Monday, December 10, 2007

Do The Clothes Make The Artist?

Tonight's meeting of the Akron School Board may be a rip-snorter with parents up in arms over plans to have their kids follow a city-wide dress code; there's lots to talk about on a bid by some Miller South School for the Performing Arts protest and just how disruptive it will be to mandate the little darlings wear appropriate clothes.

By "appropriate" we mean the standards voiced by the Akron School Board; should Miller South students be permitted to blow off the rules because they're "special"? My colleague Eric Mansfield makes the point in his Have I Got News For You blog as well as during a spirited debate on NewsNight Akron last weekend: these kids have already been singled out as unique and worth getting a pass from the rules that govern everybody else. Parents reason their little performers should be allowed more creativity because, after all, that's why they fought to get them into Miller South in the first place. Anything less, they reason, infringes on their creativity and creates instead an undue burden.

Whoa. According to that scenario we shouldn't have dress standards for other "centers for excellence"; after all, Firestone's theater and international studies kids are certainly "unique" so do they get a pass? Buchtel and Garfield play some serious football, so should those teams get "unique" passes too? What about the kids going to private schools such as St. Vincent-St. Mary and Hoban -- they actually wear uniforms but I'm not seeing a huge drop in collegiate admission scores because the kids saw their creativity limited by the big bad headmaster holding them to reasonable dress code expectations.

Fact of the matter is: how much of a brain drain do public schools have when parents and students worry more about what the kids wear (or what they're allowed to wear) versus what they're learning? Some of the more dress-restrictive schools in Summit County are in fact the highest-performing academically (not to mention Walsh, SVSM, CVCA and Hoban usually kick butt in athletics on a fairly regular basis, too) and I'd hold the creative energies of students pointing to careers in the arts aren't impacted in the least by the dress code.

The point of public education is a standard for all, not the few. Selling the protest under the cloak of "my kid is special" seems to ignore the fact Miller South is, after all, a public school and not an elitist institution standing apart from the rest of the Akron district.

Proud parents have every right to want the best for their children, and the curriculum at Miller South promoting artistic creativity ought to be front and center for protesting parents -- not the worry they might have to use a rest room to change into their dance togs. Athletes and performers in every other Akron school live by their rules and fair is fair.

I can only imagine the response if I'd come home telling Mom and Dad how unhappy I was because I wasn't allowed to wear my favorite clothes and how that would make me a lifetime loser because I didn't get my way at ten years of age; Dad's size tens would be quick to follow.

How do we get to these points where the students run the schools and the parents?

1 comment:

  1. Ed,
    All good points .. and good discussion too.
    For what it's worth, you're not mentioning that Miller South is the only school of your "elite" list that requires auditions .. and I think that's key here.
    When the student-athletes you mention at these fine parochial schools start fighting for entrance to their scholar-sports programs, then we'll be comparing apples to apples.
    But as it stands now, MS's requirements mean students there aren't in the same fruit bowl as everyone else .. and those requirements redefine MS as anything but just another public school as you refer.
    That's a key point, at least to me.
    As always, good discussion both on the web and on the air ... and as for that dress code for NewsNight Akron, count me in when it comes to mandatory tuxedos.