Is This Wrong?


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

Related Post Roulette

185 Responses

  1. Ethan Gach says:

    This is wrong.

    Young girls should not be forced to partially denude themselves.Report

  2. dhex says:

    i’ll weigh in on wrong as well – “formal” dress for women at this point is an incredibly wide field that does include many viable non dress/skirt options.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    Its wrong. Making girls wear dresses on formal occassions is based on outmoded concepts of gender. The school can require them to dress nicely on formal occassions but they should be allowed to with pants if they want to.Report

    • Will H. in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Seems to me like the notion that it’s an outmoded concept ignores the factual basis.

      Whose concept are we talking about here?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

        What facts? That males and femLes are, in someways, biologically, pjysically, and physiologically different? No denying that here. But how do you get from there to demanding girls expose their lets from the lower thigh down for formal occassions?Report

        • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

          How can you pretend to be arguing facts when so willfully blind?

          The Fact that I was referring to was . . .

          for certain occasions, formal dress is required. This demands that the girls wear either a dress or a skirt.

          Is this a fact, or is it not a fact?
          Or is this something historical rather than comtemporary?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

            This is a fact. So was slavery. Doesn’t mean either was right.Report

            • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

              So . . . You still have slavery at this school you’re at?

              This is beginning to sound like my idea of a fantastic icon of education!
              Please tell me that they use military grade mace on the little bastards rather than corporal punishment.
              I just want to dream . . .Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                So it is right because it’s the rule and it’s the rule because it’s right? Is that what you’re saying?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                I don’t believe that necessarily follows.
                Just that the very notion of difference of dress isn’t so outmoded as some would wish to make it seem.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                I think it is far from outmoded. That is why this post was a genuine inquiry. It sat wrong with me, but I wasn’t sure and I asked the (certain segment of the) masses. But if you read the entirety of this thread, you’ll see a lot of varied responses. Collectively, we certainly skew towards arguing it is outmoded, but it is not exactly unanimous.

                Having read what people have said it, I am confident considering it as such, but recognize if I seek to effect this change, I’ve got an uphill battle within the culture I work.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                FYI, American culture generally, and most sub-species of it, are a bit more toward the conservative end of the spectrum than the commentariat of this blog.
                Things That Generally Left-Leaning People Say should never be mistaken as The Way Things Are.

                Teach the controversy!!!Report

  4. Patrick says:

    I’ll jump to the chorus. Formal wear should be in presentation, not type.Report

  5. Kazzy says:

    Ugh, well, if we’re going to be an echo chamber… :-p

    I’m glad to know I’m not crazy for at least wondering about this. I will say that our school made an exemption for a particular student who expressed an intense discomfort, which I think opened the door for conversation about this (with at least two relatively new decision-makers expressing, at most, indifference). Hopefully we can visit the topic in more depth. In that case, if anyone has a really substantive argument I can lean on, I’d be all ears.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

      My post is a bit more of an argument against uniforms broadly.Report

    • Shazbot4 in reply to Kazzy says:

      Not crazy at all.

      Here’s a very real problem. Does the rule prohibit kids who self-identify as female but are externally male from wearing skirts? Or vice versa?

      Setting such a rule really only impacts people who want to go against the traditional gendered way of wearing clothing, and only impacts them negatively and treats them unfairly. All of the effects of the rule are bad and unfair and none good.

      Fine to have a “dress up” rule, but even that can be excused if the kid and the parents have some objection. But a “dress up like your gender is supposed to” rule is plain wrong.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot4 says:

        “Does the rule prohibit kids who self-identify as female but are externally male from wearing skirts? Or vice versa?”

        Oh lord, we are not ready for that conversation yet!

        We are less than two years removed from our former head to forced a student to out himself on his phone to his mom because “if he couldn’t say it to his mom, he wasn’t really gay and should stop telling his classmates as such.” That happened before my tenure and our new head is almost a complete 180 from that, but the broader culture isn’t so far removed.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Shazbot4 says:

        All of the effects of the rule are bad and unfair and none good.

        It’s actually rather astonishing how many school rules fall exactly under that category.

        All dress code rules fall into that category. None of those make the slightest bit of sense, at all. Including rules for dances and whatnot. It is the damn students’ dance, and they can wear whatever they want.(1)

        All rules about weapons fall into that category. If you actually were going to commit the _felony_ of assault and murder, why would school rules stop you? (I’m talking more about knifes than guns. I don’t have any real problems with not letting students carry guns, although it’s worth pointing out that’s already illegal in most states on school grounds and hence doesn’t need a ‘rule’ about it.)

        All rules about ‘drugs’ fall into that category. We already have a perfectly functional set of laws about who can have and take which drugs. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d be fine with a rule that allowed teachers to check that laws were being followed. I’m just taking issue that the school should be forbidding people from possessing a substance they legally can possess.)

        The idea that a school needs an entire separate set of ‘rules’ in addition to the law of society is near complete nonsense.

        I guess there a few rules about specific circumstances that could reasonable exist, like ‘Students must get a parking pass before parking at the school’ and ‘Students must return tray to window after eating’ and ‘No running in the hall’ (Although those are less ‘school rules’ and more ‘signs on the wall’.) and a few classroom rules like ‘Students can’t use their cellphone in class’ (Although classroom rules, ultimate, are the job of the teacher to set.)

        But something like 90% of school rules are set by insane power-mad despots who want to control people and have managed to luck upon a job where they can do just that.

        I’m mainly talking about high schoolers here. Elementary schoolers probably need a bit more structure.

        1) I actually find it rather baffling that people don’t understand the entire concept of high school dances and sports and stuff. All that really is an attempt to show students how to be social. It’s a sort of enforced ‘community’ that they live in, and pretty much all decisions should be left up to them. Yes, they will make stupid decisions, but that’s what high school is for. It’s not the job of parents or administrators to come along and interfere except to stop extreme problems. (Aka, you do have to chaperon them, but that’s it.)Report

        • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

          Some very interesting points here. As a preschool teacher, I adhere to a philosophy (not my own) that says there are three basic rules: Care for self, care for others, care for the environment. Now, these overarching rules can be twisted to mean just about anything, but I think if you winnow it back and make people defend them on how well they actually serve these, you can do some good.

          For instance, I’m not much of a stickler for demanding silence in the hall. Not only is it damn near impossible to do so with young children over distances of more than a few feet, it is largely unnecessary. And zero tolerance for sound teaches them that nuance doesn’t exist. The general purpose of having kids move quietly down a hallway is to avoid disrupting other classes and/or offices. Which is a noble and agreeable goal. Yet, you’ll see teachers enforce this rule as kids move down an empty hallway, one in which all the classrooms have been deserted for lunch. Why? Now, I get that kids thrive on consistency and sometimes its just easier to keep the rule the same all the time. But kids also do really well with explicit and clear instructions. With my kids, I’ll often say, “We’re moving past busy classrooms. We need to be quiet now.” If the hallway is open, I let ’em flow. So long as I prompt them with the specifics of the situation and my expectation, they generally follow it. At least as well as 4- and 5-year-olds can be expected to.

          In general, if I can’t give a good reason for why a rule exists to one of my students, it is probably not a good rule. Now, with young kids, some rules will be unexplainable to them. Or the explanation won’t really be acceptable. “Why can’t you eat only cookies for lunch? Because it is unhealthy.” They might have some abstract notion of health and that it is desirable, but they don’t actually understand the mechanism of nutrition. But you can usually break it down enough that they see that their is a point for the rule even if they don’t fully comprehend it.

          But, in most cases, if you can’t explain the purpose of a rule to a 5-year-old, it is more likely than not to be a bad one.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

            The general purpose of having kids move quietly down a hallway is to avoid disrupting other classes and/or offices.

            See, I agree entirely with that, but the simple fact is, that at schools, almost _all_ rules are justified with ‘It would disturb other students’. This is because the courts have said that students actually have some rights, but schools can restrict them if such rights would ‘disturb’ education.

            So you end up with nonsense like dress codes in high school being justified to keep from ‘disturbing’ classes. (Which had some interesting slut-shaming going on, considering that the most enforced dress code was skirt length.)

            So while ‘Care for self, care for others, care for the environment.’ actually does make sense, the problem is that often the fascista who get placed in charge of schools just nonsensically justify things using essentially that.

            I wish I could find my old high school handbook, to quote some of these rules. And note these were _pre-Columbine_ rules…the year after I left high school, Columbine happened, the fascista really ramped things up, and my brothers had to go to school with transparent bookbags. (Because no one can hide a weapon on themselves, or just pull one out in the parking lot.)

            You know what annoys me? When I was a teenager, I was assured that all this would make sense when I was older, that teenagers think they know everything but don’t. I am now 34, and looking back, I have learned…I was entirely right about everything, and a lot of adults really are just fascist assholes towards teenagers. That’s not to say a lot of teenagers aren’t stupid, but their stupidity doesn’t justify the idiotic system that teenagers have to live in. (In fact, I have to suggest that a lot of teenager’s stupidity is _due to_ rebelling against such a system.)Report

            • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

              Dude, I’m with you. For both children and adults, we need to define the terms. What does it mean to “disturb”? If one class is having a quiet study period and the other is involved in boisterous but productive work and they share a wall, what do you do? Kneejerk reaction is to quiet the latter, but isn’t that disturbing their work?

              With my students, I talk explicitly about how they share this world with many other people and part of their job at school is learning how to do that. Needs and wants will come into conflict and there is rarely a hard and fast rule (or a good hard and fast rule) to apply.

              Fewer, well articulated, and enforceable rules are the ideal. Involving kids in the rule making process is also important, as they will have more ownership over them, better understanding of them, and will respond better.

              We should also make a distinction between rules and procedures. Lining up to proceed through the cafeteria service isn’t a rule so much as it is a procedure to keep a certain amount of necessary order. Unless the student was an egregious, regular, and willful violator, I would never have a consequence for not following procedure beyond “get to the back of the line.” Too often, minor procedural violations bring down the full force of the law. Silliness.Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to Kazzy says:

      Children gender themselves as they will without adult guidance. That gendering process works best if a child is allowed to experience being the opposite gender occasionally, as pretend play. Sometimes a child will feel a strong need to more fully explore being the other gender. If a school prevents this exploration, the child may (hopefully) have a more open environment at home, but may still fixate on what it would be like to be the other gender at school.

      So, insisting that all children wear boy clothes or girl clothes is more likely to increase the anxiety of a few children. The right policy is that each child’s parents may select the uniform elements their child will wear, according to what they think will be best for their child. Almost all the time, the parents will know best, and even if they don’t, it’s the prerogative of American parents to be wrong in certain ways.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Boegiboe says:

        Very, very well stated, Boegiboe. I might use some of what you’ve said here if/when the conversation develops.

        My kids don’t follow the same dress code. They basically where whatever they want. The only thing I really emphasize is weather appropriateness, but that is more a health/safety thing. As I wrote about before, my assistant feels a bit differently, admonishing girls for wearing “undershirts”, a battle I sometimes have to pick with her.

        I’m not sure what the fallout would be if I had a boy wear a skirt to school. I don’t know that we have any written prohibition against it. I wouldn’t object unless it seemed to be part of some larger transgressive stunt with the parents at the helm, only because I think it’d be unfair to use the child in that way.Report

        • Boegiboe in reply to Kazzy says:

          One of the fathers at Alice’s daycare wears a kilt most Fridays. Parents should be transgressive themselves if they feel the need.

          However, it might be difficult in practice to tell the difference between a parent honestly wanting their child to be allowed to dress in trans-gendered clothes and a parent using a child to object to the cis-gendered rule. The emotions may look pretty similar, and the activist parent might be activist precisely because they have some direct experience (e.g. a nephew or a sister having problems because of such a dress code) and want to make sure their kid doesn’t have similar problems.

          Your assistant: Is she calling T-shirts “undershirts”? Alice loves wearing T-shirts–it’s one of the few styles she and I can wear together, since she thinks of hers as girly enough for her, yet I can also wear one.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Boegiboe says:

            I, generally, welcome transgressiveness, though have some issues with being transgressive for transgressive’s sake. But your point is well taken. I might opt to talk with a parent who seemed to be forcing a child to wear something to make a point. The again, I’m not sure I’d talk to a parent who forced a child to wear gender specific clothing also to make a point (“You’re a little lady and you’ll dress like one!”). So maybe I’m not being fair.

            With undershirts, she is referring to the little white tank tops girls often where. She’ll sometimes make an issue of boys in an obvious undershirt, but the line is grayer there. I pushback, emphasizing that we should be promoting comfort, practicality, and self-expression. They’re 4… A spaghetti strap under shirt ain’t something to pearl clutch over.Report

  6. NewDealer says:

    I’m against school uniforms in general so the entire is school is wrong from the first sentence by requiring them.

    This is an issue where I surprisingly have a lot of my liberal friends tell me that uniforms are great. Mainly the people who went to private schools with uniforms. They loved not “having to think” about what to wear in the morning. Statements about “not wanting to think” about a particular issue tend to drive me up the wall. Or they say that uniforms help hide the distinctions between the really rich kids, the upper-middle class kids, and the handful of scholarship students from middle class or more humble backgrounds. I think the is false. Kids know these things and it would take the world’s most absurd and draconian uniform policy to make it otherwise. And hiding this stuff is wrong, it is like sweeping dirt under a rug instead of disposing of it properly. Better to have real and honest discussion.

    Also I think uniforms encourage conformity and authoritarianism but that is just me.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


      I have broader objections to uniforms in general. That, at current time, is a losing battle in my current place of employment. So I’m working within the current context and carefully picking my battles. But, suffice it to say, I agree with much of what you’ve said here.Report

    • Matty in reply to NewDealer says:

      I think uniforms encourage conformity and authoritarianism but that is just me.

      not just you, I actually had the following argument with a teacher when I was at school.

      “If we didn’t have uniforms the children would all be trying to dress the same to fit in”
      “So you try to stop us dressing identically by making us dress identically?”Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

      I think that a lot of uniform fetihism is a result of anime fandom or Harry Potter. When I was really into anime, I knew a lot of people who wished that they could wear the cool school uniforms that Japanese school children get to wear. I never really had the heart to point out to them that American school districts are very unlikely to select sailor dresses for girls and semi-naval uniforms for boys if they ever inact a uniform policy or anything remotely good looking. American institutions, outside maybe the Navy and the Marines, are really horrible at making attractive uniforms.Report

      • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        That may be a part of it, but the classic “catholic school girl” costume has been around a while longer I’d expect. I think that’s also part of the “uniform fetishim” you talked about.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Damon says:

          I always found it interesting that, in supposed attempts at teaching “properness”, schools require girls and young women to wear awfully short skirts. That seems kinda fished up, but probably gets at some things zic is talking about elsewhere in the thread in terms of how we view females.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

          I’m mainly thinking about why girls would be into wearing uniforms. Most of the people I knew who desperately wished their schools had uniforms were girls. Boys tended not to get into the entire, wouldn’t it be cool if we had to wear uniforms thing.Report

          • Griff in reply to LeeEsq says:

            I suspect you may be underestimating the extent to which it is legitimately stressful for girls (but much less for boys) to figure out what the socially “right” thing to wear is on a daily basis.Report

          • Kimsie in reply to LeeEsq says:

            I didn’t know anyone who was into wearing school uniforms, ymmv.
            I did know someone who would buy stuff from Salvation army, and that often included … interesting uniforms.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Kimsie says:

              Did you run around in anime circles? Jealously at the uniforms worn by Japaense teenagers was fairly common from my experience.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Kimsie says:

              Did you run around in anime circles? Jealously at the uniforms worn by Japaense teenagers was fairly common from my experience.Report

            • Damon in reply to Kimsie says:


              My Ex wife, could, for the most part of our marrige wear her old high school uniform. With a few modifications it was sufficiently sleazed up. Knowing she actually had been in catholic school made it even more “fun”.

              Guess I’ve said too much though. 🙂Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Damon says:

                *shrugs* at least you’re not a pedophile (disclaimer: friends of my friend (who knows everyone, it sometimes seem) are pedophiles. They are also artists. They do not touch children).

                With sex, everyone’s pretty much fucked in the head. Enjoying cosplay is… tame. (which is my way of saying: wow, you got off lucky!)Report

    • Patrick in reply to NewDealer says:

      I hated uniforms when I was in school (private). My kids go to a school with a dress code (not quite a uniform, but closer than not), which is lightly policed (you’re encouraged to be in uniform, but you’re not punished for not being in uniform).

      I agree with the principle that they do encourage group behavior standards, but I’m not entirely certain that this is quite the same thing as conformity or authoritarianism (although in practice in can play out that way).

      So the end result is that I’m not against dress codes or uniform policies in theory, but I often am in practice.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to NewDealer says:

      Well, this half-assed libertarian thinks school uniforms are ok and should be even more prevelant, because kids aren’t adults and schools have a socialization function. And, morevover, if they are doing right, schools have students from different socio-economic strata and Uniforms then make everyone equal.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to NewDealer says:

      I don’t know; school uniforms would have dramatically diminished my eagerness to punch the preppies. Their attitudes I could handle, but those clothes!Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to NewDealer says:

      I only wore a school uniform one year, in the first grade, so my experience of their effects is very limited.

      Maybe I was a more-than-normally oblivious kid (there are additional data to support this hypothesis), but I did not have any clue as to who in my class was more or less wealthy, or why I would care.

      Regardless of that though – while the uniforms don’t make the differences of wealth invisible, I think they do help make them less important, by taking them out of constant view. No one’s pretending students don’t come from different backgrounds, and kids may know perfectly well who is and is not able to afford designer label clothes, but making the distinction much less relevant to the school environment can, I think, help de-emphasize its importance.Report

  7. zic says:

    Yes it’s wrong.

    It’s also wrong that there’s no ‘dress’ option for males.

    But I know I’m a part of a very tiny minority in that thought.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to zic says:

      I’m just anti-uniform in general.

      If I have kids, I do not want to send them to a school with a dress code or uniform policy.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

        All schools have SOME form of dress code. If they don’t let you come naked, they’ve got a dress code. But I see your point. And largely agree. I think most of the arguments in favor of uniforms are either wrong in that they don’t actually achieve what they seek to or wrong in that they seek an improper end.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

          Fair enough. I am old enough to remember that my elementary school banned Simpsons t-shirts because Don’t Have a Cow Man was considered rude in 1989 or whatever. Also when I was in middle-school, belly piercings were big and the school banned mid-riff shirts for girls. These are the only two dress code requirements I remember.

          But I meant it more broadly. If I have kids, I don’t want to send them to a school with the more strict requirements or uniforms.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

            I gathered as much. Let me ask though… what would you say if a school wanted to ban shirts with swastikas on them? I won’t pretend that I have a really good answer to that question…Report

            • Griff in reply to Kazzy says:

              I don’t think that’s a hard question. No swastikas — there, done. Schools have things to teach, and kids have work to do, and I don’t see any problem with banning attire that we can easily predict will interfere with that.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Griff says:

                I think you can construct a good argument there. Schools are first and foremost about educating students and things that flagrantly interfere with that can be prohibited. But you then have to define and defend what interference is flagrant and what might be constructive.

                A shirt featuring the Westboro Baptist Church?
                An anti-war shirt?
                Shaving Johnny Football’s face into your head?

                You’ll have edge cases. Which don’t make it impossible but be ready for some fights. Especially if you are public.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                The wearing of something with the American Flag on it on Cinco de Mayo has come up.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                That kid should have been allowed to wear the flag t-shirt or item of clothing.

                If he was shouting taunts and other things at kids of a Latino(a) heritage, he should get in trouble for that.Report

              • Griff in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well for the public school cases there’s a whole body of law about what the First Amendment allows you to ban. I still love that there’s a landmark speech case that everyone refers to as “the bong hits 4 Jesus case.”

                Anyway, it’s definitely a situation where we know a line has to be drawn somewhere, and reasonable people may disagree about precisely where, but we may as well just go ahead and draw it someplace and stick to that.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Griff says:

                Agreed. But let’s not pretend that that isn’t a dress code. It is. It’s just one most of us are comfortable with.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Griff says:

                That is pretty much what the Supreme Court said in Tinker.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

              I generally follow the Tinker line:


              The Constitution does not stop at the (public) school house door. However, if the speech substantially disrupts the educational mission and teaching in school, the school can intervene. Swastikas and other hate speech would seem to meet this test.Report

            • Kimsie in reply to Kazzy says:

              My gym class had a policy about “no drug/alcohol ads” on clothing while in gym class. apparently they got burned in the past…Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        I’m just anti-uniform in general.

        That surprises me a little. I kinda thought this would be something we’d agree on.

        I actually don’t know if I would go so far as to say I am “pro-uniform”… but I am not anti.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

          My main opposition to uniforms in American public and private schools is that we seem to suck at designing ones that are at least somewhat fashionable for anything. The Japanese on the other hand are great designers of uniforms. Maybe we should outsource.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Now who has a fetish?

            I don’t think the Japanese school uniforms are great and from what I hear they are largely gone in actual schools. Japanese kids wear street clothing now. They are kept in anime for the sake of tradition.

            I have no way of confirming or not confirming the street clothing thing.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

              I heard the same thing when I was in the latter days of my anime fandom. I think the animators keep the kids in uniforms because it makes their jobs easier.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to LeeEsq says:

                It is often easier to just have one clothing per person.
                But then you have things like Persona 4, where people seem to be pretty flagrantly violating anything like a school uniform policy.

                With that, you get a way to have your characters “pop” out of the school scene.Report

      • Will H. in reply to NewDealer says:

        Not me.
        I want all the little bastards dressed up like Marines.
        March ’em about, etc.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to zic says:

      Again, I am with you on this, but am trying to stay in a very specific lane. Boys in dresses is a conversation I’d like to have, but I don’t think others (edited to add) at my school are ready for it yet.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

        How “conservative/traditional” is your school? Is it religious?

        I ask this because you mentioned that one of your students is the son of a same-sex couple but other students seem to come from more traditional backgrounds.

        Of course as an East Coaster now on the West Coast, I see a lot more formalism and conservatism on the East Coast in interesting ways.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

          Non-religious, but a school with a 100+ year history, housed in a historic mansion within a community that used to be private (we still technically have gates and a fence surrounding the village where we are).

          So, yea, pretty traditional… a very “blue blood” legacy, or at least an attempt to maintain that mindset…Report

          • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

            mr. kazzy, since this is in your bailiwick, isn’t that part of the draw of a private school setting, at least for parents? we’re looking at some now due to moving to an unfamiliar state with odd birth date placement issues etc etc etc so forth etc – and that seems to be part of their uh semiotic package. like an indication of quality, dubious though it may seem to me.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

              Oh, absolutely! If you make them dress like little aristocrats, they’ll grow up to be little aristrocrats!

              There are a number of schools that do not have a dress code (outside of the basics… you must wear clothes…). These are usually progressive schools. And by “progressive” I mean in terms of educational philosophies and not political leanings, though there is definitely a big overlap there. Also, many schools call themselves progressive but are not, or think that a lack of uniforms and first name basis for teachers makes them progressive. But that is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

              But, yea, there is a huge segment of parents who want to avoid the “riff raff”.Report

              • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

                oddly enough, in nyc at least a quarter of the public schools have uniforms.

                presuming this isn’t imposing too much upon you, i had a question about the progressive thing – i presumed it meant the first name basis, knit ties, everyone puts in three hours a month at the farm share growing organic kale, etc, but i also have no idea what the fiddle faddle i’m talking about. i presume it’s also a way of signalling “we’re not like those other, you know, religious schools” buuuuuuuuut i’m coming from an nyc perspective, not an american one.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                Progressive education really started with, or was at least chiefly championed by, John Dewey. The primary, most simplistic idea behind it is learning by experience (one of Dewey’s biggest work was “Education and Experience”). So, schools that embrace play and give kids opportunities to do rather than to simply hear and see can rightly call themselves progressive. Montessori is a form of progressive education, for example.

                Now, as I’ve come to learn, the progressive education movement grew out of the broader progressive political movement, of which people here have intimated Dewey was also a part (when I studied him, we didn’t really look at his politics so others can correct me if I’m wrong). So there is a huge overlap there that includes hippy-dippy folks who go on a first name basis and wear cargo shorts to work, but none of that is required by true progressive ideology.

                Unfortunately, “progressive” became a big buzz word, particularly in Manhattan, and damn near every school began labeling themselves as such and the term started to become meaningless and watered down. At this point, I bristle at its usage because it is so often wrong or bastardized.

                Some schools are legitimately progressive. And that’s cool. Most schools have some elements of it… even very traditional schools have students do lab experiments, which is experiential learning.

                As with anything, there is a lot of signaling going on and the term is used as such, as is the dress code or the teacher naming. But progressive ed is really based on student-centered, learning-by-doing.

                I hope that helps.Report

              • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

                it does tremendously. thank you for taking the time.

                one of the upsides to leaving the only place i’ve ever loved and where my entire life has been for nearly 20 years [pause for uncontrollable sobbing] is that the pricing of everything is more “not crazy”. (for reference, i work a few blocks away from a place that charges 39k a year for kindergarten)

                it’ll be interesting to see how progressive this progressive education actually is, though at age 3.5 i’m not sure it matters that much? i may be wrong but the whole thing seems like an educational amway pitch with some high end lifestyle branding thrown in. and mostly aimed at women, who (at least based upon the marketing approaches) seem to be considered the dominant decision making force in educational matters.Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                Where are you ending up, dhex? I remember Texas was in the running…Report

              • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                “…mostly aimed at women, who (at least based upon the marketing approaches) seem to be considered the dominant decision making force in educational matters.”

                Our soon-to-be childcare provider seems phenomenal, save for one issue: she corresponds almost exclusively with my wife. This in spite of the fact that A) I visited her, B) identified myself as an educator who was primarily entrusted with the decision, and C) am a better communicator than my wife. Yet, every email goes only to Zazzy. Every phone call goes to Zazzy. Mail gets addressed to her.

                If I didn’t think she was by far the best option, I’d be a lot more bothered by it. It might just be force of habit, but I don’t love it. With my parents, I make a point to always ask who should be the point person for contact. It’s usually the mom, but I ask first.

                Regarding progressive ed, I’m actually a huge proponent. I think it’s the cat’s meow. I just think the term and ideology have been abused. I’m also being challenged by some research showing that it might not address the “achievement gap” as it was initially believed to. But I have to read more into that.Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                glyph – thankfully we don’t have to mess with texas, so murderland it is. rural murderland. or rural ish at least. i mean, everything seems rural to me once you’re south of newark so i am not the best judge of rurality. i’m sure mr. trumwill would weigh in on it being a bare 4.1 on a 10.0 scale of ruralness, and rightfully chide me for my urban/e blinders.

                kazzy – that would and does annoy the hell out of me. especially in your case, as you’re an expert, or at least a highly skilled practitioner. i’m just some schmoe. but still, rude. you’d think at these prices customer service would be a consideration, especially with new parents.

                the only really awful, rather than slightly thoughtless faux pas, experience i’ve had was being told that the mothers in a 1-2 yr weekend play group and music class were uncomfortable with having a male parent there. but then a new teacher came on and told them to shush it and everyone got along ok. i figured that had more to do with baldscaryman than gender bias.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to dhex says:

                Mr. Trumwill is actually curious where in Maryland, as he is moving to the general PA-MD-WV-VA axis in a couple of months. Feel free to email me (enough with the third person).Report

              • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                I spent some time in MoCo and interviewed at some schools out in the more rural parts (using a similar definition as dhex… Western MD should be it’s own state it’s so frickin’ rural). Happy to weigh in with what little I have.Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                mr. trumwill – email sent. unless that wasn’t your email, in which case i have entertained a stranger.

                mr. kazzy – i would be interested to hear your thoughts, though we’re going to be further east than that by a bit.

                about 90% of what i know of maryland comes from watching the wire.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                Further east than Western MD? Or further east than Montgomery County? I lived in the latter and taught in the District, just south of the Silver Spring border (the northern “point” of DC). I visited the former once… cool but scary place.Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                “Further east than Western MD? Or further east than Montgomery County? ”

                google maps tells me “both”. far closer to delaware.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to dhex says:

                Dhex, got the email! You email like you post. Tell me, do you speak in lowercase letters, too? I’m hard of hearing, so that could be a problem if we ever met.Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                hey now, i do indeed use proper capitalization when required:


                otherwise i tend to keep things a bit, how you say, loosey goosey.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

                The three hours a month on a farm share or urban garden on school property might not be too far off. Same with the first name basis. You can also have schools that use Waldorph method or allow students to select what they want to study/radical unschooling, etc. Radical unschooling is a bit beyond the pale for me.


                This is a good example of a super-progressive (possibly in quotes) example of schooling as any.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

              I would say that depends on the private school.

              Private schools in NYC and San Francisco seem to run the gamut from the traditional, blue blood, uniform type of institution to those with a more modern, alternative, artsy feel. In SF, Stuart Hall for Boys and Hamlin (for girls) are very traditional seeming. Then you have Urban and Lick-Wilmerding which might as well be for whatever stereotype you can think of in liberal San Francisco parenting. Lick-Wilmerding started out as a vocational-tech school but morphed into a fancy, rich kid private school that still requires kids to take courses in carpentry or metal work for less than practical and probably achingly precocious reasons.

              In NYC, you have traditional schools like Spence, Nightingale-Bamford, Collegiate, Xavier, etc. And more artsy schools like St.Anne’s where everyone is on a first name basis and there are no uniforms.Report

      • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        It is not a ‘boys in dresses’ conversation, to my mind. It’s a challenge to the paradigm that let women aspire to equality by being more manly (wearing pants, for instance); giving women a choice. That still means there’s the subtle undertone that things feminine are not as good.

        When men have the freedom to be feminine, when being feminine is as good as being ‘manly,’ then we have something approaching actual equality in our sights.

        And if this does not start at your school, it will, at some school, somewhere. With hope.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to zic says:

          Hmmmm… now THAT is an angle I need to explore!

          There are schools that are having this, or a similar, conversation. When I was in (public) high school, I remember conversations about boys wearing dresses to prom. I don’t think anyone in my school did, but it was in the news.

          Funny story… a woman I know who is a teacher and a diversity practitioner once talked about how she will “gender bend” at her school. She’ll wear slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie. One time a student said, “Ms. L, we don’t dress like that hear (It’s an all girls school).” She went into a rant about gender equity and many of the things you mentioned. To which the student said, “No, Ms. L, I get all that. But a tie? No one wear’s ties here. We’re a t-shirt and jeans school!”Report

        • NewDealer in reply to zic says:

          I can see where you are coming from but have my hesitations.

          I think some people get too far activist with gender-queer and try to force their kids into roles that the kids do not want to be in for the sake of making a point and being activist. And I am not completely convinced that gender is a social-construct like others are.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

            No doubt. But if you’re into kids wearing what they want, that should include boys in skirts, no?Report

            • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

              What if we’re not into kids wearing what they want? Is a gendered uniform bad insofar as it is gendered*?

              *I’m ignoring questions as to whether uniforms are bad in general apart from the fact that they have specific and different requirements for boys and girls.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

                If you’re not into kids wearing what they want (which is a position I disagree with but can recognize as rational), then I think you would have to make a principled justification for having them gendered.

                We have different uniforms for different ages, in part because of the complexity of the uniforms and in part because of the type of work kids do. Ties are very hard and a potential safety risk for kindergartners. It is also impractical for them to wear blazers when they spent so much time working on the floor or in odd positions. Not so for older children, so they have a different standard.

                If you could demonstrate a reason why males and females should be required to dress differently, I’m all ears.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                If you could demonstrate a reason why males and females should be required to dress differently, I’m all ears

                Convention? Tradition? Its always been that way? It reflects the values of the larger society? (Not very good answers I know) Would it be acceptable if the school allowed students who identify as the other gender to wear the uniform appropriate for that gender?

                Gender dysphoria is one of those hard things to address without wandering into comprehensive values that people can reasonably* not share.

                It may very well be that Gender neutral uniforms would be a better alternative, but there aren’t really any such thing as gender neutral clothes. (unless you’re Indian) Women wearing pants is just women wearing men’s clothes. Men don’t wear skirts or dresses unless they’re Scottish or in theatre**.

                Does anyone know of a society which doesn’t have gendered clothing conventions? I know at least some of this is a remnant of Patriarchy where women wore clothes that were less practical, but even for Kurta/punjabi suit which are equally practical, there are still differences in cut and design. I do think that there is some basic primate socio-biological story to tell here. Insofar as the larger society is going to have a gendered understanding of clothing conventions, which I think it will have even when we eradicate patriarchy and achieve true parity between the sexes, the existence of said conventions are strong grounds for establishing/maintaining said conventions if one is to establish uniforms in a school.

                *For a given notion of reasonable that allows most people in a society to count as reasonable.

                **I assume that if you don’t self identify as a man you don’t count as one. And yes, I am ignoring cross dressers here.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

                You’re right that I don’t think any of those are good reasons. Which I hope you don’t take as a criticism… I appreciate you trying to answer the question… I just am not one for appeals to tradition.

                However, if you’re going to make those arguments, I think you need to make them fully. You can’t say, “We treat everyone equally here regardless of gender… oh… except for clothes… we make the girls wear skirts.” Not if you want to be an institution that claims to stand for something.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                But I don’t think that making girls wear skirts and boys wear pants counts as treating them unequally. Treating people equally ≠ treating people exactly the same down to every last detail. Each person wears the uniform that conventionally applies to their gender as they self identify. It doesn’t advantage or disadvantage any of the genders and flexibility with application to transpeople mitigates any problems them may have with wearing clothes of a gender that they don’t identify with.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                But if your only justification for the unequal treatment is tradition, I think you’ve got more work to do.

                I don’t object to single-sex locker rooms for older students (though I have heard compelling arguments against them) because there is differences between the sexes which justifies such segregation. I don’t know if there exists a practical difference between the sexes that justifies different uniform choices outside of the imposition of gender norms, with which I disagree.

                Because once you start with appeals to tradition… well… I’d invite you to look at photographs of the student body of 40 or 50+ years ago and notice the complexion of the groups and tell me how comfortable you’d be with that tradition.

                This is where I tend to make a big deal about principles. If you have a principled reason for differing treatment, I’m all ears. But I haven’t heard that yet. At least not one that satisfies me, though I have an admittedly high bar.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                But if your only justification for the unequal treatment is tradition, I think you’ve got more work to do

                Two points:

                1. The question is whether having a gendered uniform is in fact treating them unequally. After all, arguably having women wear pants would count as boys being allowed to wear clothes that reflect expresses their gender identity while girls are made to wear clothes that does not express their gender identity.*

                2. That a particular rule is part of an existing convention is actually a fairly strong reason most of the time not to change it even if an alternative rule set promises to be more equitable. The single biggest advantage that established rules have over new proposals is that we know that th established rules work**. It is only when established rules work so badly for enough*** people that they are better off with no rule that change is necessary. Of course, showing that any reasonable clothing rule would be gendered may be the task I’m faced with, but I’ll leave that to another day. It’s close to my bed time.

                *Of course clothes express gender identity. Transpeople would not feel such discomfort at wearing the clothes of their biological sex if they did not feel that they were being forced to express a false gender identity.

                **for some value of work

                *** It is not implausible that 1 person is enough. But this will have to be shown.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Great points, Murali. And I mean that truly.

                I’ll respond thusly:
                1.) Working within the context of a school that has a dress code AND a formal version of such, I would prefer us articulate that the following X choices are appropriate for “casual” days and the following Y choices are appropriate for “formal” days and allow students of any gender to choose from the full compliment.
                2.) If a rule is right and has a documented history of being right, those called upon to defend it should have no shortage of evidence of how and why it works. So I think asking for that evidence is fair. But if we make the burden of proof lie with those seeking to make change and make it such that they have to convince people actively opposed to them, that is a tall order. If we presume an unbiased arbiter, I’d be more confident making the case. But that is rarely the case.

                In this particular situation, I think that some key decision makers are open to change (at least in terms of letting girls wear pants… I’m not so sure about boys in skirts). I think we could probably use the one strong objection as reason enough. And there might be a whole host of others who do object but suffer in silence (which means that the argument against might be even stronger than it appears but also that the current culture silences such opposition, thus giving the impression that the status quo is more well-regarded than it actually is).

                I’m still pretty unconvinced, but I do appreciate you laying out a really thoughtful response. I think you are onto something, more generally, with appeals to tradition. Some rules do arise out of a clearly identified “rightness” (be it moral, practical, or otherwise) which might be lost to history but decades, centuries, or millenia of evidence demonstrate the success of. I’m just not sure that this particular rule is one. I don’t know how it came to pass that females wear skirts or dresses and males don’t. I think it is clear that this is not something natural, inherent, or universal, given how many cultures do not have such clear lines.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                Working within the context of a school that has a dress code AND a formal version of such, I would prefer us articulate that the following X choices are appropriate for “casual” days and the following Y choices are appropriate for “formal” days and allow students of any gender to choose from the full compliment.

                As a pro uniform guy, the worry is that people will switch around on a lark*. This may not be troublesome for casual days, but for formal days, I think the school should be able to say that we should take formal wear seriously and that taking formal wear seriously means not switching around for the heck of it and also means adhering to the conventions of polite society.**

                I don’t know how it came to pass that females wear skirts or dresses and males don’t. I think it is clear that this is not something natural, inherent, or universal, given how many cultures do not have such clear lines.

                I think we need to draw the distinction between the basic idea of gendered clothing and the particular manifestation of it in a particular cultural context. Other cultures also have gendered clothing. Even women’s pants are cut differently from men’s and tend to lack side pockets. The ubiquity of gendered clothing across cultures even at the minimal level inclines me to think that something else is going on.

                One way to intelligently speculate about what might be going on is to look at what the social consequences of a gendered clothing norm are. Gender cloting norms are just one part of Gender expression norms. One pattern we see is that ordinarily people who fail to perform according to Hetero-normative standards have lowered social status. This often manifests as homophobia or trans or gender queer phobia, but goes beyond that. Its not about sexual orientation, which is already fairly malleable (think American prisons). Rather, look at mating rituals. Men who tend to be successful at finding someone to spend the night with tend to be hav a gender expression that we call more masculine and similarly women who are similarly successful at finding a mate for the night tend to gender express as more feminine. Of course there are going to be exceptions. But so long as we maintain focus on the heterosexual and trans communities the pattern holds in general. In addition to mating success which is supposed to track mating success across the genders, social status of more masculine men tends to be higher among men and the social status of more feminine women tends to be higher among women. This trend is especially glaring among people of mating age. Look at teenagers and young adults. This makes sense because intra and inter gender status are mutually reinforcing. Men who can successfully achieve high status amongst other men are attractive to women because status is a reliable signal for offspring fitness and that drives female attraction and vice versa. People from each gender have incentive to maintain intragender competition as success in intragender competition in gender expression attracts more mates. Similarly people have incentive to encourage intragender competition for status via gender expression in the opposite gender because this aids mate selection. This competition causes a runaway process. In a lot of animals this results in varying degrees of sexual dimorphism. What this means is that one of the strong predictors (at least in theory) of gendered dimorphism in clothing is the extent to which visual cues drive mate selection. Gender expression and appearance may count for less and therefore be less differentiated in societies where the chance of successful mating depends on how many camels/cows your father has.

                What this means is that in western society where visual cues are extremely important for mate selection, intragender mating competition is going to be intense and gendered clothing dimorphism is going to be typically pronounced. Now, this may not say anything about the particular manifestation of clothing differences. It may well be a historical accident that pants were coded masculine and skirts were coded feminine. The particular details may even reflect a nefarious origin. The tendency for women’s clothes to be more figure hugging or revealing might reveal a historical and maybe even contemporary imbabalance in power. The one who has to signal more is usually the one who has less power. What this means is that given that visual cues are important in western societies as evidenced by the extent of gendered dimorphism in clothing, we can presume that no set of clothing conventions in which there is significantly less gender dimorphism in clothing is likely to persist. Both genders would have good reasons to develop a standard of masculinity and femininity which clothing styles can then affect.

                Now, given that the larger society does code certain clothes masculine and feminine to what extent should dress codes enforce such a convention? Defying conventions comes with a cost; in this case social opprobrium. If we think of such clothing conventions not as moral standards, but more akin to using the right fork, then enforcing gendered clothing norms is just the proper acculturation that schools should do in order teach children how to fit in with the larger society. This is part and parcel of the role schools have in socialising our young. Besides, schools already try to impose all sorts of tastes on us. Shakespear is Good. Hardy Boys is Trash

                *In contrast with those who really do identify with the opposite gender.

                **At least insofar as those conventions are not too oppressive.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                I’m going to have to take some more time to break this down. Lots of food for thought here.

                In the meantime, I will say this: My objection would probably be less if the requirement for girls was not a dress/skirt. Their are many issues that arise with dresses and skirts for girls. It requires them to sit a particular way else they risk exposing their underwear (particularly difficult when they’ll be sitting on the floor, as they will for the bulk of the event). It requires them to expose a large amount of skin. It requires them to conform to a very specific image of femininity. This isn’t simply saying that girls will wear the white graduation gowns and boys the blue ones, as my high school did. If it was something like that, I’d probably be less bothered by it.

                But the way my school does it seems really, really fished up. For graduation day, another formal event, girls must wear a white dress. Imagine the troubles that can arise from wearing a white dress during an outdoor graduation in June. It’s hot, you’re sweating, it’s humid… not a great combination.

                For the 170-ish days of the year that are not formal, we allow girls to wear pants. But for the formal days, we force them to put something on that, intentional or not, demands that they show some skin, that they sit uncomfortably, and that they wear an outfit that is often fetishized (the formal outfit or more-or-less your typical “Catholic school girl outfit”… think Britney Spears’ debut outfit).

                So it’s not just gendered clothing that I have some issues with, but this particular form of it. If a girl is really, really uncomfortable wearing a dress or skirt (such as the 7-year-old who eventually wet herself she was so uncomfortable), what is gained by forcing them to wear one?Report

              • Fnord in reply to Kazzy says:

                As a pro uniform guy, the worry is that people will switch around on a lark*.

                Obviously not an issue if there’s only a single uniform, with nothing to switch between. It’s true that this will effectively make the unisex uniform a male-expressing uniform, because cultural convention allow male-expression in women but not vice versa. But since you’re making a big point about how teaching cultural convention like this is part of the point, I hardly see how you can turn around and object to that.

                Now, given that the larger society does code certain clothes masculine and feminine to what extent should dress codes enforce such a convention? Defying conventions comes with a cost; in this case social opprobrium. If we think of such clothing conventions not as moral standards, but more akin to using the right fork, then enforcing gendered clothing norms is just the proper acculturation that schools should do in order teach children how to fit in with the larger society. This is part and parcel of the role schools have in socialising our young. Besides, schools already try to impose all sorts of tastes on us.

                So, alright, then, but let’s be mindful about what we’re teaching. Should we be (intentionally and specifically) teaching students to conform with traditional gender roles? Because, if you’re going to use what you said here as a reason for gender-differentiated uniforms, that’s what we’re talking about. If that’s the reason, let’s make it explicit and consider it explicitly.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                Thanks for the reply Kazzy. I see the force in some of your objections here. Just a few probing questions?

                My objection would probably be less if the requirement for girls was not a dress/skirt. Their are many issues that arise with dresses and skirts for girls. It requires them to sit a particular way else they risk exposing their underwear (particularly difficult when they’ll be sitting on the floor, as they will for the bulk of the event). It requires them to expose a large amount of skin. It requires them to conform to a very specific image of femininity.

                To what extent would your worries be allayed if the skirt was longer. Lots of schools in Singapore require the skirt to be not more than 3 fingers above the knee. If memory serves me well, the girls had no greater difficulty sitting on the floors than boys.

                But the way my school does it seems really, really fished up. For graduation day, another formal event, girls must wear a white dress. Imagine the troubles that can arise from wearing a white dress during an outdoor graduation in June. It’s hot, you’re sweating, it’s humid… not a great combination.

                Isn’t a dress more cooling than or pants? Anyway who the hell holds graduation out doors? There’s a reason God gave us air-conditioning!

                wear an outfit that is often fetishized (the formal outfit or more-or-less your typical “Catholic school girl outfit”… think Britney Spears’ debut outfit).

                Yeah that is kind of skeezy. I worry though that my objection to the Catholic school girl outfit is based on my prudery.

                a girl is really, really uncomfortable wearing a dress or skirt (such as the 7-year-old who eventually wet herself she was so uncomfortable), what is gained by forcing them to wear one?

                Was she uncomfortable with skirts in general, that particular short skirt or the heat and humidity? The latter is two I am inclined to agree with you but at least my intuitions are not so forgiving of the first. Intuitively the idea is that since the skirt is generally considered to be the formal wear of your culture part of the role of any school is to acculturate the children to this. I think that there are times when people should be prepared to go outside their comfort zone. And abiding by some of the cultural norms seems to be a good reason at least some times to do so.

                Of course I may not have been there so my understanding of what happenned could be flawedReport

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                While not entirely universal, the way many schools approach female dress codes is screwy. The skirts are rather short, such that if a girl wore a skirt of similar length on a “dress down” day, she could possibly be cited for wearing one too short. One of the (many) goals of a dress code or uniform is to avoid the students dressing inappropriately… and we accomplish that by giving girls short skirts (above the knee). Factor in that, as I mentioned, these are relatively young children (between 6 and 15, though the younger ones tend to wear “skorts”); they grow fast… very fast. A skirt that was of appropriate length in September might not be in December. But not all families have the opportunity or funds to by new clothes every few months. Boys can get away with “high waters”; they might look funny, but their is nothing inappropriate about it. Meanwhile, girls end up with skirts that are mid thigh and which might get them cited. Add in the complicating factor of girls who develop early. Last year, a student who was very developed for her age was told she could not wear skirts, despite wearing one of similar length to her skinny legged, knobby kneed, undeveloped classmates, because she was “too sexy”. What?!?! So, de facto, we instituted a different policy for girls who had the temerity to hit puberty earlier than others.

                Now, these instances of poorly handling the dress code do not mean the entire thing is wrong. But I think if we can’t think of how to thoughtfully implement, it makes me wonder if there is much thought behind it at all. It seems to me to be very much predicated on “this is how we’ve always done things” and the reason it became such was because little ladies of a particular era wore dresses and that was that.

                But I do think it demonstrates the really complicated nature of dress codes, particularly when they make use of a particular clothing device which society demands of girls for a certain adherence to being “ladylike” and which a certain segment of the female population re-imagined as they claimed/reclaimed their sexuality and lost in the middle are little girls who just want to be comfortable.

                Regarding the white dresses, I imagine them to be cooler than the boys blazer/slacks combo, but white outfits and moisture do not mix well.

                Regarding the girl who objected last year, in 3 years, I have never voluntarily seen her wear a dress. There is clearly something really, really uncomfortable for her about it. In many ways, she presents as “tom boyish”… it would not surprise me if now or at some point in the future she was questioning gender identification, however so slightly (it might never manifest any greater than an abhorrence of skirts and all things “girly”). To demand that she adhere to a social norm which we can’t/don’t/won’t articulate and which she did not voluntarily agree to (she’s here because of her parents, not because of her own choice) seems really problematic, especially when we espouse a great deal about respecting children via our mission statement. To me, I don’t think we are respecting this young girl.

                As a general rule, if a student asks, “Why?” about a rule or policy or expectation and I don’t have a good answer, it probably means it’s a bad rule/policy/expectation. Now, with younger students, there are often times it is hard to explain appropriately or satisfactorily the purpose of a rule. There are certain things that are largely beyond their comprehension. But if the best response we can muster is, “That’s how we’ve always done thing,” or, “That’s just how girls are supposed to be,” I’m going to call BS. There are a lot of things that have been done a certain way, PARTICULARLY in American private schools, that are dead wrong… how long were our institutions segregated, officially or otherwise? And the minute you say, “This is how girls are supposed to be,” you are communicating to girls who would not voluntarily choose to be that way that they are somehow flawed, or less than other girls, or doing it wrong.

                All of which I deeply object to.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Kazzy says:

                I object to clothing choices that say that women ought to be crippled, and flagged as victims.
                (Pants that don’t have pockets are a good example. In our society, women sometimes use purses instead of using pockets — because their pants don’t always have pockets. But a purse is far more likely to be stolen than a wallet in a pants pocket (for a “grabby” sort of thief, I’m leaving muggings out of this)).

                Short Skirts demand that a woman sit with her legs together — this does multiple things in a social situation (for one thing, she can’t sit with her legs crossed, as Kazzy has said he teaches in class.) Another is that the girls are taking up less space — a boy will sit with his legs spread somewhat — this has bearing on not just “comfortableness” but symbolic power (just like the boss leaning back and putting his hands behind his head is claiming more of the physical space… and also the mental space. I am the boss, and thus am permitted to grab more space than you).Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Murali says:

                Frankly, Women have been riding horses (the reason trousers were invented) for hundreds of years. Wearing a substantially less functional uniform (long skirts are a bitch for climbing stairs, and short skirts are … problematic in other ways — primarily in impeding how someone might sit) sends a message.

                Even a t-shirt is generally cut differently for a man and a woman.
                But non-gendering of clothing is NORMAL for western culture — pre French Revolution. Everyone wore formal skirt-like things, and with an equal amount of ostentation, generallyReport

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Murali says:

                It send the signal that there are rules about what each gender should do that the public school endorses and enforces. Public schools shouldn’t take sides in ethical controversies where possible and it is very easy to let parents and kids decide how they want to deal with gendered fashion rules. Tell the kids there are two uniforms. Where whichever one you want: dress or pants, but where one or the other.Report

              • Shazbot4 in reply to Shazbot4 says:

                Oy. Not good spelling.Report

              • Fnord in reply to Shazbot4 says:

                Tell the kids there are two uniforms.

                Or, you know, just have one uniform. If the intent is to make things uniform, make things uniform.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

              I think it should be yes as long as this is a choice of the boy rather than his parents. Several months ago, the NYT ran an article on a pre-school in Sweden that decided to use gender neutral terms to refer to their students rather than gendered terms. Like New Dealer, I think this decision was more than a tad ridiculous and basically activism for the sake of activism. Gender is both a biological and social construct and you should not ignore biology for the sake of political activism.

              I’m against using children as sociological projects or as pets or dolls. Each person must be treated as an end in him or herself, as a unique individual.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                So you wouldn’t do what that Canadian family is doing and not disclosing their child’s gender until he or she is ready to decide? I think the kid is 8 or so now.

                Of course, then you have the state fucking everything up, but that is a whole ‘nother outrage:

              • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

                No, I definitely would not do what the Canadian family is doing. I’d refer to my kid as whatever biological gender they are unless that kid ends up being transgendered, where I will make the switch to the kid’s prefered gender. As a parent, I reserve right to select their new name if they are still a minor.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

                No, I definitely would not do what the Canadian family is doing. I’d refer to my kid as whatever biological gender they are unless that kid ends up being transgendered, where I will make the switch to the kid’s prefered gender. As a parent, I reserve right to select their new name if they are still a minor.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’d like to add that the case linked above is not exactly what I’m talking about. In the above linked case, the child was born intersex. What I’m referring to is children with a definite biological sex being referred to in gender neutral terms. That I think is treating children as a sociological experiment.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yea, I shared the link moreso as just evidence of yet another way we fish this stuff up.

                But, yes, I would use the term appropriate for the biological sex until the child makes an informed decision otherwise.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

                I agree, if a kid is intersex than its best to wait to see what the mental sex of the kid is before doing any surgery. I understand why doctors would want to do surgery right away, its a lot easier from their point of view but the chances of making the wrong choice are basically 50/50. Thats too high. As I undertand doctors usually always decide to make intersex babies girls because its easier.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to LeeEsq says:

                The Swedes have gender neutral pronouns? I’m envious.Report

              • Glyph in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                Yes, but you have to assemble them yourself at home; it’s very time-consuming and frustrating.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                I think the school invented some for the kids if I’m remembering the article correctly.Report

              • zic in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I’ve a dear friend who’s transgendered, and might have been a lot more comfortable in such a world, instead of spending many years on the verge of committing suicide.

                Just sayin’.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

              If I had a son and he wanted to wear a skirt, he could wear a skirt. However, I would be worried about him getting teased and/or beaten up in certain places.

              If his hypothetical mother wanted to put him a skirt to make a political point, I would be opposed.Report

          • zic in reply to NewDealer says:

            I think there are a whole lot more boys tortured into ignoring their ‘feminine’ side then there are boys forced to express a feminine nature they don’t have. I suspect that group of boys; particularly transgendered women, go though more torment then you can imagine on a near daily basis. If for no other reason then their humanity, we should drop the silliness of making boys comport to masculine gender roles.

            But I stand by what I said; the devaluing of things feminine if they’re for ‘boys’ is a pretty good indication that female is still second class. This is not only sexist, but it’s sexist in a way that deprives men of fashions, careers, and hobbies that they might find enormously fulfilling.Report

        • Pinky in reply to zic says:

          In what way do uniforms imply that “things feminine are not as good”? I don’t see it.Report

    • Plinko in reply to zic says:

      I am with zic on this one, whatever code there is should just be uniform. If pants are OK for boys, they are OK for girls. If skirts are OK for girls, then they are OK for boys.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to zic says:

      If my son can’t got to school in a Kilt, he’s getting home-schooled!Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    If it’s a private school, they can make the students dress up like little animals.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, sure. But does that mean it would be right to?

      I’m not arguing from a legal perspective, but from a moral or ethical one.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Eh. Having arbitrary and capricious rules will do as much to prepare the kids for adulthood as anything else.Report

        • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

          Only thing is that in Singapore where schools typically have very draconian uniform rules (as seen below) the rules may be arbitrary even harsh, but they are not capricious. They do not change at the whim of some school administrator. They are uniform and predictable and transparent.Report

  9. Murali says:

    Let me dissent and say that there is nothing particularly wrong about it. Uniforms are about telling people what to wear. That it tells girls what to wear is incidental as it also tells boys what to wear. But then my secondary school like almost every other school in Singapore* had the following dress code (except there was no casual fridays)

    1.1 School Uniform

    Andersonians are to wear the prescribed school uniform and modification to the uniform is not allowed.

    •Girls?Kelly blue tunic. White blouse with pointed shirt collar and short sleeves.
    ?Tunic must be knee length. Otherwise it may be confiscated.
    ?Belts must be properly worn at the waist (i.e. not loosely) at all times, together with the uniform.
    ?Girls are to wear the school tie every Monday and at formal school functions.

    ?White shorts for Lower Sec/long pants for Upper Sec with side pockets or hind pockets only and white shirt with short sleeves. No bell bottoms are allowed. The shorts/long pants must be worn properly (i.e. not loosely) at the waist at all times.
    ?The long pants must not be tapered or baggy. Otherwise it may be confiscated.
    ?White shorts/long pants that do not meet the school’s specifications will be confiscated.
    ?No belts are to be worn and no combs, handkerchiefs or wallets are to be seen sticking out from the hind pockets.
    ?Boys are to wear the school tie every Monday and at formal school functions.
    ?Boys are to tuck in their shirts at all times.

    •School badges must be worn 2 cm above the breast-pocket for boys and on the tunic for girls. Andersonians without badges are to buy one immediately.
    •Nametags must be worn at all times directly below the school badge. Andersonians without nametags or whose nametags are damaged are to order one immediately and obtain an official receipt from the bookshop as proof. In the meantime, they have to wear a temporary nametag.
    •No sleeves are to be rolled up.

    1.2 Attire on casual Fridays/Saturdays/during school vacation

    •Andersonians are allowed to wear school uniform or half school-uniform when they come to school. The school T-shirt instead of the blouse/shirt worn with the tunic or trousers constitutes half-uniform.
    •Class T-shirts are allowed on casual Fridays only and must satisfy the school’s specifications. The school/class T-shirt must be tucked in (for boys) and worn under the tunic (for girls) at all times.

    1.3 Attire during examinations

    All students are expected to be attired in full school uniform during examinations.
    1.4 PE Attire

    •Proper PE attire must be worn for PE. By the end of recess, all students are to change back into their school uniforms. Andersonians who do not do so risk causing their classes to lose the privilege related to casual Friday.
    •Proper PE attire/sports gear or CCA attire must be worn for sports/games or CCA respectively.
    •The school/CCA T-shirt or sports vest must be tucked in at all times if it is worn as part of half-school uniform.

    1.5 Shoes and socks

    •Slippers are not allowed at all times. Sandals with straps are to be worn ONLY in cases of feet injury.
    •White canvas shoes and plain white socks must be worn. White ankle socks are allowed and must be worn at least 1 inch above the shoe opening.

    2. Grooming (Spectacles, Hairstyles, Facial hair, Nails, Jewellery, Accessories)

    •Andersonians in uniform/half-school uniform should not have outlandish spectacle frames/tinted spectacles. Coloured contact lenses are not allowed.
    •girls must wear their hair neatly at all times. Dangling hair is not allowed and must be clipped with black/navy blue clips. Long hair for girls must be tied back with black/navy blue ribbons in a ponytail.
    •Boys must keep short hair. Perming is not allowed. Boys’ hair must be above the collar, sloped at the back and be above the eyebrows. Sideburns must be above the middle part of the ears. Boys must be clean-shaven at all times. Moustache, beard and facial hair is not allowed.
    •Neither boys nor girls are permitted to tint or highlight their hair.
    •Outlandish hairstyles, including spiky hairstyles, are not allowed.
    •nails must be kept short and free from nail polish. No make-up, such as lipstick, is allowed.
    •Andersonians are not allowed to wear jewellery such as bangles/chains/rings or other ornaments such as ear sticks/retainer sticks on the ear lobes. However, only girls are allowed to wear one pair of gold/silver small stud-earrings on their ear-lobes. The stud-earrings should be plain, simple and identical, with one on each lobe.
    •Ear/nose/tongue studs and other piercings on the body must not be worn.
    •Accessories in any form must not be worn.

    The whole point of a uniform is to enforce a sameness among the students and inhibit the propagation of all social heirarchies except those that can be expressed through sanctioned channels e.g through grades, or extra-curricular activities. Insofar as typical american teenage social dynamics are inimical to the purposes of learning stuff, (and my prejudices think they are) I tend to approve of such policies. Not only would I send any kid I had to such a school, I wish more schools were like this.

    *Not that other schools had the same uniform, but the others had a similar level of strictnessReport

    • Jaybird in reply to Murali says:

      Perming is not allowed.


    • Griff in reply to Murali says:

      If you (or anybody) know, what is the reason not to let boys wear belts?Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Murali says:

      Well that sounds entirely unpleasant and unnecessarily strict.Report

      • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:

        I do think all of you guys would be creeped out if you were to visit a public school in Singapore. From the comments, I think you would find the culture too different. Of course the reverse is not the same as I have been exposed to american school culture via TV shows.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

          I studied preschool in China and Japan via the documentary “Preschool in Three Cultures”. It was fascinating to see the differences, but also the similarities. I know some of my classmates found it jarring. Even though there were some parts during the exploration of the Japanese and Chinese schools wherein I thought, “I would never do that,” I was never creeped out. And I’ve seen plenty of American schools that have made me think the same.

          Is Singapore at all similar to China or Japan in terms of their approach to education?Report

          • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

            Preschools till now have been comparatively relaxed in Singapore because they have not been compulsory and the ministry of education has till now stayed out of it.

            I don’t know exactly what hapens in China and Japan, but when the Japanese exchange students came over once, they seemed an ill disciplined lot. Their hair was died and they had minor modifications on their uniforms and their shirts were half hanging out at the beginning of the day.

            Also the ting that I thought would creep you out is the way that students bow and greet the teacher when he or she enters the room for the lesson. Or the way in which the whole school does parade drills (only “attention” and “at ease” but with reasonable amount of uniformity in execution) in the morning as eveyone sings the school song and he national anthem.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Murali says:

              Yes, I think that most Americans of any political leaning would get creeped out by such levels of uniformity and military like discipline. Even parents into strict discipline are going to think that bowing to teacher is way too much.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                So is the “Pledge of Allegiance” not a creepy demonstration of uniformity and military like discipline?

                Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t teach my kids it. Whoops!


                I don’t think bowing and greeting is necessarily creepy. Our children shake hands on the way into rooms, though different teachers enforce this more earnestly than others (I do it because it lends a bit of seriousness to PreK… it lets the kids know that what we do is “real school”, too… but I’m not super strict about it). I do expect the children to greet familiar adults who enter the classroom, though not necessarily in unisom (depending on the context).

                Maybe I should move to Singapore…Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Murali says:

              “the whole school does parade drills”

              You got nothing on my school for creepiness. We used to square dance. For real. A lot. Every year. Every. Damn. Year. Until high school.

              Sometimes I suspect that this was part of some special-ops training so that if and when we travelled back in time to the late 19th century, we would be able to blend in and look as dumb as everyone else. (What other purpose could there be?) The training never proceeded to riding old-timey bicycles. (It is also possible that it was an incentive not to have to repeat a year of school.)Report

    • Shazbot4 in reply to Murali says:

      Do they force the boys and girls to wear the same uniform?Report

    • Fnord in reply to Murali says:

      “Uniforms are about telling people what to wear. That it tells girls what to wear is incidental as it also tells boys what to wear.

      So, it doesn’t matter what distinctions it makes when telling people what to wear? If it choose different uniforms for different races, for example, that’s not a problem?Report

  10. LWA says:

    I think Murali makes a good point about discouraging hierarchies except those that are sanctioned.
    In addition, we should recognize that a lack of an official uniform does not equate to free choice. The clothing choices made by most young people are made from a very narrow range of socially acceptable styles, enforced by ostracism and ridicule.

    Young people are, for the most part, intensely self-focused and need to be encouraged to think outside of themselves and their own desires. Uniforms and other mandatory norms of group identity like team sports are helpful to that end.Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to LWA says:

      Our preschool has T-shirts with the school logo printed on them. Each class has adifferent color T-shirt. When there are special events, the kids wear their class T-shirts and everyone gets a thoroughly effective dose of belonging to something bigger. My daughter gets very excited when she gets to wear her class shirt, and excited for her friends as well. The other kids get similarly excited, so I think the practice is having an effect like what you’re describing. Yet, most of the time the kids get to choose their clothes, which is a good outlet for creativity and self-expression.

      There is already too much arbitrary hierarchy in public schools. That said, I think that schools that serve a wide variety of families in terms of socieconomic station are probably well-served by having (inexpensive) uniforms.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Boegiboe says:

        I hear this argument alot, and recognize the point being made, but struggle with it. The uniform tends to represent the dress of the people in power, those with money and access and privilege. We make all the kids wear ties. This is a bigger shift from their normal wear for some than others. Does this risk otherizing them from their peers and/or their own cultures? The uniform is never blue jeans; It is always khakis, ties, and blazers. This in spite of the fact far more kids would identify with the former. So while there might be a certain leveling effect, there is also a norming effect. Which serves a practical purpose, but also further institutionalizes the culture of power. Khakis are only more formal than jeans because some group of peole decided such. There is nothing inherent about it. Formality is a social construct.Report

        • LWA in reply to Kazzy says:

          I agree, that the uniform choice invariably represents the aspirations of the parents- all the kids look like little preppies about to graduate to intern for Goldman Sachs.

          But given that parental choices for their children will forever represent an aspiration not formed by the child, I can think of plenty of worse choices.

          Clothing does signal and reflect our class and status, because we want it to; Maybe its best that that anxiety be held in check until they are old enough to endure it.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

          “Does this risk otherizing them from their peers and/or their own cultures?”

          No. Well, yes, but in a good way. It’s exactly the tension Obama navigated (sucessfully) to get where he is today.

          I want every kid in America (and the world for that matter) to at least have the *ability* to have the aspiration of being part of the elite. At least in the America I believe in.

          And teaching kids (subtlety, and without condescension or manipulation) ‘the culture of power’ is part of that. But to me that exactly the same as teaching them (in a non-gender way) to be ‘gentlemen and ladies’Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

            Fair points, Kolohe. Education writer Lisa Delpit argues that we should teach children the culture of power, while also teaching them that it is a culture of power and not the morally superior way of living it is often held up to be. Rather than teach them to rage against the machine from the outside, she advocates we teach them how to enter the culture of power and change it from within. So, I see what you’re saying. We don’t do poor kids much good if they never learn how to tie a tie because, like it or not, someone is going to expect them to wear one one day. However, we also don’t do them much good if we teach them, explicitly or implicitly, that not wearing a tie or not wanting to wear a tie is somehow evidence of a flawed culture or individual. So, I think the approach you advocate here is a sound one so long as it is balanced with a respect for other cultures and empowerment to dismantle the way in which culture can be used to exclude or marginalize others.Report

            • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kazzy says:

              I second Kolohe’s argument. There are no uniforms at my college, of course (athletics aside), but because a significant number of our students are lower or lower-middle income, I do spend time explaining the culture of power to them, because a lot of them don’t really know how to navigate it yet, and they’re going to really struggle, despite a college degree, if they can’t. I tell them it’s just another audience they have to reach, and that it requires particular ways of speaking, writing, dressing, and acting (and that, yes, those standards are primarily set by white makes), but they don’t have to sacrifice the entirety of their lives to it, just the working portion. Not that I want to imply that it’s all about race. In my career seminar I teach shy students to look me in the eye, he-men to tone down their handshakes, young women to not see miniskirts as professional attire, men the same regarding tennis shoes, and so on.

              With my age group there’s not so much need to be subtle, but as Kolohe says, I do this without condescension or manipulation. I tell them it’s like being an artist–you need to learn the rules before you can know how to break them.Report

  11. Tod Kelly says:

    I notice all of the derision here is aimed at a rule that demands kindergarteners wear mandatory gender-specific formalwear for certain occasions.

    I would agree, but can I also say that this rule doesn’t get any better by taking the phrase “gender-specific” out of it.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


      The rule applies K-9. The student who most objected and received an exception (after apparently wetting herself from anxiety) was a second-grader. I don’t know if the exception would have been made had it not been for her accident (which demonstrated both an emotional struggle and a practical issue).Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think you may be misunderstanding my meaning.

        What I meant to say is that I find the idea of having school events for 2nd graders where they are required to come in formal dress is ridiculous – regardless of who wears the bow tie.

        I should probably keep my yap shut since I know not of what I speak, but elementary school students going to formal school events makes me think of things like clubs, or cotillions, or ranked private schools, or any of those things my wife describes from her youth that make me think the part of the US that’s east of the Mississippi is hung up on class to an unhealthy degree.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Got it. I agree. Kids are not little adults. Their uniform should be dirt.

          My school is in the town where a specific type of formalwear was invented for Christ’s sake (at least according to local lore). That is a big reputation to uphold when it comes to making your kids participate in horse-and-pony shows. I can not overstate the intensity of disgust I feel for horse-and-pony shows we force children through, chief among them “Grandparents Day” which is one, massive, emotionally manipulative shakedown of the elderly that leaves many children in tears.Report

  12. GordonHide says:

    Because you’re asking the question I would guess that the moral code of conduct to which you, (and I assume many of your fellows), adhere has evolved to consider it to be wrong.Report

  13. Mike Dwyer says:

    My kids wore uniforms all the way through high school. It’s becoming the norm in Louisville public schools. Skirts were optional for the oldest daughter. The youngest daughter has never had a choice of anything but shorts or slacks. The Catholic schools here are different. They still wear the plaid skirts. But that’s a whole other thing.Report

  14. Will H. says:

    Before teaching those little girls to feel bad about themselves, or to be ashamed of being gendered in a specific manner, it might be a good starting place to go around to every female commenter on this site and describe to them how they were abused on each occasion when their parents attempted to put nice clothes on them.

    Then write the parents of those female commenters, and describe to them the awful and horrible abuse that they put their daughters through, and equate that with being molested sexually.

    That should work.Report

    • zic in reply to Will H. says:

      What does horrible abuse have to do with this? Really, who suggested anything remotely close to this equating to sexual molestation? Is that, in your mind, the sum total of gender inequality and sexism?

      Or nice clothes, for that matter? Parents don’t, if they have the means, also provide nice clothes for their sons? Their daughters clothes should matter more for some reason? What might that be?Report

  15. lincoln's beard says:

    My first thought was how awful it was that boys are forced to wear khakis on formal occasions. Khakis are just barely appropriate for business casual.Report