Goodbye, jerks

As a joke, popular students at Oakville Trafalgar High School in Ontario elected a nerd to give the valedictory speech at their graduation. Andrew Ironside threw out his cliche-ridden speech and told classmates they’d been snobs and jerks. The National Post named Ironside one of its courageous Canadians of the year:

. . . Mr. Ironside — dressed at his mother’s insistence in a crisp white dress shirt and black tie — paused and crumpled up the paper that held his carefully typed string of cliches.

“A lot of you were jerks,” he informed the rows of 18-year-olds, dressed in oversized suits and undersized skirts.

“I wasn’t thinking of a specific person, just people in general,” he remembers of the following indictment he issued against a high school atmosphere of snobbery and exclusion.

Via Education News.

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  1. As they say in the blogosphere, “read the whole thing.”

    This guy deserves much more publicity.

  2. I guess there can’t be that many courageous Canadians out there this year if this is a National Post Courageous Canadian of the Year.
    Big deal: he told his classmates he didn’t like them. And the parents are upset.
    What a bunch of self-important morons.

    Anyone who joins the armed forces is more courageous than that, and thousands of American teenagers do that regularly.

  3. Elected valedictorian?

  4. PJ/Maryland says:

    CO, some schools elect a valedictorian. The name just means (roughly) “farewell speaker”, so there’s no special reason it has to be the person with the highest GPA.

  5. PJ, I have to say I’ve always understood valedictorian as having to do with scholarly accomplishment (reference: Blair Hornstine)at least at the high school level. Both and agree that it has to do with GPA, rather than a popularity contest (isn’t that what Homecoming/Prom Queen are about?). Is this a regional/Country difference?

  6. This kid is from Ontario, which is my home province. At my high school, valedictorians were chosen from the pool of students whose averages were A- or higher (that means low 80’s or higher in Canada). Then a student-teacher committee votes on the valedictorian.

    I don’t know if that’s how it was done in this case, but I approve of the method. I can’t think of a better way of choosing someone who took high school seriously, had a good experience there, and is respected by both his teachers and his peers.

  7. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    Why restrict it to those who ‘had a good experience’ there? I’d think that someone who bore some social or other adversity, not necessarily choosing the surest path to popularity or high GPA, should be as eligible as the stereotypical poster child.

  8. Blogged that. Thanks.

  9. Insufficiently Sensitive- ” I’d think that someone who bore some social or other adversity, not necessarily choosing the surest path to popularity or high GPA, should be as eligible as the stereotypical poster child.”

    What criteria would be used to judge this? It’s all well and good to say that it’s discriminatory to use GPA or hold a popularity contest, but there are few standards beyond that to use, and the prospect of an arbitrarily, principal (or teacher)-selected valedictorian is unappealing.

    Also while, I don’t believe candidacy should be restricted to those who ‘had a good time’, is it not in the best interests of all concerned that the valedictorian have enjoyed his/her time at the school. No one benefited from Ironside’s selection: he was further humiliated, a more deserving student lost out on the honour, and the graduating class was (perhaps deservingly) deprived of a traditional, inspirational, valedictory address.

    Finally, I agree, it doesn’t say much for my country, that this kid was selected as a Courageous Canadian.

  10. Two things:

    1) This kid’s my hero. I volunteered to speak at Class Day at my high school solely for the experience of speaking in front of about 2000 people – I didn’t do so hot (I spoke way too fast), but it was a good experience. It would have been better if I’d mentioned what jerks some of my classmates had been, heh.

    2) As for “traditional, inspirational, valedictory address[es]”, pshaw. Valedictory addresses have been the same smarmy BS about “the future” and “what great times we had” (whether we did or not) and “the real world” since the first one was given.

    They should just hire out Successories to write one perfect graduation speech and save thousands upon thousands of high school kids the trouble of having to write a couple pages about “the real world.” Or perhaps, better yet, just cut the whole thing out in the first place.

    Really, there are graduation ceremonies – and speakers, for goodness’ sake – for kindergarten classes now. Combine that with the fact that a high school diploma is in most cases worthless other than as a stepping stone towards college, and, well, I’m rambling. But you get my point, I’m sure. 😉

  11. Too bad the text of the speech wasn’t included

  12. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘The intelligent and socially conscious teen ‘

    He did some good name calling, strong evidence of his intelligence and social conscience along with his boundless courage. It doesn’t indicate that he ever confronted any of the issues he didn’t approve of but he did call some teenagers some names before leaving. What an accomplishment.

  13. PJ/Maryland says:

    PJ, I have to say I’ve always understood valedictorian as having to do with scholarly accomplishment (reference: Blair Hornstine)at least at the high school level. Both and agree that it has to do with GPA, rather than a popularity contest (isn’t that what Homecoming/Prom Queen are about?). Is this a regional/Country difference?

    CO, your understanding is correct, if you add the word “usually”. (The Webster’s definition includes “usually”, and check out the definition of “valedictory”, which is the speech rather than the speaker.)

    Some schools have a GPA-chosen valedictory speaker and a popularity-contest salutatorian (tho Am Heritage again refers solely to GPA, in this case the second-highest GPA). But the Blair Hornstine case illustrates the gamesmanship frequently required to get the absolutely tippy-top GPA. Personally, I like the idea of an election from the top 10 to 20 students, which is what Brenda describes. (Tho I hope she meant “low 90s” for an A-.)

    BTW, schools without football teams don’t have Homecoming in my experience; I was going to say it’s limited to public schools, but that’s probably not strictly true.

  14. PJ/Maryland says:

    On the courage aspect, it’d be more impressive if Ironside had written out an address blasting his peers rather than ad-libbed it. As Jack says, it’d be nice to see the text (or rather, a transcript of what he actually said); otherwise, we have to guess whether he cleverly zinged fellow students or just unloaded on them.

  15. No, Brenda meant low 80s. Grading is different here

  16. Hmm. The valedcitorian at my school (in BC, in the 80’s) was elected, with all speakers giving a speech. There was an element of popularity in that, of course, but I don’t think there was any academic requirement.

  17. Christopher says:

    This story has touched me personally in two ways. First being, I was my highschool’s valedictorian and it was an honour that I accepted and appreciated for receiving from my graduating class. It will be an honour that I will carry with me my entire life. When I consider the case of Mr. Ironside and his valedictorian “honour”, I hold great sympathy for him when I think, how can he feel proud of such an honour and title that is rich in tradition and respect? For him to announce to anyone that he was his highschool’s valedictorian, it’ll always have to be backed with a story of he didn’t deserve it. The grief that his classmates put him through for this final step of his highschool experience was horrible, he was elected as a public humiliation on him. It’s obvious that the students (not referring to all students, but the majority that elected him in) has no respect and understanding for the tradition the title of highschool valedictorian has. How is it that these students will be the businessmen/women, teachers, politicians, etc of tomorrow. Secondly, why this story has touched me more than others is that a close friend of mine was in that graduating class and when she heard in advance of the plot against Mr. Ironside, she felt there was little that could be done. She has commented to me on several occasions that the events at her commencement with Mr. Ironside as valedictorian was a perfect representation of the type of students and experiences at OT for their entire 4 years.

    As far as Mr. Ironside being named Courageous Canadian of the Year, I praise that and ask the people who are complaining about that and saying it’s a shame on Canada to have this type of person and what appears to be a fairly minimal and insignificant incident granted such a honourable title to stop thinking and behaving in the same mentality and manner that the very students of OT did to elect Mr. Ironside. Try stepping in his shoes and imagine yourself in that position. Mr. Ironside, although I don’t know him personally, probably had his fair share of torture, torment, and teasing throughout his highschool time and he had to end it all off with being a public humiliation in front of his entire class, teachers, administrators, and parents. He stood up to his “challenge” and became the better man. He did not let his fellow classmates in this final step of highschool get the better of him for once and Mr. Ironside finished on top. And that is why he was named Courageous Canadian of the Year.

  18. Hey, lay off the guy, I know him. Hell, I voted for him. In Canada we don’t have homecoming queens and kings, we only have valedictorian. Our school said to us to choose the guy you would most like to represent you. The school voted Andrew Ironside. No one is making fun of him. We just didn’t want the kids who thought they were better than us to win. Oh yeah, for an idiot who responded about anybody that is in the army is more courageous than him. A matter of fact, he is .

  19. homo homini lupus says:

    I attended Oakville-Trafalgar High School a few years ago and can personally attest to the high degree of superficiality and self-absorption that occurs during adolescence. Although I was not what one could consider “popular” (largely because of my extreme religious views), I still had what could be categorized as a “selfish” attitude. I think we all do. With what I credit this brave young man is the exposition of this superficiality, whether he did it conscientiously or not.

  20. lachlenzo says:

    This kid looks like ken jennings, the 33 day winner from jeopardy.