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Valedictorian censored
Posted: 26 July 2006 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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While she without question has the right to free speech, the challenge is not to her right to speech, but to her right to use the particular forum for her speech.  We obviously don’t have a guaranteed right to a public forum.  The event, graduation, is not a right either.  A school is perfectly within its rights to issue diplomas without ceremony. 

So, the speech by the valedictorian is a tradition.  Since the school is providing a ceremony with the intent of recognizing scholastic achievement, it has the right to set the parameters for that ceremony.  Perhaps the school believed that the speech was too outside the focus of the ceremony.  It is also possible that the school felt the speech was too exclusive and narrow in its applicability.  Since the ceremony is an optional service offered by the school, the school, I believe, has the right to insist on certain conditions to make the service broadly acceptable.

Also, complaints such as the one this young lady made are not often thought out very well.  Would they object to an atheist who talked about how his rational understanding bloomed after rejecting faith based conjectures about the universe being cut off?  And what is a possible consequence?  If the controversy is too disruptive, a school would be within its rights to remove the valedictorian speech as a part of its graduation ceremony in order to preempt any future conflicts.  Sometimes, choosing your battles is more important than making a futile statement.

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"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
-Thomas Jefferson

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Posted: 27 July 2006 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Speechy, schpreechy

[quote author=“theatheistheretic”]Have you ever considered being a speech writer, debgod? You seem like you would be good at it.

Nope.  Sometimes writing doesn’t come easy to me—I’d hate to belabour the process to the point of insanity with a deadline fast approaching.  Thanks for the compliment, though.

If I had to write that valedictorian speech, I’d sit there for hours trying to figure out what to say at such an important event in front of all my classmates, then, as the hours passed, hopefully I’d be struck by a flash of inspiration and type the entire thing madly in two or three spurts of creative energy.  Heck, by the time that was done, I might be willing to credit Jesus for my success too!  wink

Debbie

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Posted: 27 July 2006 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Well anyway don’t take the job if they offer it to you, DebGod. We prefer you here!

8)

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Posted: 28 July 2006 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Aw, shucks.  smile

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Posted: 19 August 2006 06:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Sermon, Not Speech

It is wholly clear to me that the school was in the right on this one. I taught high school for 6 years and gave the commencement address at one graduation. Let us forget, for a moment, that it was a private high school. Let us say that it was a public high school. There I am, an official representative of the school, with a captive audience, and I launch into an account of the wonderful difference that atheism has made to my life, essentially implying in not so subtle ways that everyone in the audience should think exactly as I think. The audience would have the right to be outraged, the school has the right to feel that the privilege it gave me was abused, and I clearly broke the law (the 1st Amendment, remember, is law). The school would have every right to pull the plug on the speech.

Have no doubt, the valedictorian is an official representative of the school, a recipient of a school honor, and there to show off the school’s academic prowess. She is not there to give any sort of sermon of any kind, for any cause.  It would be perfectly alright for her to say once in the speech that god helped her, however wrong she would be. Mentioning god is clearly not the issue. The issue here is advocacy. The valedictorian in question was advocating a particular religious point of view. She was abusing a school privilege and the honor the school bestowed her to do it.

Finally, we can look at this issue in the way Sam Harris does when analyzing American political speeches. Let us say that instead of praising Jesus ad nauseum this valedictorian worshipped Zeus. What if she said, “Zeus’s love fits. Zeus’s love is ‘that something more’ we all desire”? Would the Jesus freaks or anyone else really be worried about her constitutional right to free speech? Advocacy for Jesus is the same as advocacy for Zeus is the same as advocacy for atheism. It does not belong in a valedictorian speech at a public high school.

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The Doctor

“Each age has a special risk. Ours is letting half the world starve literally and nine-tenths of it starve educationally” - John Fowles, The Aristos

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