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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief


born a traitor

a few weeks ago renee and i were having dinner with my parents and my brother and the topic of school uniforms came up. an intriguing and rather fiesty discussion ensued, as we tossed around the various rationales for such a program in the public schools (it was brought up because of rumors of uniforms in the northwest district had been floating around).

i'll let you guess which side i defended.

in this case, specifically, the proposal would include rules on what type of and what color of pants and shirt could be worn; forcing kids to tuck the shirts in and wear belts; and preventing any large brands or logos or whatever from appearing on clothing.

so adrian and i had a few gripes with the idea of mandatory uniforms. and the central question we proposed was: consider the purpose of such a program and the intended benefits that adoption of uniforms brings. do they outweigh the potential detriment to students' attitudes towards authority and the limitations on their ability to express individuality?

- well, one of the supposed benefits of school uniforms is to more effectively differentiate between who should be in a school building and who shouldn't - supposedly, the people who shouldn't be there will 'stand out' and be easier to identify. so johnny hooligan shows up on monday to get into a fight with someone at the school and gets thrown out because he isn't in the uniform. any guess on how johnny dresses when he goes up to the school on tuesday?

- the supposed behavioral changes that a uniform would foster. the common complaint from older generations of 'those darned kids with their pants around their ankles' seems to drive this idea - that the root of a teenage guy's behavior problems stems from the fact that their pants' waistline is several inches lower than normal. by altering that factor, you magically address that person's behavior problems. just like you can make an apple taste like an orange by painting it that color.

this argument appears to be the hostility of the generational gap distilled to a potent regulatory strike where the evil youngsters can't fight back. essentially, old people attacking what they don't understand, i believe is how i described it to my parents. as if you can make teenage guys less aggressive and territorial, and teenage girls less flirty and competitive, by changing the clothing that they wear! it's the most foolish, senseless argument for this policy that i've heard.

- another pro argument is the ability to deter gang members from using clothing style/color to identify themselves. again, the intent is healthy, but misled. kids will adapt, change, and you're left with a mostly useless rule and a bad taste in the kids' mouths. one that does make sense is uniforms-as-a-theft-deterrent - so if you have an epidemic of kids stealing clothes, shoes, etc. from other kids, this may be an effective path.

- adrian's biggest complaint - one that i would share if i were faced with such an impending rule - is the lack of input from students. no one's asking their point of view. now that's most likely answered by the trite "they don't know any better, we're doing this for their own good" type of attitude. or as my mom said, "they don't get to ask why - they just need to follow the rules".

here's what that attitude does: all of a sudden kids are shown that authority figures have the right to impose their arbritrary will in the form of a rule, just or not, reasonable or not, and there's nothing they can do about it. and maybe that's a reasonable view of the world to instill in a teenager: life sometimes isn't fair.

but it does something else: instills a healthy mistrust of authority figures, administration, law enforcement, parents, or anyone else that can hold and maintain control of them without their consent. america is not a police state, dropping laws that a select few create and the majority cannot question. teenagers have enough to fear and doubt from those that control them, and fostering that mistrust will only serve to backfire your efforts and potentially create even more disciplinary issues.

allow them a chance to discuss the issue, ask questions. answer them when they ask. listen. ask them to think it through, understand the concepts. encourage a healthy debate! teach them how, so that they can use that skill later in life.

- much can be said about the more subjective topic of allowing students to express individuality. there are many avenues by which a teenager's personality, character, etc. can be expressed, and clothing / fashion is one of them. for some teenagers, it's the primary avenue. does (mostly) eliminating that avenue harm that developing sense of self-expression during crucially formative years? i don't think it's possible to consider that theory outside of a case-by-case basis. the SCOTUS, in tinker vs. des moines in 1969, seemed to think that that freedom of self-expression for students was important and shouldn't be diminished without a solid reason.

so as to the question, do the (potential) benefits outweigh the negative consequenses? two authors from notre dame's sociology department, david brunsma and kerry rockquemore, did a fascinating study published in the Journal of Educational Research in 2/98 on "The Effects of Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance Use, and Academic Achievement". their much more quantitative study indicates that little of the intended benefits of school uniforms actually result from the policies being implemented.

so yeah. thoughts?


for this post

Blogger Bragg Says:

well you certainly did your homework. as for implementing uniforms in school, I have to side on the "for" category.

I think that with uniforms, both guys and girls will express themselves in ways that permit the freedoms you say are taken away.

I do feel that students should have a say in what uniform codes are instituted, but there are some serious problems with the "line" that separates acceptable and intolerable.

After seeing the way female students dressed, I firmly believe that the example should be made to let them know that the actions of a few can ruin the "liberties" of the whole.

When you say that the adult world is unfairly imposing these codes upon youth, ask what examples they are already following. I know you have a pretty lax work environment, but you are still expected to present yourself in a respectable manor. If you start wearing cut-offs and grew the Matt Leinert aka Tony Hudson mullet, then chances are your whole work team is going to be required to wear office appropriate clothing. So in short, we already have a dress code. Expecting students to appear respectably within the system is both appropriate and acceptable.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

very interesting. i'm not sure that most kids have the ability to freely express themselves much besides to say 'you can wear green or blue shirts and khaki pants and a brown or black belt'. doesn't whip up a frenzy of imagination.

and good example about the workplace. i will say that if my boss instituted similar rules - as in, i can only wear a white or blue polo and khakis and black dress shoes, i would quit. and i have the best job in the world. i can't tolerate the idea of some person / group of people having that much control over me.

you did make me realize something: it's a wonder i don't get outraged more about human rights abuses in china, or the robbery of freedom in cuba, or the forced removal of people's lives in darfur. these are slightly more compelling issues.

Blogger Bragg Says:

you would seriously quit your job if you were required to wear a company logo polo? you sir are bold!

I understand that you have the idea that a pair of khakis and a button down are drab and "restricting" but I honestly believe you are making a bigger deal of this than it really is. You and I (and the people who are trying to implement the dress code know), the students are going to shed the collar shirt and drop the belt line the requisite 4 inches to be "cool." But the reality is that the environment in which students learn is impacted by the distractions of girls showing 8 inches of thigh and 3 inches of cleavage while johnny bedhead has the new "big johnson" tshirt showing penii flowing like the salmon of capastrano.

creating an environment for your kids to learn in will be a huge deal when selecting what school district you decide to settle in. i ask you, would you have been okay with sending your kids to northwest (before the dress code thing) or would you have leaned toward oak hills?

your answer to that, will speak volumes about what you believe to be the environment you want your kids to be in. dress code is just one part of the distractions that create issues between students and staff, as well as staff and administration. and your wife can attest to the split between faculty and administration when it came to how provocatively students dressed and the administrative reaction. it undermined the authority in the classroom. students are smart, and they know when they can take advantage of that rift. so yes, if instituting a hard lined dress code prevents students from taking advantage of a teacher who isn't backed by the admin, fire that policy up right now.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

you touch on a good point: it's very possible that i don't have an accurate view of how severe this 'distraction' thing i keep hearing about is. i wouldn't think that what my kids and their peers were wearing to school would impact their education a whole lot. but it's very possible that i have no idea what i'm talking about. please explain!

a few other things. (1) do people still wear big johnson shirts? i remember those from 1993... (2) do penii really flow like the salmon of capistrano? i have yet to bear witness to this phenomena. (3) is penii a word? if you say it is, oh english teacher, i will believe.

Blogger Bragg Says:

Don't mock me son. I will beat you with the lifeless stub of a penii I have within the confines of my loins....

ew. nevermind.

regarding the big johnson shirts, i chose that specifically because they were banned from the school when they were popular in 1993 (while we were freshmen). I don't think this was much of a problem because 1. we didn't care one way or another about it, and 2. our parents would have beat our asses for wearing a shirt like that. Go ahead. check me on that. you know i'm right.

and yeah, i said penii. i'm not sure if it's a word either, but we did turn the artenis into a word, so anythings possible.

Blogger Nickolini Says:

I'll add my 2 cents based on my limited exposure to school uniform phemonenon. I did my school counseling internship at a mostly poor middle school in Colorado. This was a primarily black and hispanic student body who previously had problems with girls' dress habits, gang affiliations and behavior problems. My understanding is that they did see a decrease in behavior problems...but the main reason I felt that the school uniform (which was certain colored khakis and certain colored shirts) was a good idea is because these kids came from lower class hard working families who could not afford for their kids to have the designer clothes. It seemed like the school uniforms took the pressure off having to show up in their name brands (whatever the Skidz and Z. Cavaricci of today is) and the kids felt comfortable dressing in the khakis. They still sometimes let is sag low, but it seemed to be much less of a problem. This is an isolated case I have experienced, but my guess is that it rings true to other parts of the country. It seems that once they were used to the new dress code, they really did not dwell on what they were not allowed to wear. They seemed to take pride in looking nice for school. Kids will find other ways to express themselves. I was skeptical of the school uniform policy before, but that experience opened my eyes a little.

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Anonymous Artie Says:

I know nothing about this, but here goes. If the concern is about outfits being distracting, aren't there existing rules about how short a skirt can be and all that? Why not just enforce those rules instead of doing the heavy handed uniform avenue?

Blogger Bragg Says:

because we're also talking about the content of the t-shirts. go to target and off the shelf there are questionable items. slogans like, "I'm Easy" or "Pornstar" cause problems. Remember the Big Johnson shirts of yesteryear? Imagine getting worse and we're talking about a gateway. It's the marijuana of clothing.

But enforcing the dress codes is getting to the point where students now have more power. If I, a 27 year old male teacher, were to approach a student and call her out as being dressed inappropriately because what she is wearing is borderline acceptable, I am now liable of being delivered a sexual felony rapsheet because last week I didn't appreciate her passing notes in class.

Again, the admin needs to be more keen to catching this crap and dealing with it before it hits the classroom, but unfortunately they're too worried about making sure we've filled out the required paperwork on johnny nospellingskills to make sure he has the individual education plan to pass 4th grade spelling. (Yeah, you and I know he just needs to go home and write them down twice and he can learn them.)

Again, I ask, do you send your kid to sycamore/loveland/indian hill or will you move back to northwest and give your kid the "same" education that they can receive in the aforementioned schools? Because I can guarandamntee you that you're going to go with a school that has an administration that is strong enough in their leadership that this discussion wouldn't even be happening. Proof? Funny, I don't hear any debates about instituting a dress code at Sycamore, Loveland, Indian Hill, the Lakotas, or other type schools.

In fact, schools that do use the dress code, North College Hill, Winton Woods, Walnut Hills, Moeller, Purcell Marion, Elder, St. X., etc. (notice the mixing of private and public schools there), are not in the news as much as they used to be, and the distractions in the classroom are much less. As Nick said, once the policy is in place, and students are used to it, there really isn't much of a problem in the student body rebelling against the unfair treatment or constricting of individualistic expression. It works. I believe it works. I will continue to support it.

Anonymous Betsy hall Says:

Well, my son...this is your mother speaking...your "old" mother...your "authoritarian" mother...anyway. I am very proud of you for eloquently defending your views. I believe this is a case where age and experience will have its day. You forgot to mention the most important advantage to having a dress code--student safety. The styles being what they are there are no limits to the weapons that can be hidden under baggy pants, shirts, and jackets. No amount of personal inspection and metal detection can solve that problem. The districts that have adopted (successfully I might add) a standardized dress code have been forced to do so by changing demographics along with changing cultural norms. The other side of baggy clothes are the incredibly skimpy, skin-tight ones worn by the girls. It is simply too distracting to allow them in the classroom. The Northwest district faces all the above problems. The current dress code at Northwest HS is not enforced, and I finally figured out why. It is impossible to enforce because it is too subjective. For my taxpayer dollars I would rather have teachers teach and staff administer education issues! As for age winning out, the last time I looked we were the parents and we are still in charge until our children are 18. By the way, the kids at NWHS will have input to the proposed standardized dress code. Will keep you posted.

Blogger Nickolini Says:

Always listen to your mother.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:


well it's good to hear that northwest kids will have input. i certainly hope that it's not an empty gesture and that they'll actually get listened to.

maybe it's true - the rule goes into effect, kids eventually get used to it and then they stop grumbling, and stop bringing weapons to school (because it's not like they can learn to hide things in nice clothing, or in a bag)... girls stop showing off skin (although i've been to mcauley, i've seen how creative those students get with their uniforms)... teachers can scratch one topic off their list of a hundred things they have to discipline kids about...

i'm still not sure (in my opinion) that it's worth the mistrust and hostility it creates, and the loss of self expression. it depends on what you feel is important, i guess.

steve: one thing, all the schools you mentioned that have a uniform policy were either private (where it's the norm) or they were low income. is it possible that the reason those schools needed uniforms was not maybe that they're chock full of evil kids who wear terrible clothing, but that the schools suck cause they don't have any frickin money? there seems to be a direct correlation between the financial capability of a district and behavioral problems with kids.

all that is to say: i wish instead of slapping the "school uniforms" band-aid on the problem, maybe the district (and the state) should examine the financial situation of the district and how to improve that.

just a thought. so who would win in a fight - johnny hooligan or johnny nospellingskills?

Blogger Bragg Says:

Heaven forbid they have to develop other "creative" ways to express themselves. Maybe through channels like, writing, art, music, drama, sports, etc....

because those are the dangerous avenues we certainly don't want our kids to walk down. ever.

look at us man, when we were there, we didn't have these issues. why? what is different now compared to then? your mom is right. the very real issue of weapons being brought to schools is not a "I'm glad it won't happen to me" but rather "When is it going to happen to me."

you want to bring up the correlation between behavioral issues and funding then cool. but NCH and WW have have seen drops in violence because of the dress code.

i fought hard against this too man, but kids need rules and structure. Those rules and structure need to be more strict and, believe it or not, they will appreciate you more for it.

Blogger Bragg Says:

Oh, and Johnny Nospellingskills was involved in a tragic car accident when he was 3 that caused a cerebral elongation. That's just mean man. I can't believe you would even put him in a fight. ass.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

you're right. we should definitely dictate to the students what the 'right' ways to express themselves creatively are. any of you freaks that want to try to do that with the way you dress... screw you. learn to write or paint.

rules and structure are fine... it's a matter of the extent you take them to...

what if the district decided that having pop and candy in schools was a problem? that much sugar and caffeine gets kids way too hyper and difficult to control. if we eliminate them, kids will stop being so nuts.

granted, we don't have any actual proof to support that theory - just empirical evidence that says it's worked at a couple of schools.

it just seems that if teachers and administration are allowed to rationalize any new regulations in the name of 'addressing behavioral issues', we open a pretty scary door.

i mean, crap, why stop with telling them what they can and can't wear? why not just chain the kids to their desks when they enter the room, put tape over their mouths, and inject them with depressants? that'll end their behavior problems real quick.

sorry for the ridiculous example. seems that's the general attitude, though. screw freedom and individuality. the district runs that particular show, and if you don't like it, we'll kick you out of school.

Blogger Nickolini Says:

"all that is to say: i wish instead of slapping the "school uniforms" band-aid on the problem, maybe the district (and the state) should examine the financial situation of the district and how to improve that."

My guess is that they are dealing with the school uniform issue because it is something that is immediately in their control. The district financial situation is out of their immediate control. The voters in NW don't want to fund the schools, so maybe the school is trying to come up with other creative solutions to some of their problems. I'm sure that if they felt that funding was a solution (ie. hiring more staff to deal with behavior and safetly problems) and they had the funding, they would do that. But a majority the voters in the district have said several times in a vote, "screw you, we don't care about the schools, it's your problem." And NW schools are forced to take on the challenge from the voters, and they decided that a stricter dress code might be a solution to one of their many problems.
And Justin...you went to Mcauley....I knew there was something different about you....

Blogger B-Call Says:

you're missing a key point here... NWLSD won't even exist in a matter of minutes. then all the kids will be going to private schools and will have to wear uni's anyway and the St. X football team will rule all.

Blogger Bragg Says:

Oh now Justin, you're just being ridiculous because you know we're right and you can't back this thing up without going to the very extreme of Catholic painful Catholic School experiences we've seen on tv.

We all know that kids won't be chained to radiators and have tape put on their mouths. Crap, you're not even allowed to make a kid stand during detention, and if you have them clean desks, you have to get permission from their parents to handle a potentially caustic solution known as windex.

Maybe the uniform is a way that the school district will feel like they still have some control in the educational process now that teachers have to pamper kids out of fear of any number of repercussions.

BTW, I checked on Johnny Nospellingskills, he doesn't hold a grudge about you putting him in a fight with Johnny Hooligan.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

sort of disappointing, then, if it's simply a desperate attempt at the district to show some kind of control over the kids. i guess you guys gotta do what you gotta do.

again - it's very possible that my tune would change were i in your position, steve, or my wife's position, trying to maintain control of a classroom that sounds as if it resembles the running of the bulls.

it's a shame, i keep hearing this intensely confrontational attitude, like the teachers are at war with the students. maybe it's silly unrealistic to expect that there could be more cooperation there, more of a reconciliatory attitude.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

and i know that johnny nospellingskills is your secret codename for me. you don't have to hide it anymore.

Blogger Bragg Says:

There is when parents are involved with the process of their children's growth. Again, I go back to the examples of our growing up and the lack of this issue. But again, our parents were involved in our lives. They were involved in school functions and they believed it wise to fund schools so there would be enough resources for our development. Granted, we didn't have buses but we had after school programs and other extra curricular programs to allow our creative sides to really develop.

Now, like Nick mentioned, no one gives a crap about NWLSD and won't vote the levies and bond issues into place so that the resources are available to teachers and administration so that this isn't such a hard nosed issue to be discussed.

Blogger Bragg Says:

nah, Johnny Nospellingskills is my codename for Bill Coley.

Blogger B-Call Says:

Wow, a Bill Coley namedrop. We used to be neighbors, until he moved over by NW.
That guy's a dick.
He Bogart'd my Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card back in the day and made my "complete set" now incomplete.
I think either me or my brother would kick his ass just about everyday.

Blogger B-Call Says:

thanks for gettin' me all worked up now, Steve.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

steve actually did administer a beatdown to that dude. it was hilarious.

Blogger B-Call Says:

no, seriously, so did my brother and I. everyday... seriously. we hated that guy. and everytime we could lay the smack down on him when we played football in the front yard, we did just that. everyday for about 5 years.

Blogger ryanham Says:

I beat him up once, so you know he's a chode if I got the point where I actually wanted to fight him and I won.

Yeah, thanks for bringing that up jerks, now I'm all pissed off.


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