Yet another reason to dispense with this dumb tradition: A high school boy invited a girl to the Olathe South High School homecoming dance this past week with a sign that said: “If I was black I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white so I’m picking you.”

Then, the geniuses took a picture of the boy and girl, grinning, holding the sign. And somebody in the chain of custody posted the picture on social media.

Where, of course, it exploded. An NFL player who grew up in Olathe condemned it. The school district said it was investigating. And so forth.

Not much need for my commentary on the main issue here. Horrible judgment. The people involved need to be held to account by the established standards of the schools involved. I’m sure they will be. The root of the problem is racism, which comes down to a chronic lack of empathy. Dealing with that is — and probably always will be — an ongoing struggle.

The only thing I’d like to add is that this is yet another example of how profoundly stupid we have allowed teenage “formals” to become.

The reason the boy felt compelled to come up with a “clever” sign is because that’s what you are supposed to do. When you ask a girl to go to a dance, you have to first find out if the girl will in fact go to the dance. Then you have to set up the “ask,” where you turn up at her house (or her soccer game, or her tennis meet, or her gymnastics practice) with the sign. She then says yes, and the girl’s parents take a picture, and you put it on Instagram, and the kids’ parents make a big deal of it on Facebook.

That’s the deal. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

For HOMECOMING. We’re not even talking about prom or sub -deb, or whatever they call the girls-ask-the-guys dance at the particular school. That’s an even bigger deal.

The next step is the shelling out of a bunch of money, for dresses, suits, flowers, and so forth. At some of these gigs, there’s dinner, and a whole separate coordinated outfit for the after-party, which is the actual party. And a limo, maybe. Some Einsteins agree to hold the after-party, using brilliant logic like, “Well, if they’re going to drink, I’d rather they drink at my house…” Which always works out well.

All documented on Facebook and Instagram, with a bunch of emojis and hashtags.

Where is that leading? I’ll tell you where it’s leading: In the best—case scenario, it’s leading to big coordinated parties for the engagement, and giant expectations for weddings, and gender reveal parties, and...I dunno. Are we going to have to exhume Charlie Watts so that the Stones can play “Let Me Go” at the party with black balloons when the divorce is finalized?

We’ll find out in a few more years.

Maybe it’s better. Maybe stupidity is better out in the open, and these events simply help unmask racism and narrow-mindedness by encouraging everybody to dump all their pictures out for the world to see. Maybe encouraging kids to think they’re the center of the known universe will actually encourage more empathy. I’m not holding my breath.

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