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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's My Commencement And I'll Say 'Hell' If I Want To

For Future Reference
First Amendment to the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Wise-Ass Kid Says 'Hell' In Front Of People To Prove How Grown-up She Is

Future professional smarty-pants Kaitlin Nootbar and her hovering dad are all over the news because Ms. Nootbar dared utter the word "hell" during her commencement speech in May. The school's principal has told Ms. Nootbar that in order to get her studious little hands on her diploma she must first give him a written apology.

The school is in Prague, Oklahoma and Ms. Nootbar maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school and earned an  academic scholarship to college because of her hard work and smartypantsness. However, none of that is germane to the story except if you want to ruminate on the fact that a supposedly smart person and her dad are so constitutionally inept as to think the Founding Fathers had her commencement speech in mind when they wrote up the First Amendment.

Using the cliched and boring pose
 of Facebook lemmings everywhere,
Kaitlin Nootbar proves she has the
mettle to say 'hell.'
When Ms. Nootbar handed in her draft of her speech for approval the line in question read as "how the heck do I know?" When she presented her speech live and in person at the graduation ceremony she said "how the hell do I know?" America is thoughtlessly siding with this wonderful young lady who is a role model to smart kids and smart alecks everywhere. A new hero to the American intelligentsia, Ms. Nootbar is now to free speech as Sandra Fluke is to birth control.

Ms. Nootbar is a rebel. She is cheeky. She is not afraid to push the envelope. She questions authority.

Ms. Nootbar's hovering dad, Mr. Nootbar, says this is a First Amendment issue. And after all, she was only quoting the Twilight movies or Twilight books, or something that the kids all love today, and if we're going to relate to the teens we have to let them have the freedom to say 'hell.' Otherwise the terrorists win! Or something, I'm not really sure what the hell his point was.

What Say We Look At the First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
  1. Congress can't make a state religion like what happened in England when the King got in trouble with the Vatican for doing things the Vatican didn't like
  2. Congress can't make a law preventing me from praying to Praying Mantis's or other insect-life if I choose
  3. Congress also can't prevent me from practicing my religion how I choose, unless of course I choose to not pay for your birth control
  4. Congress cannot make a law that forbids me from calling Barack Obama a liar, or an inept leader, or from making fun of some Congressman in Missouri for being a complete and uttter moron by not understanding the physiology of conception
  5. Congress can't outlaw my little slice of the Blogosphere, even if the constant theme around here is that everyone in Congress--or the government in general--is a moron and a crook
  6. Congress can't make a law that keeps me from stinking up a public park in New York City as long as I want--or until the weather gets cold
  7. Congress can't make a law that prevents me from suing Congress for being stuffy about my dislike of Congress
As we have noticed, nowhere in the First Amendment does it say that a public school administrator, on public school property, during a public school function, can't put the screws to a valedictorian's one chance to stick it to the man by using a racy word.

David Nootbar uses his vast Constitutional knowledge to
defend his daughter's use of the word 'hell' during her
commencement speech. Nootbar has not commented on
his feelings about lying.

You see, this is the double-edged sword of public education: the autonomy we grant educators to make my kid read books that will rot his mind is the same autonomy we grant educators to make sure decorum--as the administrator defines it--is maintained.

So, Ms. Nootbar's hovering dad needs to brush up on his Constitutional knowledge before he goes whining about his daughter's First Amendment right to say 'hell.'

As Usual Everyone Is Missing the Point Anyway 

All of this media attention is all well and good and I'm sure Ms. Nootbar, as a freshly-released-into-the-world-of-adulthood adult person, is enjoying her fame, but we're missing the point.

The point is, Ms. Nootbar lied to the principal about the content of her speech by submitting it with the word 'heck' instead of the far more inflammatory 'hell.' This has the potential to make Ms. Nootbar a liar, which is defined as a person who tells lies.

If Ms. Nootbar was so adamant about the word 'hell' she would have submitted it as part of her original text. That she didn't tells us the following:
  1. She knew it was inappropriate but was going to use it anyway, so she hid the truth from the school administration
  2. She succumbed to peer pressure to say the word 'hell' in public--how rebellious!--which made the administrator who approved the speech look foolish at the same time it pointed out how easily Ms. Nootbar folds under pressure
Either way, Mr. Nootbar should be spending less time defending the indefensible and more time teaching his daughter about propriety, the importance of truth, and what the hell the First Amendment guarantees us in the first place.

Personally I would be more concerned that my kid hid the truth--lied--to the school principal than I would be about some phantasmagorical assertion that a mean authority figure somehow abridged her Constitutional right to say whatever the hell she wanted to say.

Let's all just hope President Obama doesn't ring up the Nootbar household to chat about poor Kaitlin's oppression.

Additional content and photographs courtesy NY Daily News

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