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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Valedictorian's speech cut short by school district because of reference to God (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Valedictorian's speech cut short by school district because of reference to God
Stasia
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I've been to five high school graduations in Las Vegas, including my own. Lots of the Valedictorians mentioned God and their faith as the reason for their success. Although it's possible that things may have changed since I went to school there, I'm thinking the girl probably crossed a line (between mention of God and outright trying to convert people). I simply don't believe she was cut off for saying the word "God". Nor do I believe the school was trying to scrub any mention of God or faith from the ceremony.

I have a good friend who was a valedictorian at a Las Vegas school. He says they were pretty clear in their instructions. Deviate from the approved speech...and the mic goes off. Even if what you have to say has merit and isnít offensive. The girl could have either refused to speak and give her reasons or she could have worked with the valedictorian speech police to mold her message into a more subtle, but approved form.

I think they didn't approve her speech because it was too over the top and when she tried to give it anyway, they cut the mic. I think sheís making herself into a martyr citing some supposed anti-Christian bias. But, despite its reputation, Las Vegas is a very religious town so I have a hard time believing all of the teachers and administrators who were responsible for approving her speech were atheists who refused to even hear the word ďGodĒ. But I wasnít there so I guess I canít really ever know. Maybe things have changed that much since I went to school there.

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Stasia
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I also wanted to say...but didn't want it all in one long post....As long as the school was reacting to something that was over the line (rather than just the mere mention of religion) I agree with what they did.

Iím all for free speech, but the graduation ceremony is for everyone, not just the valedictorians, so I think itís proper for the school use a little restraint to keep it pleasant for everyone. People want to see their kid get the piece of paper. They don't want to have to sit through some religious or political rant they may or may not agree with.

An over the top religious speech (aimed at conversion, talking about a particular denomination, hellfire for the nonbelievers, that sort of thing) is in poor taste. In just as poor taste would have been a political diatribe against George Bush or the Iraq war, which would have also not been approved by the valedictorian speech police. I wouldn't want to listen to a valedictorian doing a speech titled, "Abortion should be legal because...", "Bill Clinton ruined the country because...", "The Iraq War was a mistake because..." or "Christianity is BS because..." I know people who held all of those opinions when they were in high school and would have gladly given speeches to that effect to a captive audience if allowed.

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Teshi
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quote:
quote:
this was the girl's own personal speech and she should be allowed to say what she wants.
Not really. The mistake is thinking that this is the girl's fifteen minutes of fame.

It isn't.

The Valedictorian represents the student body. She isn't an individual; this isn't a thank-you-for-making-ME-great opportunity. The Valedictory speech is given on behalf of the whole graduating class. "We." "Us." "Our." Those are the proper pronouns-- not "I."

Scott R, we both agree on this issue. I go on to stress what you have: the importance of the fact that this is not only a speech to the graduting class but also for/on behalf of the graduating class in which case she should attempt to include. The valedictorian is a representative of the class and she should use her time to say something not only meaningful but that represents some of the ideas of the graduating class.

What I meant by this comment is that within those bounderies, however, she should have free rein.

EDIT: However, concering character of conviction, I disagree. I think that all the media coverage is going to be a major problem for her in truly understanding what went wrong and why the school felt the need to edit her speech.

I think she needs to step back a little from firing her convictions all over everyone around her and think "Maybe they're not just bigoted anti-free speech people, maybe they actually have a point."

Strong convictions are all very well and good but I think the ability to re-examine strong convictions (I don't mean her religion but her inability to realise why other people don't want to hear her religion) is just, if not more, important.

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Bokonon
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It seems to me that so far we have one side of the issue. We don't know exactly what was in the speech; we don't know exactly what rules the school has on these things, and whether they are reasonable or not; we don't know exactly what what the school found objectionable; and lastly, we don't if the objections were truly ambiguous, or this is just an excuse by the student to paint herself in a more favorable light.

Much ado about not-so-much, as it currently stands, IMO.

-Bok

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MrSquicky
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No, I was being serious about the Fox News thing. The quote I was referencing was about how she should have been smart enough to respect her audience. This makes a supposition, that it was a fault in intellect that led to her behavior, that I don't think is correct.

It if were her goal to give a acceptible graduation speech, she failed, but if it were her goal to gain attention as someone who could be cast as a persecuted Christian, then she suceeded.

Smarts generally relates to how well one can achieve one's goals, not how worthy one's goals are.

---

As a sidenote, my Catholic high school didn't do straight valedictorian - instead they chose from submitted speeches. I was told to not even bother submitting a speech if I wasn't going to fill it with Christian references, which, because of my rejection of the religion by that time, I wasn't willing to do. As a hypothetical, say I, the top person in my class, wrote a very good speech with Christian references in it in order to get selected and then, when graduation time came, gave the speech without the references. Would they have been right to shut my mic off? I think they obviously would.

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Teshi
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quote:
if it were her goal to gain attention as someone who could be cast as a persecuted Christian, then she suceeded.
I have to say, this never even occured to me. I hope it's not the case.
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Stasia
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Here's a little more information from the local newspaper. We still don't know what was actually in her speech (and whether she was merely taling about religion or promoting it), but this article does explain a little more about the district's rules and procedures for graduation ceremonies.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Jun-17-Sat-2006/news/8014416.html

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Scott R
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quote:
Strong convictions are all very well and good but I think the ability to re-examine strong convictions (I don't mean her religion but her inability to realise why other people don't want to hear her religion) is just, if not more, important.
Meh. Give me a zealot over a wishy-washy handwringer any day.

[Big Grin]

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Teshi
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Hm. Can you have strong convictions about not having strong convictions?

O.o

-- Resident Wishy-Washy Handwringer

[Wink]

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BaoQingTian
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
As a sidenote, my Catholic high school didn't do straight valedictorian - instead they chose from submitted speeches. I was told to not even bother submitting a speech if I wasn't going to fill it with Christian references, which, because of my rejection of the religion by that time, I wasn't willing to do. As a hypothetical, say I, the top person in my class, wrote a very good speech with Christian references in it in order to get selected and then, when graduation time came, gave the speech without the references. Would they have been right to shut my mic off? I think they obviously would.

That's not really an apt comparison in this case though. In your hypothetical, the person is chosen on the basis of what they wrote. To fabricate an entire speech just so if chosen you can use another strikes me as extremely dishonest. It seems that she was chosen on other criteria and the speech was the reward.

Although I'm a Christian, I would be extremely uncomfortable to here someone proselyting for their graduation speech. I don't mind a Muslim giving credit to Allah, a Christian making reference to Jesus, or a pagan giving credit to Nature's forces. Over-the-top stuff though would be annoying to listen to.

However, I think if the schoolboard would have let her continue, that would have been the best course. I think the majority of the audience would have been uncomfortable and exerted a social pressure on future speakers not to pull a similar stunt. Instead, the schoolboard comes out of this looking childish and she, a martyr. So rather than the young adults getting the idea that graduation is not the proper forum for a religious based speech, they see it as The Man trying to control them- which in the long run would definately be counterproductive.

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kmbboots
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I think that she had a right to say what she wanted to say. I think the school had a right to decline to provide her with a platform to say it. I think, as a Christian, that she is sending entirely the wrong meessage.
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MrSquicky
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BQT,
I wasn't tryign to make a direct comparison, merely relate a similar situation that happened to me.

We can postulate a more equal situation, though, if you want. Say the speech came to me because of my class rank, but that I was instructed that it had to contain Christian references. The rest is the same. Again, I think they'd be well within their rights to cut me off.

I don't get the people who are saying they should have let her continue with the speech. They apparently have a very clear, across the board policy on this. I don't get the idea that because she broke the rules that she agreed to, they should let her get away with it. This girl deliberately set outto break the rules that she agreed to and now she's whining about the stated consequences of doing so. I'm not sure how this makes them look bad.

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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by Theaca:
I thought the high school valedictorian was usually the person with the highest grade.

Usually -- and I imagine that makes the selection process easier at larger schools -- but not necessarily. Certainly at my school, the valedictorian was selected by the administration; GPA was a factor, but not the sole determinant. Character counted for more.
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BaoQingTian
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You really don't see how this makes the schoolboard look bad to the public?

I'm not saying they were in the wrong. I understand the fact that they had a policy, she knew it before hand, etc etc. I'm just wondering if there wasn't perhaps a better way to handle it.

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BlackBlade
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This reminds me of my private school interfaith chapel. They featured an agnostic and an atheist seperately in order to be fair. The atheist was quite polite in his presentation of his beliefs the agnostic was intentionally offensive. From what I was told neither of the two had been required to submit their presentations early and that policy had to change after that.

I think the girl in question did her school a diservice but trying to intentionally disobey the protocols she was given. If she did not like the speech she was being forced to give she could have simply said, "I do not agree with the protocols the school board has forced me to observe in regards to my speech's composition." Then sat down.

She would then be on the moral high ground and would certainly look down on men like Hannity that are looking only for pawns to further their agenda.

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MrSquicky
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If we're talking about turning off her mic, then no, I really don't. Have we really fallen so far as a society that visiting people with the acknowledged consequences for their deliberate dishonesty makes you look like the bad guy?
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I think that she had a right to say what she wanted to say. I think the school had a right to decline to provide her with a platform to say it.

Oh, kmboots. Spot on.
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Bokonon
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quote:
Originally posted by BaoQingTian:

However, I think if the schoolboard would have let her continue, that would have been the best course. I think the majority of the audience would have been uncomfortable and exerted a social pressure on future speakers not to pull a similar stunt. Instead, the schoolboard comes out of this looking childish and she, a martyr. So rather than the young adults getting the idea that graduation is not the proper forum for a religious based speech, they see it as The Man trying to control them- which in the long run would definately be counterproductive.

I disagree, because in the case of the majority not liking it, they would have complained, and this wouldn't have been a big issue. My bet is that the majority actually wouldn't have minded the proselytizing at all. But a distinct minority would have minded it, even if they were used to it, and may have felt social pressure to not say anything, which is ultimately what the point of these regulations is supposed to be.

-Bok

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Robin Kaczmarczyk
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Hey...

Did they CENSOR her?

Jeez! How sad!

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I think that she had a right to say what she wanted to say. I think the school had a right to decline to provide her with a platform to say it.

Quoted for truth.

quote:
I think, as a Christian, that she is sending entirely the wrong meessage.
That Christians will break any rule in order to save souls? I think that's an entirely accurate message. Possibly bad tactics, but very accurate.
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kmbboots
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That Christians should be unconcerned with the rights and comfort of others. That is not, in my opinion, a Christian message. Regardless of how often we send it.
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Chris Bridges
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quote:
Hey...

Did they CENSOR her?

Jeez! How sad!

Yes. It's shameful when a person is expected to obey rules. Next the school will be expecting their students to be responsible and all "grown up" and stuff.
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ElJay
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Hey Robin -- Grow up.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
If we're talking about turning off her mic, then no, I really don't. Have we really fallen so far as a society that visiting people with the acknowledged consequences for their deliberate dishonesty makes you look like the bad guy?

There's a difference between having the right to do something and being right in doing it.

I don't think the school's policy was the one that treated the student speaker respectfully.

In this case, the fault of the school happened when they promulgsted this policy, not when they did it.

But yes, I'm entirely comfortable saying that the school in this case, while within its rights, was not acting well.

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MrSquicky
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The thing I don't get about that is that this specific case showed that the school is right to be wary of their valedictory speakers. I mean, when faced with a situation where the speaker did something that is intentionally dishonest and irresponsible, I'm not sure how you use that to say that the school shouldn't look out for their speakers being dishonest and irresponsible.

Her actions show that she is not worthy of the respect you think they should have given her. So, I'm not sure what you're standing on here.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Her actions show that she is not worthy of the respect you think they should have given her. So, I'm not sure what you're standing on here.
The school's policy is disrespectful to the speakers. Which speakers might warrant disrespect isn't known at the time the policy is promulgated.

If such policies are necessary, then they shouldn't have valedictory speakers at all. They can put a little puppet up on the stage and synch it to a standardized speech.

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kmbboots
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Since the school is providing the platform, they should have some input into what the speakers say. Without knowing what they would and wouldn't allow and without knowing what she was going to say, I don't have any basis for judging whether or not either was (by my standards) inappropriate. We do know that she agreed to deliver a certain speech and then went back on that agreement.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Since the school is providing the platform, they should have some input into what the speakers say. Without knowing what they would and wouldn't allow and without knowing what she was going to say, I don't have any basis for judging whether or not either was (by my standards) inappropriate.
It's the enforcement mechanism I have a problem with. I think dealing with the consequences of an "inappropriate" speech (whatever that may mean) being heard by graduation attendees is the lesser harm than the avowed lack of trust.

quote:
We do know that she agreed to deliver a certain speech and then went back on that agreement.
Yes, but to me that's the obvious and less interesting aspect of the incident. I think almost everyone has agreed the school had the right to cut the microphone.
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kmbboots
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How do you think they should have handled it? They trusted her; she lied to get her way. Just letting it go (rewarding her for her lie) could have encouraged people to do this even more. God knows what the next student was likely to say and, having failed to enforce the rules once, makes it more problematic to enforce them the next time.
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FlyingCow
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quote:
The school's policy is disrespectful to the speakers. Which speakers might warrant disrespect isn't known at the time the policy is promulgated.
I think the saying is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

By having a screening process to preview speeches before they are given, the school is able to head off potential problems before they start. By holding speakers to the approved scripts, and notifying them that deviation will be cut off, they are making every effort to prevent further problems.

All of this preplanning is designed to make the graduation ceremony a known quantity from a logistical standpoint, and to be sure there are no surprises on the night of the event.

This student willfully violated a school policy as a form of civil disobedience, it seems, and she suffered the consequence of being cut off. When you perform acts of civil disobedience, you do so knowing that you will face consequences.

The school was up front about their policy, and she followed their policy to the letter up to but not including the moment of her actual speech. She wrote a draft, she submitted it for review, and it was reviewed and edited. The fact that she was still on the program and allowed to get up and speak means she must have agreed to abide by the changes.

Then, she deviated from the script she was to follow.

And that is actually a big thing. In this case, she apparently was trying to go through her original speech, without the revisions. But once a student deviates from the approved script, they could easily say *anything* - what was originally a little proselytizing could turn into a televangelist sermon, as far as anyone could know, because she had gone totally off script.

Not saying that she would have, but that those running the ceremony had no way of knowing anything she would say once she abandoned the script. Instead of risking that unknown, they cut her off.

If the school had edited out text about drugs, sex, violence or anything else, this wouldn't be an issue. The school would have acted the same way. She violated school policy, and got cut off. End of story, no one would have cared.

Instead, because a perceived persecution of the majority is a hot button issue, it has become national news.

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Dagonee
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quote:
How do you think they should have handled it? They trusted her; she lied to get her way. Just letting it go (rewarding her for her lie) could have encouraged people to do this even more. God knows what the next student was likely to say and, having failed to enforce the rules once, makes it more problematic to enforce them the next time.
How do they handle it when adult speakers go outside the agreed-upon scope? There are other ways to punish after the fact.

The mere statement "we will have your script and a finger on the switch" changes the dynamics of the situation for the worse.

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Dagonee
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quote:
If the school had edited out text about drugs, sex, violence or anything else, this wouldn't be an issue. The school would have acted the same way. She violated school policy, and got cut off. End of story, no one would have cared.
I still would have cared, to the extent I care now.
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erosomniac
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quote:

If the school had edited out text about drugs, sex, violence or anything else, this wouldn't be an issue. The school would have acted the same way. She violated school policy, and got cut off. End of story, no one would have cared.

Exactly. I'm wondering what the reaction would be if she had been cut off for thanking, say, Satan. Or Hitler.
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kmbboots
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For adult speakers, they generally withhold the speakers fee. Cutting the mic is not unheard of, though. I can't think of a way to effectively punish a graduating senior.
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ElJay
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Adult speakers can be disciplined or fired if they work for the school, or have some or all of their payment withheld if they are hired speakers. How could either of those apply to a student? It's graduation, they can't give her detention or expel her. If they tried to withhold her diploma for it, her parents probably would've sued for that, too, and I think more rightly so. After she gave that speech she was going to walk out of that school for potentially the last time. If they hadn't cut the mike, I sure don't know how they could have punished her after the fact.
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MrSquicky
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quote:
If such policies are necessary, then they shouldn't have valedictory speakers at all. They can put a little puppet up on the stage and synch it to a standardized speech.
I don't see how this follows. The students aren't being told what to say. They are being told that there are guidelines to what they can say and that they need to submit their speeches beforehand to ensure that they followed these guidelines. They are then expected to stick to what they submitted. This seems to me to be a clear and pretty fair way to avoid potential problems with the valedictory speeches, such as somone turning it into a prostelytization session. It presents a coherent set of guidelines and courses of action if those guidelines are violated and doesn't infringe (except for some slight annoyance at having to submit your speech for authorization) on those speakers who are going behave responsibly.

While I don't think I've ever had to submit the text of a speech I was going to give, on occasions when I've been asked or sought to speak in front of an audience, I've often had to sit down before hand and go over what I was going to say and issues that the people sponsoring the event would like me to keep away from. I've never seen this as a big deal.

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camus
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quote:
The mere statement "we will have your script and a finger on the switch" changes the dynamics of the situation for the worse.
I'm not sure that adequately describes the situation here. It's one thing to prevent the speaker from straying from the script at all. It's quite another to specifically tell her not to say "x" statement and then for her to say it anyway.

My guess is that the school's reaction was more about her deliberate disobedience than what she may have said.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Adult speakers can be disciplined or fired if they work for the school, or have some or all of their payment withheld if they are hired speakers.
And if they're neither? I know we had non-recompensed outside speakers at my graduation.

quote:
It's graduation, they can't give her detention or expel her. If they tried to withhold her diploma for it, her parents probably would've sued for that, too, and I think more rightly so. After she gave that speech she was going to walk out of that school for potentially the last time. If they hadn't cut the mike, I sure don't know how they could have punished her after the fact.
They have ways of disciplining at graduation if people shout things out during the ceremony or throw things at the stage. Any of those would work here.

Frankly, the best way to discipline her might have been to have the principal get up and explain to the crowd that he's very disappointed that she lacked the honesty to do what she agreed to do. Then simply giver her her diploma in alphabetical order instead of first.

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Dagonee
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quote:
While I don't think I've ever had to submit the text of a speech I was going to give, on occasions when I've been asked or sought to speak in front of an audience, I've often had to sit down before hand and go over what I was going to say and issues that the people sponsoring the event would like me to keep away from. I've never seen this as a big deal.
I don't see how that relates at all to what I said. I have no problem going over content first.

It's specifically the idea of the sanction for straying I find to be repugnant and counterproductive.

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MrSquicky
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Then why did you say this:
quote:
If such policies are necessary, then they shouldn't have valedictory speakers at all. They can put a little puppet up on the stage and synch it to a standardized speech.

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Dagonee
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Because I think the hand on the switch is akin to running a puppet. I thought that would be pretty obvious.
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MrSquicky
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You control what a puppet does, which is not what is occuring here. This is a case of enforcing guidelines, but having the speaker free to say whatever they want within those guidelines.
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Dagonee
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quote:
You control what a puppet does, which is not what is occuring here.
The key to the metaphor is the real-time control aspect.

quote:
This is a case of enforcing guidelines, but having the speaker free to say whatever they want within those guidelines.
And I don't like the way the guidelines are being enforced. Further, it's clear that the speaker isn't free to say anything within the guidelines. The speaker is free to give the speech already approved and any deviations that don't make the switch-holder think the guidelines are about to be exceeded.

And if you simply redefine the guidelines to mean "whatever was in her speech and nothing else" then your description is accurate but meaningless, and the puppet analogy is even more apt.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
The key to the metaphor is the real-time control aspect.
But there isn't real time control. They aren't controling the speaker at all. The only thing they control is the microphone system, which they are using like a *bleep* switch to head off potentially offensive statements.

And, in the case we're talking about, they said to the girl "Don't say these things.", with the implication that they would be offensive or otherwise unacceptable, and she agreed, but then went ahead and tried to say them anyway. So they prevented her from saying offensive or otherwise objectionable things. I'm not sure how else you would suggest they should have acheived this goal.

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Dagonee
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quote:
But there isn't real time control.
It's a real-time on-off switch.

quote:
they are using like a *bleep* switch to head off potentially offensive statements.
No, a bleep speech doesn't end the speech entirely.

quote:
I'm not sure how else you would suggest they should have acheived this goal.
Forget this girl for a minute. My contention is that the harm done by the system outweighs any harm done by a single speech not going off perfectly. I don't think the goal of making sure no one is offended is worth treating the students so distrustfully.

Trust is often rewarded in these situations. Distrust is, too.

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MrSquicky
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They are not controlling the girl. She is not their puppet.
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Shmuel
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Treating the students distrustfully, Dagonee? They let her speak, and she violated their trust. At that point, cutting her off is precisely what she'd deserve in a trust-based system. (Well, that and never being allowed to give a speech again without a compelling reason to believe she'd changed.)
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Dagonee
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
They are not controlling the girl.

Bolding it doesn't make it any more true, Squick.

In the context OF THE GIRL AS A SPEAKER they are exerting absolute control by putting their hand on the switch.

I'm sorry you seem to be incapable of understanding the context of what I'm saying.

Would you like to respond to ANY of my substantive points or just keep bitching about my metaphor?

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Dagonee
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quote:
Originally posted by Shmuel:
Treating the students distrustfully, Dagonee? They let her speak, and she violated their trust. At that point, cutting her off is precisely what she'd deserve in a trust-based system. (Well, that and never being allowed to give a speech again without a compelling reason to believe she'd changed.)

The distrust happened months before graduation, whenever they decided on this policy.

Can people please focus on the policy as a general matter, being applied to the thousands of valedictorians who give speeches, and not just to one little brat.

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MrSquicky
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Forgetting the girl is not good practice. When you're designing a behavioral control program, you have to design it to fit the population that it's being applied to. It's important to know the rate of unacceptible behavior you are going to run into when settting things up.

These administrators think that they are going to run into unacceptible behavior and have set up a fairly non-invasive (for the people who aren't going to engage in unacceptible behavior) way of dealing with it. They have avoiding the grey areas and wiggle room that often lead to trouble in these systems.

Now, you are saying that they shouldn't have this system because they should trust their students. However, they believe they need this system and we have clear evidence that in this case it was needed to prevent what they wanted to prevent.

That the girl did this directly refutes your assertion that they should trust all their valedictorians and thus no such system is needed. If you want to talk about differentials instead of categoricals, then by all means, go ahead, but insisting that their caution is misplaced in all cases in the face of one where it clearly wasn't doesn't seem to make sense.

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