best for you to learn and you are driven by your desire and curiosity. You are perfectly capable at any age of deciding what is right for you to learn. And that is precisely what Public Education does not understand. And that is why, in its misguided use of curricula and standards, Public Education kills desire and curiosity, and, in so doing, is detrimental to the intellectual growth and development to all children.

    This is the statement that I want to see inserted into the United Nations Children’s Bill of Rights: All children have the right to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.

    There it is pure and simple. From the day you step through the doors of any school anywhere you need to choose. Your desire and curiosity and all your innate tendencies will guide you to what will become your lifework, that one thing that you are meant to do in this world – I call it your gift. Sadly, in its ignorance, Public Education has denied you that opportunity and now you feel lost and afraid.

    The teacher’s job, and his or her only job, is to create the environment in which learning can take place. That’s it. You tell her what you want to learn and she provides the materials or projects to help make it happen. The principal’s job is to support that effort and the school board has to provide the funds. You would spend most of your elementary career exploring until you begin to get an inkling of the direction you might want to go. You keep narrowing your choices down until by the end of high school you can feel very confident that you know where you are headed.

    So what can be done right now to begin to change Public Education? Parents and teachers can’t or won’t change it. School boards and administrators can’t change anything. Politicians won’t do it. So who can? Students. Students are the only ones who can do something to open a new dialogue regarding true and meaningful change. The change is coming anyway. Technology will help bring it about. But for now what can students do?

    The place to start is with No Child Left Behind and all those stupid standardized tests that do little else than to waste an inordinate amount of a student’s time. Schools spend so much time preparing for, administering, and reporting and analyzing test results that there is precious little time for learning. Many, many administrators and teachers will tell you this.

    So, here is what students can do. And it isn’t illegal or destructive, no windows or laws are broken. If ten percent of the students at any grade level refuse to fill in the bubbles on these outrageous tests or fill in the wrong bubbles, it would force schools to stop, look, and listen to students, which they should have been doing all along. A case of “the pen(cil) is mightier than the sword. Think of the multi-billion dollar vested interests behind the testing industry. They would soon have their lobbyists at work trying desperately to make it illegal to refuse to take the tests. Still it wouldn’t work if students stick to their pencils.

    Erica, I know this approach to reforming our public schools doesn’t apply to you. Your task now is to decide what you want to do with your life. As your Zen story implies, education is not a quest. It’s not the final destination, but what happens along the path, that is critical. Your job is to create the person you are to become. You may want to explore further, but it will be time well spent. Your speech shows you have good instincts. You can trust them to help you build the person you want to be.

    I have written a book, so far unpublished, about all this. If ever you would care to read it, I would be happy to make it available to you. I wish you all the luck in the world and truly regret that school failed you and so many, many others.

    • Essence Ka tha'ras permalink
      August 7, 2010 9:33 pm

      Greetings Rick and a warm welcome to The Purple Pathe,

      I wanted to reply to your wonderful comment and thank you for being the kind of person and teacher I can “see” you were and still are.
      The public school system of this country, indeed of this planet, benefits daily from the work of love you and those such as yourself give to the children of this world.

      Blessings to You for All You did, and continue to do, for the children of our world.

      Essence Ka tha’ras

  6. August 9, 2010 11:17 am

    Dear Erica
    Go out and be the change you want to be don’t wait for permission and do not ask for for forgivness…
    School Superintendent

    • August 13, 2010 1:29 pm

      Nice words, Brian, although I wonder if your advice to “not wait for permission” includes government permissions– licenses and permits? Or is that master, your employer, one you must beg permission from?

  7. Lionel Nurmohamed permalink
    August 11, 2010 4:56 pm

    Hail Erica,
    thank you for your speech.
    The world is a better place because of you.
    Lionel Nurmohamed

  8. August 12, 2010 8:09 pm

    Thans SO MUCH for sharing this! I left a comment there too (with this link) and this message needs to spread far and wide – America, WAKE UP!! We need more like Erica and there is a heck of a lot of work to do! 🙂

  9. Ramesh Pandey permalink
    August 12, 2010 10:57 pm

    This is a very idealistic speech, the classic idealism that an 18 year old would have graduating from high school. This is the epitome of doing something well and achieving a goal you’ve had for many years, and upon accomplishing it, saying that you didn’t need to do it or that you shouldn’t have done it. By doing so, you are acting like it was a regret but are reaping the benefits of it at the same time.

    What would an 18 year old student know about the world and the system? There are very intelligent people making exams and assessments that assess the proficiency of students in a given subject. Without those, how can we rank students or judge who has the level of understanding to move on to a higher level of learning? Are we to sit there and lose track of the subject we are learning in order to doodle or read about something else? The whole education system would be turned on its head if what Ms. Goldson said should happen.

    Its very easy to point out faults in something, yet it is very difficult to present answers that fix these solutions. She is very proud of her accomplishments and GPA, and it shows, but she is trying to undermine them to elevate herself further by saying “I didnt need to do any of this, and i regret doing it, but look here, I am on this podium because I am smart, so smart that I feel the need to tell teachers and professionals what they should be doing, even though I have only graduated from high school and have seen the world.”

    This self-righteous girl hasn’t seen the world or seen how it really works. So quite frankly, she shouldn’t be telling people much older, much more educated, much more wise, much more experienced, and much more intelligent than her what they should be doing. She’s just a self-righteous idealistic 18 year girl

  10. February 15, 2012 6:47 am

    If you agree with Erica’s sentiment, you might appreciate the vision that Zoe Weil describes in her TED Talk about changing the education system to graduate solutionaries to solve the worlds problems with Human Rights, Environment, and Cruelty to Animals.


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