Saturday, December 24, 2011

Keep Your Shirts On

Keep Your Shirts On
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 24, 2011

The administrators at the Oak Hill School in Newton, MA must have acorns for brains.

Taking political correctness to its most vituperative point yet, this suburban Boston middle school is banning the wearing of what it calls “celebratory clothing” in the schools serving grades six through eight.

Such clothing would include articles that refer to a classmate’s recent celebration such as a birthday, bar or bat mitzvah or sweet 16 (which presumably would be for a 10th or 11th grader).

In a continuing attempt to coddle children and protect them from the big bad world outside the four walls of the sanitized school community, Oak Hill principal Eva Thompson said “we’re trying to be as inclusive as possible,” noting that the wearing of such celebratory garments would hurt the feelings of those students who were excluded or not invited to such events.

While Thompson said this is not enforceable school policy and no punishment will be meted out against the violators of this suggested practice, she also noted that class time is being used to discuss this issue. And one wonders why the United States educational system is in such crisis and falling further and further behind the rest of the civilized world.

Not only is such a discussion a colossal waste of time, time that should be spent on academics, but entertaining it as a potential punishable policy is beyond ludicrous. Administrators and teachers need to stop coddling their students and students need to learn sooner rather than later that the world is full of disappointment and uninvited parties.

First there are sports leagues that don’t keep score and award all its participants a trophy. That simply is not how the real world works, but there are supporters of this clothing policy, excuse me, suggestion, who believe that is exactly how the real world should work. Well, I’m sorry, this isn’t Fantasy Island and I am not Mr. Roarke. The real world has winners and losers and the sooner children learn how to lose graciously as well as win the same way – I fervently believe in sportsmanship – the easier they will adapt to the real world.

After all, if these middle schoolers are prohibited from wearing the aforementioned garments for fear it might hurt the feeling of their classmates, will the prom be cancelled when they reach high school if not all the students have dates for such a momentous occasion?

Where will it end? Will students be told they can’t wear the jersey of the winning super bowl team because some of their classmates rooted for the losing team and their feelings might be hurt? Will the school bar its own athletes from wearing their own team jerseys on game day simply because some of their classmates didn’t make the team?

My high school football team wore its jerseys on Fridays prior to the Saturday game as a way to inject some school spirit into the building and encourage more people to attend the game. No one’s psyche was damaged by that because they were not part of the team. I know, I was one of those students not physically talented enough to play any of the sports – I wanted to, but my talents lie elsewhere.

Should schools not have writing societies, student newspapers or poetry slams because not all the students are talented enough to participate? What are those students who get rejected by colleges going to do if they do not know how to handle rejection?

Rejection is part of life. The guy doesn’t always get the girl; the applicant doesn’t always get the job; we’re not all going to be professional athletes, president of the United States or CEO of a Fortune 500 firm – that’s life.

It’s already bad enough that so many schools have sanitized themselves to the point that songs mentioning Christmas cannot be sung during a winter concert, that displays of Christmas and Chanukah are banned, that even the exchange of holiday specific greetings are frowned upon.

If the school, or any school, seeks to prevent what they envision as potential problems due to wardrobe concerns, make the leap and require uniforms of the students. I taught at schools with uniform/dress code demands and I support it as a workable plan.

If you think this unofficial policy is as absurd as I think it is, call Principal Thompson at Oak Hill Middle School, 617-559-9200 and politely offer your thoughts on the matter.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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