Every year we are treated to dozens of National Dress Code Outrages. A teenager goes to school dressed inappropriately, or hardly at all, and the school is forced to reassert its dress code policies thereby persecuting the poor child and infringing on her basic human right to walk around a school building half-naked.
These stories usually kick into high gear around this time, as the weather gets warmer. Right on cue, we got our first such outrage this week and I’m sure we’ll have 10 or 15 more before the year is through.
It’s true that the schools are often very clumsy and awkward in how they deal with kids who struggle to follow even the most moderate dress code policies. But I don’t much fault them, because they shouldn’t have to deal with it at all. There really isn’t any non-awkward way for an adult to tell some other adult’s kid that she’s not wearing enough clothing. So the schools can either ignore the situation and let their hallways resemble a red-light district, or they can attempt to impose some standard of decorum and decency.
I respect the schools that take the latter approach, and I give them a lot of leeway. I can generally be pretty hard on the school system, but even I must acknowledge that they are in a rather unenviable, if not impossible, position. They must constantly do the things that parents will not do, and have the conversations that parents will not have, with their children.
We were discussing the issue of dress codes and school uniforms in my Facebook group yesterday. I received quite a few messages from exasperated teachers who tell me that kids regularly come to school dressed like “hookers” and “street walkers” (their words, not mine), but there’s nothing that can be done about it. If the parents are alerted to the problem, they will rush to the little darling’s defense and become very indignant that anyone would dare give a wardrobe lecture to their precious child.
Of course, the real source of their indignation is embarrassment. They are embarrassed and they feel personally chastised that a school employee had to mop up after their negligent parenting.
But this is what you get, parents, when you leave the parenting to the school system. If your kid is angry because an assistant principal lectured her about her miniskirt or whatever else, don’t get indignant at the school. The assistant principal was simply doing what you refuse to do. It should have been you giving the lecture. It would have been better coming from you.
But if you won’t, then someone has to pinch-hit. The school system does a lot of pinch-hitting for parents who absolutely refuse to engage in anything that resembles actual parenting. They sometimes pinch-hit poorly, in my opinion, but it is an indictment on America’s parents that they have to step up to the plate in the first place.
Here is an idea: maybe we should instill in our children a sense of dignity and self-respect. Maybe we should teach them that modesty is a virtue. Teach them to be humble. Teach them to dress with class. Teach them to stop seeking attention. Teach them to respect authority. Teach them that etiquette is not oppressive. Teach them to be mature adults in a civilized society.
Many parents have failed spectacularly on every count. It doesn’t seem as though they have even tried. And the schools, as always, are left to fill in the gaps.