Here's a dilemma (or maybe not).
Over at the Jezebel blog, they found that there were a number of teens who, after the reelection of President Obama, sent out very hateful and racist tweets. Jezebel looked these teens up and where they went to school, checked their school's code of conduct, and then contacted their respective administrations. In many cases, either the school code of conduct and/or student athletic code of conduct was violate.
We contacted their school's administrators with the hope that, if their
educators were made aware of their students' ignorance, perhaps they
could teach them about racial sensitivity. Or they could let them know
that while the First Amendment protects their freedom of speech, it
doesn't protect them from the consequences that might result from
expressing their opinions.
Additionally, several of the teens use imagery of their high schools'
sports teams on their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. If nothing
else, it's reasonable to alert administrators to the behavior of the
students who are publicly representing their schools.
Jezebel then put up their names, their schools (some of them private), and some screen shots of their Tweets. They also got back (surprisingly) a number of replies from schools saying the appropriate things about guiding their students on these issues.
It's a brave new world our children live in. Luckily, mine are grown and the technology of today was not available until the latter part of their teen years. Parents really have a lot to convey to their children about how words don't just hurt but can haunt people for a long time.
It is one thing to express your feelings to friends verbally but boy, when a kid puts that out there via Facebook or Twitter, it goes out into the Internet ether and someone then forwards it, prints it, takes a screenshot - it's almost a forever thing.
We were all young and young people like to test boundaries and say stupid or outrageous things. But saying racist things or wishing the President to be killed is wrong and, in the case of the latter statement, illegal.
Meanwhile over at Slate, Katy Waldman takes Jezebel to task for reasons many of you will agree with.
But a difference exists between raising readers’ consciousness and being
a rat. They also updated us, gleefully, on the status of the students’ twitter
accounts: Which kids were embarrassed enough to delete them? Which ones
offered half-assed excuses? Which ones doubled down on their racism?
Along with parents, educators are in a good position to teach tolerance
and sensitivity—and, yes, to mete out discipline. But for a major media
outlet to write a self-congratulatory, self-righteous post after playing
the informant on a bunch of teenagers looks petty and vindictive, not
to mention opportunistic.
But to take it a step further, and to potentially hurt these stupid
kids’ chances at, say, getting into a decent college (where, by the way,
they might learn things and become less stupid) or, say, securing a
decent job by forever cementing their teenage horribleness into Google
search—that’s not really doing anyone any good, is it?
I would agree. Jezebel could have just done a story on this (and alerted the Secret Service to any direct threats to the President) but I'm not sure these young people deserved quite this beatdown.
DON'T GET ME WRONG - what they said was beyond the pale (and, that one of them credits his mother for saying it first, is troubling). Maybe outing them will give them a lesson they never forget. But if they lose opportunities because of it like internships or college admission, it's more likely to make them angry.
I like to believe there is hope for everyone especially young people but public shaming doesn't seem like the way to get to better attitudes.
On the other hand, it does seem that today no one is ever ashamed of what they say or do (see Team Rape). There's an excuse a minute and in the US, we love embarrassment followed by redemption.
So is tough love the best way to that redemption?