The photo above, believe it or not, was submitted to the Durango (Colorado) High School Yearbook as the senior photo of one Sydney Spies. The yearbook staff rejected it as inappropriate, and young Sydney is crying foul, saying that her First Amendment rights have been violated. Opinions differ on what message her photo was intended to convey. Suffice it to say that “Well, it’s late! I think I’ll go finish my algebra homework, read the Wall Street Journal and turn in!” is not one of the popular options.
Your Question in this week’s Ethics Quiz: Which party is in the wrong here?
Is it Sydney, for trying to turn her class’s yearbook into Maxim, or the yearbook staff, for imposing its prudish standards on an innocent All-American girl’s legitimate attempt at self-expression?
Ethics involves thinking and caring about people other than yourself, and respecting their concerns, interests and well-being. The fact that high school yearbook pictures have come a long way from the stiff, stilted, formal head shots of generations past is progress indeed, but taste and reasonable decorum are still legitimate editorial objectives. Sydney’s an attractive girl, you betcha, but it isn’t necessary for her to draw excessive attention to herself, and it isn’t modest, respectful or considerate either. In addition, her hooker-in-training pose, flashing come-hither eyes while arching her back and starting up the stairway to heaven, undermines the dignity of the class and the school, and provokes the obvious question. “What the heck were they teaching in that school?” Sydney apparently wants to be remembered as the class slut…okay! Somehow I doubt that she needs to turn everyone’s yearbook into a personal advertisement for her services in order to accomplish that objective. They’ll remember, Sydney. Trust me.
I wouldn’t bet against the Sydneys of future classes to get their way, and for sexy poses, thong photos, and Weiner-esque chest shots to become the high school yearbook norm in some future U.S. hell, but we’ll become that crude and narcissistic soon enough—we’re well on our way. For the time being, the Durango High editors are being fair and responsible to insist on maintaining some standards of taste.
But Maxim is waiting for your call.