Monday, May 16, 2011

Fight for Your Right (to Party)

There's something about this Shelton High School Prom punishment saga that's left me uneasy.. conflicted.. even a little concerned.

It's not the ultimate outcome -- not at all -- James Tate deserves to go to his prom. He never should have been banned in the first place. The punishment did not fit the crime. In fact, the policy that indiscriminately banned anyone who got a suspension after April 1st is too "black & white" for me.

What bothers me, is the way -- or maybe the "why" -- the decision changed.

School leaders admitted they were bowing to "international pressure" that had made it difficult to maintain a good learning environment at the school. Facebook and twitter were buzzing with support for Tate.. and hate for Shelton High's Headmaster. The school campus was crawling with reporters and photographers for a week.

In other words, the angry mob won.

"Crowd-sourcing" is a big thing these days. But crowd-sourcing implies a group of people is asked to make a decision or do a job. Take reality television shows, for example. They often decide who stays and who goes by popular vote. Shelton schools didn't ask for input on this decision -- but, boy did they get it.  Of course, that kind of thing has always been around in some form. It's just that facebook, twitter, and online comment sections make it easier than ever for people to express their opinions. Everyone is entitled to that. I guess what I fear is a world in which only the "loudest voices" get to make all the decisions. That's a big can of worms. And once they're out, those worms are never going back in.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for standing up for what you believe. I support expressing your opinion. It's a right -- even a responsibility. And I think companies owe it to their customers, like politicians owe it to their constituents, to acknowledge and address concerns and explain decisions. There must be checks and balances. But sometimes it goes so far, it further erodes any remaining respect for authority. Sometimes people in power must make difficult, unpopular decisions and we don't -- even can't -- know all the reasons behind those decisions. As they say, that's why they get paid the big bucks.

Maybe I'm just uneasy because, as a parent, sometimes I have to make tough decisions my kids don't like. I don't want them to think that if they complain loudly enough, I'll change my mind. It doesn't always work that way. It can't.

Today's title: The Beastie Boys anthem


  1. Love the title!
    You know he's going to be prom king, none of those other kids have a chance!

  2. I do see your point, Chris. And there was opportunity for the opposition to chime in AND give reasons why he should NOT be allowed to go to the prom. Most of the stuff on that view, however, was mainly "we're going to teach you a lesson" or resorting to physical violence.
    Whether it was "international pressure" or not, the original decision of the Shelton High School headmaster and Board of Education was "killing an ant with a sledgehammer". Policies like that, despite Dr. Smith's assertion, have to have SOME gray in them. Otherwise it becomes very "big brother".

  3. I'm not sure whether to respond on your Facebook wall or here.
    I'm not that concerned with "crowd-sourcing". Maybe because I agree so much with the crowd in this particular case.
    Maybe if Dr. Smith took more time explaining their reasoning I could have respected her more.
    This matter should have been between the school and the student, but because the punishment was so off the mark, word spread and it snowballed. I don't really blame Facebook. The story would have spread- social media just makes it much much faster.
    I'm not quite sure how to properly phrase my point, just that I think the positives of social media giving a voice to the people and their opinions outweigh the negatives.
    -Dave Waters

  4. Chris, you have missed the most salient point. This was ONE persons decision that was overturned. One power crazed Headmaster. The superindentent said that the punishment didn't fit the crime the DAY after it happened. Everybody said that it was too much. In the interest of proper procedure I think they let this woman flex her muscle and deal with the outcome. And she did. Finally, people are starting to speak up for the injustices that occur. Now, on to the economy, healthcare, jobs...etc...

    "People should not be afraid of their government, goverment should be afraid of their people"

  5. Thanks everyone for reading and sparking a discussion -- that's the point!

    Jerry - I believe ultimately in this case the outcome is what's fair and just. And, perhaps, the headmaster learned a lesson that things aren't always black and white. For me, the most salient point is the concern that the louder your protest, the better your chance of getting your way. Loud doesn't always equal right.

    Dave - I agree -- the good does outweigh the bad in terms of giving people a voice with social media. Sometimes the ball can start rolling a little out of control, but....

  6. Chris, I agree with "loud doesn't always equal right". However, (an please don't think I am a tea party guy) this is the type of ...injustice (?) that we built this country on. I think that I am thinking of ... the greater good. I saw this as a chance for people to make a difference when we feel so...frustrated. I alluded to it in my first post; I think this was a "litmus test" of what we could do as a nation. This state is hurting, this country is hurting maybe if we could get a group together to work on jobs, taxes etc. (issues of slightly greater import) we would really get the change we need.

  7. Jerry, I think we're pretty much on the same page. Good discussion!

  8. I'm OK as long as equal time exists. Those who supported Dr. Smith (whoever they were) had the same opportunity to start a Facebook/Twitter campaign of their own.

    Good leaders should have the ability to make those who disagree with them at least understand them. Angry mobs don't usually get angry just for the heck of it.