Is It Too Much to Ask for a Little Civility

As Hurricane Harvey was bringing devestation to Texas over the weekend, EdSec Betsy DeVos did what most public officials do during such disasters. DeVos tweeted her thoughts and prayers to those affected by the hurricane, noting that the US Department of Education is prepared to help. 

It’s what is expected. It usually gets little notice. It’s what we do. 

But this tweet was different. What was a pro forma statement by a government leader became a lightning rod. Sportscaster turned talk show host turned Resistance instigator Keith Olbermann saw a need to respond. Knowing that DeVos remains controversial was too much for Olbermann to pass up. So he tweeted this response. 


The Saturday Olbermann message has been, as of Monday morning, been retweeted more than 17,000 times and favorited more that 48,000 times. Anti-Trumpers across the country celebrated the former ESPN newsreader for being so bold. 

Really? Have we gotten to the point where using a tragedy to both personally insult a government leader and use some of the vilest language possible in the process? Is this the new normal?

I get that the Resistance believes that shocking, ugly language is the best way to make its point. Dear ol’ Eduflack has written about the dangers of such an approach previously. But what are we really saying here?

If a teacher used such language in the classroom, would we now be OK with it? What if it was said in relation to the President? Or to those who organize nazi rallies? Would that be ok?

What if a teacher used it in relation to Robert E. Lee? Or slave-owning Founding Fathers? What if a conservative teacher used it in relation to Obama? Or to Hillary?

We quickly forget that our kids watch us closely and model our words and our actions. When we, as parents, cheer over the use of such language, we tell our kids it’s permissible. We condone such ugliness with our kids. Heck, we celebrate it. 

At the end of the day, Olbermann got exactly what he wanted. He was cheered by the left Nd celebrated on social media. But he has added nothing to the debate, nor has he contributed to the discourse. All Olbermann has done is take a rhetorical level we thought was as low as it could get, and drive it deeper into the mud and muck. 

And that’s a cryin’ shame. Our political discourse deserves better. And so do our kids. 

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