Related Snook dress code story and comments here.
Hurricane-weary and self-professed education governor Jeb Bush was on my capital city local radio this morning, describing the need for ordinary Floridians to create and foster a “Culture of Preparedness” if we’re to survive and thrive. The general idea is that the most expensive and clever government systems ever devised can’t save us from ourselves or each other in ordinary life, much less in natural and manmade disasters — that in the end we will each save ourselves or not, and society’s culture can only influence how and whether we prepare ourselves wisely and well.
It seems to me this is the right idea for improving public education too— changing the whole culture that influences how well kids prepare themselves for parenthood, citizenship and career. Not just changing their shirts!
(Or their pencil-bubbling techniques, but that’s a whole other rant.)
Which reminds me that School itself fosters drug and gang cultures — ritalin, steroids, cliques and mascot-crazed teams that haze, rumble, riot and sport shirt symbology profitably endorsed by the institution. For just one academic example, see “redshirting.”
The power of this dress code story is in how well-worn but ill-fitting it continues to be after all these years.
It’s the Culture, Stupid. Change their culture, change their world, which put in current culturally relevant terms might evoke “save the cheerleader, save the world”– and saving her doesn’t mean fretting over her algebra grade, much less clucking at her cleavage and throwing an old shirt over it in the guidance office…
Kids and teens live in a very real culture even if it seems like a comic book, one that School does not control or define (much as it wants to believe otherwise) and marginalizes itself further by refusing to engage.
Also this morning I read a new book review headlined, “Reluctant Warrior” (is the best school culture can create Reluctant Learners?) quoting Colin Powell’s big sister on dress code spit-and-shine that DOES have power to shape culture and thus shaped his life choices:
When her kid brother exhibited a strange new passion for church-going, Marilyn Powell decided he was “as much enthralled with the pageantry and costumes as he was imbued with the Holy Spirit.”
A few years later, when Colin Powell, an otherwise aimless freshman
at City College in New York, enrolled in the R.O.T.C. program, those who knew him best would conclude that he was less interested in serving his country than in the spit and the shine.
What attracted him more than anything else was their uniforms,” Karen DeYoung writes in her account of Powell’s life.
“The young cadets looked sharp in their dark brown shirts and ties and gleaming brass buckles.
Compared to his solitary, stumbling progress through college, they seemed to belong to something and to know where they were going.”
The young Colin Powell seems to have been a character in search of a role, who sensed that it would be easier to play if it came with a costume. . .