So, here’s the scene: A young man at school plans to run for student government on his local school council. He prepares and writes a speech that he will read in a live broadcast to his fellow students–the voters. He submits his speech for clearance by the school authorities, because those are the rules of this particular democracy. The speech is cleared and he is ready to speak.
But at that point, the student, decided on a different plan. When it came to the live broadcast to his fellow students he read out a different speech; a speech that outlined in some detail all the problems of this particular school body. He went off script with a new manifesto for student action. A coup?
No, not exactly. The student was duly disqualified as a candidate and then spent a day and a half in “solitary confinement“…the travails of the public speaker with a point to prove!
So, where was this little cameo performance played out last week? Egypt? China? Myanmar?
No. It was the United States of America. ..the land of the First Amendment. The school in question was the Edmonds Woodway High School in Edmonds, Washington.
Chillingly, John Dekker, assistant executive director of the Washington Association of School Administrators said:
We certainly honor the First Amendment, but we also know that with that freedom comes some responsibility.
I paraphrase. Yes, you have a democratic process. Yes, you have elected representatives. And yes, you can make speeches, but if we don’t like your speeches, we’ll punish you.
Is there a lesson here? Yes, there is.
If you are a student and planning to give a broadcast speech, get it cleared properly.
And if you aren’t a student and are planning to give a speech, get it cleared properly.
No-one likes public speaking surprises.
The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+