The battle for supremacy over what kids can and cannot wear to public school has been raging for decades now, but the areas of complaint don’t ever seem to change. Kids wear pants that sit too low and are too big. Shirts are too tight and skirts are too short. Jeans have too many holes. That’s the issue school officials in Central Pennsylvania have taken with students at Clearfield Area High School.
Most students have had no trouble complying with the district’s dress code, which says that students must not wear pants with holes in them, unless the holes are patched, which some students consider a violation of their rights. Haylee Lawhead, a sophomore, has “opted to enroll in cyber-school” rather than deal with the school’s no-hole policy. She says, “I think I have every right to get an education in the school district, where my parents pay taxes. It’s just sad that I can’t even do that.”
Ah ha. Ah ha ha. Ah ha ha ha ha ha… I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you, Haylee. It’s more that I’m crying for you, really. You can’t attend school because you’re not allowed to wear holey jeans? Good luck out in the real world, kid.
Lawhead and her like-minded peers say it’s impossible to find jeans sold without holes, and that – of course – it’s not just about the holes. No, no, it’s not just about the holes. We get it. It’s about the right to free expression. It’s about child slavery in Uganda. It’s about you being able to do what you want when you want. Like Lady Gaga, you don’t wear holes in your pants or meat on your head to draw attention to yourself and your keen, off-kilter yet cutting edge fashion sense. You wear holes in your pants and carry a meat purse to end discrimination against gays. Totally. That’s just logic at work.
But here’s the thing, kids. Unless you grow up to be Lady Gaga, there’s a very strong likelihood that you’ll end up working someplace that enforces some type of dress code, be it on Wall Street or at McDonald’s. One of the reasons so many young Americans have so much trouble in their 20’s figuring out how to cope with life as an adult (and I include my 20-something self in this tirade) is because young people in this country aren’t really asked to behave like civilized human beings. They expect to have everything their way, this instant, and the technology surrounding them (personal cell phone, personal computer, tv in the bedroom with dvd player, etc.) wholly supports that sense of entitlement. So why shouldn’t these students in Central Pennsylvania be dumbstruck that their superiors are asking them to submit themselves to something they might think is lame for the greater good of the school? Why would they consider that dressing well for class promotes overall morale and school pride? By placating these children, we’re all contributing to a youth culture that is filled to the brim with boredom, ennui, selfishness and of course a complete and total lack of respect for their elders.
And now I sound like my grandfather at age 33. The circle of life is complete.
Of course not every child is contemptuous, lazy, mean, etc., but if you’ve been paying attention, you must have some sense that something acute is happening to kid culture. Bullying is out of control. School drop-out rates are higher than ever. Kids are obsessively texting and ignoring their parents. I’m not saying I think children should be expelled for two years for wearing holey jeans, but certainly give them detention, yes. Let’s all agree to stop feeding our children the BS that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, that they can live the American Dream – as if there’s not a huge amount of effort that has to be put into making that dream come true. Because the truth of the matter is, unless you’re a brilliant genius who can find a way to buck the system, you have to be able to work within it, and that means dressing like a self-respecting adult when it’s time to get a job. Even if your office’s dress code allows you to wear jeans.
What do you think? Should public schools be allowed to set dress codes for children? Is there a standard of dress parents and children should live up, no formal dress code policy necessary?
Photo: Teen Vogue