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Changing Clothes and Changing Times
I must admit to getting a chuckle out of the dress code proposal for Indianapolis Public Schools, if only because it illustrates the old French proverb, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose," which as we all know means, "Look out, they're serving chop suey in the hot food line today."
No, wait, it means "the more things change, the more they stay they same," which rather neatly sums up my feelings on the matter.
It all goes back to my kidhood. The dress code loomed large at Lakeland High School in the late 1960s. It was simple and direct. For boys, hair had to be off the eyebrows, ears and collar. Under no circumstances could we wear jeans. Our faces had to be clean-shaven - no moustaches, beards or sideburns.
The girls' dress code had mostly to do with skirt length, an important consideration in the era of the mini-skirt. Many a mini-wearing girl found herself kneeling on the floor while one of the female teachers used a yardstick to make sure the skirt did not rise higher than one inch above the knee.
Girls were not allowed to wear slacks. They were, however, allowed to wear mustaches. None did, although a few of the women teachers took advantage of this particular loophole.
Naturally, we students chafed at the dress code. Well, some more than others. A lot of the chafing depended on how your pants fit.
We complained and grumbled and protested and eventually, the school administration relented and lifted the dress code. We were thrilled. We had faced off against The Man and The Man had backed down. It was Right-On Groovy Power To The People, plus whatever other Sixties Claptrap suited the occasion.
All right, so let's fast-forward about 38 years. IPS Superintendent Eugene White wants to institute a dress code in IPS schools. According to what I read, some kids, especially of the high school variety, are upset. No surprise there. They're teenagers. I would expect nothing less.
But I did get a kick out of their complaints that a dress code would stifle their creativity. It showed me just how things have remained the same while changing.
I can remember using exactly the same argument as a kid, and getting exactly the same response from the adults in my life that came to my mind this morning: "If you think a dress code stifles your creativity, you're just not thinking creatively."
I've learned over the years that if you have creativity inside you, it will find a way to get out. That is its very nature. It's also the reason why some people express themselves in a variety of outlets. I know a number of musicians, for example, who are also splendid visual artists. I know dancers who write beautifully. And of course, in my own case, I'm not only a writer. I'm also a ukulele player.
OK, so maybe that last one doesn't quite work.
The point is creativity comes from a place inside you. It doesn't matter how you dress the container. But I know today's kids, just like yesterday's, will have a hard time believing that. Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose. Or, for those of you who don't speak French, Bus 12 is running late today.
© 2007 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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