My daughter and her 8th grade classmates had the courage to be outrageous last week by respectfully and successfully challenging their administrators on a point of principle.
As is the tradition, teachers and students were asked to vote on which three classmates should speak at graduation. The administrators confirmed that they would not override the outcome of the vote.
When the three speakers were announced, they were the usual high-achievers liked and respected by all. Immediately, there was a buzz across the grapevine as students compared notes and discovered that one classmate had gotten more student votes than any other, yet had not been named as a speaker. Let’s call him John.
As it turns out, John is regularly in trouble for disrupting class: a basically good kid, but lacking in the “social filter” category. Clearly, administrators did what they promised not to do: they overrode the will of the students.
Several classmates started a petition (also supported by those selected to speak). The administrators called a meeting to explain: they wanted to protect John from being put in a position where he might embarrass himself and be laughed at by his peers. They freely admitted that an overwhelming majority of students voted for him, but feared it was “for the wrong reasons”.
The students made eloquent arguments about due process, diversity of representation, hearing a variety of viewpoints, and that it could be confidence building for John to make a success of this moment to shine. In the end, the administrators did the only sensible thing: they added John as a fourth graduation speaker.
Not only did John speak, his message was uplifting and appropriate. He rose to the occasion and shone. He told me how good it made him feel to know his classmates had spoken up for him.
How marvelous that these 14 year olds had the courage to be outrageous. I am proud of you all for your leadership.