Recently, a friend on FB (I’ll call her Jeannie,) was soliciting agreement for something her daughter was doing. The daughter (I’ll call her Alyssa) is finishing eighth grade, and as many adolescents do, she disagreed with a school policy concerning dress code. Alyssa decided to stage a peaceful protest by gathering names on a petition to have the code changed. Evidently, word got to the higher authorities, and they issued a statement, reinforcing the dress code.
Jeannie began asking for affirmation for Alyssa’s actions, claiming the petition would do no harm. I didn’t comment because I had to give the issue some thought. Certainly, this passive-aggressive behavior would not be in the same category as picketing, or a sit-in, or a march, but should it have been seen as a simple expression of disagreement. This comes from one who had no problems as a teen protesting war at various gatherings or wearing and displaying my array of peace paraphernalia. Perhaps with age comes a change in acceptability?
Alyssa has always been an excellent student, and her behavior has always been above reproach. So, why not let her have her little rebellion and just forget about it? I suppose I then began to approach it from various perspectives. From the student’s viewpoint, it wasn’t right that she and her peers had to follow such silly rules. After all, they were teens now, and they should have their say! Right?
Then, let’s see it from the parent’s position. Jeannie truly believed the dress code was wrong. Why couldn’t these kids wear what they wanted? There are certainly a lot more issues about which to be concerned. And look at Alyssa’s initiative! She was willing to write up this petition, get signatures, and give it to the powers that be. She should be commended for her approach. Right?
Of course, this also has to be observed from the viewpoint of faculty and administration. Once the plan was exposed, what should they have done? They may have called in Alyssa and gotten the story from her. They might have just stepped in and stopped the petition. They could have reprimanded any student who was involved. Of course, any of those actions would surely have evoked the wrath of parents. How dare they accuse my child of wrongdoing! Can you see the mess that would cause? But they’d be doing their job. Right?
I also began looking at the situation as a learning opportunity. Alyssa is only in eighth grade, now, but Jeannie commended her action. Alyssa feels affirmed in her plans. Let’s fast forward to high school. Should Alyssa protest any rule she feels is unfair to her and her peers? After all, Mom backed her in Junior High. What if the issue involved grading, or drugs, or social media? Let’s get that petition going, again. These are rules from another era, and they need to be changed. Right?
So, where do I stand? Sorry, Jeannie and Alyssa, but I have to side with the school on this. The education they offer these kids isn’t merely the three Rs; it’s about ethics, morals, and the child’s future. If students were allowed to protest, no matter how benign, every rule with which they disagree, what are they learning? If you want to do your own thing, it’s all right; who needs stupid rules anyway? Where’s the issue of respect for authority? If they finish their schooling and get a job, should they rebel against the company every time they have their own ideas? I don’t think they’d have their job for very long.
So, where do you stand? Should Jeannie urge Alyssa to make her point? Should it be a teachable moment to explain that we might not always see eye-to-eye with issues, but sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and accept the rules. Let me know your thoughts on this.