Falmouth School Mulling Dress Code
The Falmouth School Committee (FSC) is mulling the imposition of a dress code onto students of the Lawerence School. The dress code would be a small part of a radical shift in the operation of the school.
Principal Nancy Taylor and Art teacher Rebecca Novak are behind the Dress For Success movement.
In a week or so, the FSC will meet to discuss implementation of an "innovation plan." This plan will allow the school to employ flexibility in scheduling, curriculum, and budgeting. The innovation plan is part of Governor Deval Patrick's 2010 educational refrom act.
Innovation schools differ from charter schools in that they require approval from only the local superintendent, union, and school committee, where the state has to approve charter schools.
Part of this innovation plan is that students will all be required to dress alike. I did see "oxford shirt, cotton slacks" mentioned, and I'm assuming they want to put the girls in knee sox and tartan skirts.
There are parent information meetings on June 23rd and June 27th. Currently, the only public school on the Cape with a dress code is the Marguerite E. Small School in West Yarmouth. The FSC meets on the matter June 28th.
Proponents of a dress code argue that it takes a lot of peer pressure off the kids. Fashion is a MFer, and a forced dress code takes some of that off the table. Parents won't have to listen to kids whine that they don't have an Armani overcoat or a $200 pair of ripped jeans to wear to school.
"Calvin Klein's no friend of mine, don't want nobody's name on my behind."
Ideally, those hours per year (if your last name is Monponsett, expand that to "days per year") that kids spend choosing what clothes to wear to school can be spent studying, eating a healthy breakfast, or praying. Rather than exerting pressure on kids to dress a certain way, perhaps the kids will feel peer pressure to perform well in class.
A dress code would slow/stop the hip-hop look that kids these days are more comfortable in.
Opponents point out that kids are fine exerters of peer pressure, and a uniform means nothing more than kids will be getting made fun of for their hair/bodies/shoes instead of for their goofy blue jeans. They point out that anyone who thinks that a dress code will stop bullying doesn't really know kids that well.
They'll also point to an inherent elitism/racism, as the basic unstated desire with the dress code is that kids stop dressing like sluts and black rappers. Notice how little talk you heard of dress codes during the preppy 1980s?
The dress code is also a big step into the government running your life for you. Today it's the dress code. Tomorrow, they may ban a certain kind of shoes, a certain kind of hairstyle, certain jewelry, certain religious attire, etc... using the domino theory that justified our killing 50K+ Americans in Vietnam, if we give them control of our clothing today, they'll be asking for our religion tomorrow.
A great part of school's importance is Socialization, and many feel that the sooner kids figure out that differences exist between individuals, the better. Learning to dress yourself is a skill, just or even more useful than, say, learning the periodic table of elements.
I'd also feel very badly about failing a student who missed a day because "my family can't afford to go to the laundry until payday, and I couldn't come in to school because I was out of clean uniforms." The school- which, I believe, cries poverty at every town meeting- will somehow free up the funds to help students from poor families buy uniforms... and, I assume, will also help them pay for laundering costs.
Clothes don't make the man. More harm has been done to the world by men in suits than by every kid with saggy pants ever. The SS all dressed alike. Jay Z makes all those Forbes lists despite his affinity for baseball hats and loose clothing. If you dress the Crips in Brooks Brothers suits, they're still going to be Crips. Likewise, I wouldn't expect Mother Theresa to have started selling crack if God made her wear her baseball hat sideways.
The school wants the kids to dress White and Conservative. They don't want them to dress Black or with anything that shows Individuality. They have not crafted their Ideally Dressed Child vision with the preferences of the kids in mind, or even what the average kid wears. How come no one ever makes a dress code that is a simple pair of denim jeans (a more durable fabric than khaki) and tshirts (which kids would happily adopt as a uniform)?
It speaks of amazing arrogance on the part of those who impose it. Your kids dress like sluts and blacks. We think they should dress like we tell them to. Only your child's style of dress is keeping us from getting straight As from them. Our own teaching methods are so sound that this is all we need to alter before having back at the kids next year.
"Just cause you don't understand what's going on don't mean it don't make no sense
And just cause you don't like it, don't mean it ain't no good
And let me tell you something;Before you go taking a walk in my world
You better take a look at the real world
Cause this ain't no Mister Roger's Neighborhood"
I'm sort of mixed on the matter. I was forced to dress a certain way when I went to school, but that was more the Code Of Mom. Long skirts, tights, high necklines, and only a lot of crying from a 4'10" 7th grader allowed me to wear heels. I showed less skin than a Mummy, and I performed very well in school.
Then my parents died. I suddenly was 100% in charge of how to dress, and I was a bit more flashy. Nothing insane, but I dressed as I wished. I still got all As, and I felt prettier.
A lot of kids have self-esteem issues, and no dress code should discuss one side of the issue without pointing out that kids dress the way they do because they like the attention that they get. It carries over, to the extent that a compliment on my looks still makes my day.
I've imposed a dress code in classes I've taught. I used to keep a school tshirt in my desk for a girl named Natasha, who had a manner of dress that some might disagree with. Natasha was a curvy girl, and dressed to accentuate what she felt were her strong points. If you've ever heard me telling my teacher war story about a fight going down during our school Thanksgiving dinner... the fight was over her. She had been in the school for 36 hours at that point.
I was a new teacher, teaching a subject I wasn't familiar with, and- even when I'm a bit of a looker- I wasn't going to be able to compete for the attention of half the class when Natasha was flashing the Puerto Rican Rockies. If she came into my classroom and I saw even a hint of under/side boob, I'd call her over and hand her the tshirt. She was pretty good about it, and I probably feel worse about dress-coding her than she does now.
I wasted a lot of class time doing this, however. I can't imagine trying to run a class if i have to spend all of first period making sure the kids are dressed the way the Town wants them to dress. Whatever gains a kid gets individually from not having to waste time choosing outfits will be lost collectively in the process where- daily, and perhaps period to period- a teacher would have to regulate the process. I'd quit any school that would make me waste precious minutes checking skirt lengths and so forth.
I also am leery of this dress code being included in the Innovation Plan. The plan allows schools to take up different methods of instruction. A kid who does a math problem might have to write a paragraph about how they solved it ("When you weren't looking, I cheated off the smart kid"), or a Science class may have the kids do reading comprehension.
Allowing teachers greater flexibility in methods of instruction is sound policy. Why tie it to a ridiculous imposition of Fashion Fascism? I'd love to see Falmouth adopt the innovative teaching plan while declining to adopt the dress code. It'd make an excellent Supreme Court case.
Section 83 of the Massachusetts Legislature appears to prohibit dress codes in public schools by declaring that schools may not "abridge the rights of students as to personal dress and appearance." Section 86 states that "The provisions of sections eighty-three to eighty-five, inclusive, shall apply only to cities and towns which accept the same" and other sections of the law allow schools to impose dress codes. They can also impose one by becoming an Innovation Plan School.
There's no room for dissent. If you refuse to let the school dress your child, your child can't go to that school. Private schools, I can understand- you're making a choice to send kids there, and the rules were in place before your kids went there.
However, a public school barring children for clothing decisions is ridiculous. This policy wasn't in place when thousands of people moved to Falmouth. Should they have to bus their kids to another town to avoid the Fashionazis?
1970s Boston-style busing looks to be their lot. It'd be funny if a bunch of Preppies attacked the bus and speared someone with a Ralph Lauren flag, wouldn't it?
This is what your children look like, Falmouth. Learn to love them for it.