That’s how my eleven-year-old son, Michael, reacted when I rold him that a kindergartener in Parma, Ohio, had been suspended for haivng a mohwak haircut. I thought the description was quite funny and very appropriate. For those of you not familiar with what a halfing is, they are a race of humanoids in the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing universe who are very short. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings or seen the movies, Frodo and his fellow hobbits are halfings.
But this post is not about D & D or Tolkien, Iit’s about personal freedom and school dress codes, an issue that Michael no longer has to worry about, since he goes to school online. But his sister Heidi, who attends the local public high school does. Personally, I think dress codes are a good idea, up to a point. Some things are not appropriate for school because they really would be a distraction to education, like a guy in a Speedo or a girl in a bikini, but a haricut?.
I wonder if the reason the mohawk is a distraction is because of the fuss the teachers and adminitration are making over it. I wonder that, if the mohawk is a distraction to the teacher or teachers, it is because of their prejudices. I suspect the kids probably think the mohawk is preety cool. Michael certainly did, In fact, not so long ago, he thought about getting one. We warned him that a mohawk on him would look silly because it would accentuate the roundness of his face. Michael’s hair is a bit on the long side, even after a recent haircut, because he looks better with long hair, and if a kid thinks they look good, it helps bosst their self-esteem and that is important for children.
There are a lot of good thins that can be said about the American educational system as opposed to those of other countires, but there is one big problem. The schools tend to want to make kids conform to the point of absurdity. Teachers and administrators, for the most part [there are always exceptions], stifle individual expression. This is true in things like dress codes, some rules for behavior, and in what and how teachers teach.
As a former college teacher, one of my biggest gripes about freshmen is that these students, recent graduates of the public school system, have not been taught how to think for themselves, In fact, that kind of creativity had been stifled by their high school teachers. Rather, the emphasis im public education is on memorization and following the party line. We are so quick to condemn political propaganda from other countries, yet we do not see that our public edication system is one giant propaganda machine.
For example, the general political propaganda in the local high school follows the views of the conservative Republicans. There is a great deal of jingoistic support among my daugher’s peers for the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies.
Support for the war in Iraq is seen as true patriotism and those who object to it, as I do and as does my daughter, are ridiculed and even viewed as traitors by some. There is lots of support for the Bush policies on immigration, especially the harsh stance on lillegals. What these people don’t realize is that the reason we have so many illegal immigrants in this country is becase, one, so many people want to come to America, and the reason they want to come is because we used to believe and practice the sentiments on the Statue of Liberty; and two, the reason these people are illegals is because the government has been making it harder and harder to be a legal immigrant. If we go back to the rules for immigrants that were in effect when I came to this country (1952) as a legal immigrant, there would not be so many illegals. And if we go back even further to the heyday of immigration to the US, I suspect there would be very few illegals.
What the schools tend to teach is unquestioning support of the government’s policies and that is a dangerous thing in a democracy. A democracy needs people to think for themselves. The government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It is not some omnipotent deity that exists separate from the people it governs, But, too often we Americans act as if the government were that deity.
The only way to counter that and to make the United States of American a true realization of the principles on which it was founded is to have a truly educated populace. A truly educated populace is not one who can name all the Presidents of the United States or knows where Timbuktu is. Rather, it is one that can analyse data and formulate conclusions from that data. It is one that takes a critical look at everything presented to it as data and separates the wheat from the chaff.
The problem for the politicians is, if people are truly educated, if they have learned to analyze everything, if they have learned how to separate the wheat from the chaff, many politicians would end up in the fires with the chaff. An educated electorate scares the bejeeziz out of many politicians, because the electorate then would be smarter than these politicans and would see their bull manure for what it is – crap.
So, support public education that allows our kids to learn to think for themselves. Allow our kids a reasonable amount of creativity appropriate for their age and intelligence.
Finally, getting back to the issue of the mohawk. A haircut should be the provenience of the parents not the schools. But, too often, parents in this country have ceded their parental rights to one arm of the government or another. Lest you’ve forgotten, the public education system is an arm of the government, as it should be to ensure that all children everywhere in this country get a quality education as I’ve defined it above. But, as with any bureaucracy, the education system has been allowed to infringe on areas where it really has no business.
Remember, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. As parents, we must be vigilant that the education our children receive is focused on teaching them the skills they need to be good citizens of a democracy. That means learning how to think critically and how to be creative in finding solutions, not filling their heads with propaganda and prejuce.