School’s Out

I’ve always thought that one of the biggest problems with schools, at any level, is too many of the adults who work there never had any life experiences outside of school. After finishing school, they immediately became teachers, just changing where they stood (or sat) in the classroom. For some of them, never having lived in the “real world” outside of a schoolhouse had the deleterious effect of never really forcing them to grow up, and to set aside their own adolesent hang-ups and insecurities.

If this story is any indication, I’m right.

A suggestion for Principal Holton: grow up.


32 Responses to “School’s Out”

  1. Patrick Says:

    I has a management professor in college that had earned her Phd in management and gone straight into teaching.

    How on earth is a person who has never managed a soul qualified to teach me how to be a manager?

  2. chaika Says:

    Wow. Some sense of humor.

  3. Crank Says:

    Weak, just weak.

  4. ricky Says:

    Cmon, the professor has an extensive background in widget manufacturing! That’s GOTTA be a real world application!

  5. Nick Bourbaki Says:

    The administration should be more ashamed that the valedictorian, the best they have to offer, thinks that a high school is an “institute of higher learning.” Sorry Bubba, that refers to learning at the collegiate level or above.

  6. denise Says:

    As usual, I am suspicious that there may be more to the story than what’s written in the story. There so often is, because if the whole story is reported, it turns out to be a big yawn rather than an outrage.

    I do agree that if the story is accurately reported and all there was to it was that the principal thought a couple of lines which were clearly jokes needed censored because they implied a poor quality eduction, then she needs to develop some sense of humor.

  7. Mark Says:

    The problem is not that public schools are failing; they are succeeding, and at an alarming rate.

  8. erp Says:

    Abe is a credit to the human spirit. He actually learned something at a public school, not a task for the feint hearted and in the fullness of time I am confident he will learn to refer to high schools as secondary schools and colleges and universities as schools of higher learning. No that it matters a damn to this story.

    He’s clever and has a sense of humor, so he’ll go on and make a good life for himself. The future doesn’t look as sanguine for this silly woman who is more interested in keeping the boys in line than honoring scholastic achievement. No surprise there.

    Imagine cutting off the microphone, removing him in mid-sentence and withholding his diploma? She’s obviously a troubled person. I hope the school board removes her before she makes a fool of herself in public again.

    And to Abe. Congratulations on your achievements so far and may there be many, many more in your future.

  9. Robin Roberts Says:

    I’ll take the contrary position, Will. I have no special fondness for the quality of high school administrators – first hand experience. But we have an increasingly spoiled and narcissistic body of young people who don’t understand that indulging their petulant antics in public spoiling the solemnity of others’ events is in appropriate.

  10. Paladin Says:

    I’ve been saying the same thing for years. The most important thing a person at college can do for their future is network. People are what’s important… their curriculum is largely wasted effort.

  11. Joan Says:

    Untwist your panties, Robin. The kid’s speech started out with a weak, two-line joke that was supposed to be a segue into a description of what a fine education they had all received.

    The problem here is that the kid said he would take out the “offensive” lines, and didn’t.

    I think the principal needs to lighten up, a lot, but I also think that if the kid agreed to change the speech and then didn’t, then he is worse than she is. At least the principal was consistent in her small-mindedness. The kid was just disrespectful.

    I don’t agree with how the principal handled the situation, but what the kid did was wrong. The principal was right to impose some consequence for his going back on his promise, too bad she went overboard.

  12. Julie Says:

    The student speaches at graduations (at least high school) are a pointless joke anyway. What they *want* is for the student to spread around a lot of warm fuzzies about how wonderful everyone is and how wonderful their educational experience was.

    My school made a policy of checking the speeches after the valedictorian got up in front and said she had a miserable time in school and was incredibly glad that it was finally over.

    They *had* asked her to share her thoughts, after all.

  13. (the other) John Hawkins Says:

    Rejoice. Exposing our kids to petty tyrants like Pricipal Holton in the relatively harmless setting of High School helps innoculate kids against not-so-petty tyrants they’ll meet later in life.

  14. richard mcenroe Says:

    They want an education? When they hand him his diploma I hope he serves them the lawsuit…

    Patrick O’Brian once wrote that there was something about the petty authority of a schoolmaster than unsuits them for the company of adults.

  15. Norman Says:

    Yet more evidence that our education system needs to be radically overhauled. Pathetic.

  16. David Ross Says:

    It’s possible that the principal is a petty little thug AND that she was right in doing this.

    This valedictorian broke his promise. Don’t forget that.

  17. Neo Says:

    Graduation ceremonies are a big waste.

    I remember at the ceremony for my BS. As speakers, we had an editor from Time Magazine and the head of the School for Clowns from Ringling Brothers. Then we were dispatched back to our department offices where our diplomas were organized alphabetically in wastebaskets.

    I skipped my MS ceremony completely.

  18. T.L. James Says:

    For what it’s worth, while in college I worked the customer service call center for a magazine subscription agency which had an exclusive contract with the NEA. Consequently, about half our customer base was NEA members, and the other half was college students.

    When a college student would call with a problem, they were pretty reliably mature and cooperative in helping to get it fixed — providing relevant information, being reasonable about what could and could not be fixed, and understanding when, on those none-too-rare occasions, they missed an issue or three because of their own actions (such as forgetting to file a change of address).

    The NEA members were, more often than not, just the opposite. At any provocation, they would call up and raise holy hell, treating the customer service reps as though they were misbehaving schoolchildren. After a short while, one could guess from the degree of arrogance and condescension what grade a particular customer taught (we had customers’ grade levels on file, so it was easy enough to verify the guess).

    The consensus in the office was that teachers, due to being surrounded by a certain degree of emotional development and socialization for six or seven hours a day, nine months a year, for years at a time, lose their perspective on dealing with people outside of the classroom. They take on behaviors and attitudes which in part match the age of their pupils, and in part are shaped by their need to maintain authority over them. Thus, a third grade teacher might get inordinately emotional over some trivial matter, and express their age-inappropriate anger and frustration through a combination of temper tantrum and petulant intimidation.

    So, I can readily imagine the principal overreacting because things didn’t go exactly the way she wanted them, instead of just shrugging it off. She’s probably spent too many years on hair-trigger alert, ready to pounce on anything she perceives as threatening her authority.

  19. E. Nough Says:

    Even though I take a back seat to no one in my loathing for petty school-admin tyrants, I’ll back Robin on this one.

    The kid was given an honor: the opportunity to speak to his graduating class, all their friends and family members, and all the teachers and staff who helped him get there.

    Maybe this wasn’t such a big deal to him, but I bet it was to a lot of other people in that room. Some of the students may have struggled to get through that school. Some of the parents may have sacrificed quite a bit. No doubt so did some of the teachers — yeah, the NEA sucks like an airline toilet, but plenty of teachers devote their lives to a very underappreciated craft.

    A lot of people in that school probably wanted a little solemnity and dignity in the ceremony. After all, this is a big event. They deserved a positive, inspiring speech, to be their sendoff into the “adult world.” What do they get instead? Cheap wisecracks from a know-it-all kid. Suppose Mr. Stoklasa chose instead to make an anti-Bush rant. Would everyone here be as supportive?

    Mr. Stoklasa was asked to make a speech at a school event on school property. It stands to reason that the school officials get to have a say in the content of the speech. If Stoklasa wants to shoot his mouth off about whatever enters his mind, Google has this really cool website he should look into.

  20. E. Nough Says:

    I guess this is the key graf for me:

    Holton said she withheld the diploma because Stoklasa had agreed to make changes to his speech and did not follow through with that promise.

    Had Mr. Stoklasa been truly concerned with principle, he could have sat the ceremony out, rather than agree to change the speech. Instead, he lied to his hosts, and pulled a juvenile prank. Color me unimpressed.

  21. (the other) John Hawkins Says:

    For those saying “But he broke his promise” you should remember she cut the microphone off in mid-speech. That was petulant and stupid on her part. The day was for the students, and none of them would’ve known anything was, er, amis, if she’d let him finish his speech and told him, queitly aftewards, that she was dissapointed he had broken a promise.

    But that’s not what she did. Instead, she cut off the mic and disrupted the entire celebration in order to avoid, what? An minor jibe? An embarrasment? The day wasn’t about her, and the speech wasn’t insulting or demeaning the students. It was absurd for her to react the way she did.

    I said before that exposure to this sort of behavior helps innoculate kids against it in their future, but there is a down-side as well. It gives them the wrong idea about what is expected of responsible adults when the majority of adults they see in positions of authority behave like Holton.

  22. Julie M. Says:

    I’ve read the article. I’ve read these comments. Here’s my reaction: Where were his parents? Did they not review and listen to his speech prior to graduation? It never should have made it out of the house as written.

  23. Scott in CA Says:

    She’s just what we would expect from years of government training.(with apologies to “Men in Black”)

  24. Angel Says:

    There have been a few reports and stories out there on the education of school principals and officials. It has been reported that the advanced degree in educational administration is pretty much the weakest degree institutions of higher education (yes, I am referring to colleges and universities) offer. I think this principal definitely illustrates that. Then again, it seems principals are just getting too thin skinned. There have been other stories of them censoring school newspapers because they would have published something unfavorable or embarassing. What kind of example does that send? I think Principal Holton and her ilk need to grow up. As for the boy, maybe he should have just refused to give the speech, if it was such a matter of principle. In the end, they both should be called on their actions. Her for her censorship and disrupting a moment that is not hers, but the students. Him for agreeing to one thing and then doing something else. I don’t know about the rest of you, but where I come from, when you promise something it still counts for something. While I agree he should have been able to give his speech as he designed it, once you make the promise, breaking it makes you look less.

  25. Huggy Says:

    He’s 16 or 17 or 18? She’s about 12 mentally. Was she off her meds? He’s a young man who exercised his free will to mildly piss off “the establishment.” I don’t think this merits even one hail mary.

    Remember “hell no we won’t go” or “old enought to die but not to drink.”

  26. Restless Mania Says:

    Early Friday Gatling Blog

    Since in all likelihood I won’t have a chance to post tomorrow, and since I was Derelict on a couple of these things, I’m giving you the Friday blogistan tour on Thursday.

  27. Julie M. Says:

    Do any of you agree with me at all that this matter should have been handled at home and therefore never would have happened? True. The principal showed very poor judgment in her actions; but, I believe the darn speech should have been “nipped in the bud” before the ink was dried. All I can say is this. He should be really glad he’s not mine. I’ll say no more.

  28. Robin Roberts Says:

    Julie, nothing is happening at home. The generation in question is getting the message that they can do no wrong.

  29. E. Nough Says:

    Julie, he is graduating high school. Basically, he is an adult. It should not be necessary for his parents to explain to him why a graduation is not the time to get juvenile. Plenty of time for that in college.

    Also, I am hardly convinced that he would have told his parents the truth any more than he told the school. Frankly, his parents had nearly 18 years to teach him proper respect for himself and others. Apparently, they failed.

    I guess in the end that’s what it comes down to for me: respect. This occasion wasn’t about Mr. Stoklasa. It was about the hundreds of people who were going off into the adult world. Yet he just couldn’t resist cheapening the event with a lame joke at other people’s expense. What a jerk.

    The principal could have handled it better, obviously. She could have withheld his diploma until later, without interrupting his speech. But really, there was no way to retain dignity once Stoklasa broke it. It strikes me as fair that he should be publicly embarrassed for his behavior, just as he tried to embarrass his teachers and fellow students.

  30. NJ Sue Says:

    Okay folks, I’m a teacher, so I’ll wander into the fray. T.L. James, your theory about teachers taking on the developmental characteristics of their students is ridiculous. Consider this analogy: do parents become more childish because they need to deal with their own offspring day in and day out? Of course not. Public schools unarguably need reform, but silly teacher bashing is not the way to go about it. I would also like to point out that managing students successfully takes a great deal of skill. The problem is not that teachers are more immature than other professionals; the problem is that successful teaching is so hard to do that few are up to it. A lot of people are not temperamentally or psychological suited for teaching. I’ve seen several bright and well-educated people try a teaching stint, only to end up fleeing in horror simply because they could not control a roomful of adolescents for seven hours at a time. I certainly agree that spending a lot of time in school does nothing to prepare you to be a good teacher.

  31. nash Says:

    This is probably not the first time that some prankster gave an inappropriate speech. I’m sure the principal learned from experience to review the student’s speech beforehand, and was entirely appropriate in cutting him off once he veered from it. The student claims the rest of his speech was lauditory, but who knows? Better to suffer the ire of one lying student than an auditorium full of angry parents.

  32. Andrew Says:

    That’s exactly right. No matter what schools and teachers do nowadays, there’s always someone who’s going to get pissed off at them for it. If it isn’t the kid who had to have his tired joke, it’s the parents who can’t laugh the tired joke off. People who can barely be bothered to show up at Parent-Teacher Conferences inevitably demand absolute accountability of teachers and administrators. It’s a real damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation.

    Also keep in mind that principals don’t always get to make judgement calls in these situations. Lawsuits and schoolboards and irate parents and public bureaucracies and legislators drive policy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the principal would have laughed off the exact same joke in a different context, even agreed with it. But the public nature of these proceedings forbade such tolerance, because all it takes is one person without a sense of humour to turn a pathetic quip into Scandal and Controversey.

    You know what we need to do with schools? Un. Clench.

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