by Mel Griffith
I have been watching with some interest statements about the present unreasonable school dress code by school board candidates. So far they have been disappointing. One candidate proclaimed himself in favor of "standardization." Come on, professor. After all these years in education, you should know better. The only way we can standardize students is at the lowest common denominator. We are supposed to be trying to develop each student to his or her maximum potential.
Another candidate pronounced the dress code "great" because it prevents those who can afford to dress better than some others from doing so. That's just the old Communist line that "nobody better get anything better than I've got, even if they earned it." What incentive is there supposed to be to succeed, if you are supposed to hide it when you do? If this lady is elected, I suppose she will also want every student to get the same grade, so as not to embarrass those who did poorly. Having grown up very poor, I can assure her that seeing better dressed people around you provides a powerful incentive to succeed. If standardizing the way everyone dresses in school according to the tastes of bureaucrats is such a good idea, why don't we apply it to adults too? Actually, the Chinese had that idea years ago with their gray Mao jackets. Anybody think China is a good model for the future of democratic America? If not, why is our school system imitating them? If standardization is such a good idea, we could just have everybody drive the same kind of car, live in the same kind of house, and have the same appliances. Come to think of it, the Russians tried exactly that for 70 years. Anybody remember how well it worked there? Why would we want to prepare students for that kind of bureaucrat controlled society by taking basic decision-making away from them and their parents?
I have suggested from time to time that the adoption of the dress code was a hysterical reaction to the events at Columbine. Some seem to have taken exception to that comment, so I should explain that I meant to suggest that; if board members had not been overly exited by Columbine and had engaged in thoughtful deliberation they would have come to a more sensible conclusion. The alternate explanation, of course, would be that they were incapable of coming to a sensible conclusion even after thoughtful deliberation. Folks are free to choose whichever explanation appeals to them.
Last Spring when the dress code policy came up for routine annual review, I suggested only a few small changes to some of the more absurd parts of it even though the whole page of nonsense ought to be junked. The prospect of losing even the minor amount of power the changes would have involved seems to have thrown some in the system to panic, because a meeting was hastily called to prepare and circulate campaign literature against my suggestions. I had hoped the board would at least have a thoughtful discussion of each item so that I and the public could understand the reasoning behind some of the more outlandish rules. Except for a lecture on the terrible dangers of cargo pants delivered by one of Chicken Little's most dedicated followers, there was no effort to defend any of it. If fears about the horrible results of wearing cargo pants are correct, presumably the city school system will soon be decimated by violence, since the city board voted to permit them.
The only rationale advanced for the dress code was that the administration wanted it. Of course they do. Why wouldn't they? Nearly everybody wants all the power they can get, whether they ought to have it or not. The proper question is not whether they want it, but whether they should have it. Should we have a set of rules based on the assumption that Bradley County parents are too stupid to dress their children for school without bureaucratic dictation. A majority of the present board clearly thinks so. You might want to ask some of the candidates currently running for school board what they think.