Ethics Hero Or Ethics Dunce? The Rogue Valedictorian

I couldn’t find an appropriate graphic for this story, so I decided to post this, my favorite photo of anything, ever.

[My mind is made up about this one, but because my brain is fried after my just completed Rhode trip, I’m willing to be dissuaded.]

Nataly Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerk-Buttooyoungtoaccepttheconsequencesofheractions (I wonder what nationality that is?) was the valedictorian  at the San Ysidro High School  graduation ceremonies. All was going well with the young woman’s speech, which, according to the communications director for the Sweet Union High School District, had been duly approved by the San Ysidro school administration, when her oratory suddenly took a dark and unexpected turn.  After expressing gratitude to her friends, family and some teachers at the school, she began using her moment on stage to throw metaphorical bombs and settle scores.

“To my counselor, thank you for letting me fend for myself,” she said. “You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments….You expressed to me your joy in having one of your students be valedictorian when you had absolutely no role in my achievements.”

Ms. Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerk-Buttooyoungtoaccepttheconsequencesofheractions moved on to attacking the administration staff, for “teaching me how to be resourceful” because, she claimed,  they failed to inform her of scholarships in a timely manner. Then she really got down to it, telling the audience about a San Ysidro teacher who , she said,“regularly” came to class up drunk.  Natalie thanked the teacher sarcastically for warning students about “the dangers of alcoholism.”

With a final coda—- “I hope that future students and staff learn from these examples”—she left the stage to the cheers of her fellow students.

Here is the Ethics Hero argument, which I expect some, especially some  current high school students, to make:

She was courageous. It’s about time a student did this (actually, it’s been done before). Even if the school wasn’t as bad as her one-way perception saw it, this was a wake-up call that should have beneficial results. She seized an opportunity to try to fix some problems that could interfere with the education of other students.

Now here is my analysis:

Natalie is a toxic, narcissistic jerk. The school administrators should have yanked her from the stage; I would have. In fact, that they did not do so is one piece of evidence that the place may have been as bad as she said it was.

The Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerk-Buttooyoungtoaccepttheconsequencesofheractions did not raise their darling daughter to comprehend such concepts as trust, fairness, promise-keeping respect for others, and  that there is a time and a place to take action, as well as the crucial life skill  of knowing when that is.

When she submitted her speech, that was a promise that the speech would be the one she would delivered. She lied to the school, betrayed its trust, and then took the stage assuming that being given the honor of addressing the proud parents and her fellow classmates included a license to issue insults and accusations. She made the graduation about her, hijacking the event for her own purposes, spoiling it for everyone else, and bringing negative publicity on the school and community. Worst of all, perhaps, she may have misled some of her impressionable fellow teens to believe being a grandstanding jerk and ambushing one’s adversaries is a correct response to disappointment, frustration, or annoyance.

It isn’t. Natalie is an Ethics Dunce.

Here’s a poll, with this requirement: if you vote that Natalie is a hero, you have to offer your reasons, so I and others can mercilessly rebut your flawed logic and mock you without mercy.

That seems fair.

36 thoughts on “Ethics Hero Or Ethics Dunce? The Rogue Valedictorian

  1. The excerpt that Jack quotes identifies 3 complaints:

    1. The guidance counselor should have been paying more attention to me me me, special special me. She’s a jerk for acting as if she’s the only kid who’s entitled to the counselor’s time.

    2. The administration should have been paying more attention to me me me, special special me. They didn’t tell her about scholarships? She’s a jerk for not taking responsibility for keeping track of her own damn scholarships and for thinking the administration has nothing better to do than keep track for her.

    3. A teacher engaged in gross misconduct all year long. If true, she is a jerk for not reporting it to the proper authorities long before graduation. If not true, she’s an even bigger jerk and I hope she’s 18 so the teacher can sue for defamation.

    4. And, of course, even if her complaints #1 – #3 hadn’t been jerky in themselves, only a jerk would befoul everybody else’s public celebration with her own private gripes.

    • On point #3, she also mentions in the speech that this teacher had to be escorted off the school grounds by police at some point, presumably related to his drunkenness. The reaction from the crowd when she mentions the drunk teacher leaves no doubt that all the students knew exactly who she was talking about, despite her not mentioning his name. I don’t think it’s possible, if her account is true, that the school administration wasn’t aware of the problems with this teacher.

      But yeah, on points #1 and #2, you’re dead on: she sounds like a self-centered jerk complaining about not being the center of everyone else’s universe.

      • I disagree on point #1, and maybe even point #2, I’d love for someone to attempt to come up with a job description for a guidance counselor that doesn’t revolve around the needs of entitled children. This is like defending a janitor who doesn’t want to clean up barf because barf is gross… That might be true, but it’s still their job. I think that #2 could probably even be baked into this: It is literally their job to counsel and guide students on what they have to do going forward in an academic context… scholarships are 100% in their wheelhouse, and if the meat of the comment was true, that the guidance counselor was blowing off appointments, I don’t see the criticism as illegitimate, just the venue.

    • 1) IF she actually had appointments with the counselor that were consistently missed by the counselor then there is a legitimate complaint. I’d love to know if there were indeed actually set in stone appointments with the counselor. Dealing with teenagers, I’ve come to realize their grasp on the exactness of language is somewhat lacking.

      “Counselor said ‘swing by anytime'” very easily becomes “Counselor missed our appointments”.

      2) Yeah, I don’t remember anyone in my high school telling me about scholarships and when to apply for them with any specificity outside of general admonitions “hey guys, you need to start looking for scholarships soon, because time will catch up to you very quickly”. (I still found scholarships)

      3) If the teacher wasn’t specifically named, is there defamation? This is another one that sounds to me like the vagueness of teen characterizations and generalizations. I don’t like this teacher + this teacher has an odd quirk = fodder for making up anything we want about this teacher.

  2. Natalie is a toxic, narcissistic jerk.

    To anyone with a functioning brain and without their own axe to grid with authority, this is intuitively obvious. To everyone else, it is toxic criticism.

    When she submitted her speech, that was a promise that the speech would be the one she would delivered. She lied to the school, betrayed its trust, and then took the stage assuming that being given the honor of addressing the proud parents and her fellow classmates included a license to issue insults and accusations.

    She not only betrayed their trust, but the trust of her parents and the parents of other students who had no reason to expect to be captive victims of her score-settling assault on her school. I don’t doubt whatever that she made valid points, just as, perhaps, the unethical jerks in the original production of Hamilton made some valid points when they accosted Steve Pence and his wife while they were in the audience. All of which, when you think about it, is just another ends-justify-the-means bit of activism.

    And this, San Ysidro High School, is your valedictorian, a person who has accomplished high academic achievement and, in doing so, has become a self-aggrandizing, judgmental bitch, the archetype of most people’s stereotype of valedictorians.

    And you cheered her. Way to think for yourselves you dimwit bunch of future sheeple. John Bender (Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club) farts in your general direction.

  3. Was going to go straight off with Dunce.

    Then I remembered: form and substance.

    Form: going off-script.
    Substance: unfair, one-sided attacks on people with no opportunity to defend themselves.

    The substance itself is dunce-worthy. That is not even strong enough. Toxic, narcissistic jerk is more fitting.

    Going off-script? You are right. It has been done before.

    It can also be done for several reasons. The practice of having valedictorians speak is traditional. There was a time when such things were not abused. But, impulsive adolescents, being impulsive adolescents, pushed boundaries. And, stifling educators, being stifling educators, took on the role of censor. If it is traditional, there should be no censor; if you are going to censor, it might be best to do away with the practice as it is an affront to tradition. If the valedictorian has a forum, it is improper for the educator to impose a limitation; the very fact there is a censor removes from the bargain any semblance of trust.

    For these reasons, I would not say that going off-script is inherently unjustifiable.

    But, this post made me run to my cabinet to find my father’s speech to his graduating class as the Class President:

    FRIENDS, PARENTS, FACULTY & BOARD OF EDUCATION

    WE regret the parting of our ways, and yet, realize it is necessary that we should go forward on our own. We are soon to become part of a great staff of world workers and if we are to assume our place in world activities and in the field of vocational enterprise and civic affairs, we must learn to make decisions in solving our problems.

    In doing so, we owe much to your valuable advice and guidance. Whatever success we may win in life and whatever achievements may be ours, a part of the credit belongs to you.

    We take this opportunity to apologize for any worries we may have caused you by our youthful pranks or any negligence or carelessness on our parts. We want you to know we appreciate all you have done to make possible our launching tonight.

    On behalf of the Senior class, as their President that I may wish to say that, in accepting these diplomas, we realize that they represent the culmination of many days, weeks, and years of work. We realize that these diplomas do not guarantee any promise or measure of success in the future, but we must dig in even more than we have here in school if we are to achieve anything above the commonplace in life.

    We shall cherish to the end of our life the memories that cluster around our school days and the associations we have made here in BEARDSLEY HIGH SCHOOL.

    In whatever our undertakings in life are to be and in whatever field of endeavor, the success we find will be, in part, due to your help. So, tonight, as a class we wish to say, welcome and thank you for making this GRADUATION possible!!!

    HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

    -Jut

    By the way, her last name appear to be Thai.

  4. I would say definitely a dunce. Unless it can be proven that Ms. Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerkbuttooyoungtoaccepttheconsequencesofheractions (that’s a mouthful of a last name) had taken all other available courses of action to correct actual wrongs, and that’s if there were any actual wrongs (a teacher being constantly drunk seems like the only complaint that actually might have affected other people than her own ego), then I can see how this is a last ditch effort to bring attention to several problems. However, it is doubtful that any of these problems are actually problems and not just the student wishing more people payed more attention to her. If there was a teacher who was constantly drunk on the job, why was that teacher not reported towards the beginning of the year? Was modifying the valedictorian speech the only way left to bring attention to something like this? I highly doubt that.

  5. “To my counselor, thank you for letting me fend for myself,” she said. “You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments…”

    The way this reads, it sounds like the counselor failed to meet with her and/or her parents, despite having an appointment.

    That would make me angry if I had an appointment and was blown off.

    Not that Natalie should have handled it the way she did, but she perhaps had a right to be upset.

    • In that case, perhaps the correct action would’ve been to confront the counselor in a private setting, or better yet, to forward a complaint to the principal or school district.

      Would that have made any difference? No, probably not, an incompetent is generally not motivated by criticism unless they actually have something to lose, and her position was probably safe as long as she simply showed up for work. Tragic, but a modern fact of life.

      But airing her grievances in public at an event intended to be a happy moment isn’t the right way to do it, whether she had a right to be upset or not. I don’t have a right to go to a party at someone else’s house and air my grievances with the host. It’s rude and tramples on the Golden Rule, just like this young woman did.

  6. “You were always unavailable to my parents and I” She should have complained about her English teacher not teaching her the difference between subject and object pronouns.

  7. By putting it in a public, desired to go news viral, she has made it almost impossible for change to happen instead of circling the wagons. I admit my school had similarly incompetent people and despite feedback by multiple students with clean records (not just one class or clique), nothing happened. For students with struggling families, repeated skipping appointments- whether for mental or career planning should be actionable and not ‘self-centered. Getting counseling is supposed to be centered on the counselee. A drunkard or drugged out teacher is by def unable to do their job or be a good example.

    This was long before social media, and our student speaker when I graduated made the standard blah-blah about being excited about their successes and moving on to bigger and better things. That was ill-concealed bragging and irrelevant to a majority of the listeners. These speeches usually sound like ego-boo for either the student, the school, or both. Tradition soothes egos by assuring the listeners that everything is fine like it always was in the golden halls of nostalgia. That may have little relationship to the truth.

    We can’t really know how much they did or did not try to address these issues before this rather public outing. There’s the rub! But I do think a speech that exhorts and encourages needed change is not a bad thing. Dropping the mic is admired far too much in a mob hysteria culture.

    The biggest problem I see was the deceit of the fake submitted speech. A really clever speaker could have alluded or some other way of exposing the incompetence. The student speaker being incompetent at a fiery rhetoric speech first time out, is less of incompetence than the guidance counselor or the drunkard. Those paid career adults are supposed to teach, guide, and be good examples. (If they cannot, I’m sure there is plenty of fine opportunities at Wally-world) The student is now gone, but the incompetent ones remain to mess up the education and career hopes of their younger friends and family. The former student was wrong in how they did it, but not wrong to demand competence. That makes her a dunro or hernce, depending on which mashed up compound you prefer.

    • I admit my school had similarly incompetent people and despite feedback by multiple students with clean records (not just one class or clique), nothing happened.

      Yes, I know what you mean. And probably nothing will happen in this case, either, because she’ll be seen by the faculty as a drama queen bent on settling scores. I know that’s how I’d see it, if I were faculty.

      I think we’ve seen enough examples of unethical or incompetent school administrators and teachers to conclude that the lack of either or both qualities is not an impediment to long-term employment in schools these days, at least not often enough.

      The former student was wrong in how they did it, but not wrong to demand competence. That makes her a dunro or hernce, depending on which mashed up compound you prefer.

      I agree with the first sentence, but must demure on the conclusion. Actually, it is the responsibility of her parents and the parents of her peers to demand school performance on behalf of their children. As you and I both remember, teachers are much more likely to listen to parents than to students. Plus, there is an inherent power difference that renders student performance complaints directly to the school administration less forceful than parental complaints.

      The main “hero” arguments about this young woman seem to be that she identified problems that needed airing with the school administration, even if she did so inappropriately.

      What nobody seems to have considered is that it is possible, even likely, for most or all of her accusations of incompetence to be either wrong or exaggerated, as would be typical of the type of young, callow person willing to use a valedictorian speech for score-settling.

      Understandably, we are all quite willing to believe student stories of educator incompetence. It is simple confirmation bias — we’ve all seen it exposed here and elsewhere far too often for us not to develop an ethical callus there. But it is also the case that many, perhaps most educators are professional, compassionate, honest, trustworthy, and dedicated.

      Should we really be taking her word for it in the cases she identifies, rather than considering the possibility that she is just a mean girl who liked the ones who kowtowed to her and disliked the ones who didn’t?

  8. as with most of the questions, context and history is important. I am leaning towards “She’s a hero, but there were better and more effective ways to make her complaints known.”, with some catches.

    First of all, it was not okay to just lie to the organizers and tell them “I’m going to say this” and then do something completely different.

    That being said, if she did make attempts throughout her time at the school to improve these issues or otherwise report or complain about them, and especially if they are affecting other students there from reaching their potential, I think a public callout is very appropriate.

    Now, while also considering that these things have to be counted against each other, I think the callout, if it could be justified as above, outweighs the petty mistake of lying about the speech contents.

  9. Yes, I vote for ‘hero’, admittedly in part because I’m provoked more by your attitude rather than hers.

    Yes, I wouldn’t have done it : not at 18 because I wouldn’t have dared. And not at my current 67 because I don’t care sufficiently.

    Yes it was rough. Yes she said things she shouldn’t have. Yes, she should probably apologise to the teacher she called out for his drinking.

    I found and played her speech. Good on her for recognising and thanking those six teachers she thought had done her well. Her honest thanks in this context were clearly meaningful. I imagine they must have been appreciated. It was also good to hear her talk about her friends and parents.

    So you want scripted praise rather than honest comment? And you want her punished for being critical? And you’d have cut her microphone and pulled her off stage if you’d been there? Sounds like you’d be an ideal ‘master of ceremonies’ to organise the the cynical ‘praise fest’ for any ‘beloved leader’. Count me out. I simply don’t see the point.

    I hope this student is helped to review and reconsider her actions. There are useful lessons for her to learn. But far, far more : I hope the Principal and staff do some thinking too. Just upping the security and censorship for next year should not be considered sufficient.

    • Did you miss the part about submitting her speech in advance and thus agreeing to say that, and only that? You must have. Because that is, you know, a material part of the ethics breach. It’s a mutual contact: she agrees to say X in exchange for having the opportunity to speak. When she says Y, and it i materially not-X, that’s a breach of contract. Deal’s off. And off-stage she goes. It’s basic contract law.

      Thanks for giving your reasons as I asked!

      • Yes Jack I did spot and think about the ‘contract’ issue. It would be good if someone could talk through with the student the extent to which she made a contract, and the extent that she broke it. Yes that could well be an ethical fault and maybe she could have avoided such a breach and still got to say what she wanted to.

        But I’d hope (without much confidence ) that in any review. there could be greater attention on the nature of the address; who is saying what to whom and why? And who bears what responsibilities to whom? Maybe the ‘ethics dunce’ is rather more the school than the student?

        Did this student get chosen by the Authorities in the expectation that she’d say flattering things about the school? A sort of ‘teacher’s pet – sucking up’ prize?

        Or did she become valedictorian simply because she scored the highest marks?

        To what extent does the audience have a reasonable expectation that they will hear honest comments from the highest scoring student, rather than a meaningless hymn of praise?

        Should the student worry about integrity? How do you distinguish between saying what you want to say, and saying what others want to hear from you?

        I have a suspicion that this school and others are committing an ethical foul, which in Australian law is termed ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’. They present their top students as adverts for their school, but in a format that suggests they are providing an honest reference. Maybe this is so commonplace that it doesn’t matter? But it is worth some thought.

        There is of course generally a massive power imbalance between the student and the school in the last year. I like to think at 18 I would have refused to read scripted praise that I didn’t agree with. But sadly I suspect I would have gladly said my teachers walked on water rather than risk them giving me a dud reference.

        In this case I suggest we remember this student did not attempt a hatchet job. She gave praise and criticism. I see no reason to think she wasn’t being honest. The ethics problem stems not from her choosing to be dishonest, but from the school seeking to prevent her being honest. That should surely cause the Principal to do some serious thinking. I do hope he doesn’t see this as simply a failure of discipline and security. In my view he’ll be an idiot if he does.

        • Wow, what a tortured effort at contrarianism!

          Yes Jack I did spot and think about the ‘contract’ issue.

          There are no quotes around contract. It was a contract.

          It would be good if someone could talk through with the student the extent to which she made a contract, and the extent that she broke it.

          Like, say, “Any time you exchange a promise for another, that’s a contract”? There’s no “extent” here either. She made a contract, and she broke it.

          Yes that could well be an ethical fault and maybe she could have avoided such a breach and still got to say what she wanted to.

          What sophistry! It couldn’t “well be” an ethical fault. Breaking promises is unethical. Kids learn that by the time they are 7. “Maybe”?????!!!!! She could have avoided the breach by not doing it!

          But I’d hope (without much confidence ) that in any review. there could be greater attention on the nature of the address; who is saying what to whom and why? And who bears what responsibilities to whom?

          Every student knows that the “nature of the address” is to say something appropriate to the occasion of the address, and nothing but what is appropriate. There was no big mystery here.

          Maybe the ‘ethics dunce’ is rather more the school than the student?

          Yes, the school, like the girl’s parents, obviously did a lousy job preparing her for life, but she is still 100% accountable. The post wasn’t about the school.

          Did this student get chosen by the Authorities in the expectation that she’d say flattering things about the school? A sort of ‘teacher’s pet – sucking up’ prize? Or did she become valedictorian simply because she scored the highest marks?

          Wait—do YOU not know what a valedictorian is? It is the outstanding student at the top of the class, determined by grades and grades alone, except in a minority (but growing) group of schools that choose them by lottery or election, or that have a male and female valedictorian, or one for each race. Since it’s a credential (parents have sued), it has to be determined by the numbers. So of course she wasn’t subjectively chosen for some ulterior motive.

          “To what extent does the audience have a reasonable expectation that they will hear honest comments from the highest scoring student, rather than a meaningless hymn of praise?”

          The audience isn’t there for the speech at all. The non-students are there to watch their own kids graduate, and to do so in a pleasant, dignified, happy and memorable event. The students are there to get the ceremony over with and get a diploma. There is never any expectations that anything in a graduation ceremony is going to be new, unexpected, controversial or negative in any way. These events haven’t changed materially for centuries.

          Should the student worry about integrity?

          Integrity is one or the cornerstones of ethics. An absence of integrity means “Ethics Dunce” by definition.

          How do you distinguish between saying what you want to say, and saying what others want to hear from you?

          It’s called etiquette, common sense, The Golden Rule and manners—and that little matter of the promise is a big, big clue, wouldn’t you say?

          “I have a suspicion that this school and others are committing an ethical foul, which in Australian law is termed ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’. They present their top students as adverts for their school, but in a format that suggests they are providing an honest reference. Maybe this is so commonplace that it doesn’t matter? But it is worth some thought.”

          If the top student isn’t a good indication of how the school does its job, who is? But never mind that—it has never occurred to me that a valedictorian would be considered any kind of an advert for a school, since these speeches are uttered, heard by a limited group, seldom publicized (unless the speaker goes rogue or says something genuinely profound) and immediately forgotten. Thanks for raising it—desperate rationalization efforts do sometimes find something of value.

          I’m considering it.

          OK. I considered it. No, that’s not what was going on.

          There is of course generally a massive power imbalance between the student and the school in the last year. I like to think at 18 I would have refused to read scripted praise that I didn’t agree with. But sadly I suspect I would have gladly said my teachers walked on water rather than risk them giving me a dud reference.

          Straw men. No student is required to thank or praise anyone. It’s not the Academy Awards. I have heard such speeches that were about religion, or a role model, or history. Nor was the speech scripted by the school. Presumably she submitted it, and she wrote it. In reality, a school has diminishing power over a student in the senior year, hence the term “senioritis.” My best friend in high school dropped out a week or so before graduation, and never got his diploma, as a specific “up yours” to the whole institution. He had been accepted to college and had perfect grades and test scores. The college knew he was brilliant, and liked rebelliousness. By the time of graduation, there is no need for references. The student has most of the power

          “In this case I suggest we remember this student did not attempt a hatchet job. She gave praise and criticism. I see no reason to think she wasn’t being honest. The ethics problem stems not from her choosing to be dishonest, but from the school seeking to prevent her being honest. That should surely cause the Principal to do some serious thinking. I do hope he doesn’t see this as simply a failure of discipline and security. In my view he’ll be an idiot if he does.”

          Wrong. The student is not required to give praise, but giving out reprimands, accusations and insults is inappropriate, and she knew it. You are making the Ruddigore Fallacy argument: because she said some positive things, it cancels out the negative things. Such speeches must be positive because the event is positive. It’s like eulogy in that respect. A hatchet job is EXACTLY what it was. Nor did the school seek to stop her from being honest. The school trusted her to be responsible.

    • At this moment in time her complaints were her opinion only. They are not undisputed facts! She chose a time to air her grievances when there would be no opportunity to make a public rebuttal.

      Here is why she is a dunce. She proclaimed a teacher was an alcholic. The teacher cannot rebut this adequately and will probably have his or her career destroyed. Heros take personal risks to help others. She took no risks to harm others.

      I can forsee her doing this again and causing more pain.

    • I voted “Dunce, but it must have felt good” because she could have some valid points. I once had to make such a speech to a school that sounded similar. High school was miserable. It was especially miserable because I took education seriously and such an attitude was held up to scorn by the school’s culture.

      I was the valedictorian, had the highest GPA, and had the highest test scores. The school had numerous college scholarships that it awarded. Did I get any of them? Did the salutatorian? Did the third or fourth person in the graduating class? Well, there were some questions about how that happened again after the scholarships were awarded. I can tell you how that happened. The day of an outdoor ‘field experience’ in science class, I was told that I had to interview for the school’s scholarships. So, I was sitting in the hallway with the other top students (all in torn jeans and old t-shirts) and several teacher’s pets in suits and nice dresses came and sat down to interview. They had an outside judge interview and judge the students because of previous claims of favoritism. Guess who got the scholarships? The school, of course, said it was just a coincidence and that none of the students were told ahead of time about the interviews.

      OK, it may seem petty to be upset over just a few thousand dollars each in scholarship money, but it wasn’t just the scholarships. All the academic competition teams were filled by the same students who won the scholarships, never the top students in the classes. Complaining about such a thing resulted in retaliation (I was erased from the yearbook my senior year). The tougher kids were allowed to bully the smaller kids with impunity in class. Complaining about it would lead to retaliation from teachers. I had to laugh about the counselors because I don’t think I ever talked to an academic counselor. My brother was called into the counselor once because he wanted to take a drafting class (he became an engineer). The counselor told him that drafting classes were for ‘stupid, poor kids’ and wouldn’t let him take it.

      After the whole ‘you have to have your speech approved and if you deviate you will not graduate’ threats, the salutatorian and I decided to just give a ‘Stereotypical Graduation Speech’. We just wrote down all the typical phrases and tropes and recited them rapid fire. It took 5 minutes and was probably the most popular speech in the entire 3 hour ordeal.

      Of course, both of us probably felt like going off script like this girl did during the actual graduation. You see, the people giving speeches were placed at the front so we could easily make it to the stage. While we were lined up, a girl farther back yelled that we weren’t supposed to be up front, that we weren’t in alphabetical order. When we tried to explain to the teacher that we were the valedictorian and salutatorian and would be giving a speech, the teacher cut us off and said “She (pointing to the student who objected) is a cheerleader! If you are accusing a cheerleader of lying, I will have you both thrown out and you won’t get your diplomas”. So, we had to be in alphabetical order. When it came time, we had to squirm our way out of the sea of too-close-together folding chairs packed with graduates. The principal complained to the crowd, announcing that “They are supposed to be smart, but they apparently can’t figure out how to line up”.

      OK, it may seem petty to want some revenge for just that, but after years of such treatment at the hands of teachers and administrators, I can forgive an 18 year old for perhaps misbehaving a little bit.

  10. Sorry Jack, I could not cast an either/or vote. In 2019, strictly “Dunce” OR strictly “Hero” is an unfair declaration in this scenario of an 18-year old – and her cheering classmates – in today’s society.

    Our generation (i.e., Jack and Commenters, including me) grew up and lived adult lives in a society that was far more civil, better taught, and certainly understood responsibility.

    Just imagine that in the graduating class of 2019, in American Government or American History classes this entire year, Ms. Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerkbuttooyoungto-accepttheconsequencesofheractions and her classmates were required every day to watch television programming that included the SCOTUS Kavanaugh Hearings, daily Congressional Hearings, the POTUS bashing witch-hunt, and CNN and MSNBC news programs, and on and on and on…

    …and then from our more mature and mentally stable positions from having the advantage of growing up and participating in a better, nobler era, deciding that this young lady should understand the responsibility of behaving ethically after being forced to learn from the “Adults” in her generation.

    If our College campuses (older than high-school seniors) cannot turn out civil, respectful and smart students (i.e, Oberlin College, Harvard, Stanford, you-name-it), how the hell is our high school students supposed to ever understand “Heroism,” decency, responsibility, civility?

    The “Dunce” votes might want to re-think their votes. …not to give a “pass” or “let our youth off the hook” for misconduct, but to recognize our society is actually failing miserably to teach the better way to live.

    • Point taken but calling them dunces at an early age allows them time to recalibrate their thinking. How else can we offer a countervailing opinion?

      Saying we have failed them is incorrect because there is no We in their social prepatation; only schools and parents.

      • Chris: Point taken in return. Thanks. Ms. – – – was a dunce for her actions, I agree. I just could not make her a 100% dunce without giving some sense of heroism out of her frustrations and confusion, given the obvious lack of education in many areas. Was she ever taught anything about contract law? or keeping promises? or conflict resolution? …and the “We” was a reference to the society and culture our youth are growing up in (i.e., California are now or soon will be teaching Kindergartners transgender lifestyles). (Note: “our” youth is not a reference to your offspring and/or mine).

        • It was a childish stunt. Nothing more nothing less. I cannot confer hero status nor will I see her as an ethics corrupter. She is however a dunce when you define dunce as an ignorant participant that should know better but have not yet mastered such lessons.

    • The “Dunce” votes might want to re-think their votes. …not to give a “pass” or “let our youth off the hook” for misconduct, but to recognize our society is actually failing miserably to teach the better way to live.

      Your point is well taken, but I don’t think it requires rethinking of “dunce” status for this young woman. Here’s my reasoning:

      1. She was valedictorian, which indicates intelligence and exposure, at least theoretically, to advanced classes and high-quality teachers, who tend to teach advanced classes. She would’ve been exposed to proper civil behavior in such circumstances.

      2. She had parents. It is their responsibility to imbue into her the values of honesty, integrity, and the Golden Rule, all of which she deliberately violated in this case. Even if they failed to do so, she doesn’t get off the hook for it, but rather, added to the ethical wreckage of her incompetent parents.

      3. She clearly knew what she was doing was wrong. Otherwise, she would’ve proposed it in her original draft.

      4. An 18-year old is an adult in our society. Even if she gets mitigation from her callow nature, it does not make her less of a “dunce.” It merely makes it easier to forgive.

      While I can’t disagree with your conclusion that our society is failing our young, we cannot stop holding them to the standards of polite society on that account. It would be an abdication of the standards of ethics that we purport to embrace.

      • Glenn, Appreciate your comments. Especially well said is: “4. An 18-year old is an adult in our society. Even if she gets mitigation from her callow nature, it does not make her less of a “dunce.” It merely makes it easier to forgive.”

  11. I didn’t vote.

    Whether her complaints were legitimate or not, she has shown up her school – a sterling example of the failing California public education system – for not having learned in twelve years of English tutelage that “You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments” is grammatically incorrect. She is not the subject of the sentence; it is “my parents and me as in, “unavailable to . . . me,” (a very simple proof).

    That makes her a Hero Inadvertent who exposed her entire faculty and administration as Dunces. All teachers of whatever subject, and any administrative staff who might be expected to preview a graduation address, should be comfortable with basic English grammar, at least on paper. …With the exception, of course, of the ones who speak in Ebonics.

    [Disclaimer: Any errors of exposition, grammar, syntax or punctuation in the foregoing should be considered purely intentional.]

  12. Ethics Dunce, pure and simple. As much as the “contract” issue is a no brainer, to me she should have more of an idea of “appropriate time and place” for airing of personal grievances. Her valedictory address was not that time and place, whether she had a pre-approved speech or not. All the issues she raised would have been more appropriately addressed, and likely with more chances for success, long before the end of the school year. A very selfish and entitled display.

  13. I also did not vote because I considered other issues. As a possible disqualifier, let me say that I am a California resident of retirement age who finds everything about our current public school system abhorrent. And this story is just one more example of the corruption the students suffer at the hands of the teachers’ union. I may have missed it in previous comments but no one mentioned the contract the school made with the students at the time they entered. Perhaps that’s not pertinent to her subsequent speech contract with the school administration. I can’t help but wonder what representations were made by the school administration when her class entered and it is this contract that I consider the controlling contract. To my mind, she was simply reviewing the controlling contract with her remarks as the contract reached its normal end. The issue of whether it was the appropriate time or place begs the question of when would it have been appropriate. Had she spoken up sooner in her high school career, she may have risked retaliation and failure to achieve her final honor as valedictorian or so the teachers and administrators clearly demonstrate how powerful they are. I’d like to think she is an example of someone who figured out how to succeed in a corrupt system without surrendering to it. As for her parents, they have been told by the socialist-leaning school system that they really don’t know what they’re doing and leave parenting to those who are professionally trained. I have no way of telling if they were impacted by this attitude but I know many who are. In the end, I respect those who speak up and go against the crowd. We need more people who openly expose conventional wisdom and do not simply go along to get along.

  14. I didn’t vote Hero, but it was closer than one might think.

    I think it depends on whether or not the things she said objectively happened: Did her guidance counselor routinely blow appointments? Did the office staff turn her away when applying for a work permit? Did she have to escalate these issues to the Vice Principal several times, and were they never resolved? Did a teacher routinely show up to class drunk, and needed to be escorted off grounds by police?

    If this is not true, then it’s obviously foul. If it is…. It wouldn’t take much effort to think of a better way to get this information across, but in the hero/villain dichotomy, I’m torn. There are too many stories of unaccountable administrators running amok, and the toolkit for an exiting student is barer than that of the adults who routinely fail to fight the power. If the worst those administrators have to deal with is a little public embarrassments, I’ll break out the world’s smallest fiddle.

    As to the inference of narcissism, granted. But if the response from the crowd she was ostensibly representing is a guide, and if the accusations had merit, then perhaps the issues were more communal than personal, even if she personalized them.

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