OPINION: Why you don’t really want John Green to speak at Manual


Ian Johnson

Class of 2015 President-elect Andi Dahmer and her slate won 51% of the vote in the recent student elections with two key promises: Disneyworld and John Green. While I can’t contest the fun of visiting an amusement park in Florida (although I would point out that the logistics are not the most feasible option for all 460 members of the junior class), I disagree with Dahmer about one thing: having John Green speak at Manual would, for the most part, be a negative experience for the school.

 But how can I say this? Green’s educational videos on the YouTube channel Crash Course have propelled him to national and international fame. His stardom is sure to climb in coming months, thanks to his recent New York Times Bestseller-made-blockbuster film “The Fault In Our Stars”, which tells a love story that has generated mass appeal towards average high school students, which is exactly the problem━Manual is not a school of average high school students.

Despite the (admittedly persuasive, yet not exactly reassuring) remarks made by teacher David McCullough Jr. at fellow U.S. News Top 200 school Wellesley High in Massachusetts, Manual is a school with many exceptional and talented students.Inviting someone like Green, who appeals to the ordinary high school student, would not accurately reflect the Manual student body, or their ambitions. Take for example, The President Project, launched by the Class of 2012. While their ultimate goal of booking President Obama to speak at the school failed, at least they dared to fail. The odds were stacked against them, yet they still were able to rally the support of a city and state, and meet with First Lady Michelle Obama. On the other hand, a speaker like Green, while an acclaimed author and excellent speaker, is simply setting the bar too low.

Then there’s the issue of public perception. As “The Fault In Our Stars” movie prepares for release, Green will certainly be doing a number of interviews and promotions for the film, which may turn his image of ‘intellectual yet relatable educator/entertainer’ into something more along the lines of ‘celebrity publicity apparatus’ in coming months. Our school should not invite a keynote speaker that could possibly bring their own academic legitimacy into question through commercial pursuits.

Don’t get me wrong, if Green were to speak at Manual, he should be welcomed as any other respected guest; I’d be among the first to applaud him (I owe a great deal of thanks to Green for his videos, especially during the weeks leading up to the AP European History exam last year). But I’d rather my school attract a less famous speaker that has truly worked to make a beneficial impact on the world and remain less known, rather than have ‘Dear Old Manual’ assigned the title of “The School John Green Once Went To.” While Green is certainly a candidate worth consideration, he’s not the only, nor the strongest candidate Manual should try to entice into visiting. Why limit ourselves to one option? Why not even give The President Project a second try?

I know many people have already contacted Green about speaking at the school, and maybe Green should still visit Manual, as part of a series of guest speakers that visit throughout the year. But there’s still quite some time before the Class of 2015’s commencement, when the most significant speech of the year is given.  I urge Manual’s administrators, student government and student body to reconsider other potential speakers, ones that, with all respect to Mr. Green, have a proven record of implementing their talents to leave a meaningful and positive mark on the world.