Friday, February 29, 2008

I'll give you something to fight for

Oh look, a kindergarten student has been suspended for showing up to school with a Mohawk.

Is it just me or is it pretty much a daily occurrence that some damn kid somewhere gets sent home from school for having hair or clothes that are deemed inappropriate?

And then the poor thing is paraded about in the media while the parents prattle on about human rights abuse and how they feel it is important to fight for their child’s freedom of self-expression.

Oh spare me.

These kinds of battles aren’t about human rights or freedom of expression. They’re about the parents’ desperate need for attention and their misguided hopes that their child will somehow make some kind of mark on the world, however frivolous.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a curmudgeon. I am big fan of Mohawks. I also think crazy hair and clothes are actually good for kids. But if another adult, an adult charged with maintaining an environment conducive for learning for several hundred children, tells me my son’s appearance is disruptive, I’m going to respect that.

I’m going respect it even if I think it’s kind of foolish, even if I think the school is being overly cautious and conservative. Because I believe there is a value in respecting other people’s wishes and desires, even if you don’t completely agree with them: it’s called compromise and I believe it is an important value for my son to learn.

It’s not that I won’t encourage his passion, far from it. I think the passion of youth is a glorious thing. I will be sorely disappointed if Graham doesn’t go through a (hopefully brief) phase in which he proclaims himself a Marxist-Socialist-Anarchist and vows to dedicate his life to railing against the status quo and the bourgeois trappings of his middle-class existence.

But also I dearly hope that Graham never squanders his passion protecting the rights of kindergarten students to attend school looking like what their parents imagine to be counter-cultural revolutionaries.

If he does, it won’t be with my blessing because it smacks of self-indulgence. And I don’t think North America needs more self-indulgent children: I know it doesn’t need more self-indulgent adults.

It’s important for us to teach our kids to stand up for their principles, but it’s equally important for us to teach our kids which principles are worth standing up for.

Clothing and hair? Just not that important. Not in this country anyway.

If parents want to get their kids fired up over human rights, they should talk to them about Darfur. Afghanistan. Iraq. Tibet. Cuba. Introduce them to the folks at Amnesty International.

Get them fired up over creating a world without millions of children who would cut off their arm, never mind their hair, to go to a school where administrators enforce silly rules in an attempt to maintain order and a peaceable learning environment.

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60 comments:

Angie said...

Wow. Amen to that. How can those kids at such a tender age be taught to respect authority when their parents laugh and mock and protest ridiculously in front of them and "in their name?" How can they learn that part of life is simply bowing down to "the man" as you stated in one of your recent posts. We don't have to love it, but we have rules. Rules are there, usually, to protect and maintain some sort of harmony. A kindergartener CERTAINLY should respect that. Sadly, the parents are doing no favors. The parents are creating kids that turn to teens who think rules do not apply to them and rebel in gigantic proportions. Teenagers that turn into adults that think everyone is out to get them and doesn't respect them and has some issue with them all the time. Adults that are never content if they aren't fighting or begrudging someone. Maybe this is all extreme, but you get my point.
KEEP BELIEVING

Amy said...

I echo your sentiments as well as Angie's. The mother is surely seeking attention and for what reason? I feel badly for her son. Clearly this mother will go through life and continue to stir up the pot, at her son's expense. Of course there are times when one should let her voice be heard and fight for a cause. I just don't think this cause is worth exploiting her child. There are certainly more important things to think about.

Dawn said...

I agree. It's important to teach kids to respect those in authority over them. If the mom really had a problem with the rule, it would have been best to keep the kid out of it.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I clicked over to read the link before I read what you wrote. I thought exactly what you said as I was reading it.

The mom is an idiot.

OHmommy said...

Amen! To you and the three commenters above me.

What is she teaching the kid? How is he going to survive in the real world of rules and authority?

Thanks Diva. For the reminder that respect begins early on in the home. Uggg!!! I can't imagine where this kid will be a couple of years from now.

katydidnot said...

utter ridiculousness.

Mommy Cracked said...

I absolutely agree!! Excellent post!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Yup. Those parents just want to be Brad and Angelina, and for their son to be their Maddox. They're totally frontin'. Poseurs.

Melissa said...

Wow, at first I wasn't sure that I agreed with you but as I read further and considered your point of view I have to say your on to something. I believe they call this 'not sweating the small stuff.'

Are You Serious! said...

Seriously! In kindergarten the parents are still doing the kids hair so... Why would the kid get suspended? Not that I understnad the "ban" against mohawks for little kids???

a kelly said...

well said!

Kat said...

YES! Finally somebody spoke out.

Laura said...

Well said. I agree.

wheelsonthebus said...

As someone with a three-year-old boy who has always cared DEEPLY about what he wears, I could see us in a similar situation. He really likes pink. He went through a short dress phase. His colors always clash, not to mention his patterns. And, if I were told that he should go home and change because it was disruptive, I might wonder whether the school district was spending too much time worring over silly things rather than just teaching the kids.

I understand your point, but if the child wanted his hair cut this way, it is his hair. Teaching children to own their bodies is important. He wasn't wearing offensive clothes or smelling bad, he just had a haircut.

I agree that we have to teach our kids to be concerned over the big injustices in the world, but at a young age, they cannot learn to fight for people not allowed to wear the garments of their religions, for example, until they learn that everyone has a right to dress as he or she wishes.

Does that make sense? I fear I am rambling...

wheelsonthebus said...

I fear my comment might seem offensive. Please know I respect your point and just wanted to present the other side, since I could imagine myself in these shoes.

Kitty said...

Amen to all that. Parents have to show their kids an example - who else will, if they don't?

My son is fond of having his hair gelled. However, it does NOT happen on a school day - it happens on fun occasions like parties.

Cool post. x

Family Adventure said...

I agree with you, completely, about this case, because I read the story before I saw your post and felt exactly the same way about the mother.

BUT!! I also see what wheelsonthebus is saying...and why was this child's hairdo such a threat to the school's peaceful learning environment? If I had been in this situation, I guarantee that I would have asked my child to drop the mohawk. It wouldn't have been worth the fight, IMHO, and I would have tried to explain this part to my son. But if he had asked me why his haircut was deemed a distraction and/or a threat - you know, I wouldn't have been able to give him a good answer.

Heidi

Karen said...

Well said! You're right - kids should have their passion in life nurtured along, but guided in the right direction by their parents. So wise.

Mary said...

Great post. Seriously, what are these parents trying to prove?! What kind of example are they setting?!

Leanne said...

Yep. You go girl. There's a time and place to fight, and these things aren't the things to fight over. We are truly blessed here and we need to teach our kids to respect and remember that.

Becky L said...

Okay, I never hear any news; so I hadnt heard about the kindergartner. That's wild; but I do agree with your points.

Molly said...

I totally agree. Before my life as a SAHM, I taught middle school. One of my students, a 6th grader, got his tongue and eyebrow pierced. He loved sticking out his tongue and showing it off. The school asked him to not wear the jewelry to school and his dad raised hell. It made the local news and everything. Eventually the dad gave in. As a teacher, I can attest to the distraction factor. As a mother, I can not fathom having my 12 year old pierced. I have a tattoo and a navel piercing myself, but I would never,ever allow my kids to do that until they had reached 18, and even then I would discourage it until they were older.

jennwa said...

I couldn't agree with you more on all of it.

There sre so many things that are negativley affecting our children, to spend time fighting for a mohawk is stupid.

jennwa said...

I couldn't agree with you more on all of it.

There sre so many things that are negativley affecting our children, to spend time fighting for a mohawk is stupid.

Don Mills Diva said...

Hey Emily (wheels on bus) - I would NEVER be offended by someone presenting an alternate point of view - my sytle is obviously a little provocative. I actually agree with you that the school was being heavy-handed and I could see my son running up against something like that one day. It just seems like such a great opportunity to teach your child that sometimes you will encounter stupid rules and how do you deal with them. I hope I would be able to convince Graham that his energy is better spent fighting true injustice...

Janet said...

I have seen that particular haircut on quite a few kids at the hockey rink in the last few weeks. I don't get what the big deal is. However, I agree with you that the parents are using their child as a pawn. And I'm so very weary of the media latching on to every little story of "injustice" when there are horrible injustices being committed around the world.

Thoughtful post.

wheelsonthebus said...

Yes, this is why I tell Zachary that dresses just aren't comfortable for running around in and maybe should only be worn for dress-up.

bananafana said...

well said!
I have to say I'd be a little shocked if our school sent my son home for something so . . . well, silly but I also like to teach him that some battles aren't worth fighting. Of course it's hard but some things you HAVE to stand up for yourself on. Other times you need to respect rules and authority.
I will say though that I'm surprised to see so many people convinced this is all a parental preference. My 3-year-old has VERY definite ideas about how HE wants his hair done. If he had a mohawk it would be his choice even if I helped him style it.

Tracey said...

Well, you have some great points. And it's sad that the parents and schoolboard couldn't figure it out without media involvement. But I guess I don't understand the problem with the school's distress over a haircut... As long as it isn't blocking the view of the kid behind him, or pointing out to dangerous levels, then what is their issue?

Should a child that is undergoing chemotherapy be forced to wear a wig because it will make the other people more comfortable?

Should a muslim child be forced to uncover their head so that the Christian children don't feel uncomfortable?

Should the children with African-type curly hair be forced to unbraid their hair so that they blend in better?

Where does it end? What is the limit of the PUBLIC SCHOOL's control over the way our children look?

MommyTime said...

And this, my dear, is why you should be President of the Whole World. You have so much sense AND are so articulate. There are so many more serious things to worry about. Though I do think that the school might be overreacting too. I'm guessing the kindergartener didn't have one of those sharpened into points with glue type mohawks? But still, you are so right that our energy should go towards making the worlds of some children who need serious help. Amen to that.

Maria said...

I agree. I mean, look how so many kids dress nowadays. Most of them get away with it. It's only a few of the worst ones that don't. There must be a reason.

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

Love this...

And I don’t think North America needs more self-indulgent children: I know it doesn’t need more self-indulgent adults.

So true!

What kills me about the interview with the parent is the quote about him really loving it. OK, I have girls, but I just can't see a 6-year-old boy really digging his hair style UNLESS his parents taught him that it "was cool." KNow what I mean? I feel for this kid if this is his mom's attitude. She's going to take him away from his friends at school because she wants him to have a cool haircut? Puh-leeze. Spare me.

And to the previous commentor, please don't tell me you can compare this situation to a terminally ill child underoing chemo and losing their hair? I just don't see the comparison at all, but I do appreciate your concern about the public school overstepping their boundaries and being invasive. No one wants that, BUT this child's parents sound like they have a history of stirring up trouble...totally unnecessarily in my opinion.

School is the backdrop for real world situations. Let's face it, as adults we have to respect rules and regulations in the workplace.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

I have to say that I agree with your position on this. I think the rule is stupid, especially because I believe that there are far better things to put your foot down about than hair. Like maybe bullying? The sexual harassment that is rampant in schools and I was subjected to daily in school...
I think rules like that can cause way more problems than they prevent, especially as children get older.
But, you are absolutely right, let's teach them at a young age about what is worth getting passionate about and show them how to fight true injustice in real and effective ways.
This from a mom who let her 6 year old have mohawk, cuz it wasn't worth fighting about. He is a kid who really wants to be different from the crowd and that is part of how he chose to do it.

Ewokmama said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you on this. The kid was singled out for how he looks, and by their actions the school is teaching kids that it is okay to discriminate based on how someone looks. If the school had clear guidelines on dress code and grooming, at least then it would be a standard that everyone had to follow and not a demonstration of their authority and instritutional prejudice.

I admit this is a topic dear to my family's heart, as my husband has long hair and has many times encountered prejudice due to it. Whether a choice or not, his hair is part of who he is. We try to teach our child acceptance of diversity and to not judge a book by its cover. It's important to be consistent about the messages we send.

Ewokmama said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you on this. The kid was singled out for how he looks, and by their actions the school is teaching kids that it is okay to discriminate based on how someone looks. If the school had clear guidelines on dress code and grooming, at least then it would be a standard that everyone had to follow and not a demonstration of their authority and instritutional prejudice.

I admit this is a topic dear to my family's heart, as my husband has long hair and has many times encountered prejudice due to it. Whether a choice or not, his hair is part of who he is. We try to teach our child acceptance of diversity and to not judge a book by its cover. It's important to be consistent about the messages we send.

skiplovey said...

Yes! So many times I think it's the parents pushing their attitudes about fashion and society onto their kids, kids that don't know anything about who the heck the Sex Pistols or the Ramones are, they just know Mommy or Daddy likes this shirt. While it may be cool to rebel when you're a teen but why make your kid be your new poster for angst or ironic humor. And yep, they are way more important things parents could be talking about with their kids, rather than thumbing their noses at THE MAN with a silly haircut.

MommyK said...

I'm on the fence on this one.

On one hand, don't sweat the small stuff. It's just hair. Give him a different haircut and leave it at that.

On the other hand, the school needs to relax a little. A friend of a friend cuts her firstgraders hair in a mohawk, because that's what he wanted and they made a deal. If he improved his behavior at school, he could have the haircut.

I attended a private religious school through 5th grade. No makeup, no nail polish, no jewelry allowed. And if you didn't like it, you didn't have to send your kids there.

Life As I Know It said...

I think a lot has to do with feeling like so much of the world is out of our control that people fight the small and trivial battles so that they can feel they have control over something. Did that make sense?

You know what really bugs me (a little off topic) is that Kindergartners aren't allowed to touch or hug eachother. My son is a hugger and he's not allowed to hug his friends at school. Crazy.

SaraLynn said...

Hear, Hear!!!

desperate housewife said...

Word.

Queen of My Domain said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Only you put if into words much better than I would have.

Erin said...

That poor kid! He just wants to go to school and hang out with his friends! Some parents!

I had to lay down the law with Eli yesterday about how he does NOT get to pick out a toy everytime we go to the store. Much crying ensued. We went home. The end.

Kellan said...

I totally agree with your points and this was a great post! I hope you have a great weekend - see you soon. Kellan

Jennifer said...

I love what you have to say about this issue. There are so, so, so many more important issues in the world. I also love your comment about millions of children not having the luxury of a school that cares for its students. I agree that the parents are making something out of nothing on this one. But, I also think the school is making something out of nothing. Maybe the school could also realize that they, too, might benefit from a wider angle lens?

ewe are here said...

I'm with you.

And there's no way the 5 year old is maintaining his mohawk without parental assistance. Just.let.it.go., people. Let him make his own statements when he's older and they're actually *his* statements.

the new girl said...

Ooh. I like this. I really like the part about standing up for values and teaching kids which values to stand up for.

Nice.

Teachin' this mommy new tricks! said...

Thank you! My husband and I saw that today on Today or GMA...one of those shows and we just got irritated! Why not respect the wishes of a person trying to do their job and teach your child!
School is a blessing and wonderful opprtunitu to learn, not to make statement about your families "i dont care what people think" attitude. Help to kid to understand that it is about the learning, not what you wear or style your hear.

Beck said...

Fantastic post. I SO agree with you - I am SO sick of these overentitled little show offs and the moronic parents encouraging them.

Heather said...

Since I read the article and it says that they were given 3 warnings about the haircut I guess I can see their point, but it seems silly to cause such a fuss over a haircut. My daugher goes to a school with many different cultures. I suppose you could make a point that ANY of the hairstyles are distracting.

But in this case it sounds like the parents WANTED to cause problems.

But what are they supposed to do? Keep him home until his hair grows out? Shave it all off? Make him wear a hat? Poor kid.

JCK said...

Amen, Sistuh! Definitely plenty of self-indulgent people in N. America. "...proclaims himself a Marxist-Socialist-Anarchist and vows to dedicate his life to railing against the status quo and the bourgeois trappings of his middle-class existence." CLASSIC!

John-Michael said...

Magnificent! You have concisely and clearly articulated a wonderfully useful and helpful view. Your "I believe there is a value in respecting other people’s wishes and desires, even if you don’t completely agree" reminds me of one of my favorite "coping mechanisms."

A former pastor and still-admired man took delight in saying "They have the God-given, and Constitutionally guaranteed, right ... to be wrong." [then he would always chuckle a gleeful chuckle]

I love who you are!

Kyla said...

As much as I am for freedom of expression, when you enroll your child you are required to read the handbook and SIGN YOUR AGREEMENT. The parents had to know it was against the rules and they should have honored their agreement. Save mohawks for the summer. If BubTar wanted one, I would say "Hey buddy, you can't wear your hair like that at school, we'll have to wait a few more months." and leave it at that. We'd all survive. ;)

Karen MEG said...

Wow, what a great post and great debate. I love how everyone is being so cordial and expressing their points so eloquently with respect. It's okay to disagree in this world, and it's been done with amazing grace on this space right here.

So, my 2 cents? While I personally find Mohawks on kids this young just screams of mom/dad's influence rather than his own fashion sense (but then I'm not a huge fan of mohawks to begin with) I would be surprised if such action happened at my kids' school. But seriously, if it was a distraction and the school certainly had given ample warnings about the potential consequences, then why let it get to the point where they let their kid be expelled??!! I can just see how welcomed this child will be wherever he goes from here. School administration will obviously be on the lookout.

It's the way the parents handled this that bothers me the most... who called the press? Why do they need their 15 minutes at the expense of their kid?
A missed opportunity to provide a valuable life lesson. Graham's mama's got a great head on her shoulders.

caramama said...

Hmmm, I'm surprised at what you've written in this post specifically because of what your post on Tuesday was about. My guess is that this was something that the child really wanted and the mom/parents just gave in because it was not a big deal to them. Some children really do care about their appearance, even at that young age.

And why shouldn't they? They are individuals and should be allowed to express their likes and dislikes as long as it isn't harming anyone else. Why is such a big deal to the school? Isn't it the school that is making a big deal of this, which is leading to the disruption in the classroom?

I don't exactly disagree with anything you wrote in general. But in this case, I think the school is overstepping their boundries, for reasons previous commenters have already mentioned. They said in the article that nothing about haircuts are specified in the handbook, so this sounds pretty arbitrary to me. There are better causes to fight for out there, but IMO that doesn't mean that the smaller causes shouldn't mean something to people.

LunaNik said...

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you here. A hair-do is just a hair-do. The only people being disruptive are the people complaining. Think about it...kids in school may Oooo and Aahhh for a day a two and then they'll get over it.

Tracey said...

I love that this didn't get mean and snarky. You have a bunch of lovely, mature readers, hon!

Hetha said...

I love your perspective on this. In my opinion it's a pretty stupid rule, but as you've stated so well, it's a teachable moment for a parent to say "hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do"...an important thing to grasp as early as possible!

Shellie said...

I agree completely and totally on this one. Very well said! Plus, this was a Charter school, they were there by choice, so if they were more interested in his hairstyle than his education, they could have just sent him to the regular public school. There's a time and a place for everything, even mohawks.

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Came over from Blogher links... and great post. I will admit as I was reading it, that I was thinking how lucky I am that my son goes to a school that doesn't get all up in arms over a silly mohawk (I mean, who cares, really???) but you are totally right - there are lots of kids in the world who have REAL problems.

kittenpie said...

All absolutely true. Plus, we model behaviour for them, and if we react to not agreeing with a teacher by throwing a tantrum, what does that teach the kid? That they don't have to respect the teacher or the school rules. And plenty of kids have enough trouble with that without their parents showing them it's just fine, starting at a young age.

I think talking with your son about how you think his hair is fine for home and play times but that you are going to respect the school's right to dictate dress codes and how sometimes we need to follow rules even if we think they are a bit silly is a far more productive way to go here.