Class vs. crass

Petulant teen's tweet against governor exposes her immaturity

Would you give a toddler matches and gasoline? The keys to the car? A loaded handgun?


Then what are our young doing with smartphones and Twitter? Why are we giving teens and pre-teens the ability to communicate with the world when they obviously have no inkling how the world works?

The results are becoming predictably obvious: Crassness on parade.

Take Emma Sullivan, an 18-year-old high school senior in the Kansas City area. She was attending a “Kansas Youth in Government” field trip recently to hear Gov. Sam Brownback at the state Capitol when her mind wandered and she “tweeted” a sarcastic comment ridiculing the governor in street language. It was ultimately seen and not appreciated by the governor’s staff, who expressed their displeasure. Sullivan’s principal recommended a letter of apology.

But others have cheered her on and made her, instead, defiant – as if she were somehow in any miniscule way in the right. She’s been egged on by a blogosphere that thinks it’s more important to support the act of expressing one’s every thought in public than to have an iota of dignity or class. Now she’s some sort of cyberspace heroine for the classless.

What a red-faced shame, but what an instructive peek into the world we’re creating, where young Americans have the ability to communicate their thoughts with the rest of the planet before they ever have a clue – about what they’re saying, about how to say it, about the people they’re saying it about.

We happen to know Gov. Brownback. He’s a good and decent man. He had a distinguished educational career, the likes of which most 18-year-olds can only dream about. He has served his state ably and honorably as secretary of agriculture, a White House fellow, U.S. House member, U.S. senator and now governor. He ran a more-than-respectable dark-horse campaign for president in 2008. And even after they had children of their own, the Brownbacks went out of their way to adopt two children internationally.

The Emma Sullivans of the world can’t carry water for people like Sam Brownback. But because they’re armed with a smartphone and social media, they think they’re worthy to tee-hee about them on Twitter.

This is what happens when you give youths the equipment to navigate the adult world, but not the tools. When you hand a mass-communication device to kids, without having taught them the least bit of courtesy and pedigree, you’re laying the seeds of a most crass society.

That is the lesson lost in all this.

The governor’s office was foolish to make an issue of this, and should’ve let it die. When she tweeted about the governor, the girl had 60 followers on Twitter; now she has 15,000. But Brownback himself inadvertently gave Emma and her family and supporters a lesson in class – when it was he who apologized for the brouhaha.

The crass just seem unable to see class when it’s right in front of them.



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