In response to posts on student dress codes, a reader writes:

“I was watching this high school football game once. A receiver caught a beautiful pass and was virtually uncovered, free to score. A lone opposing player made a fantastic but obviously futile effort to stop the receiver, reaching out and maybe getting one or two fingers on the sprinting receiver. The receiver should have scored, but did not. Instead the kid turns to confront the defensive player, and then it was all over. The defense rained on the receiver.

This reminds me a lot of dress codes and other popular student issues. Beyond making sure students show up safe and decent, what is the educational purpose of a dress code? To teach values? Who’s values? Do you really believe that a kid with a shirt not tucked in can’t learn algebra?

I am all for teaching values, but it seems to me we should put the intense focus on values after we master the fundamentals. Perhaps we focus on ancillary issues because we simply don’t have the courage to improve our fundamentals?

How many schools out there send students to some form of in school suspension for being tardy? Is being on time important? Absolutely. Important enough to deny a child education for a day? Sometimes I think if dumped all of our programs and distracters and put all of our energy into developing the fundamentals of education we would be better off.”

SC Response
I can argue pro or con for dress codes, though my personal preference is pro. I think they are useful for preparing students to meet middle class employment expectations and I think they help build a sense of unity and esprit de corp. That’s one reason why the military, sports teams and gangs dress alike.

On my campus, I want everyone to know that they are a member of my team. That being said, there is a caveat. If adults don’t have a dress requirement that is at least as professional as the students, then don’t have a student dress code. It strikes as the height of hypocrisy to hold students accountable for something that we are not willing to demonstrate and model.

I’ll paraphrase your final question and explain why I think you are on the wrong track. You ask, ‘If we didn’t worry about all the inconsequential staff and just focused on academics, wouldn’t everyone be more productive?’ The answer is no. It has been my experience and observation that campuses led in this fashion quickly get into trouble. I have two theories for this.

1. Organizations operate most effectively under common assumptions, common expectations, common language, and common procedures. There is nothing common in “everything.” Everything is not a system. Everything is chaos.

2. Most adults and every adolescent gets a surge of adrenaline and victory when then get “over” on authority. For example, how do you feel when you speed past a cop on the freeway, and then don’t get pulled over? When there is no expectation in which to get “over,” one has to keep ramping up the deviance to get noticed by authority. Therefore, pick your battle. When you are constantly nagging students about shoelaces, their energy is directed towards deviant shoelaces, not more destructive and dangerous behaviors.

However to reiterate, whatever expectation you have for students, adults must be held to the same or higher standard.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…