Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Let them wear khaki

Bruce Barry (husband of Metro Council at Large Candidate Megan Barry) opines in today's Nashville Scene that Standard School Attire is akin to the Emperor's New Clothes. There's nothing there. I completely disagree with him. I do think that sloppy dress encourages sloppy attitudes. I'll offer as Exhibit 1 the very online page his opinion appears on where a young woman is wearing what is not that far away from what is becoming by default 'standard school attire'.

Educators and administrators have enough to do without having to explain to clueless children and their amazingly clueless parents that bare skin in certain areas and phrases across portions of bodies is distracting to others and demeaning to the wearer. And that "dressing for success" is a truism. We're not talking about enveloping everyone in burkas here--we're talking about plain, serviceable and inexpensive clothing.

Bruce spends a lot of time on negative ink but doesn't mention the testimony of the Isaac Litton Principal who maintains that nothing other than attire was changed in her school and the results were dramatic. First person evidence gets a lot more weight with me than iffy studies elsewhere.

He also doesn't mention the fact that the parents on the committee came with their own minds made up as evidenced by their presentation in January and actually did their point of view a great disservice with their aggressive attitude.

It's interesting to me that this SSA debate has revealed, again, a level of class warfare that is always simmering just below the surface of the 'public' education debates.

Previous Posts:
http://kaybrooks.blogspot.com/2007/01/standard-school-attire.html
http://kaybrooks.blogspot.com/search/label/uniforms

9 comments:

Brittney said...

No link to the Scene piece?

Tom said...

I have been very conflicted on this issue, and seriously did not know how I would vote until I did.

On one hand, I am tired of district wide mandates involving somewhat superficial PR campaigns, and with each one, feel more and more that we are losing ownership of our schools. I would not have minded what happened at my school either way, and would be happy with whatever the parents want.

On the other hand, I do see a benefit to standard attire. I believe that how people dress can influence others' attitude toward them, including what degree of success is expected from them. Kind of a variation on your statement: "I do think that sloppy dress [can be perceived as] a sloppy attitude." And I don't think it's so much class warfare as it is cultural (mis?)perceptions. But we as humans do make generalizations such as what we'd expect one's future to include, which in many cases really isn't our distinction to make as educators. Same with "bare skin [is]...demeaning to the wearer." I'm not sure I agree exactly, but acknowledge the perception is real, and shouldn't be a part of assessing the ability or dedication of students. It would be nice if everyone were averse to making judgements based on cultural choices like clothing, but consciously or subconsciously, many aren't. Which is the benefit I see to the change: kids will be perceived as starting off on a level playing field. I do not buy the argument it is stifling a child's individuality; if that's true, we've got an even bigger problem than what they're wearing.

But I'm still ticked everything is decided centrally.

Anonymous said...

Kay -- you have no clue what you are talking about -- the people starting the class war are talking about equality -- equality in anything-- give me a break!!

Equality in education means all the kids fall to the lowest common level. Equality in dress -- in particular for high school kids is a joke. This does not work. Period!

Tom , your school does not even want them or need them if you are the Tom I think you are --

This needs to be on a school by school basis as it can be decided now.

I would love to see all your children dress a like. Don't you know twins do not even like it as they get older.

Anyway -- class ware -- not unless equality is what the guy in the stratford cluster (your old stomping group I presume) really wants. I think what he really means is equal opportunity. That nevers comes with people looking a like --That comes with unequal funding to give those in greater need a head start, more resources, better teachers, principals, etc.

Yes, tom it means less to your school (and that of my son's too).

Thanks --

Tom said...

"Tom , your school does not even want them or need them if you are the Tom I think you are --

This needs to be on a school by school basis as it can be decided now."


Yes, that's why I voted "no." But I do think there are schools where it is needed, if the parents agree.

Anonymous said...

The Litton principal does like SSA but her own data revealed that she has just as many discipline issues this year as last without SSA. I'm glad she thinks the kids all look nice, but it has made no difference in the behavior at her school, no matter what her personal perception. However, any school that wants SSA can presently choose that option - so I don't know wht MNPS is putting us through this.

scotanderin said...

I'm a newcomer to this blog having accidentally but happily stumbled upon it (Hi Kay!) As such, and because I am not an educator, my comments may not mean much. None the less, my child wears a traditional uniform to school- a change that was implemented this year. The uniform evolved from a "Khaki and collar" policy that had been in place for several years. Students and school staff have both responded very well to the change. The usual positives like easy dressing in the mornings and some levelling of the socio/economic playing field have been realized. There are, however, more subtle benefits that I have seen. Educators at school do report a decline in discipline problems (especially those arising from dress code violations!) Kids aren't as distracted by their peers' dress and able to focus more easily on other things. Like math or chemistry. Most importantly, wearing the uniform helps facilitate a place of refuge in a kid's day where he/she can escape (at least clothing-wise) some of our hypersexualized and celebrity-obsessed culture. Their relief is almost palpable. Don't expect students to necessarily articulate this to adults! It is still a very real and valuable help to them and consequently to their families. These kids are in no way stifled in their creativity or individualism. Anyone who is around teens knows that a uniform is hardly powerful enough to do that.
Erin

Kay Brooks said...

Well, Anon, you must have missed her presentation to the BOE where data from the Cumulative Discipline Report showed that every "discipline infraction" from August 2006 to date decreased. The exception being “inappropriate dress” which would be expected with a new dress code.

I do know that Litton keeps a stash of appropriate clothing for the children and the PTA (and at least one teacher I know) has provided clothing to those without means.

Kay Brooks said...

Welcome to the conversation, Erin. And thank you for your perspective on the issue. I hope you'll visit again. The more input we have from parents across the district the better informed we'll all be. And that, I believe, will lead to more powerful parents who can better advocate for the children.

Wendy said...

Kay Brooks said...
Well, Anon, you must have missed her presentation to the BOE where data from the Cumulative Discipline Report showed that every "discipline infraction" from August 2006 to date decreased. The exception being “inappropriate dress” which would be expected with a new dress code.

I do know that Litton keeps a stash of appropriate clothing for the children and the PTA (and at least one teacher I know) has provided clothing to those without means.

4:03 PM

Anon is not the only one missing information or presentation; Mr. Mark Schoenfeld did not make any apologies for missing the Stratford, Maplewood, and East Literature presentation early this month at Stratford High School. If his information was so much better than the principals on the committee, than it should have been important to present those findings to us.

The proof of SSA is all around us, one only needs to visit a school that is utilizing the dress code to see the difference it can make.

Wendy
PTA President at Litton