the trouble with hats

there are approximately 14,402 small holes in the asbestos filled ceiling tiles above my desk at school…

i know this because i’ve made the count multiple times, over multiple years…

i know this because that’s where i choose to look instead of out and across my classroom…

i know this because looking across my classroom at this time of year is dangerous…

the time of year is spring…and it’s warming up…

and apparently, when it’s spring and when it’s warm…

clothing is optional…

at least for the young women in my classes (the young men have different “clothing issues”, which we’ll get to as well)…

and, if i look up from my desk–and take that risk, i might see something that no one really should be seeing…unless, of course, they’re in a committed, intimate relationship with another person (another adult person), you know…

now, it’s not entirely their fault…sure they’re making choices about what to wear to school or what to “change into” once they get to school…but, ultimately, they’re a product of our society, our culture…we live in a world that puts a freakish amount of pressure on young women to look and dress in a certain way…

i see the effects of that pressure in my classroom every single day (even when it’s not warm out)…young women dressing with “little or no clothing” or clothing that is “super tight or skin-tight” — like it’s painted on, like they’re auditioning to be the next “mystique” (see the x-men movies) …because that’s how they’ve been taught to dress, because that’s what gets them attention…from both the men and the women that they’re around…

it gets the attention of the young men in the classroom because all men “are visual” and it “trips men’s triggers”, so to speak (so say all the teenage magazines and biological/sociological/psychological journals)–so says real life experience, too; for the young women, it can send a different message…like, “see, this is attractive and gets me attention” or “i’m getting attention and you’re not”–and, more importantly and more unfortunately, other females who aren’t dressed this way measure themselves against those that are...the comparison game is on…and that’s a “no win” endeavor (and shoot, i see women of all ages doing this to each other…shows you just how powerful this shtuff can be)…

[i’m scratching the surface here, with appearance and body image…it’s an issue that concerns me as a teacher, and especially, as a father of a daughter…so, this is an issue we’ll definitely return to in a later post]

at this point, you can see one of the reasons why dr. sax argues for separating schools by gender…gender separated schools minimize these issues…

and, because our school isn’t “gender separated”…when i see young women dressed in this attire, i think…

man, school uniforms might not be a bad idea…

[granted, this is coming from a guy who wears sweatpants any chance he gets–and didn’t fully learn “how to dress for success” until his 40’s…and with lots of help from his wife]

this is true for the young men as well, whose most common violations are “sagging pants” and inappropriate images or lettering on their clothing…no one wants to see your pants hanging down…no one wants to see your boxers, fellas…and, no one wants see your miller time shirt t-shirt–or my new favorite, the t-shirt that has rows and rows of little automatic weapons on it–seriously?! (now, that’s a really positive message you’re sending there, son)…

these choices are also the result of what men see in popular media and our society at large…their heroes, the tough guys and thugs dress this way…and, it affects their demeanor, too…

and, once again, when i see young men dressed in this attire, i think…

man, school uniforms might not be a bad idea…

all this to say that…i know that we have a dress code at our school…i just don’t see anyone following it…or enforcing it, you know…

with one exception, that is…

with hats…

in my eight years as a high school teacher, the one item that seems to be a serious violation of our school dress code is–the sports cap… “make sure your kids take their hats off when they come into the building” and “can you have your student take his hat off? i saw him sitting in your class with it on.” – i wish i was kidding, but i’m not–these are things people have actually said to me…apparently, sports caps are the root of all evil, the path to the dark side…

[darth vader didn’t sport so much of hat as a helmet…anyways, i always thought it was fear…fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side 🙂 ]

anyways…not once, have i heard an administrator take issue with “what type of clothing” or “the lack of clothing” kids are wearing to class…

i guess it’s no surprise then, that in a recent online article, posted on a legitimate education website…the primary focus of the author’s angst was students who wore hats to school functions…

and of course…i get why, in certain schools, hats are banned–because of their representation of gang affiliation… and i get that “not taking off your hat indoors”, especially at certain events, is disrespectful…but, neither of these things explain how it came to this, how it got this far…where wearing a hat is tantamount to treason…the ultimate betrayal of our schools clothing norms and rules…

what about the clothing the kids are wearing? what about the clothing they’re “not wearing”?

in today’s world, i can imagine the policy makers and administrators confronting a student who is wearing nothing but a hat…

administrator: hmm, you mind taking your hat off, that’s a clear violation of school policy.

student: sure, anything else?

administrator: no, you’re good.

for me, this is one more example of “not dealing with the real issues”…in this case, hats are a small part of a larger problem–what kids are wearing to school–so, deal with the real issue and make a change in school dress codes, in how we deal with what kids are wearing to school every day…and we’ll see some great things happen…like learning …and “the hat issue” will disappear, too…

in other words, i’m talking about building a culture of respect

1. self-respect (what an individual feels/knows about who they are–one aspect of this relates to what students know/feel about who they are when they wear appropriate clothing);

2. “other-respect”…respect from peers, teachers, other school employees and other professionals (when students wear appropriate clothing);

and “how you’re dressed” could definitely include uniforms…

uniforms support a culture of respect…and more…

uniforms help build equality and unity as well…require uniforms and you take away something that kids use against other kids–you take away their ability to wear social class and status on their sleeves…require uniforms and you take away the “teen celebrity” and lay the foundation for unity, for community…require uniforms and you take away the “me” and move towards the “we”…

 

respect, equality, and unity…

 

it sounds like this…

 

i am worthy.  you are worthy.

 

i treat myself with dignity.  i treat you with dignity.

 

i am for you.  i am with you.  we are in this together.

 

recommended readings: “boys adrift” (2007) and “girls on the edge” (2010) by dr. leonard sax.

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