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?