Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: Targeted Dress Coding”

Yoga-PantsThe ethics quiz on banning leggings and yoga pants for some female students and not others produced several excellent responses. I was surprised that the majority here supported selective enforcement, which is normally regarded as per se unfair. This response is especially remarkable considering that the selective enforcing will be done by the kinds of geniuses that punishe little girls for shaving their heads to make cancer victims feel better.

Here is the Comment of the Day by the intriguingly named “The Wednesday Woman” (whose comment arrived on a Sunday) on the post Ethics Quiz: Targeted Dress Coding, which answered the quiz query, “Is targeted dress coding ethical?”

On a purely theoretical basis, I’d say yes. As has been said before, it’s a school’s responsibility and prerogative to create a safe, appropriate and constructive learning environment for students.

Also, I agree with Jack that it’s a school’s responsibility to teach life skills (which is why we have Health classes). In my own ideal (and purely theoretical) world, schools exist to teach what families can’t or don’t–we’re all human and need to work together to fill in each other’s gaps.

So, purely theoretically, it’s within a (same sex) teacher’s right to pull a student aside and talk through what kind of attention their outfit might draw, and what’s a better choice to wear to school, given the rules. This qualifies as a life lesson: it’s key that one learns how to dress one’s self. I don’t know that it’s a good subject for a whole, mixed classroom, except in very general terms. (“Now, on your worksheets, circle which butt you’d find distracting in the hallway…”)

I also don’t think that it’s fair for students to be punished for accidental dress code infractions. After all, many girls with new curves simply haven’t realized that the pants they wore two years ago don’t look the same on them now (especially if Less Developed BFF does look the same as she used to). But better that they hear that straight from, if not Mom or Friend’s Mom or Cool Aunt, then Mrs. FavoriteEnglishTeacher, than slowly figuring it from peers’ reactions, which won’t be so nice.

BUT–good luck finding the teachers who handle that discussion effectively and sensitively. I know they exist, but they’re truly exceptional people. If we accepted targeted dress coding as appropriate, I think we’d see many more teachers like the one above*, who with the best of intentions could destroy a student’s body image, as well as those who broach the subject too vaguely and leave the student confused. We’d also open the door to a lot of power tripping and general creepiness.

 In conclusion, I’d say targeted dress coding is ethical as a concept, but like many other issues, I question anyone’s ability to execute it.

(By the way, if I were in charge, I’d ban yoga pants in school–fashion aside–for the same reasons I’d ban pajamas and sweats. Leggings may be worn under regulation length skirts or shirts.)

*Keeping in mind that we’re hearing the student’s side of the story here.

 

4 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: Targeted Dress Coding”

  1. “It’s a school’s responsibility to teach life skills (which is why we have Health classes). In my own ideal (and purely theoretical) world, schools exist to teach what families can’t or don’t–we’re all human and need to work together to fill in each other’s gaps.”

    If schools hadn’t appropriated the role of the family (and failed) families would be conveying moral, social and decency education for their own children. And either succeeding or failing but on a much less massive scale.

    • I do agree that schools often fail, which is part of why I don’t really find this policy practicable (also because they’ll never be a consensus, even within one school, one what’s appropriate and what’s not.)

  2. “By the way, if I were in charge, I’d ban yoga pants in school – fashion aside – for the same reasons I’d ban pajamas and sweats.”

    Please explain those reasons.

    • I think–and this is just me* thinking, so take with your whole daily allotment of sodium–that putting effort into getting dressed would go some way to putting students in an alert and respectful mindset. Not that I’d require deliberately uncomfortable pants, but I’d want to avoid the “I’d-much-rather-be-home-in-bed-than-here-in-your-classroom” look, if that makes sense.

      Of course, there are grey areas (i.e designer tracksuits), and one really can’t arbitrate students’ behavior based on personal taste. But in theory, again, I’ve always found this reasoning compelling (taking it from some very far removed accounts of struggling schools that saw behavior improvement when uniforms were instituted).

      As a side note, resourceful girls will be able to pass yoga pants off as leggings, which I would let slide.

      *Me being a twenty-something with a sister in high school and not an authority on anything.

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