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Comments by YACCS

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Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Didn't families of suicide bombers get $15,000 also?
From the killing-the-golden-goose department: Blair Hornstine, the girl who successfully manipulated the system to become valedictorian and gain admission to Harvard, and then tried to gild the lily (perhaps it's actually the mixed-metaphor department) by suing her school district for millions of dollars, has settled for a mere $15,000. (Her attorneys also get $45,000, lucky them.)

So, let's tote up the scorecard:
  • Without the suit: Hornstine would have had the title of co-valedictorian, admission to Harvard, a good reputation in her circles and anonymity outside it.
  • With the suit: Hornstine got the title of valedictorian, the tag of plagiarist, and national notoriety as a spoiled brat. And couldn't attend her own graduation because of the fear of being booed off the stage. And $15,000, which won't even pay for a year of Harvard -- a moot point, since she lost her admission to Harvard.
It doesn't sound like a very good tradeoff to me. But it does sound like poetic justice. It's one thing to "work the system" to one's advantage. Fine, she invented a phony illness and used it as an excuse to fix her class schedule so she couldn't lose. That seems like crossing the line from working the system to cheating, but she did it, and the school district let her get away with it. But when you've twisted and bent the rules that much, and successfully reached your goal, give thanks for your good fortune and move on. Don't press your luck and try to milk it for a big cash windfall for no other reason than that you think you can get away with it. But she tried, and failed, and now she's got a big pile of nothing. And that's exactly what she deserves.

(What's known but doesn't get enough attention in all this is that the school district wasn't trying to take her valedictorian status away from her. I've heard several radio talk show hosts make that claim. Her whole lawsuit was motivated by the fact that someone else was also going to be honored. How much of a jerk do you have to be to try to keep someone else from getting what is, ultimately, a pretty trivial honor? Sure, it's an accomplishment, but she was already in college, and it's not as if, years down the road, anybody would have cared whether she was a high school valedictorian or "mere" high school co-valedictorian.)

Ah, well. Knowing the way the world works, she'll probably be defrauding investors of her own company someday.

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