"...And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their world are immune to your consultations, they're quite aware of what they're going through..." David Bowie, "Changes"
Some 100 students decided to defy their adult "consultations" by challenging the stringent dress code. The institution, New York's Stuyvesant High School, recently instituted the code. Like children often do, they decided to rebel, challenging the powers that be, wearing clothing the school deemed "inappropriate". One student, Lucy Greider, claimed to be sent to the dreaded principle's office 10 times due to such infractions. “We work our a**es off here and school is about learning. Clothing is not important", she told the New York Post.
There are of course, those who say Ms. Greider, along with her rebellious peers, are just pampered brats who are shooting themselves in the foot by bucking the system, instead of conforming (Just read the posts from the Huffington Post story, among others). But what irked me, and how I got wind of the story was a Yahoo Contributor Network story by Calvin Wolfe that got my goat. He essentially dressed down (pardon the pun) the students as just that..."Much of the protesting appears to be whining by overindulged, wealthy children. While school-age protests may be called "political" and end up being begrudgingly accepted by authority figures, the teenagers engaging in "slutty Wednesday" protests (and those who may be inspired by the Stuyvesant rebels) will find themselves sorely surprised after graduation." (Mr. Wolf's words). Mr. Wolf also insisted that the students should learn to "jump through hoops". In the interests of full disclosure, Mr. Wolf is a high school teacher.
So in essence, Mr. Wolf, you're saying we should all act like obedient sheep and just do what we're told? Guess the Sons of Liberty didn't get that memo. Ditto for Rosa Parks, Steve Jobs, or any of the other non-conformists who "didn't follow the rules". This is why "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" is still such a powerful meme after all these years...Roger Waters had to endure the authoritarian regime of boarding schools in Great Britain. Had he "jumped through hoops", he would have been an architect. The same could be said for any "failure" who didn't follow the "master blueprint" of the machine.
And that is the crux of my argument...kids are kids, not prisoners. We can either nurture that energy as educators, or we can stifle it with rules. And this is when things can get murky...such as the nightmares unleashed from "zero tolerance" policies, or legislation that has a similar effect (such as DOMA). The bigger picture, is that kids grow up to be adults. That critical period where they can learn to be productive, tolerant, engaged citizens is in the classroom. By sending mixed messages, we create a new class of apathetic citizenry. Why change or call for change, when the system stands by, ready to slam you down to the turf?
You don't have to like what the kids are doing, but the kids are alright...they are testing the system. They are learning. The worst you can do is pigeonhole them as either blank slates or hollow vessels waiting to be filled. Yes, the world needs rules. But it also needs people to challenge those rules from time to time. Otherwise, things get static, systems break down, and progress stalls. We all were young once...but it is truly a blessing to keep a spark of that youth and vitality, and resistance. Otherwise, you're just a sheep, waiting to be slaughtered.