Friday, December 28, 2007

It's Time for Those in Authority Positions to Act Like Adults

As a thirtysomething mom, I've put away teen fashions in favor of more appropriate attire. While I look younger than I am (product of good genes, daily use of sunscreen, and never smoking) and could easily dress in whatever the college coeds are wearing these days, that's just not who I am any more. Not that I'm a frump in shapeless denim jumpers like the stereotypical Christian homeschooler (actually, I don't know anybody IRL who dresses that way!) But I do think that I ought to dress in a manner reflecting my status as a mother.

I'm currently reading a very interesting book by journalist Diana West called The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization. I'm not very far into it, but her premise is that since the middle of the 20th century, adults have embraced an adolescent mindset and refused to grow up. Parents, teachers, and other authority figures have rejected their authority status and ceded control to children.

A news story I read this morning perfectly exemplifies this problem. A 39-year-old substitute teacher in Louisiana has been suspended after several parents complained about her blue hair and nose piercing. The school's dress code requires staff members to be "professional in their dress and state that attire and personal grooming should not be a distraction to students."

Ms. Harmon claims to be "confused and hurt" by the complaints and defends her appearance as
"professional". Friend and fellow parent Jessika Perkins stated in an e-mail to the Shreveport Times:

Her hair and her nose piercing are not a distraction to the children. And she has always dressed very modestly around all of the students she has taught. What has happened to her was discrimination. Anyone who takes the time to look past what they see will agree with me that she is one of the most giving and best people you will ever meet."

Ms. Harmon may well be a nice person and a good teacher. But it's simply ludicrous to say that her appearance is not distracting or unprofessional. She's not some avant garde artist- she's a middle-aged schoolteacher. Her appearance needs to be appropriate to the setting. One does not wear a bathing suit to the prom nor a ball gown & pearls to the beach. And blue hair and a nose piercing do not belong in the classroom.

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