Why High School Sucks, Part XXXVII

|

From the Arizona Republic (courtesy of radio luminary Ernest Hancock):


Sideways ballcap lands Scottsdale teenager in jail

By most accounts, Marlon Morgan is a great kid. The soft-spoken junior plays basketball for Saguaro High School. He was nominated for Youth of the Year last year by a branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Scottsdale.

So why were his classmates wearing "Free Marlon" T-shirts last week?

The 17-year-old had just been arrested on campus during lunch for wearing his baseball cap sideways instead of to the front and refusing to turn it the other way….

Morgan was suspended from school for three days, beginning Monday when Saguaro returns from spring break. Though he was held in a jail cell at police headquarters for several hours, he wasn't charged. He was held on suspicion of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a police officer, trespassing and interfering or disrupting an educational institution.

It surely didn't help that Morgan is black in a school with very few African-American students. Whole revolting story here.

Forget Columbine. Aren't stories like this the reason audiences cheered the explosive ending of Rock 'n' Roll High School, which seems more and more like a documentary with every passing year?

NEXT: Taking Parts

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. A fundamental premise of the non-violent conflict resolution section I teach concealed handgun students is that in a verbal confrontation the person with the most flexible response has the most legitimate control over the outcome.

    Too bad all they teach school faculty members is zero tolerance.

    Oh, I forgot. It’s the fault of guns, movies, and video games. None of which are available on campus.

  2. “He was held on suspicion of disorderly conduct”

    The hell? What is that all about? Like “Someone reported some disorderly conduct and we think it was him?”

  3. But look on the bright side–having just won the Arizona Legal Lottery, that kid will never have to work a day in his life. Good for him. My only complaint is that the money he’s awarded in his eventual lawsuit will come from the school budget, rather than the wallets of the principal, police officers et cetera.

  4. It is against school policy to wear hats sideways because it can be a sign of disrespect for authority” is disingenuous. The sideways hat is feared because street gangs have used that as a recognition sign. Now, I’m not clued into how vicious the gang problem is in Scottsdale, but I’d bet this is the source of the overreaction. That they singled out the kid with the browner skin to come down on, leaving his paler classmates alone, doesn’t say much for the faculty, either. Of course, the kids who think “That’s just how the style is now,” are not too bright, either. They never heard of the hat/gang connection?. Pull the other one.

    Consider what would have been done at a private school. The vice-principal could have just confiscated the hats of everyone violating the rule. If public school teachers’ pinkies had brushed the curly locks of any one of them, hello lawyers!

    Just a dysfunctional system dysfunctioning as usual.

    Kevin

  5. Kevin, that is just the style now. I, for one, find it annoying, to the point where I want to go up to a guy and ask, “did you know that your cap is on sideways?” Unless, of course, there’s some encroaching gang activities among certain New England college students that I have seen, lately.

    Maybe some gangs, somewhere, do use it as a recognition sign. Wearing red might be a gang recognition sign, too. Are we going to ban all red clothing?

  6. At a private school it would certainly be reasonable to have a code of conduct, including dress standards. Then, if someone doesn’t want to obey the rules, they’re out of there. Very simple and clean. Jail is certainly not needed.

    The problem with a public school is you have to pay for it whether you want it or not. Thus, the school is obligated let everyone in and to tolerate a lot of bad behavior. The incessant bad behavior then draws a predictable occasional over-reaction.

  7. What do you mean, the END of Rock ‘n Roll High School? That movie had an ending? Guess I dozed off or something.

  8. One of the things that really touched me about the otherwise questionable movie Bowling for Columbine was how it portrayed America’s fear of teenagers. I thought high school was bad when I was growing up. My old sardonic quips about it more closely resembling a state prison are becoming less and less of a hyperbole.

    Sideways hats? Those aren’t even a gang symbol anywhere I’ve heard of. At least not like colors and insignias. Maybe in a few years the Orange Crush squad will be giving anal cavity searches and randomly frisking kids for shivs.

    Rock’n’Roll High School is slowly becoming Animal Farm.

  9. You know, it would have saved everyone a lot of grief if administrators could have just asked him politely to take the damn cap off.

    But that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it?

    At first, when these zero tolerance issues come up on any of the local radio squawk shows, most of the callers were offended by the complete stupidity these rules represent. However, the last few times the topic of school expelling or disciplining a child for some “offense” has come up, I’m hearing more and more people call in to say that “rules are rules” and “we have to teach children to respect authority.” Blame it on Columbine, or 9-11, or the wave of arch-conservatism that has swept America since Dubbya took office, but this country and the people who live it are beginning to scare me.

    P.S. Don’t tell more for an instant that if this were a white kid he’d be treated the same way. Not in lily-white Arizona.

  10. Shoot, I meant to say Animal Factory. Interesting slip there.

  11. I recall someone who was suspended with recommendation for expulsion in ’96 for having a cellphone. She was likely to graduate and go to an ivy league school and was captain of many sports teams. Her reasoning was that it was a waste of her time to wait in line for an hour to use a phone during lunch time while everyone was using the payphones when should could make the necessary call to her mom and be done with it.

    She was white and the justification was that it was for anti-gang/drug dealing nonsense. They have really become bankrupt of all morality in the schools. That was an experience that I saw from the sidelines and was totally not invested in but it was one of my first flashes of libertarianism where I truely saw there was no point to much of the bureaucratic horseshit that is out there.

  12. He was trespassing? Sounds like he was at school just like the law requires.

    I guess if the principal tells you to do something and you don’t you’re trespassing. If you leave, you’re truant or violating (in many cities) the daytime curfew.

    I also would like to know why it’s a crime to disobey a police officer when he tells you to do something unrelated to his duties. Does this mean I have to stand on my head if ordered to do so lest I be arrested for not listening?
    If the school police want this kind of power, they should be required to extensively justify every order that is even slightly outside of what is absolutely necessary for their duties and/or necessary to conduct an investigation of a crime that has just taken place.

    This same concept should also apply to schools since they are using the police to enfore school rules unrelated to actual law (“interfering or disrupting an educational institution”). If the principal wants to have the arrest powers of the police at his disposal when students don’t listen to him, then the things that he can order students to do needs to be limited to only that which is and this needs to be extensively justified each and every time the principal wants to use that kind of power.

    Basically, the police and school officials should be made to explain each and every time they use arrest powers to enforce an order they give. This should cut down on abuse.

  13. I read the linked article and I am starting to question my support for this young kid. it sounds like they did try and talk with him. they asked him to come to the office so they could talk to him. he made a stink. he was the one who stood up and said “put the cuffs on me.” i have a suspiscion that he was being kind of an a-hole, asked for it and then, when he got what he asked for, he didn’t want it any longer. Why is it that people think that they should be given a free pass for their acts of civil disobedience? i am not sure about the facts on this particular case but this demand that the universe be impressed with rebelliousness is kind of grating.

  14. Whoops

    “…needs to be limited to only that which is *Critical* and this needs to be extensively…”

  15. Mike A–
    Even assuming the school’s version is the true one and the kid was being an asshole, so what? Being an asshole toward authority figures who harp about your hat is what teenagers are supposed to do. Suspend this kid if you must, but there’s no need to arrest him.

    I say this as a teacher who had less disciplinary problems than many of my colleagues, because I saw no reason to punish kids for things like applying ChapStick in class, or wearing their hats sideways. (Actually, at my school hats were verboten altogether. But the principle remains the same.)

  16. I have a huge problem with “zero tolerance” (which often plays out as “zero intelligence”), but especially with the message, “Just say no,” which translates to “Just don’t think.” Isn’t there enough of that going around without putting an ad campaign behind it?

  17. Folks, the “hats worn turned in a particular direction” = gangster theory is much believed by law enforcement and private security departments. “The Chicago Police Department trained staff to recognize the drawings, colors and signs gangs use. The police fax updates to the school monthly. “It might be one pant leg turned up, the other down. A hat turned to a 2 o?clock tilt,” she says.” From:

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/02-99/029crawford.htm

    Does this “fashion” get copied by those who don’t know what it means, at least temporarily, to the gang-bangers? Yes. Does this mean that every kid wearing a hat of a certain color or pointed in a particular direction, in fact, a gang member? No. Might the school be months or years behind on its “intelligence” about local gangs? That sounds about right.

    Kevin

  18. Arizona. The state of chain gangs, pink underwear and striped suits. What do you expect?

  19. People complain about school being too lax on discipline!!

    Hats are not allowed to be worn at most high schools.
    Red and blue handkerchiefs are forbidden at some schools.
    Having one or the other pant leg rolled up a bit is forbidden
    –right and left signs, one for the Crips, one for the Bloods.
    Anyone who doesn’t think those signs mean something,
    only needs to walk the walk down the wrong street.

    As for Morgan I can’t say if security handled it right.
    Security forces at high schools are generally LOW paid —
    talk about going back to school, they do it.
    From the article, which obviously sensationalized the title
    since it wasn’t a case of walking up to the kid and saying,
    “Your hat is sideways so you are under arrest.”
    I wonder if the article did tell the whole story?

    Why is security going around enforcing dress code?
    Normally security is there for safety and order.
    Once the teachers can’t control a student,
    then security is called on to TAKE control.

    Could have gone like this:
    Teacher directs the student to comply with rule.
    Student refuses to redirect, talks back in front of crowd.
    Teacher directs student to leave the area.
    Student defies the direction of the teacher.
    School official tells student he is suspended.
    Student refuses to leave on his own accord.
    Official give ample time, charges student with trespass,
    calls for law enforcement to remove the student.
    Student still argues, refuses, and disrupts doing so.
    School Resource or Security arrest student, use cuffs.
    Student resists arrest by law officer.
    Officer uses pepper spray to subdue the arrested student.
    This is the way it happens at K-mart, or school.

    Of course, they could annouce to all violating dress code,
    then take names and suspend all who don’t comply.
    If student comes back to school when suspended,
    that is trespass and arrest is ordered.

    Of course, if the student is a juvenile,
    there isn’t much going to happen even if arrested.

  20. I hope this kid does sue the school district, and I’ll be doubly glad when the taxpayers have to foot the bill. After all, it’s the taxpayers who hired the idiots who make up these stupid rules in the first place. They may as well be accountable for their actions.

  21. Rebelling would be a natural response. After all, the system is unfair and nonsensical to him, how much respect could he have?
    When I was in elementary and middle school, we could not wear any clothing with a sport team’s logo on it. Because gangs used these as their signs. By the time I got to high school, everyone wore clothes plastered with logos. While it’s possible they could’ve all been in gangs, it’s doubtful. Things that start out as gang signs work their way into popular culture and are copied by kids. I’m not up to speed on what the kids are doing these days, so I couldn’t tell you if sideways hats are a local thing or if it’s just another (stupid) fashion trend that, yes, may have had its roots in gangs.

  22. Today’s gang signifier is tomorrow’s fad among suburban teenagers. Per cdpeterson’s comments above regarding Scottsdale, I’d say this is definitely a case of the latter.

    At my high school (about 10 years ago) a guy came to school in androgynous goth garb complete with black lipstick (this was not very common in our area at the time). He was suspended for refusing to take the lipstick off.

    The next day no fewer than 40 kids (including several honor students) came to school in full-on drag. They got sent home, but were not suspended. They came back the next day dressed the same, about 20 more added to their number. The situation repeated itself several times over the next few weeks.

    At some point the administration (no doubt influenced by the teachers who were getting really tired of having to deal with this) got the bright idea to just start ignoring them. Oddly enough, guys stopped wearing dresses to school shortly thereafter.

  23. From Gadfly: Arizona. The state of chain gangs, pink underwear and striped suits. What do you expect?

    That’s a petty statement. I hope you were kidding. I lived in Arizona (Phoenix, Tempe, Cave Creek and Mesa) for years. I have a couple friends that attended Saguaro HS years back (before the zero tolerance BS kicked in). What? Do you think Arizona is simply a land of thugs? What a fleeting assumption of a whole state.

    Scottsdale (or Snobsdale as we used to speak of it) is like a giant gated (or so it wishes to be) pasty white bow-before-us community that borders on Indian reservations to the east and conjoined to a metropolis where there is no clear majority of nationalities….or not so much anymore. Scottsdale speaks for Scottsdale, not the rest of Phoenix, but it has all the old money.

    That said, I think their fear of the “side hat” is misplaced. Saguaro HS isn’t exactly full of kids from the wrong side of the tracks, and, based on lousy info, assumed the kid was a miscreant. It’s probably a cultural division thing overblown.

    I can understand the gangsta mentality from the 80’s where being red/blue/blood/crip garbage. This was well documented and analyzed by law enforcement types. And…..kids can be asshats too. that’s what they do: rebel.

    I agree with others here: just take off the damn hat. No arrests necessary. I bet that kid rebels even MORE now.

  24. Brian, that is a perfect ending to a harmless incident. Would that all schools acted the same.

  25. It is a slow day at the blog or I wouldn’t be weighing in on this.

    I have taken up a supscription to print Reason perhaps a dozen times over the years…and I always let it lapse after a time– and this sort of “Brickbats” piece is usually why I tire of the journal.

    On the blog, I mostly don’t even read the post through once I recognise what kind of offering it is. It simply doesn’t merit the time, and the “artificial stimulant” for canned outrage is the sort of thing any sensible citizen tries to avoid, anyway.

    Apart from the fact that nobody really has a take on the situation that is much more than purely subjective, nothing analytical is going on here.

    Sure, all the schools need to be private…and then private administrators can impose a draconian regime on kids with impunity.

    I agree actually, in principle.

    But how does this sort of ACLU-style ankle-biting help to determine what mix of latitude and discipline should pertain in the public schools we HAVE, and will retain through the next generation, at least?

  26. Next thing you know they’re going to start arresting kids for wearing their pants, shirts, shoes, glasses, and hair sideways.

  27. Folks, the “hats worn turned in a particular direction” = gangster theory is much believed by law enforcement and private security departments.

    It reminds me of the supposed “profiling” (“No, we don’t use race”) for drug couriers at airports. The “Experts” have testified, at various times, that getting off near the front of the line is suspicious, because it shows the person hurrying to get away to avoid scrutiny. They’ve testified that getting off near the end of the line is suspicious because the person is hanging back to avoid scrutiny. And they’ve testified that getting off in the middle of the pack is suspicious because the person is trying to get lost in the crowd.

    In short, these “experts” are simply coming up with ex post facto theories to justify what they’ve already decided to do.

    I don’t doubt that a gang somewhere once wore a hat sideways — but what percent of people wearing a hat sideways do you think belong to a gang? If the school bans everything — and note that they didn’t make this “gang” claim — that a gang once wore, students are going to be naked.

    As for “disrespect for authority,” someone ought to tell these school officials that respect has to be earned.

  28. So which gang is Flava Flav in? This reminds me of the time Robert Bork confidently called Nine Inch Nails’ “Big Man with a Gun” gangsta rap. Older people can say the dumbest things when they try to interpret youth culture.

  29. Even if a cap or pant leg or whatever is a gang sign, what’s the point of banning them? Does removing the sign remove what’s behind it? Public education bewilders me.

  30. Jennifer,

    I’m not suggesting you should do anything one way or the other. I’m saying that, even if your concern over these behaviors was higher than it is, you would be powerless to do anything about it, which did not used to be the case, but now is. This is because personal rights and liberties have expanded only for those who advocate the freakish, the deviant, the off-center and the perverse. We aren’t even supposed to use those words anymore.

    I attended my county Democratic convention on Saturday where I was accused of not being for “civil rights” because I mentioned to a spikey-haired 20-something bulldyke that I had a particularly high “rat’s ass factor” concerning adding or subtracting two words from a platform plank concerning same-sex marriages and civil unions. Not debating the plank, mind you, it was in the platform to stay, the debate was only about a friendly amendment that made no particular difference in the character or tenor of the proposal.

    It seems that as the right to protest, to dissent, to advocate and to “represent’ is stridently defended for some, for others it is systematically being frozen out and squelched, particularly for those of us with grave qualms about the direction in which societal values are headed.

    Now, to be clear, I am not advocating a Republican-style “family values” agenda, or any agenda at all other than free expression for ALL. I’m simply saying there is ample opportunity to express one’s individuality and nonconformism, even, or even especially, when that nonconformity is cosmetic and petty. Try to stand up for some sort of norm or standard, or to stand up for something that actually MEANS something, and not only are you shouted down, you are often restrained by ordinance, statute or judicial decision.

    Try and make YOUR voice heard sometime. You are supposed to be a figure of authority. Test the bounds of that authority sometime, as over against what it would have been in decades past, and see how far you get.

  31. Jeff-
    I agree that teachers are unnecessarily shackled these days. Hell, I am currently a combination temporary worker and Estate Auction Vulture/EBay Crap Merchant because last year I was. . .not fired, exactly, but my teaching contract was not renewed, after three years.

    But I got in trouble for things like insisting that students turn in their term papers on time (even if those students were important members of athletic teams) or insisting that students’ papers conform to particular standards of grammar and spelling (I taught high-school college-prep and Honors English).

    If I wanted to spend three hours typing here I could give you a whole laundry list of terrifying anecdotes that explain why what little money I have is invested overseas.

    And that’s why this story about the baseball hat is such a non-issue to me. I’m an English teacher who is in many cases FORBIDDEN BY LAW (no exaggeration) to require students to spell words in a certain way, or write sentences according to certain rules. I’m forced to give passing grades and high-school diplomas to kids who can’t even fucking read (I’m not allowed to eradicate ignorance, because that’s a Value Judgment), and so I do not CARE about some stupid dress fad that will be outgrown in a few years, anyway.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a huge collection of NASCAR-themed pewter key chains, giant belt buckles and nauseatingly cute ceramic wall plaques for which I need to write ad copy and take photographs. And then I need to write application letters in hopes of landing a school to teach next fall.

  32. Steve: I know, I can always choose a school that *says* it won’t do those things, but I don’t have the same guarantee.

    Can anybody think of a solution to that, if there were no public schools?

    Yeah. (1) Breach of contract. (2) Take your business elsewhere.

    Now, what’s your remedy when a public school does the things you’re so worried about?

  33. More power to you, Jennifer. You lasted longer in teaching than I did, and I’m about to start catching up on posting MY EBAY auctions as well. You have stated my point eloquently.

    Unfortunately, I am afraid the erosion began precisely when we quit caring about proper, or at least non-nauseating, dress and behavior in public places – especially places of importance like school, church, governmental institutions, etc. Manners are not inconsequential. They are the fluid that keeps the gears of social intercourse lubricated. Sideways baseball caps and Goth dress, petty annoyances as they may be, are nonetheless grains of sand thrown into the gears, and somebody somewhere down the line took away our WD-40.

    As Ricky Lake, the societal archetype for our times, says, “You go, girl.”

  34. Jennifer,

    Having attended private and public schools and having kids enrolled in both, the difference in the two boils down to this: In private settings the focus is on education (however that particular school defines its mission). In public school all kinds of silly stuff like this hat thing take place, wasting time and resources and forcing everyone to accept the behavior of the biggest fools and the distractions they create.
    Now maybe you are an exceptional teacher who can handle more disruptions and enjoy it. My feeling is that my kids are in school to learn, period. They need to have rules that respect teachers, students and that allow the maximum amount of teaching productivity to occur.
    Public schools waste an enormous amount of time on such silliness. If that’s what a parent wants for their children, fine. But don’t force me to accept it. Government schools in my area (Boston)
    spend up to $11,000 per student with horrific results. Why not give people some of this money to pick a more appropriate school for their kid?

  35. JAG-
    I already told you I support vouchers. My concern is that poor kids not be forced to pay for their own education, because they won’t get any. I am all for the idea of school choice. Just because I support public ed. doesn’t mean I support the way it is now.

    Jeff-
    The secret to making money on eBay is to buy your stock from estate auctions in POOR regions, where few people have money to bid against you. Try not to have morbid thoughts about your own mortality, as you look at the accumulated possessions of a lifetime available for pennies on the dollar. Try not to imagine your own beloved possessions being similarly sold off in a couple of decades. And get a digital camera, or film costs will negate much of your profit.

  36. LOL, Thanks again, Jennifer. I am doing precisely those things, and at least not losing my shirt. I think it was Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged who said something about a sure sign of societal decay is an increase in the number of pawnshops. I think estate sales and bankruptcy auctions fall into that category as well.

  37. Bo:

    Here’s the logic about “gang attire.” If one band of junior criminals walks around school flashing gang signs, colors, or some other signifier, than whatever opposing group of numbskulls they currently have a feud with will start showing their identifiers, leading to fights, knifings, shootings and the playing of straight pool in River City.

    I can remember my Dad telling me in the late 60’s he and his fellow public H.S. teachers first ran into kids who wanted to wear hats in class. Mostly, it was young Afro-American* males having a bad hair day who usually wanted to wear a watch cap. The faculty had qualms about metal-tined hair picks, too. The real hoo-rahs would start when said young black males refused to doff their caps during the pledge of allegiance. Gangs never came into it, though.

    If, on our way to total privatization, we can increase the variety of education providers – “regular” public schools, alternative schools, charter schools, private schools eligible for vouchers, home schooling – we would be making some progress. If Mom &/or Dad want you in a uniform-wearing, no-hats-ever school, great. If the folks prefer a more free-form environment, they can choose one.

    Kevin

    *That’s what we were supposed to say back then, honest!

  38. Here’s something that puzzles me:

    I’m a big believer in more competition and greater privitization of schools. (Complete privitization? I’m not sure.)

    But when something like this happens, I often hear my fellow libertarians say, “Well, if we didn’t have public schools, this wouldn’t be a problem, because private schools wouldn’t be constrained by the First Amendment.”

    That’s true, but I fail to see how it’s a good thing. I think free-speech guarantee that public schools must provide is wonderful. If there were no public schools, I’d be very worried that my child’s school would search his locker with no cause, censor the student newspaper, etc. I know, I can always choose a school that *says* it won’t do those things, but I don’t have the same guarantee.

    Can anybody think of a solution to that, if there were no public schools?

  39. I also attended both private and public schools, and I found the differences to be trivial.

    When I was 16, I made the switch from an “all-boys” private school, to the local public school. The co-ed issue definitely factored into the decision process, as it would for any straight 16 year old, but the benefits went far beyond that.

    My grades went up by about 15 percentage points. While I had been previously working my tail off to get high-70’s and low-80’s, I was suddenly breezing my way to the mid-90’s. Since universities only look at your grades and not the school you went to, I scored $50,000+ in scholarship money.

    While the private school imposed more strict discipline (and sent kids home if their sideburns were too long or if their shirts weren’t properly ironed), when someone reaches a certain level of self-discipline, the authoritarian model is unnecessary. I didn’t need someone to tell me to look presentable and behave in a courteous manner. I was fully capable of doing it on my own.

  40. “Try not to have morbid thoughts about your own mortality, as you look at the accumulated possessions of a lifetime available for pennies on the dollar. Try not to imagine your own beloved possessions being similarly sold off in a couple of decades”

    Better yet, accept that both your lifetime and resources are finite, and don’t waste either accumulating “beloved possessions” that will inevitably be hocked for pennies on the dollar after you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil.

  41. Russ, well said. The difference between an adolescent and an adult is precisely that sort of self-regulatory behavior. It is simply too much to expect of children, even ones whose bodies are beginning to pass out of the larval stage.

    Maturity is a process of passing from a mostly concrete/sequential way of thinking to one capable of abstractions. Young people need structure and a firm framework from which to build abstract mental constructs like self-discipline, deferred gratification, and reciprocity.

    Unfortunately, those who don’t grow up with such a framework are slow to develop the capability for such abstractions. Because of this, many of them simply fail to make it out of the cocoon.

  42. Russ-

    You’re saying it’s bad for me to derive pleasure from owning possessions? Certainly they are not all that I have in life–I value my relationships, I value the joys of the intellect, I value doing ‘fun’ things–but I also derive enjoyment from having my own books rather than library copies, or having attractive and interesting things to look at when I am sitting in my home. Are you saying this is bad?

    How should I spend my free time instead? I am not religious, so kissing God’s ass–I mean, prayer–is out.

  43. “Young people need structure and a firm framework from which to build abstract mental constructs like self-discipline, deferred gratification, and reciprocity.”

    I’m of the opinion that most people will never develop an understanding of these concepts, regardless of how much structure and framework you try to impose.

    More than half the kids at my private school never developed an ounce of self-discipline. They either followed the rules when they had to, because someone would punish them if they didn’t, or else they opposed the disciplinary framework as much as they could get away with.

    I’m sure that if the imposed disciplinary standards were relaxed, their behaviour and deportment would exhibit a corresponding decline.

  44. Constantine,

    I agree. When I see a kid with his cap on backwards, I have to restrain myself from slapping his head around till the cap is facing the right way. I can still remember a time when the only people who wore baggy pants and backward hats were clowns.

    But if I gave free vent to my feelings, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop knocking the cell phones out of peoples’ hands until the men in white coats came to take me away. And since I don’t claim the right to stop people from doing stupid things in public just because they annoy me, I sure as hell won’t recognize the right of a pissant high school principal to do so.

  45. Jennifer:

    “You’re saying it’s bad for me to derive pleasure from owning possessions? … How should I spend my free time instead? I am not religious, so kissing God’s ass–I mean, prayer–is out.”

    I’m not saying that it’s “bad” at all. Nor am I suggesting that you should spend your free time in any other way than what makes you happy. If you like collecting “stuff”, hey, great. A chacun son gout. What ever you value is entirely a personal issue and absolutely none of my business (…unless I’m in the business of selling stuff.)

    I’m certainly not advocating any sort of religiously inspired austerity or asceticism. Like you, I don’t do religion either. Nor am I touting any sort of zen-like “enlightenment” here.

    What I am saying is that I just accept that I’m not going to be around forever, and that I have limited means at my disposal. I could spend my time and means accumulating “stuff”, but I don’t think that it would make me any happier. I’ve found that the less unnecessary “stuff” I have lying around and cluttering up my home, the more simple and stress-free my life is.

  46. As someone who is not 30 years old I find it funny that some of you think that sideways hats still connote gangs. Almost EVERY kid wearing a baseball hat these days wears it in some sort of tilted fashion. This from someone who went to high school in IOWA for god’s sake.

  47. Russ,

    I’ve come to that conclusion regarding excess stuff, too, which is why I’m selling, not buying, on EBay. With regard to the following:

    ?I’m sure that if the imposed disciplinary standards were relaxed, their behaviour and deportment would exhibit a corresponding decline.”

    Doesn’t sound very LIbertarian to me. What’s a grumpy old curmudgeon like yourself doing around here. Libs seem to feel we all have the innate ability to behave and leave each other alone. I never had any such illusion about human nature.

  48. > Even if a cap or pant leg or whatever is a gang sign, what’s the point of banning them? Posted by Bo

    Bo,
    Try standing between ten reds to the right and a blue dozen to the left of you who want to fight just because he-said-she-said showed disrespect to another’s colors. Once the colors are shown, sides are taken, and it is all about pride as the community crap creeps into the school which can hardly have class until the two are separated. Once a kid is scared, once he thinks he is going to get hurt at school, he is going to come back tomorrow with protection, something that will equalize the situation, be it more of his people or a weapon — not the same thing as having the Chess Club on your ass. People who take gang ritual lightly haven’t dealt with gangs. The police are afraid of a gang on its own ground.

  49. I wonder how many kids caught trouble in the 1950s for copying Marlon Brando’s look in “The Wild One.”

  50. “I’m sure that if the imposed disciplinary standards were relaxed, their behaviour and deportment would exhibit a corresponding decline.”

    Doesn’t sound very LIbertarian to me. What’s a grumpy old curmudgeon like yourself doing around here.

    First of all, it doesn’t make any difference to me if school kids dress like gangsters or speak in a stream of profanity. They’re not hurting anyone. All they’re harming is their prospects for employment and success. They may be gettin’ mad propz from their peeps up in the ‘hood, but they won’t be getting many calls from potential employers. It’s they’re choice, and I don’t believe that imposed discipline through either public or private schools will have any lasting impact on their choices.

    Secondly, I’m hardly a “grumpy old curmudgeon”. I’m 27.

  51. The real elephant in the room:

    What about these white kids wearing their hats sideways? They were mentioned, but I haven’t seen verification either way that they existed and were getting away with it.

    You should respect most rules, but if (IF) the rules are being applied in a racist fashion, they aren’t rules at all.

    Perhaps there’s some school surveilance cameras so they can prove or disprove this “racist security guard” angle.

  52. Steve,

    Not trying to be snarky, but all the things you mention as ‘violating free speech’ happen now in the public schools. Locker searches at the discretion of the administration, censorship of topics in the school newspaper. The schools now explicitly say those things are within their ‘jurisdiction’. Yeah, people can take their kids out and put them in private schools, but they still pay for the public schools, so that doesn’t really ‘send a message’ to the public schools.

    The real answer, if the schools were private, is that your threat to take your kid, and your money, to another school in response to the policies of the school SHOULD get more attention (‘should’ because not every issue is important to every person or company). You wouldn’t be forced to leave your kid in the public school that you don’t like the policies of.

  53. The problem with all-private schools is that there are a LOT of kids who would never be educated if their parents have to pay money for it. I’m not saying the public school system doesn’t need a hell of a lot of reform, but I don;t think it should be abolished. Even if you resent the idea that you have a social responsibility to other people in this country, do you really think it’s healthy to have a soceity where only the wealthy have a chance to achieve literacy?

    And please, no “argumentam ad misercordiam” here. I am certain that YOU personally had fabulous parents who would have given you a magnificent at-home education, but this is not the norm.

  54. A. The ballcap is second only to the duncecap as the most idiotic-looking piece of headgear ever invented, no matter in what direction the bill is pointing. It has the effect of reducing the apparent I.Q. of anyone wearing same by at least 20 points.

    B. Social standards once demanded that hats be removed indoors. Personally, I rather appreciate that requirement where still practiced, particularly in eating establishments. Too many ballcap-wearers tend also to be open-mouthed eaters.

    C. As a former high school teacher, I would never have needed to resort to disciplinary action in a situation like this. I’d have simply pointed out to the poor rebel-without-a-clue that if he wanted to flout authority, there were certainly more worthwhile causes for which to do it. Fighting for your right to wear the same stupid-looking hat in the same fashion as the white kids wear because they are trying to look like black gangstas makes you look even MORE ridiculous.

    When I was in junior high, I had a fetish for railroad hats – you know, the blue and white pinstripe things? Nobody else wore them, I wasn’t copying anybody, I just liked them. Now THAT was flouting both authority AND peer pressure. I’d have told sideway-ballcap-boy that if he REALLY wanted to make a statement about individual rights rather than group-think, I’d trade him his stupid ballcap for a railroad hat and wish him good luck.

  55. Jennifer – the reasoning stands that people ARE paying for their kid’s education. It’s just that you have no choice about it and the tution is called taxes.

  56. Citizen–
    The extremely poor do not pay taxes, but their children are educated anyway. And that’s a good thing, because it means there is at least a chance that the poor kids will become non-poor adults. However, if these poor kids remained illiterate, we would soon find ourselves in the same situation as Victorian England, where the notion of social mobility was an illusion, and if you were born poor you knew that no matter how hard you worked, you could never improve yourself unless you were impossibly lucky or ruthless.

  57. Does the kid have a First Amendment right to wear his hat sideways?

    It was “speech” – according to the school, he was saying “I disrespect authority”. He clearly has a right to wear a T-Shirt that says “I disrespect authority”.

    If it isn’t First Amendment protected speech, the school was within bounds.

  58. Tomhynes–
    Even if the kid had no explicit right to wear his hat, so what? As a teacher I only worry about those behaviors which disrupt the educational process. If you are in my classroom and you are making a lot of noise while I am trying to speak or give a test, I will put a stop to it. But if you have a sideways hat, or bright pink hair, or too much makeup, or five earrings in your nose, I ignore it because it doesn’t make it impossible for other students to study.

    Besides, back in the mid-80s, when I was a teenager, I had some clothing and hairstyles that made baseball caps look like Brooks Brothers. But eventually I outgrew this foolishness, and I was able to go on and become a moderately productive member of society.

    But if I had been arrested, then I would now be a woman with a criminal record, and many jobs would be closed to me, including teaching. How could this be a good thing?

  59. The thing I object to is not that kids want to dress and look like freaks – t’was ever thus. What I object to is, despite the tenor of this article, the kids’ right to look like a freak has expanded faster than my right to POINT OUT that they look like freaks. In order not to offend anyone or assault the dear cherubs’ self-esteem, I’m supposed to ignore the fact they look like freaks and are helping to sustain freakish behavior and attitudes.

  60. Jennifer:

    The policy choice is not between a current system where the default condition is that children of poor families go to public schools and receive an adequate education and a regime where they would receive no schooling at all. Privatization advocates realize that some provision must be made to fund tuition for children whose parents can’t pay their way. The two models ususally attempted are:

    1.) “Choice scholarships,” “vouchers,” call them what you will. Where local support has allowed it, and the courts have not quashed it, – Milwaukee WI, frex – these have been state-funded. Ideally, over time, we could transform the state-funded system into a private one.

    2.) Private charity. Individuals, foundations and businesses who back getting poor kids out of government schools that don’t work for them into private schools that might, can and have set up privately-funded scholarships. Here in Wisconsin, before sectarian schools were allowed into the choice program, pro-choice advocates founded PAVE: Partners Advancing Values In Education. They continue to fund scholarships for students who can’t qualify for the state program for one reason or another. See:

    http://www.pave.org/jahia/jsp/index.jsp

    “PAVE has assisted over 16,000 low-income families in Milwaukee with scholarships totaling $24 million.” (in 10 years time.)

    So, we could have a system where parents paid for their own childrens’ education, and a United Way/Community Chest/PAVE – type effort raised money to pay for poor childrens’ tuition. Some will object that poor kids would not have a guarantee of a good education. Does anyone seriously believe that millions of students haven’t had such promises broken by the current system, and that nobody has a clue how to keep them?

    Even a mixed system, as we have for post-secondary education, would be better than what we have now. Low income students may attend state universities in higher proportions than they do private ones, but they can choose to go to either type of school, if they can scrape together enough merit and need-based aid.

    Kevin
    (privately-educated son of a public school teacher – a not uncommon phenomenon)

  61. “Privatization advocates realize that some provision must be made to fund tuition for children whose parents can’t pay their way”

    Okay. I support vouchers, too. When I say I support public education, I am talking about publicly FUNDED education, not necessarily publicly RUN.

    Jeff-
    I agree a lot of these kids are obnoxious little snots. I also agree that a lot of them will deliberately make themselves look ridiculous in hope of getting a ‘rise’ out of their elders. But if they go through a phase where they want to look like freaks rather than conform to the Happy Teenager with School Spirit motif promoted by the schools, SO WHAT??

    If teens expressed their rebelliousness by running around committing acts of vandalism, assault or murder, then I would absolutely use all of my authority to put a stop to it.

    But they’re not–they’re wearing black lipstick, listening to music I personally find irritating, and wearing fashions that I think look asinine, including sideways baseball caps. I imagine you would agree.

    Is it our job as teachers to mold students into the kind of people whose tastes in clothing and music and personal adornment match those of us who are a generation older? I don’t believe that to be the case. As long as my students learn the curriculum, don’t hurt anyone, respect others’ property and don’t disrupt my class, I don’t give a damn what they do to their appearances. Why should I?

  62. Russ, about the curmudgeon thing – I was speaking rather tongue-in-cheek. But from experience, I have to disagree with you about imposed discipline. Kids can and do learn, or civilization doesn’t work. Most adults are indeed the products of their upbringing. I AM a grumpy old curmudgeon of 42, with 13 years in public school teaching, and I can tell from very brief association what sort of boundaries and structure a person received as a young person by the way they turn out in life. There are, of course, exceptions – good kids gone bad and the reverse – but by and large, a person’s rearing is evident in the kind of adult he or she becomes.

  63. I think that thats so out of the order. I cannot believe somthing like this has happend. Im am a really good friend of Marlon. Hes the nicest person that you will ever find.People just think that a new style has to do with some kind of gangs.Now can see if she was flipping up signs and doing gesters but he wasent.Marlon is a great person and for this to happen to him is not right at all. Im behind you all the way Marlon.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.