Sunday, August 26, 2012

Terrifying Teen Speech in the News Again

The case below reminded me of this story from the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Judd refuses to allow valedictorian to make a speech...and fires her from her summer job.

Terrifying Teen Speech in the News Again
Garrett Epps
The Atlantic
AUG 24 2012

What kind of democracy teaches its young people they'll be punished for talking out of turn?

If there's one belief that unites Americans, it's that First Amendment freedom of speech is a good thing. Everybody should have it: cigarette companies, SuperPACs, hate groups, Todd Akin, Cher, and Nichole Ritchie.

Teenagers, not so much. They might say something wrong. Better to shut them up.

The last time the issue of impudent teen speech came up in this column, my comments page was swamped with suggestions that the problem wasn't free speech, it was rudeness. Teens, you see, can't be allowed to be rude. The saucy-teen issue has surfaced again, this time in the person of a high-school valedictorian in a small Oklahoma town who used the phrase "what the hell" in a graduation speech and has been punished with the withholding of her diploma.

What the hell?

Is this really how a free country treats its young adults? And will the "good manners" brigade rally around this latest episode of petty grown-up bullying?

Kaitlin Nootbaar topped her class at Prague High School in Prague, Oklahoma. She has won a full scholarship to Southwest Oklahoma State University, where she hopes to study biology. Any sane school would be boasting about her.

But Prague High Principal David Smith has apparently decided to punish Kaitlin because in her valedictory address she said that, when people ask her what she wants to be, she responds, "How the hell should I know? I've changed my mind so many times." According to Kaitlin and her father, Smith said there will be no diploma until she tenders a written apology. Kaitlin, bless her spunky heartland heart, has refused.

The manners brigade is sure to point out that Kaitlin was required to submit her speech in advance, and that the text she submitted used the word "heck." She has told reporters that in the excitement of the moment, she used "hell" instead -- in part because it echoes the graduation speech in Twilight: Eclipse.

If that's true, she's guilty of nothing more than bad taste in entertainment, and Principal Smith should be apologizing to her for the poor education she received. But what if this saucy miss actually intended all along to say "hell," and submitted the bowdlerized text to prevent the Principal from stopping her? Surely that makes her the offender, and Principal Smith the victim?...

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