Are Short Skirts and Thug-Wear Conducive to Learning?
I've never worn a school uniform. My burgherly public high school didn't require pressed slacks, liveried sweaters, solid-colored ties, button-ups, or polished Oxfords. The only proscribed apparel items were shorts for boys and overly short skirts for girls. Spaghetti-strap tops, I believe, were forbidden as well.
That was it. We didn't need regimented ensembles to maintain a sense of order and authority like soldiers huddled in a billet. A rule of modest discernment applied sparingly sufficed.
But even that paucity of constraints is still too much for other schools, which are loosening dress codes at the behest of an oppressed student body. Schools in California and Illinois are allowing short shorts and tank tops. Bans on hoodies, previously seen as standard delinquent wear, are being lifted. Boys in Alvin, Texas will soon be allowed to wear makeup.
These developments can be waved away with a simple Who cares? And, no doubt, the prevailing American attitude of individual expressionism is in favor of more lax dress standards.
But is such a stance wise? Does making the classroom resemble a casual Saturday at Walmart really imbue students with a sense of purpose?
It seems not. A general slackening of mores for attire follows the anomie that has long seeped into American life. It is also yet another indication of how muddled the collective message is we're sending our kids.
Children in America get too many mixed signals about their roles in world. The social pressures they face in school have changed dramatically, even in the past decade. And I'm not talking about the eternal adolescent struggles of bullying; status-seeking; athletic competition; studying; and, worst of all, teenage courtship. In school, those are all precursors to real-world challenges and responsibility.
What I'm referring to are new adversities, the kind no child – let alone adult – should have to contend with. School shootings are depicted as a constant threat. Transgenderism and its concomitant perversion of language are inserted into the elementary school curriculum. The ubiquity of smartphone technology gives every child and his immediate friends access to vast stores of violence; pornography; and humanity's darkest, most macabre desires.
Worse, children are increasingly used as political props by people who think five-year-olds holding "Impeach Trump!" signs are, in some way, endearing. Political rallies, especially those of the left, are dotted with dewy-eyed kids who appeared confused as to their own attendance. They hold paint-stirrers with poster board taped to them and mouth platitudes they can't begin to comprehend.
Helpless youngsters have their minds filled with the uninformed ramblings of parents too obsessed with politics to be proper stewards of their minds. These are absentee parents, just of a different nature. They are present, but as companions, not guardians.
"My impression is that our children have become increasingly like children who have been to madrassas, except that what they have been taught is not the Koran, but a vulgate of political correctness," writes Theodore Dalrymple.
We treat children like adults as they come of age, then coddle them upon reaching college. Institutions of higher education are risk-averse to the point of parody. Rather than explore heterodox ideas, today's university student is more likely to join in a groupthink cult of progressive identity. If, Heaven forbid, they're challenged on the typical leftist shibboleths by an outside speaker, they'll cry foul and demand that no platform be given. Should the speaker insist, petulant outrage is not regarded as a rash response.
Should we really be surprised that young men and women, having spent years prior being unmoored from traditional adult authority, regress to infantilism once leaving the safe feathered nest of home?
It's not their fault, after all. A child's problems can usually be traced back to his progenitors. Parents have been derelict in their duty to rear their children properly. In the name of openness and tolerance, we've unfettered them from the constraints of old, only to abandon them to the world's harsh and fluid vagaries.
It's no shock, then, that teenagers are reporting higher levels of depression.
Being a parent doesn't mean transforming into a martinet, drilling your children in strict codes of conduct. There's a balance between being a disciplinarian and being a friend. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in Tender Is the Night, "the forcing of children and the fear of forcing them were inadequate substitutes for the long, careful watchfulness, the checking and balancing and reckoning of accounts, to the end that there should be no slip below a certain level of duty."
School uniforms are not a necessity, but a fashion free-for-all isn't helpful, either. Kids don't learn faster by encountering adult tribulations sooner. They still need and crave direction.
"Be your child's parent, not their [sic] 'best friend,'" commands Rod Dreher. He's right. Somewhere between overly protecting our children and desiring their love and affection, we've ceded sacred duty.