More T-Shirts and Dress Message Stories, From Stupid to Dead Serious This Time

31 08 2009

Are you ready for the next class discussion in our graduate seminar on public education communications? 😉

I have a surprise for you all today, if you’re good. But first let’s have inspection, everyone properly dressed, clean nails, bare heads? COD, I don’t understand that geeky sy-fy t-shirt message and it offends me to not get it, so you’ll have to turn it inside out before we can start. Nance, go call your mother (or son) and have someone bring you proper shoes instead of those flip-flops. We’ll wait.

[tapping properly shod foot because Nance is dawdling]

Please know the message war is not just about “science” class any more (never really was, you knew that, right?) Now it’s infecting MATH and MUSIC at school too. Fighting to control not just the curriculum of the textbooks but the curriculum of the t-shirts too.

We Thinking Parents have studied school messages from curriculum to t-shirts to “serious hats.” But now Nance — oh, those shoes are better but stop sulking, your face is part of the message and I require a pleasant expression in this class — found a new school t-shirt controversy and THIS time, school authorities are forcibly taking shirts off kids’ backs that the school gave them to wear as a uniform in the first place! Because a few Unthinking Parents demanded it.

Did you know evolution science is actually religion, and therefore doesn’t belong in school?

tshirt controversy sedalia high school band

The band debuted the T-shirts when it marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. . . While the shirts don’t directly violate the district’s dress code, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action.

. . .Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

Say what?? The Missouri state standards for high schools clearly associate evolution with public education. Don’t they? Oh, I see the Discovery Institute message is being taught there as “public education” and “academic freedom” instead, hmmm.

And it’s not just this one sorry excuse for a parent/teacher who got the message but this public official, a school board member. His public message is that Education will avoid the controversy of thinking altogether, if that’s what it takes to “move forward” as School:

Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education member Michael Stees said it was unfortunate the T-shirt design was misconceived and he hopes the band can just move forward.

“This is an exciting time for the band,” Stees said. “They don’t need any negativity.”

They don’t need no thought control either, you sorry appeasing fraud. What does all this “educational authority” say to the students? Here’s how it translated for one kid who just wanted to defend his fun school band shirts and keep playing brass for the public fair, willing to wear and pretend to believe anything the grownups require: the shirt’s okay because um, god isn’t bad and evolution isn’t good and I just want to play my music, please, what did I do wrong?

“It’s not like we are saying God is bad,” sophomore band member Denyel Luke said. “We aren’t promoting evolution.”

Poor kid. So what he’s learning in band has nothing to do with making music. All he can make out is that he’d better be wary of thinking or believing anything at all. Shame on anyone who dares call THAT educated.

It all reminds me of bizarre civic lessons forced on kids by local wackos in the name of school theatre education.

Final insult added to injury in the band t-shirt fiasco was in making School smile as it is punished, using public education tax dollars to pay the full price of the shirts they let be censored, and agreed to confiscate from the kids. At least they could have been “bought out” by the community members who wanted them gone, the way boosters will buy out a coaching contract when they want someone fired.

Pollitt said the district would now have to absorb the cost of the T-shirts — $700 — that would have been paid for by the band parents.

Okay, the seminar is now open. What’s the hidden curriculum, the real lesson to students in all this, do all you Thinking Parents think?

That students are more like pets owned by crazy old cat ladies than thinking young adults pursuing a real education? Mere foot soldiers (whose feet are not their own to dress as they please and take where they will, much less their minds) or even pawns (who have no feet at all!) in a culture war waiting passively to be moved from place to place by tinpot dictators with battle plans that make no academic or social sense as a coherent whole? That their status as students sets them up as early casualties no matter whose “religion” — in science, music, math or sex education — may ultimately declare victory after they are dead and gone, and have lost all as individuals?

That the only choice left to THEM in the heat of battle, is between blind obedience and reflexive rebellion, either path itself irrational but what does it matter when everything else is too?

Ready for your surprise? It’s not just them. It’s us.

The Anti-thinking Authoritarians are just getting started with kids at school but their curriculum is comprehensive. Even their dress code is universal, planned to put the “public” in “public school” too — check out the Sunday New York Post teaching us all a lesson about t-shirts and flip-flops. On adults. In public. By choice. When dress is *so* not the message that matters. When choosing how best to live and what to believe about what of you will live on after you die, is the real message, what learning to learn is all about. Unless you let this young fashion writer mess with your head.

t-shirt at ted keenedy funeral


At Ted Kennedy’s public memorial on Friday, there were many sad things: Victoria Kennedy’s hopeful smile. Signs in the crowd saying THANK YOU TEDDY. A mother with a son in Iraq clutching an American flag.

But just as sad? The flip-flops.

Mourners also sported short-shorts, undershirts, dirty tees, and many pairs of infamous Crocs. It was a Casual Friday gone horribly wrong, as if everyone’s destination was Fenway Park, not a public casket viewing. . .

Just as sad?? Seriously? This supposedly educated American opinion-maker with a mainstream media platform, claims equivalency between grief for beloved dead family members and T-SHIRTS?

Signs of an education problem, or have we all pretty much lost whatever minds we were born with?

Education (not schooling or indoctrination) is about developing the quality of one’s thought process, which in turn empowers one to individually evaluate who and what is most deserving of respect, starting with self-respect, respect for humanity and for all living creatures. (Most educated philosophers and scientists and Kennedys for example, teach children that love of our neighbors and fellows comes above love of money, status and power.)

But those who were themselves poorly educated will not, cannot trust free human thought to be good and true and beautiful. They can’t have kids actually learning to think for themselves, how would conservative authoritarianism control them then??

“We support whatever steps the school district has to take,” [band director and co-designer of the t-shirt] Summers said.

Well, of course he does. What real choice does he have — quit on principle, in this economy and with a family of his own to feed, over a damn[ed] t-shirt? Poor guy. Poor kids. Poor us.

Never mind debating evolution, arguing over theism, music or math, academic accountability testing or dress code details. Before any of that matters, the core message of public schooling is citizenship education in support of sustaining our civil liberties and national unity, and that’s under fire as never before. Eyes on the prize y’all.

Here’s the punchline, the last surprise message of class today. Here’s a photo of the journalist who equates the sadness of bereaved Kennedys with the lack of respect in wearing a t-shirt.

fashion writer faran Krentcil in Duke t-shirt

In a t-shirt. In a school t-shirt. From a school where she wrote a sex column.

So for those Thinking Parents among you, if you teach your children well the real lessons of such school stories, then by the authority vested in me as Dr. JJ, I hereby empower you to dress them any damn[ed] way you please. . .

Class dismissed. For GOOD.

(Except if you read all the way to this point, you get extra credit for reading and thinking about this.)



19 responses

31 08 2009

I’m sorry, I missed most of your post after you were scolding Nance for flip-flops. I couldn’t get the question on whether my bare feet would be alright or if I needed to put on shoes.

Anyway I could of sworn that I read “Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.” to mean that they are saying that science is a religion now. I must have been too distracted by my feet.

Anyway, I promise to try to focus better next time.

BTW, I really hate to wear shoes before it gets cold, can’t I just tuck my feet under me and you won’t even notice my lack?

31 08 2009
Nance Confer

Here at FU (yes, the actual acronym of our school’s name; DH picked that one 🙂 ) we have no patience for being told what to wear or when. Hell, our latest charge is running around naked half the time! 🙂

So, Meg, you may tuck your bare feet or let them hang out for the world to see.

And, JJ, what? Were you talking to me? 🙂


31 08 2009

You independent homeschool parents are VERY hard to keep in line for spoon-feeding!

31 08 2009

Meg, I absolutely read it that way. Reason and thinking skills in ordinary everyday academics is now so far gone in several states, that public school officials are helping send the message evolution is religion (not science) and thus they must keep it out of the school curriculum and extracurriculum (is that a word??) or else allow it only to the degree they allow religious creationism as science too.

31 08 2009

I so desperately want to be able to write as Kurt Vonnegut would on this matter..of free thinking being a dying art..on both sides, perhaps…

Thanks for the spoon feeding..I needed it! too tired from the move to think coherently but am thinking…thanks for the thought food. 🙂 I believe we should come up with a t-shirt design…what say you?

31 08 2009

Oh, welcome back, Miss Betty, dear, we’ve all missed you!

(You have a signed note from home for these absences though, right? — otherwise I’m afraid my hands will be tied on preventing that truancy investigation. . .)

31 08 2009

I’m for doing our own design, good idea, but judging from my recent word counts, either somebody else better write the message or we’ll need living room drapes instead of shirts.

Two phrases from my pithier days might serve though, one Snook’s current tagline and the other coined for my Dwarfing Pluto, Shrinking Ourselves essay at Culture Kitchen:
Thinking Parents Refuse to Lose Those Head Games
Homeschool Heretics

1 09 2009

Betty’s essay on what mattered more than t-shirts at the Kennedy funeral. I’ll take her take any day, over the sex kitten co-ed sartorial scold . . .

6 09 2009

Except I wore that t-shirt to a dive bar on a Saturday night, and not to a funeral!

I’m pretty specific in the article about the situations that demand a bit more sartorial thought. I’m not saying people should always embrace formality, just when it can serve as a sign of respect to the event you’re attending or the people who are hosting you.

Dive bar? Wear whatever you want.

Funeral for a civil rights leader? Damn straight I’d never wear a t-shirt and shorts. Come on now 🙂

6 09 2009

Gosh, Faran, you caught me in my Sunday morning oversized Gator t-shirt, literally! 🙂

And I don’t care because I’m delighted to have you find us any way at all. (My, the Intertubes keep life interesting for old folks like me! Marc Acito and Jeff Sharlet e.g. have dropped by and surprised the hell out of me in past comment sections.)

I don’t disagree with your point that what’s appropriate DEPENDS, and how there are always differences and nuances people need to learn, understand, weigh and apply in their own daily lives. That was my point all along. Come to think of it, I guess I used your t-shirt to make the same point you used the Kennedy mourner t-shirts to make. And that Americans don’t develop and learn to trust their own independent thinking, when they are taught by both School and Church to just shut up and follow contradictory rules without rhyme or reason — all they learn from that is either submission or rebellion, with or without resentment. No Daniel Pink empathy, sympathy, symphony, play, meaning, or power of story. No Howard Gardner truth, beauty and goodness.

I’m actually much more interested in reading about your college sex column and I was saving that to get to in a future essay. . .

My (J-school) college days were during the last period of complete social upheaval — late 60s, early 70s — when streaking rather than jeans and a t-shirt was the sartorial tsk-tsk, and PlayGirl and Penthouse were on sale at eye level (no cover art blanking-out panels) sans t-shirt or anything else, right in my public university dorm’s gift shop. And we thought nothing of it, thumbed through them openly. A lady lawyer Board of Regents member in our state was calling our dorms “taxpayers’ whorehouses” and you know what that made me. . .

Btw, did you have a nuanced position on the (school) championship lacrosse team’s flipflops at the White House in 2005? Is it the same now as it was then?

6 09 2009

I didn’t know what I’d find but got lucky. You can see by this old article, that Elizabeth Kovachevich was and remains quite the controversial rule-enforcing authoritarian conservative, and her ideas of public education (as in actually educating the public, I mean) were unbelievably shallow, self-serving and condescending, no doubt still are:

Originally published in Tampa Bay Life in 1989
By Bob Andelman

. . .Elizabeth Kovachevich never dreamed of becoming a judge.

After a successful private law practice in St. Petersburg and a term with the Florida Board of Regents — during which she gained notoriety for calling coed dormitories “taxpayers’ whorehouses” — friends started whispering the words “Judge Kovachevich” in her ear.

“I thought, well, they feel I have something to offer,” she recalls. “I was the first woman who ran for circuit judge (in Pinellas County). It wasn’t until after I got into the position that I realized I was doing what I was meant to do.”

Her first campaign sought to get Kovachevich elected and teach the public how to pronounce her last name (Ko-VATCH-uh-vitch). Remembering the old Burma Shave signs that she once saw while driving across America on Highway 66, Kovachevich found the method worked for selling candidates as well as shave cream.

“We put a KO on one sign. Then 50 feet down the road we put the VACH, then the E and the last sign would be VICH. And then we would run another set of them. KO-VACH-E-VICH, KO-VACH-E-VICH. It was like a choo-choo train. All the way up Fourth Street (in St. Petersburg), you could see the signs.”

Three Republican presidents have had a hand in guiding Kovachevich’s career. Richard Nixon appointed her to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships in 1973. Gerald Ford first nominated her to be a U.S. District Judge in 1976, but it took until 1982 for Ronald Reagan — via former U.S. Senator Paula Hawkins’ recommendation — to finally appoint Kovachevich to a lifetime job wearing judicial robes in the Middle District of Florida. She spent two years in Orlando and then transferred to Tampa.

Republican Congressman Bill Young has been a fan of Kovachevich’s since she clerked for him back in 1960 when he was a state senator in 1960.

“She is very intense and determined to do what’s right,” according to Young. Kovachevich, he goes on, is “rather inflexible, but determined to do what in her heart she considers is the right thing.”

6 09 2009

Faran, you’ve been misunderstood (by miseducated people) and so have your parents. Huzzas to all of you! I just went poking around and the “sex” column some jerk said you wrote at Duke, gives me hope for smart girls (and their parents) never mind School or Church —

The sex was a sugarcoating, encapsulating real issues: relationships, loneliness, independence, proper fall footwear. And just like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Norm MacDonald, Carrie Bradshaw was a social critic: funny, self-aware, and over the top. I was in love. . .

Sometimes I worried this column wasn’t a better path. Half the school labeled me Katherine Hepburn reincarnated while some thought I was Satan. But everyone was thinking. That’s all I wanted.

. . .it’s possible to trust oneself, even when others aren’t brave enough to try. . . .But mostly, this column is for my parents, who have taught me I can be anything and everything, sometimes all at once.

7 10 2009
Georgia Boy Says He’s Not Cross-Dresser, Just Creative « Cocking A Snook!

[…] isn’t the answer. It’s not even School that’s responsible for the dangers, so dress codes and other enforced school standards or population control can’t resolve it either: Since the academic year began three weeks ago, five Chicago children have been killed, […]

31 12 2009
Sunday School Science Teacher Costing Schools Credibility and Cool Half-Million « Cocking A Snook!

[…] power of story was found under our secular Christmas tree by unschooled and unchurched Young Son. On a t-shirt of course. Please know the message war is not just about “science” class any more (never […]

7 05 2010
Time for “T-Shirt as a Second Language” Test, Ready? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] No “evolution” shirts in marching band, we can’t have a high school associated wit… Though it was admittedly “not directly against the school’s dress code” and not reasonably construed as anti-bible, even unintentionally, a few offended parent/teachers nevertheless successfully demanded the band’s new shirts be collected, destroyed and replaced with school budget money. […]

5 09 2010
Believer or Not, You Won’t Believe This « Cocking A Snook!

[…] More T-Shirts and Dress Messages, From Stupid to Dead Serious This Time […]

15 11 2010
Private Power of Story in Censorship « Cocking A Snook!

[…] More t-shirts and dress message stories, from stupid to dead serious this time […]

14 06 2014

Schools are finding there is no easy answer.

Last year, students at a Batesville, Miss., high school protested after a senior who was born male but identified as female was allowed to wear women’s clothing. According to local news reports, students felt their classmate was being given preferential treatment and breaking the school’s dress code, which requires students to conform to gender.

If only we the people realized we can use such conundrums to help the student body learn that these issues aren’t simple and easy and rule-solved, and that autocratic adult authority is NEVER the best answer, we finally might move our education system toward third-millennium worthy performance?

14 06 2014

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