The Right Opinion

A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give

By Dennis Prager · Jul. 13, 2010

If every school principal gave this speech at the beginning of the next school year, America would be a better place.

To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.

I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.

First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.

The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity – your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.

If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values – e pluribus unum, “from many, one.” And this school will be guided by America’s values.

This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.

Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism – an unhealthy preoccupation with the self – while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.

Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America’s citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here – it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English – but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning’s elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school’s property – whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can’t speak without using the f-word, you can’t speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as “Nigger,” even when used by one black student to address another black, or “bitch,” even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.

Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way – the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago – by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately lucky – to be alive and to be an American.

Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you.

Dennis Prager hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He is the author of four books, most recently “Happiness Is a Serious Problem” (HarperCollins). His website is www.dennisprager.com.

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57 Comments

Billy said:

AMEN!! If schools had maintained this formula, instead of becoming PC, then we would have many fewer problems today.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Tom said:

My only objection is the inclusion of religion. The Equal Access Act is a United States federal law passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to compel federally-funded secondary schools to provide equal access to extracurricular clubs. It was lobbied for by religious groups who wanted to ensure students the right to conduct Bible study programs during lunch and after school, which had previously been denied by many schools in the name of "separation of church and state." The Act provides that if a school receives federal aid and has a "limited open forum," or at least one student-led non-curriculum club that meets outside of class time, it must allow additional such clubs to be organized, and must give them equal access to meeting spaces and school publications. Exceptions can be made for groups that "materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school," and a school can "opt out" of the act by prohibiting all non-curriculum clubs. It was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990 in the case "Westside Community Schools v. Mergens," and the school was ordered to allow a student Christian group to meet.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:21 AM

dave said:

Excellent. I have had enought of this PC crap that we call culture. Kids needt to learn what a privelage it is to live in America and learn to take some responsiblity on themselves. Keep up the good work Dennis.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Gary said:

Tom, This country was also founded on religion. Your money says "In God we trust" etc etc. And yes, I support the Pledge of Allegiance that includes "Under God". I am not a deeply religious person, but I believe in the existence of a supreme being (God). Like Dennis said, if you don't like it don't come to school here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:47 AM

June said:

As a teacher, life would be so much better if all school were run this way!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:03 PM

GordAuch in Hampton Roads said:

I endorse the sentiment and the suggested means. Joe Clark tried something like this with an unsatisfactory reaction from the School Board. We might profitably review the book "Lean On Me", semi-accurately brought to the illiterate by Hollywood.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Lawrence John said:

That was one heck of a speech! The only problem is the exclusion of religion? You're opening a door there that should remain closed. Church and State, remember? When the Church was the only institution to provide for social welfare, how many people "loved their neighbor?" When the State decided that it should be the one to provide "Social Welfare" to the masses... Look what happened. Families 2, 3, 4 or more generations living on welfare. Religion study, christian bible study, as with almost all religions do certainly have a place for gatherings and study. Which is why there are PRIVATE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, who regularly hold bible study before, after and during the lunch break for those so inclined. Public Schools should cater to learning, if you need your child or children to learn and become enveloped in your religion. SEND THEM TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL THAT CATERS TO YOUR REQUIREMENTS. I for one, do not like hearing that a child in middle school or high school must study the Koran as part of their educational requirements. And it's a requirement because some idiot who wouldn't send his child to A PRIVATE SCHOOL THAT CATERED TO HIS IDEALISM, screwed it up for everyone else.Church and State, they put the "and" in there to remind us to separate them.....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:45 PM

BMG said:

Ahhh! I remember when schools were all run that way. I wish my children had had the benefit of that type education and attitude of administration. I truly love the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the Star Spangled Banner every day in school. I still believe that all schools should start the day that way.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Buck said:

Please let me know where I can find a school run by a principal like that I'll move there so I can enroll my kids there

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Bill said:

I am going to send a link to this to my local school board.This is exactly what school should be. He didn't mention the formal dress code but I will.Suit and tie for males with dress shoes. First and third Fridays can be business casual. Or vice verse. Business casual and suit and tie first and third Fridays.Dress, pants suit, skirt and blouse for women with the caveat that it would be something they would be comfortable wearing in front of a group of convicted felons. By that I don't want too much cleavage, leg or anything else that will distract the normal male more than he would be just by your presence. Casual Friday's.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Rodney Adamek said:

This should be so easy but I doubt that 1 out of 100 principals would have the courage or support of the school board to deliver this speech. Very sad!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Tommy said:

This is one of the best things I have read in years. These were the values I instilled in my children and am working to do the same for my grandchildren. Also quit worrying about how a person looks worry about yourself it not your business. People call me predijudce but my only prodijuce is bad people. If your a puddle- head it does not matter what your color is. Love God, Your Country, and have the knowledge and care to fight for your country if needed. BE Proud of your heritage and your ethinicity but remember you are in America and if you don't like it leave.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Scott said:

Excellent speech, however, it should have been made to the parents also. All he was trying to convey to the students starts at home. If parents would stop indoctrinating their kids with, hate, fear, inequality, and a sense of entitlement, then we would not need a speech like this in our school nor anywhere else in our country.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Craig said:

Could someone point me to the portion of the Constitution that mandates the separation of Church and State? I've read the complete document several times and can't find it or anything that remotely implies it. And I know why: because it doesn't exist in the Constitution or any other of the founding documents. Perhaps if we allowed God back into the schools - where He was once welcome - rather than just using His Name for slogans on our money or in our pledges, we'd see a change for the better in this nation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Gilles Mailhiot said:

Bravo!! I think this is amazing. If only principals would have the courage to state the whole thing and follow with actions. To Tom - Even though I am a Christian, I think that once you start down that road of selecting particular types of things you open up a can of worms. I believe the article states clearly how clubs should be started, arts, music, etc.I truly hope that this will start up next school year but don't have much confidence that it will. This would be absolutely stupendous in bringing back education to actually teaching kids subjects that will broaden and stimulate their mindes. The school system today is atrocious and kids are the only ones suffering from it. If a school starts operating in the manner quoted above, then parents must keep out of it. The parents are, in my estimation, to blame for a lot of the garbage in schools today.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:21 PM