An article in our local paper just caught my eye: Belmont student’s edgy speech sparks complaints, by Louise Dickson. Now we all know that the official paper never does what the bloggers do (ow!, where’s my tongue? heck, I think I dislodged it!), and naturally all headlines are to be taken at face value …sure. But as the Times-Colonist is not the National Enquirer, I had to click through on this one because there had to be some kind of story there.
Apparently, a smart, creative 17-year old named Brandon Rosario, full of all the usual energy that comes with that age, competed at one of our area schools, Belmont High School, for the post of class valedictorian. A day later, Brandon Rosario was called to the vice-principal’s office — and yowza, one has to wonder if VPs don’t have enough to do these days.
His speech had become an object of inquiry: was the boy giving offense? Could someone — anyone? — be offended …by his humour?
Thank gods for Youtube, because of course his speech is viewable here: Valedictorian Nominee — Brandon Rosario, so you can decide for yourself.
(An aside: I went to see a play called The Violet Hour at the Belfry Theatre last week; one of its many facets is that it’s about an early 20th century publisher who, together with his assistant, is given books from the future to read — courtesy of a strange machine that arrives uninvited. At some point in the play, the publisher and his assistant begin to “assume” the manners and speech of the future, often stopping themselves self-consciously to wonder, “where did that come from?” The best example is when the assistant gives a little speech about being “offended,” which he announces is the highest form of late 20th-century moral outrage…)
So Brandon Rosario was called to the vice-principal’s office because …why?
“As I understand it, [his speech] had racial slurs and some homophobic type of conversation,” Warder said. “And the school is investigating whether or not there needs to be discipline.”
“Some of it is biting. It’s attacking,” Brandon said. “I don’t think people understand satire these days. But investigating? Like I’m a serial killer or something?”
In his speech, Brandon tells his classmates he doesn’t have much going for him in pursuit of the valedictorian nomination. [Times-Colonist article]
I’m guessing the paper printed this good story to stir the pot — there are more people out there than not who will side with Brandon. The question is whether the conversation will do anything to rein in the sort of over-cautiousness exemplified by “managers” or “rulers” of voices-within-the-box.
Seriously, at this point I think prison inmates have more rights to, and expectation of, free speech than school pupils do — perhaps because it’s at least publicly acknowledged that the former are in jail, while we pretend the latter are free.
Update: Be sure to view the Facebook Group, Support Brandon Rosario’s fight for Free Speech.
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