Sunday, March 27, 2005

Not Really Up to Code

I had meant to finally do my post on dress codes on Friday; it seemed to dovetail nicely with the uniform discussion we were having the day before. But seeing as how the general holiday-ness of Friday sent me in other directions, it made sense to post it now, on a day when many people get a little more dressed up than usual.

Even in my church, which is not in any way a coat-and-tie church (save for some attendees of the earliest service, which caters to the older members), a lot more ties than usual made appearances this morning. Since I was playing, I didn't go quite that far, but I did have a nice solid-color button-down shirt (tucked in, even!) and a slightly fancier pair of shoes than I normally wear.

As I said in Thursday's post, I'm not a really big fan of strict dress codes. Sure, part of it has to do with the whole striving-for-individuality attitude that a musician pretty much has to adopt, lest his or her music become boring and bland (as if created by the Machine, perhaps). But another part of it is just because I don't think it's as effective as the People in Charge evidently believe.

Now, please understand something : I'm not against all dress codes; no anarchist lives in this house. We don't need girls coming to school in tank tops, see-thru shirts or really short shorts, or just generally looking like cocktail waitresses (and didja ever notice that it's always the girls who get everyone in trouble in this area?). There's no reason to have obscene T-shirts either, or ones that, say, glorify Satanism or drug use (though I recall being pretty miffed in seventh grade when they changed the rules midyear and I could no longer wear my Budweiser shirt to school). It's the little, petty things that get me. Shorts? So what (after all, I do live in Texas, where it gets pretty dang warm by the end of school, and is even worse at the beginning of the year, and it's not like the air conditioning is great in every room of the school). Facial hair? No big deal to me; sure, there are arguments that not letting students have it can help everyone distinguish the teachers from the students, but there are ways around that (ID badges--something with which, incidentally, I have no problem). And don't even get me started on the nearby district that prohibits teachers from having facial hair. Flip-flops? Again...Texas, hot. And yeah, I know that whole thing about "they're made of rubber, and you might slip in water and fall and sue the school," but that could happen anywhere, and you don't see other public places enacting such a prohibition.

Actually, the flip-flops subject strikes a chord with me--not because I really like to wear them, which I do, but because they were outlawed in my Houston-area school district when I was growing up. One of the school board members was quoted by name in the school paper explaining why: Because guys' hairy toes might sexually excite the girls in the classroom.

While you're picking yourself up off the floor after reading that one, let me just say....huh? What kind of a twisted mind thought that up? (And, may I add, despite all the time I've worn flip-flops, I can attest that having hirsute lower extremities has never yielded me even a single date. Heh.)

Most of these "extreme" elements of dress codes don't have thing one to do with education; they're all about control. Though there are certainly some notable exceptions to this rule, it seems that something happens to educators when they becomes an administrator: when all is said and done, they become a lot less teacher and a lot more bureaucrat. Bureaucrats, by their very nature, need to continually justify their existence to the outside world, which finds much of what they do quite pointless (hmm, wonder why?), so they continually make more and more rules just to appear as though they're Doing Something. They're not really evil people for doing this; they've just gotten caught up in the whirlwind of junk. (The same thing happens to many new legislators; they may go in with the best of intentions, but evidently, it's hard to survive Washington with one's integrity intact.)

I have an example of the possible ineffectiveness of dress codes; I'll say up front that it's not scientific in any way, but it still warrants a bit of pondering: A school district near me (no reason to name names, but it rhymes with a popular drain cleaner) has some of the loosest dress code requirements in the area (i.e. shorts and facial hair are OK), as well as some of the highest test scores. I'm certainly not saying there's a direct causal relationship (and by the way, how many others of you look at the next-to-last word in that phrase and read it as "casual" the first time?), but I believe there is a connection. My explanation goes like this: There are a whole bunch of kids out there who don't mind school as long as they're not subject to pointless regulations. These aren't kids in the top ten, or the bottom ten, but rather in the big, big middle. Rather than trying to emulate the military, providing a relaxed learning environment actually helps these folks learn better. Start up the drill-sergeant thing, and you'll lose some of them.

I realize that some may think I'm all wet here, so as always, I invite comments. (I'd especially like to hear from Jim on this one, since he's an educator, and he attended the Mystery District in question as a student.) It's probably also becoming apparent why I'm the type of teacher that I am and not a traditional classroom teacher...

Gassed (the finale): My cheap gas quest ended as expected today; I held my nose and paid two bucks even at a Tom Thumb in Plano (it would've been three cents more without the card). It could have been much worse, seeeing as how I saw regular unleaded for $2.19 yesterday, also in Plano on the way to the wedding. On average, QT's and RaceTrac's were around $2.04, with many of the "big boys" hovering around $2.09. I'm wondering how long it will be before it dips back below two bucks again.

Yes, if I had a chocolate bunny, I'd eat the ears first too: Last, but certainly not least, Happy Easter to all!


Anonymous said...

Okay. I guess I have to reply when Kev mentions me by name for the first time in his blog… ;-)

The district I work for goes as far as disallowing any color of shoelaces except for black or white. That's right bloggers, if you have blue shoes, you cannot have blue shoelaces - even if the shoes came with blue laces. You have to either buy white laces to replace the blue ones or get another pair of shoes to wear to school. If any of you cannot figure out why a school system would do such a thing, at some point a gang used shoelaces as a gang symbol. Poof - you have a new dress code.

As far as the district that rhymes with a popular drain cleaner, I remember when said district loosened its dress code to allow shorts. Many thought it was the end of public education, but the next day we wore shorts and continued on as normal. Of course, I speak for the "almost straight A" not very rebellious crowd – but I never felt any difference due to dress code growing up in the public schools. The social pressures that distract students from their studies will never go away with any dress code.

Finally, I cannot think of a single thing that I disagree with from Kev’s dress code rant. I do not want to see any pre-teen undies and the anti sag rules do keep us from having metal detectors at every entrance to the school (for now), but please stop wasting our time with shoelaces, hair color, and hair designs. Could you imagine a world where spiked hair and nose piercings were the norm and straight and short hair was considered unacceptable rebellion? Just think of the stir it would create if a student wore a powdered wig to school every day or a thousand dollar suit or formal dress? How’s that for a distraction?

I am only concerned about dress if it signals an emotional need from a student or my children (although I do not think my 5 month old will be getting tattoos anytime soon). As long as a student is expressing their individuality or seeking positive attention, and not reaching out for help because they are neglected at home, I see no need for a super-strict dress code. Let’s try to focus our attention to more important matters like education, meeting real students’ needs, and parenting.


P.S. I would like to here from someone out there who felt social pressure because they could not afford the cool kids clothes. With uniforms, won’t students feel just as insecure when uniform wearing Johnny starts talking about his thousand dollar stereo system and 60 inch wide screen plasma TV in his room? Or when uniform wearing Jane laughs at them when asked to the dance? I could go on forever…I haven’t even gotten to administrators yet…

Anonymous said...

P.P.S. Another one of our dress codes state that no students may wear "band" shirts regardless of the musical group's lyrics or affiliations (a shirt that says "Pink Floyd" with no other decoration is against the rules). I giggle inwardly every time my "band" wears their t-shirts to school - all 300 of them. :-P

JP again

Eric Grubbs said...

Oh brother. Are t-shirts advertising jazz or classical artists/combos banned too? What about a shirt with Frank Sinatra or Elvis on it? I get the feeling that a Korn shirt would seem more offensive than a Steely Dan shirt, but this sounds like more silly zero tolerance rules (thus providing more comedic material and blogging topics . . .).

Kev said...

"Okay. I guess I have to reply when Kev mentions me by name for the first time in his blog… ;-)"

Heh....but that' s not exactly accurate, Jim; I wished you happy birthday at the end of this post.

I had no idea about the shoelaces thing; in fact, I saw a kid at another middle school with pink ones on yesterday (but then, what kind of a gang color is pink, anyway? I'm not sure we want to know...). And it seems like the "band shirt" thing is being flouted on a regular basis, too.

I always thought it would be hilarious if a gang started wearing, say, Old Navy. What would the schools do then?

Anonymous said...

Hey - I remember reading that blog entry but I totally missed the birthday wish. I guess I was so entranced by the wisdom of Yogi that I did not finish reading the rest. Thanks (belated) for the B-day mention.