Thanks to David Hoppe for taking my paper critiquing the IPS dress code seriously (News, “IPS Dresses for Success,” March 21-28). People’s comments at the recent IPS meeting and to The Star make me feel the new policy is very divisive, in fact too divisive. The sense that forcing urban youth and IPS’ middle class into the sameness of school uniforms will tear IPS apart makes me feel that the board and administration need to stop and take a closer look at how to “fix” IPS. The so-called public meetings to discuss the dress code are a sham and an insult to the open intellectual debate our public schools stand for. Why would the public be invited to discuss a policy that has already been decided? Doesn’t IPS realize how bad this makes them look?
When institutions and the people who run them become the most impotent, they resort to coercion masquerading as sane, well-thought-out policy. Mandatory school uniforms is a sign we’ve reached the bottom. IPS does not know what else to do but to weed out the powerless and the mavericks, and reward conformity.
We Americans are too intelligent. We can come up with something we can all agree on. We do not have to resort to simplistic and cynical ideas that attempt to force our children to like our public schools. That’s what totalitarian regimes have to do, not us. What kind of message does this send to our children and the world about our society and our schools? Our children are born curious and motivated to learn. We can make learning compelling and wonderful without humiliating them and making ourselves look powerless and desperate.
School uniforms are a cynical and simplistic response from educators and politicians to a post-modern world of social and technological complexities so profound and enormous they produce a stunning sense of suspicion and uneasiness. By convincing ourselves we can control youth culture through school uniforms, we hope to reduce these complexities, finding meaning in a world we are creating to fulfill our dreams — yet one in which we will not be around to experience and be accountable to. That’s why school uniforms are what’s best for adults, not children.