Time for “T-Shirt as a Second Language” Test, Ready?

7 05 2010

If you were here for this, get your serious thinking hats ready for this:

That wasn’t the only symbolic protest on Cinco de Mayo. About 20 students showed up at Pioneer High School wearing “Border Patrol” T-shirts. By the end of the day, administrators asked them to remove the shirts, which they apparently did with no problems . . .

Snook’s community of thinking parents host ad hoc honors seminars from time to time: Harry Potter and book banning, homeschool hegemony and the parents’ rights movement, Sarah Palin and fightin’ mad white women. One of the topics that just keeps on giving is the power of story in school speech and dress codes, particularly combined on t-shirts.

No “evolution” shirts in marching band, we can’t have a high school associated with gasp, science! 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.

There was no issue of students (or their parents?) starting a riot at school over the marching band shirts, or none I recall. One boy sent home in another state — for wearing his heritage-proud kilt to school — was told it was for his own safety, to prevent not a riot but just stereotypical school bullying (for wearing girly clothes, as the principal saw it.) Another boy was sent home for “being disruptive”, supposedly, when he wore Pastafarian pirate regalia to school. Were all the anti-pirate toughs about to beat him up too?

Confederate battle flags and t-shirts in the South do start school riots, disrupt “the learning environment” and get kids hurt for real, never mind the slogans and songs — been there, done that, let’s don’t play it again:

With the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear the case, this leaves in place the lower court’s August 2008 ruling that upholds the school’s policy. The appeals court states that the school officials could reasonably forecast that the image of the flag could “substantially and materially disrupt the school environment.”

And then we come to 2010’s Cinco de Mayo (a Mexican patriotic anniversary) at a school that’s 40 percent Latino, in a state next door to the xenophobia currently infecting Arizona, many students proudly wearing Mexican flag shirts. Five boys decide it’s a good day for their giant American flag shirts at school, intentionally counterprogramming against the day’s celebration of minority identity.

God Bless America, right?

“If the principal believes there will be a riot, then he can ban the shirts,” Scheer said. “But if he thinks students are just going to be angry, it’s not good enough.”

Fagerstrom said the parents met with an assistant superintendent Wednesday evening who wanted to hear all the sides. At an earlier meeting, Principal Nick Boden and Rodriguez indicated to her that they were worried about the safety of the American-flag boys.

[From official statement]:. . .”While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken.”

Was the school safety concern reasonable in this environment? Does it matter?

Their first class discussion was about the complex meaning of identity, thinking critically about how (and why) you define who you are as an individual within any society — or mob — relentlessly pressing individuals to conform with (often quite radical) norms.

Stubborn symbolic belief in “who we are” beyond all reason and science is all some folks have, the only story with any power to put them on top of a social group, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief. . .

So where does that leave us in practical everyday school terms, with real kids living our principles?

Meanwhile, the school’s junior-senior prom is Saturday. “I’m kind of nervous about it,” said senior Marina Schlaefli. “I’d rather this whole thing had never happened. It’s making our school look bad, and it’s not a bad school.”

Been there, done that too:

We the diverse and contentious student body of a recently desegregated public high school, couldn’t agree on which band would play what kind of dance music. . . The one thing it turned out our schooling gave us in common then, was learning that lesson the hard way.



6 responses

7 05 2010

Favorite Daughter (now 20 and a university senior) has been passionately advocating for the “free speech no matter what” pov. I’m arguing from the school principal responsibility for the learning environment and everyone’s conflicting rights pov. We’re having some fun in our kitchen. 😉

7 05 2010

Adding school-to-work learning to this power of story:

But even in those days of greed and excess including fake nails at $100 a month (yes, I had them for a couple of years) it wasn’t about the bucks you spent [on clothes] but the bang you got for them careerwise. How well they communicated the power of story you were spending them to present.

The whole point was to wear clothes that wouldn’t be an issue! – remove them from any notice so that subconsciously it would seem like they meant no more to you than any of the other guys.

Much like a school dress code.

FavD and I are talking about what the different clothes-choosers in the Cinco de Mayo school t-shirt story, intended to communicate and how they were using clothing to communicate it, as a self-interested strategy.

And what about the kids wearing all-white to school today, intending to communicate a united peace message rather than take sides? Are they the minority and in danger of being beaten up, or will they wind up visually showing their politics to be the majority, without fighting any rival gangs, and thereby redefine their school (even national?) population . . .

8 05 2010

In these cases, T-shirts are just being used like the IRL version of snarky facebook posts. Personally, I advocate for “asshat-free no matter what.”

8 05 2010

Aha, and there are no hats allowed at school, not even hats for the ass.
So much for asshats! 😉

8 05 2010

Came across this old snooking around re: school discipline and the Confederate Flag:
We’re Gonna TRAIN the Lad!

12 05 2010

Not to overlook the Stonewall Riots and the dress code aspects of that disaster . . .

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