Emma Sullivan and Separation of Government and State

Posted on 02/12/2011 by


In case you missed it, Emma Sullivan is a Kansas high school student whose irreverent tweet about Kansas governor Brownback, incurred his wrath and the wrath of Sullivan’s school administration. You can read about it here.

The incident could evoke any number of commentaries on the many shabby aspects of the situation: Brownback’s pettiness;  the governor’s office’s creepy snooping; the toadying reaction of the school administration; and the audacity of the school’s civil liberties violation when it stoops to say, “Students may express their personal beliefs, views, and opinions, as long as they do so appropriately and in accordance with school policies.”

I would like to look at a more subtle aspect of the situation as it points to the urgent need for constitutional separation of government and state. Ms. Sullivan was attending a school-sponsored field trip to the state capitol. In Canada, and other countries with better separation between state and government, the students would have likely been met not by the provincial premier  (head of the governing party); but by the apolitical Lieutenant Governor who is a ceremonial representative of the Crown.

Ms. Sullivan is a self-avowed liberal and detests Brownback’s conservatism (and perhaps personal characteristics as well). It would be naive to suggest that name-calling plays no role in partisan politics, and to criticise Sullivan’s quiet partisanship on the basis of decorum is very unfair. She did not disrupt the ceremony in any way, shape or form.

I doubt that Canadian students tweet out: “the GG sucks”. He might get some heat for tepid and bland remarks, but from what I’ve seen they are at least, mercifully short. On the other hand I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen Harper gets a few foul tweets flung his way. He should, because he sucks.

Posted in: Reform