Honesty is the best policy… unless you want to graduate.

Tiffany Schley is Valedictorian of her graduating class at Brooklyn’s High School of Legal Studies and she took the opportunity during the graduation ceremony to deliver a “scorching speech” on problems with the high school. Now the school refuses to hand over her diploma until she apologizes for the speech:

New York Daily News – Valedictorian who ripped school denied diploma

“I was speaking for my peers,” Tiffany told the Daily News. “We’ve been living with this for four years.”

A top student who’s going to Smith College on a full scholarship this fall, Schley was brutally honest about the High School of Legal Studies during Thursday’s graduation ceremonies in Bushwick.

Among her gripes: The school has had four principals in four years, overcrowded classes, a shortage of textbooks and other basic materials, unqualified teachers, unstable staffing and uncaring administrators who refused to meet with students to discuss the school’s problems.

“They always want to keep the problems hush-hush, but what goes on in this school is real,” said Tiffany, who was also the editor of the school newspaper, yearbook chairwoman and a member of the student council.

One teacher who attended the graduation said the audience was shocked by the speech.

“The administration was very nervous, but the students were definitely in support of her,” the teacher said.

“We feel that her schoolmates are deserving of an apology,” said Education Department spokesman Stephen Morello. “It was a celebratory day for all of them.”

I wonder what they feel she should apologize for if the students were in support of her speech? Sounds to me like she said what many of them wanted her to say and the only people that might have any reason to be offended are the administrators themselves. Personally, I’ve never understood why people are asked to give speeches if they’re not free to speak their hearts and minds during said speech. If the school administration would consider taking the words in Tiffany’s speech to heart and address some of the issues she raised, then perhaps future Valedictorians will have no reason to give a critical speech of the school in the future.

No, that would be too much work. Best to have the student apologize for being “disrespectful” and drive home the message that being honest isn’t actually the best policy after all.

15 thoughts on “Honesty is the best policy… unless you want to graduate.

  1. “drive home the message that being honest isn’t actually the best policy after all.”

    …especially in someone entering the law field.

    Some. People’s. Children.

  2. If you ask me, it’s practice for life in the real world; especially if Tiffany ends up working in a corporate environment, where the mucky-mucks will solicit suggestions and feedback that they’ll ignore completely no matter how delicately in its phrasing it’s been written.  And if it’s written honestly, making evident the level of frustration and low morale that’s infecting employees, it’ll get a response rather like Tiffany’s speech.

    Honesty is only the best policy if a person aspires to a professional life outside the corporate environment where ass-kissing, ego-stroking and playing politics are considered “professionalism.”  In the corporate world, honesty is not encouraged and is certainly NOT the best policy, but a guarantee that one’s “career” will consist of being rewarded with lateral move after lateral move no matter how hard one works or how many compliments on a job well done one gets from co-workers and supervisors.

    But I’m not bitter. wink


  3. Damn OB, I thought you were talking about me for a moment. Seems we have much in common. Probably explains why I’m not climbing the corporate ladder at any significant pace.

    Submission word = “results” (really!)

  4. Somebody owes her classmates an apology, all right.  The school district owes them an apology for running a shitty school. 

    Well, shooting the messenger is an old tradition…

  5. I don’t know anything about the text of her speech, but one thing that younger folks DO need to learn is how to present problems ALONG WITH constructive suggestions on how to solve them.  It’s all too easy to bitch about problems and then act as if you’ve done something heroic just by speaking out.  (Mind you, sometimes it IS pretty brave to speak out, but that’s not enough to get you over the finish line.)

    In the real world, yes, there are fearless whistle-blowers, but there are also an equal number of clueless, snotnosed punks who want to badmouth an organization without actually doing anything to fix it.  This is very annoying to the ones up the chain who KNOW there’s a problem, probably know more about it than anyone, and who could really use help in doing something about it, not just blamethrowing from the safety of the rank-and-file.

    Just another perspective on the matter …

  6. THe comment the student should help solve the problems is well taken but if the third paragraph of the story is true it would be damn near impossible to find an intelligent solution under those circumstances.  Apologize my ass—give her the damn diploma and be proud that someone with some courage and intelligence spoke up.  The Education Department spokesman doesn’t get the fact that telling the truth makes it ‘a day of celebration’ for these students. 

    my word is effects maybe fixing the short comings will take the embarassment away, Admins.

  7. You’re right about snotnosed punks, GM, but it isn’t her job to fix the problem or even to come up with suggestions – she’s a high school kid.

    It’s their damn job to provide a functional school, qualified teachers, etc. and it’s their responsibility to figure out how to fix things if that is not happening.  That’s what they’re paid for and supposedly trained and experienced to do.

    Far from being a punk, she was obviously a high achiever, a testament to the resilience of a strong mind against the deficits of a weak school system.

    (Just one example of many: my kids went through a Jr. high where the Japanese-American Spanish teacher could not speak Spanish.  Lots more where that came from.)

  8. Oh, I agree that she should get the diploma, and that it isn’t her responsibility to fix that particular mess.  I was just explaining why some people CAN be justifiably annoyed when someone actually follows the “honesty is the best policy” maxim, and why, if you don’t do it wisely, you possibly won’t get anywhere in your organization for a good reason.  In general, people don’t get promoted for complaining; they get promoted for pointing out problems and helping to fix them.  There’s a time for plain old criticism and there’s a time for constructive criticism, and we’re doing our kids a disservice if we only expose them to the former.

    (captcha:  “board”)

  9. In general, people don’t get promoted for complaining; they get promoted for pointing out problems and helping to fix them.

    I’ve seen the loud squeaky wheel get well greased, and I’ve seen it get a lower pay raise.  You just have to know which way your office political wind blows. 

    At my last job, I heard some of the programmers talking about how their boss needed to be promoted into full management, just so he wouldn’t be in a position to write anymore code they had to go patch up.

  10. Damn!  They’ve found me out.  Hopefully the promotion will still come through.

  11. Perhaps she should have prefaced her speech by politely reminding her audience of the 1st Amendment, which might have saved her the censorship, or at least bought her some time on the mic, and make it all the more glaring should she have been cut off.  She must have been expecting something (probably not the diploma bullshit though.  The principal got publicly ridiculed by the mayor in the days following.)
        Side note:  as an admittedly privledged up-and coming college freshman myself, I’d be curious to know how a seemingly bright inner city New York Valedictorian compares to my environment, my somewhat academicly elite peers with whom I’ve been able to experiences with wonderful and truly life-changing teachers. 

    Anyone been able to find a transcript of what she did get out before they turned off the juice?

  12. Going to have to disagree.

    Tiffany said that the students had voiced complaints and demands the entire four years they were there. They were ignored and silenced. What is graduation anyway but a celebration of the memories your class had in high school? Obviously, by the students reactions, their memories were of being undersupplied, shortstaffed, and told to shut up. Now, finally, Tiffany is in place to represent her class and speak out against these atrocities where everyone HAS to listen and can no longer feign ignorance. What happened? Not only was she, again, told to shut up and denied her diploma (Which, could have ruined her life forever), but her class as well was silenced.

    So what was the real lesson learned here? That if you are being mistreated, you need to sit down and shut up. Because, you will otherwise offend/embarrass/insult the very people who are mistreating you?
    Yeah, that’s what being a real American means. Not excercising your rights as a human being in order to not cause anyone trouble?

    If our founders of this country had done that, well, we’d all be speaking with British accents.  Americans don’t shut up. We are a country founded because people wouldn’t shut up and take their mistreatment like good little serfs.

    So, no. I don’t think Tiffany deserved the treatment she got because she tried to tell everyone how the REAL high school experience was for her class. It was unfair that she had to receive her diploma discretely and how the very people (students and teachers) who agree with her can’t speak out in support of her without risking being treated like her.

    I mean, which would you rather hear, the truth or a bunch of happy lies?

  13. it still is a fact that a lot of teachers are merely incompetent..just using their degree as a sort of degrading students. i personally experienced that kind of stuff..i dealt it with a dead-pan poker face. i mean, i got no choice but to be good to them until i graduate. and now that i’m at college, there’s only one thing that i could do as a sort of revenge—not to come back at that hell again.

    what the student was right…freedom of expression, remember? basically those bitch administrators were expecting at the valedictory address to be appreciating them…haha! they deserve it. and besides, she shouldn’t had to be given that if she wouldn’t have the freedom to come up with his own idea…with the truth he believes at. KUDOS!

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