And How About This Other Shirt? The One That Says You Go to Grayson "High" School?


Reader "Zorel" points us to the story of a Georgia teenager who got into trouble for wearing a t-shirt to school that said "Hempstead, NY 516." An administrator thought it was a pot reference.

According to the Associated Press, the student "was allowed to return to class after convincing school officials to do an Internet search, which confirmed that Hempstead was a real town."

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  1. When I was a teacher I snuck in through the back door--instead of getting a Master's in education I got one in English, and then took a test to get a temporary teaching certificate.

    Once I started teaching I had to take some education classes to get a formal certificate. I remember my "Fundamentals of Education" class had the following suggestions:

    1. For kids who are reluctant to answer questions in class, use the "Summary Sam" method--a sock puppet, named Summary Sam, whom the kids would apparently be more willing to talk to. I said there was no way in hell I would ask my twelfth-graders to talk to a damned sock puppet.

    2. "Remember: when it comes to achievement, ability doesn't matter; effort does!" I said that this could explain failure (a brilliant person can fail if he doesn't try), but not success. When the teacher insisted that he was right, I said, "So the difference between Albert Einstein and a kid with Down's Syndrome is that the Down's kid doesn't try hard enough?"

    3. "Remember--tests should not be timed, because what matters is whether you can do it, not how long it takes!" When I protested, the teacher asked me to give examples where time actually matters. I talked about bomb squads defusing a nuke before it blows up, and paramedics trying to get a patient breathing before the lack of oxygen causes brain damage, and lawyers needing to get their act together before the start of a trial, and then the teacher interrupted with, "No, Jennifer, I'm talking about when time should matter IN SCHOOL."

    I am now happily employed in a non-educational field, but I still get occasional calls from high schools asking me to come in for interviews. I tell them no way.

    Oh, and something funny about the test--the test to be an English teacher (in Massachusetts) had one token question about Shakespeare and one token question about Emily Dickenson, and EVERY OTHER QUESTION dealt with either 'young adult' literature or late-twentieth-century multicultural crap. All that time I spent studying the literature of the Renaissance and medieval period, when if I realy wanted to ace the teaching test I should have been reading Paula Danziger, Harry Potter, the "Goosebumps" series and everything in Oprah's Book Club.

  2. thoreau, my point was not to diss ya moms, but to agree with the point that salaries have risen more in the nursing profession, in which the employers are mostly private-sector, than in the teaching profession, in which the employers are mostly public sector.

  3. I am in the middle of my teacher education and I will admit that there is a lot of bullcrap. However, I also spent two and a half years in business school and I was shovelling it fast and furiously there as well. There are good programs and bad programs regardless of the discipline. There are good workers and bad workers regardless of the profession.

  4. and engineers topped the quantitative list with a blistering mean of 722

    yes it's true, we kick ass.

    I think some of you (Shannon yer ears are burnin') just like to bash the public education system at every opportunity.

    Some of us went through the public school system, then turned around and noted how woefully deficient it is, and now bash accordingly. I had some excellent teachers, but I also had the distinct privelege of attending a citywide magnet with test scores of national distinction among public schools. We used to make fun of the dumb kids on the back of the metro from the neighborhood schools; now I pity them. They got the leftover teachers who couldn't instruct their way out of a paper bag.

    Those "dumb" kids in the back of the bus should have had the tools and teaching to do with their lives exactly what I was able to, without having to have fought through the adversity of being in a shitty school in the first place. Unfortunately the teacher's unions will never allow that to happen.

  5. well rst I guess I look at it a bit differently.

    teacher's unions are a shibboleth, a scapegoat.

    I don't know how parents develop an expectation they can just send their kids off to school without any involvement in the process. Show up in your kids class, see who their teacher is. Get them transferred if the teacher sucks.

    We own the schools. We vote on property tax levies for the O&M and construction of new buildings. We elect the school board.

    As a parent I guess I look at it as my responsibility to show up and supervise and make sure these schools are doing their jobs and to participate in the educational process. But I don't meet many people with the same attitude.

  6. And on the topic, I'm not surprised that a bible belt school would look at the T-shirt and react in a manner so devoid of rational thought, to say nothing for the fact (previously noted) that "hemp" is marijuana like a poppy bagel is opium.

  7. Jennifer, as tools to improve the reading ability of kids, the pop lit you deride probably IS more useful than Shakespeare. Why waste all that time on explaining the archaic language, and sqeeze out the disucssion of metaphors, character, et al?

    Now, it we're talking about advanced, older kids whose basic skills are already well established, Shakespeare would be an excellent source for accelerated work.

  8. Did no one else pick up on the fact that the spokeswoman for the school district is named "Sloan Roach"? Isn't the school worried about that sending the wrong message, too - either about the insect or the stubby remnant of a joint?

  9. I worked a few months in Hemel Hempstead, UK once and I looked up the name. "Hemel" means heaven and "Hempstead" is a corruption of "hamstede" which was the word for "homestead." "Hampstead" is the same word, just differently corrupted. And if the kid's shirt said "Hampstead" nobody would have hassled him.

  10. This kind of censorship is not just at the High School level. The state University where I work would not allow distribution of flyers with a picture of a hemp leaf on it in university residence halls.

    The group I advise had a flyer promoting HempFest, with a hand-drawn hemp leaf on the flyer, and it was denied distribution based on its content.

  11. along the lines of "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" (there are exceptions who can do, but still like to teach), I would add "those who can't teach, administer"

    If the Ed majors are the bottom of the barrel (in colleges), the real dregs seem to end up as school admins (and union admins). It is they that set most of the ridiculous policies and paperwork requirements for the teachers (probably due to the lawsuit culture).

    Parents are equally responsible for the sad state of affairs as trainwreck mentioned above.


    since the private sector helped capable nurses' salaries go up, would you think it might be better for the good teachers if education was also privatized?


    it stands to reason (what your mom says) that quality has gone down. as Shannon said, when teaching and nursing were the professions available to women, they had a greater talent pool. now, most of the talent goes into medicine, marketing, etc. so, the less talented are left with teaching, nursing, etc (which are tough jobs).


    engineers kick ass! In my MBA classes, I see students from engg background and those from marketing background. guess who the BS artists are!?

  12. Painfully Obvious:

    "Those who can do. Those who can't teach."

    Those who can't teach, teach PE.

  13. the real mystery is why anyone would want to advertise hempstead, ny. outside of being next to hofstra and birthing a few rappers...???

  14. Grayson High used to be bible belt, but now it is pure suburb. It is populated by kids of thoughtful parents who bailed out of the western side of Gwinnett County to get their kids out of schools with immigration problems. The administrators should consider themselves lucky to not have to work at the schools where you need to be able to spell Hempstead in Spanish.

  15. The schools are teaching children that authority has the right to repress expression. What a hideous lesson! We will all pay the price as these kids reach voting age.

  16. Hempstead, NY is a town on Long Island and 516 is the area code for the town.

    Oooooh. How subversive.

  17. These people need to chill out. Perhaps before school starts again they should consider a nice vacation in the country, perhaps in beautiful Wisconsin.

    (former 516'er, except its 631, now)

  18. Joe-
    Well, for one thing, Shakespeare IS on the high school curriculum, whereas Lois Duncan is not. Also, I taught grades 11 and 12; by the time I got them they were SUPPOSED to have already mastered the basics of reading and writing, and even a little critical thinking. I don't know how to take an illiterate child and teach him to read and write, but I shouldn't have had to, any more than a first-grade teacher should be required to know how to teach calculus.

  19. "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and
    those who can't teach, teach teachers."

    But as the other proverb has it: the A's teach, and
    the B's work for the C's.

  20. Shannon:

    Did you know that people with education degrees have the lowest SAT and ACT scores of all any profession?

    Yes, yes, Shannon, we did. We've known it for years. Which is why I'm tired of hearing over-benefitted, over-paid, under-worked layabout teachers most of which make more than I do bitch about low pay and low benefits while working 180 days a year. Up theirs.


  21. I would guess that the "Hempstead" t-shirt probably was intended as a pot reference. Doesn't mean he should be punished for it, of course.

  22. kinda like the outrage (urban myth?) around the town of fishkill, ny from a few years back...

  23. I don't think it's the teachers who are overpaid, though some definitely are, but rather the administrators, especially the superintendents. And I don't the teachers complain so much as their unions do. As far as overpaid public employees go, I think teachers are pretty low on the priority list.

  24. Hey! The major cash crop replacing moonshine distillation in the piney woods around Hemphill, Texas, deep in G.W. Bush territory, is, yeah-yuh, you guessed it Yankee fellers, good old Mary Jane.

  25. I would guess that the "Hempstead" t-shirt probably was intended as a pot reference.

    You would not likely be guessing correctly. His family reportedly moved to Georgia from Hempstead, NY. I often wear T-shirts with the name of my hometown now that I have moved elsewhere. I wonder whether a student wearing a Boston T-shirt would be taken out of class. "Boston" is after all a variation on "St. Botolph", and as you know, we must not allow students to flagrantly display such religious symbols in a public school. If the school allows that, well, that's just another form of government sponsoring religion. Evil.

  26. I think I am missing something - why does it
    matter if it is a pot reference or not?


  27. um? because drugs are BAD!

    bad bad bad
    evil bad

    and what's worse?



  28. Did you know that people with education degrees have the lowest SAT and ACT scores of all any profession?

  29. Not much to say other than it's a ridiculous attack on free speech.

    If you ever watch MTV for an extended period of time (not something I recommend), you'll hear graphically violent lyrics and relatively graphic sexual lyrics, but you won't hear any references to a plant that makes you feel goofy when you smoke its leaves. Yes, even mentioning a slang name for a drug in a song is blanked out.

    Now MTV is a private network that can censor or not censor as it sees fit, to avoid controversy and please its customers. For our public schools to engage in this ludicrous censorship is wrong -- but then again so are a lot of the other things public schools do. The fact that this shirt didn't even have to do with pot just underscores the madness.

  30. Shannon: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach

  31. Only the uneducated or misinformed think hemp is pot.

  32. I remember a Reason brickbat to the effect of New England's native hemp is almost extinct because of eradication efforts against "marijuana" by drug agencies that can't tell the difference between the species.

  33. So now, everytime he wears the shirt, everybody WILL think of pot. Good move!

  34. In the Babcock State Forest, in south central Pennsylvania, there is a place called "Pot Ridge." There is a Pot Ridge Coal Company. The official sign pointing to the road leading to Pot Ridge features the famous leaf. Wonder how it got it's name?

  35. Sorry for the lack of apostrophe discipline in the previous post. One of my pet peeve's. 🙂

  36. Jake- "Inappropriate" is, of course, the buzz-word of fuzzy-thinking poltroons in the educational world. By use of this word, a host of behaviors (being "unmutual", perhaps?) can be acted against without the pesky need for rational justification. This incident is simply more evidence that many public schools are dedicated to teaching obedience and compliance before anything else.

    Shannon- In college, I started to supplement my degree with classes leading to a secondary ed certificate. I was so disgusted by the childish level of the curriculum that I dropped those plans almost immediately.

  37. I did a Brickbat a couple of yers ago about a high school that banned Billabong clothing because it contained the word "bong."

  38. Only the uneducated or misinformed think hemp is pot.

    ...or don't think to check a friggin' atlas! (Or Google, fer crissake.)

    I'm going to start marketing T-shirts that advertise Intercourse and Blue Ball, PA, and Weed, CA.

  39. And what about Two Egg, Florida? Clearly a genitalia reference! We need legislation to put a stop to this naming of localities in subversive and suggestive ways!

  40. The little twerp should quit his whining, and wear his "Coke is It!" t-shirt.

  41. Mark,

    My spouse briefly sought an education degree before taking one class, an entire semester long, whose only function was to make sure that the education majors filled out all the paperwork required to get their certification. Worse, it was a required class.

    Prior to the 1960's the vast majority (80%+ IIRC) of woman who got undergraduate degrees got them in education. Sexual discrimination in the workplace channeled many of the best and brightest into education. Women who today are doctors, lawyers, engineers, political leaders etc were k12 teachers in old days. In the late 60's the talent pool for teachers began to collapse.

    One of the great sins of politically managed education is that it did not adapt to this fundamental change in the talent pool. Teachers are paid based on seniority and number of degrees instead of the market rate for whatever skills they possess. Math, Science and Computer instructors who all have skills that pay much better in the non-education market receive the same pay as a social studies teacher who has no marketable non-educational skills at all. This system worked back when bright woman were essentially forced to be teachers but in the contemporary world it's a recipe for brain drain.

    Paying teachers with different skills different rates seems to be a cultural issue that politically managed schools cannot get around. Shifting the management of schools to the private sector would help solve this problem.

  42. Regarding "those who can't, teach":

    I won't defend the k-12 public school establishment, but I will say that however well you think you understand something, however many times you've applied it, you don't REALLY understand it until you've taught it to raw novices. I say that from experience.

  43. Shannon - GRE scores, too. I have my "Interpreting Your GRE Scores" flyer in front of me, which states that students listing education as their "broad intended graduate major field" scored lowest of all BIGMF groups in quantitative reasoning, and second lowest in verbal reasoning (beating only business students, by a measly four points). By way of comparison, humanities students topped the verbal list with a mean of 540 and engineers topped the quantitative list with a blistering mean of 722. (Latest version of the flyer available online.)

  44. Shannon-

    My mother has observed a similar thing in the nursing profession. The talented women back then could either be nurses or teachers, so there was a very talented pool of nurses out there. Although there are undoubtedly many smart young women still going into nursing, there are also plenty who never would have gotten through nursing school a long time ago.

    My mother attributes it to a decline in the world ("back in the good old days..."). I think standards are falling simply because there aren't many talented people seeking to enter the profession.

    As to an entire class on how to do paperwork, was it because the education students were too clueless to figure it out themselves, or because the volume of paperwork is simply so huge that no mere mortal can wander through it without experienced guides? Both seem plausible to me.

  45. Shannon- I agree with your analysis, but would add the following: anyone with a functioning brain can see that the public school establishment is dominated by internal politicing, control freaks, and, in many case, sub-standard minds. The "best and brightest" tend to be repelled by such an environment. Others (I've recovered from years of objectivism, but still think of the type as Peter Keatings) realize that that sort of place is their natural home.

    I'd still consider teaching in a private school, but my experiences as a guest teacher working in the public schools for a non-profit organization convinced me that the government school system is to be avoided at all costs. I did that job for only a year, but could tell stories for hours.

  46. One of those days I almost got suspended from high school for a week for wearing a T-shirt with the British flag on it. I had to promise never to wear it or anything like it again. They even made a remark about my school-bag because it had the NIKE trademark! Now I know the reason for the war... No, it wasn't for control, and no it wasn't for oil. It was for tattoos!

  47. thoreau, my mother is a nurse, and she has never claimed that the quality of personnel has declined.

    Of course, the pay rate for nurses has skyrocketted since the early 1980s. The nurses in the hospital that treated my father averaged over $100k - now, that includes a lot of OT, but still...

  48. joe-

    I don't know what to say. I won't get into a battle of "my mother knows more than yours!" because my mother is frequently a pessimist who thinks that everything in the world is going to hell. So maybe your mother is right.

    I guess my point is that even if, for the sake of argument, my mother is right, it need not be a result of the whole world going to hell, it could just be a result of talented women entering other professions. (Which would suggest that, at least in some respects, the world today is in fact better than it was 30 years ago, if women enjoy more choices in the job market.)

  49. I have no idea what you people are talking about with regards to the public school system.

    My son's schooling for the first six years so far has been pretty good; his teachers have all been bright, intelligent, and capable. So far at school he's learned how to read, write, do math, and basics of science. The system isn't perfect, but the kids do appear to be learning things. My biggest complaint was the lameness of the music program. So I got him private lessons.

    I think some of you (Shannon yer ears are burnin') just like to bash the public education system at every opportunity.

  50. I think trainwreck made an excellent point - I am not sure how one could confirm or deny this claim with hard evidence, but it seems to me quite possible that students are doing poorly because parents aren't doing as good a job preparing their kids for school as parents of previous generations did.

    I've previously been very critical of the public education system - it certainly makes sense that a system which makes it very difficult to punish poor performers and reward good ones (like the teachers unions) would tend to generate poor results in general. And this isn't entirely philosophical - my sister had a 4th grade teacher who called her and her classmates names - basically didn't pass up any opportunity to make them feel bad about themselves. My parents complained, and, after speaking with other parents who had this teacher in previous years, found out that this was a recurring problem, and it continued for years after. The school, despite receiving dozens and dozens of similar complaints wouldn't (or couldn't) do anything about it. So it seems clear to me that this is part of the problem, but it also seems clear, in light of trainwreck's post, that teachers jobs may have gotten harder over the years, and it's tough to know to what degree these two issues contribute to the larger decline in public school performance.

    It's certainly more comforting to find the problem in something we can control (the education system) rather than something we can't (the quality of parenting), but that sort of wishful thinking won't contribute to any kind of solution. Damn!

  51. rst,

    I've seen T-shirts sold by Fossil, Old Navy, etc. with "Hemstead, NY" plastered on them. Then again, I see people wearing baseball hats my alma mater's name plastered on them too (Oregon State Beavers), and I suspect most of them have never even been to the state of Oregon, much less attended university there. 🙂

  52. PETA really did try to get Fishkill to change its name. The lack of high-quality protein in their diets probably explains their inability to fathom that "kill" means "creek' in Dutch.

    They remind me of those feminists who think the "his" in history is an Anglo-Saxon pronoun.


  53. I am maker of tt-shirt if you are interested hit me @ . if it does'nt have the finger print it ain't OFFICIAL.

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