"Mackenzie sophomore Kent Wells, 16, said it constrains student identity. 'We don't get to show who we really are,' he said. 'I don't want to be like everyone else.'Ms. Hethorn sees mixed messages because adults don't know what the message is. Mackenzie High senior Candace Ogletree is pretty close:
That's the conflict that surrounds many dress codes, said Janet Hethorn, an associate professor of apparel design who specializes in youth style at the University of Delaware.
Students are told they need to value diversity, critical thinking and creativity, she said.
'Then we are telling everyone to look alike,' Hethorn said. 'We are giving such mixed messages to kids these days.'"
"[Ogletree] says she has adjusted to the code. The issue, she says, is not with distracting clothing but students' attitudes.And that's where diversity, critical thinking, and creativity belong in school, your mind. The message we need to teach kids is that their clothing doesn't make them unique. Clothing doesn't make you special. The influences that belong in school should come from reading, not FUBU. Creativity and critical thought are exercised and expressed through writing and solving mathematical problems, not body piercings and Abercrombie & Fitch. Students are members of a scholastic society that improves their lives and lifts their circumstances and prospects, something gang colors will not afford them.
'A child won't learn if they don't want to,' she said. 'It's not really about what you have on -- it's your mind.'"
Though the teacher's union has already taken a defensive position on dress codes for teachers it would be preferred if teachers wouldn't wait for their gang (er.. union) leaders and set an example by following the dress code without using it as a leverage for the next contract.
Promoting the myth that clothing expresses individuality is as superficial and wrong-headed as skin color defining your identity. We are all more than we appear to be on the outside. Reinforcing that with school dress codes may help that message get through to students, teachers, and parents alike -- and not just in Detroit, but throughout the state.