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A surprisingly bitter discussion in the comments of this Ann Althouse post regarding T-shirts with messages in public schools. One of the things that surprises me is that nobody brought up the obvious point that since school is supposed to be preparing kids for the workplace, the argument over what they're allowed to wear should be DOA. If you work in a cube farm or some other office environment, the default mode of dress is business casual, which does not include T-shirts and jeans, much less T-shirts with "clever" sayings like BITCH BITCH BITCH or FRENCH CONNECTION U.K.. For that matter, if you work in food service or in a factory, your clothes choices are even more restricted: you have to wear a uniform in most of those places.

So why is there such a big furor over what high school kids are allowed to wear to school? In some systems there's no question why uniforms are required: some cities are so infested with murderous gangs that wearing the wrong clothes in the wrong place can literally get you killed, and a school uniform is like the flag of a neutral nation in wartime: "I'm not involved, leave me alone!" Other schools adopt uniforms because there's a consensus that the kids don't need to be distracted by what their peers are wearing. On one level, though, the whole argument over school dress codes is symptomatic of a breakdown in the societal consensus on what behavior/clothes are appropriate for public spaces, and winds up being another argument in favor of taking the schools away from government, since we've allowed the courts to define clothing as speech and we don't allow the government to say what acceptable speech is for teenagers.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
edwarddain
Sep. 28th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...
I think I would argue that school is supposed to be preparing kids for the workplace but agree that that is what it in effect does - and increasingly very poorly at that.

But I've also been reading Freire this semester so I'm biased.
wombat_socho
Sep. 28th, 2006 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Hmmm...
Schools ought to be preparing children to be responsible & effective members of society in more ways than just being good workers, agreed; also agreed that the public schools do an increasingly bad job in both areas. Which is why so many kids wind up doing the remedial classes in community colleges or (worse) the four-year schools.

Of course, after spending three years getting my ticket punched so I can be a teacher, I'm not surprised schools do such a crappy job. We take fairly average people, train them how to use screwdrivers, send them out to pound nails, and wonder why the roofs on the houses leak like crazy.
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