Monday, May 18, 2009


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Principal asked to apologize for comments on kilt

The principal of a Utah middle school has been asked to apologize for forcing a kilt-wearing Scottish-American student to change his clothes.


Jessop told the boy that the outfit could be misconstrued as cross-dressing.

Taggart says the district recognizes the kilt as an expression of the boy's Scottish heritage and that the kilt was not inappropriate.

A wee bit more here.

So this is in Mormon-intense Utah and everything, but you might be surprised at how often such dress code battles take place in the public school system nationwide. And this isn't really about some kind of institutional ethnic insensitivity, either. It's about cross-dressing.

Okay, it's about school dress codes in general, too, which exist for the purpose of maintaining institutional order, greatly necessary for executing the schools' primary function of indoctrinating children into a culture of obedience and authority, rather than any sense of what kind of clothing is "inappropriate." That is, many school rules exist only to be followed, an extraordinarily important lesson in the obedience curriculum taught k-12--arbitrary dress codes and school uniform mandates are among the most popular manifestations of this lesson. Student dress code defiance receives an "F" in the obedience curriculum, which usually translates into detention hall or even suspension if the defiance is egregious enough.

But there are sins and there are mortal sins. Boys dressing like girls, in this indoctrination system we call "school," is a mortal sin. Probably because teachers are among the most conventional, boring, and sexually unadventurous individuals in the nation. Cross-dressing freaks them out. So a boy wearing a skirt to school performs the double whammy of dress code defiance coupled with gender-bending. I mean, wearing your shirt untucked might get you a demerit or something, but wearing a skirt makes teachers nervous and weird--generally, boys in dresses get special attention.

Such a reaction essentially supports my assertion that, in our educational system, learning takes a backseat to discipline: coming down hard on student cross-dressers and other clothing individualists literally wastes a marvelous educational opportunity. That is, why can't you cross-dress in public school? That's the discussion every class ought to have in the face this kind of controversy. And I mean a real discussion. One that takes on gender and sexual issues, one that takes on the concept of social norms versus freedom and individualism, one that spawns more questions than it answers. You know, a discussion that fosters critical thinking, the ostensible goal of public education in America.

After all, kids are much more willing to work their brains about issues that have meaning in their own lives, rather than about, say, nineteenth century literature written to be read by college educated middle aged aristocrats instead of teenagers. Indeed, kids want to talk about sex, drugs, rock and roll, religion, money, school rules they hate, stuff that directly affects them right now, stuff that one definitely needs a critical mind in order to have any handle on. By and large, however, such topics are off limits in the public school system. Allowing legitimacy to teenage opinions that counter those of the educational authorities would disrupt institutional order, rendering the authority and obedience mandate severely problematic.

You see, we don't really want to teach kids to think. We say we do. But we don't really try. Actually, given the way we tell kids in school exactly what to do, all day long, every day, for thirteen years of their lives, it's more like trying to beat the thinking out of their brains rather than the reverse. That is, schools teach children to not think.

And sadly, the schools are fairly successful at this task.