The Atheist Academic

The Atheist Academic I

Hello, all my lovely little readers! Welcome to The Atheist Academic, a weekly column in which I give you MY view of what’s going on in the world of education. I’ll also address any questions that you’d like to send my way. Hopefully, you will all vehemently agree or disagree with me, which will lead to wonderful discussion in the comments.

This week, I thought we’d take a look at graduations going on around the United States. Have you gone to a graduation any time recently? It’s actually in my district’s contract that I *have* to go to graduation. Luckily, none of them have turned into these Jesus-fests that I’ve been reading about lately.

Just this weekend, a young man named Roy Costner IV sullied his hard-earned spot as class speaker at graduation. In front of everyone, he ripped up his pre-written speech (drama, anyone?) and led the crowd in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. If you read the article I linked to, the school, Costner, and Costner’s parents and classmates were all okay with this.

Personally, I’m annoyed with this. It’s obvious that this kid was trying to make a point. It’s very likely that some non-Christians were in the audience. I’m sure that some peoples’ graduation memories were tarnished because this kid thought that he’d be a “warrior for Christ”.

I would have been so, SO uncomfortable if I had been in that audience.

On the other hand… was that his right? The whole situation kind of falls into that gray area. The school didn’t make him give that particular speech. Now that he’s graduated, they can’t do much to him.

On the same weekend, another young man took a religious stand during his graduation speech. Remington Reimer, a charming young man, according to the article (“most people have never ever heard me speak, much less smile”) began discussing his right to free speech and the Constitution. Then he started talking about religion, and God… and then they turned the microphone off.

Is that the solution? Or does that take away free speech?

What do you think the public would have thought about these situations if they had been Muslim kids speaking?

So, talk to me, guys. What do you think about all this? Does it anger you? Should we just let it go? I can’t decide.

I’ll be back next Friday with a new discussion topic!

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Tori Parker

Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.

3 Comments

  1. June 8, 2013 at 1:35 am —

    It’s enough to make one want to found a Church of Atheism and give invocations based on THAT …

  2. June 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm —

    I think part of the discussion from a few weeks ago about football has some relevance here. http://schoolofdoubt.com/2013/05/09/separation-of-church-and-state-not-on-my-watch/ The valedictorians and salutatorians are representing their class and their school during their speeches, so it’s not a freeze peach issue, it is an establishment issue.

    I got my diploma at the ceremony in high school, but my baccalaureates were mailed two months after the ceremonies by my university. As much as I thought it was BS (eh? Eh?!) to have to wait that long, it’s a good safeguard against conduct failures.

    Cutting a mic is probably the least aggressive/most diplomatic response.

  3. July 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm —

    To be honest, I’m not a fan of the pre-vetted graduation speech. These are seniors, heading into adult life and adult responsibilities. I think it’s pretty clear that student speakers are students and not school employees or representatives, so I don’t think there’s a legal issue there. If they are responsible people, they will give an inclusive message. If they’re not, and they choose to give a religious message, some people will probably roll their eyes, but nobody’s rights have been violated. In my opinion, by being the valedictorian, they’ve earned the right to choose the content of their message. Then again, I generally think that we should treat students with more autonomy than we do.

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