The War on Dress Codes in Schools

The War on Dress Codes in SchoolsOne of the most controversial elements in any school is the dress code. Many students will push the boundaries of the code as far as they can. Some teachers, saying something like, “I don’t care what they wear as long as they learn,” think dress codes are silly. Other teachers believe they are essential. Administrators often seem to wish that they could go away.

As a 34-year veteran classroom teacher, I was definitely pro-dress code. I always believed, and I still believe, that consistent enforcement of the dress code prevents many other issues from becoming problems. I can’t prove it, but my observations of thousands of students are that students behave better when they dress better.

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Even though I am recently retired, I still get e-mails from the National Education Association—one of the two large teachers’ unions in the United States. Usually, I take a brief look and then hit the ‘Delete’ button. Occasionally, I see something that interests me, and I read it—usually to find out what the other side thinks.

This time, it gave me a real insight into the process of destroying society.

The title of the article is “When School Dress Codes Discriminate.”

Dress Code “Discrimination”

The first line of the article lays out the major point—that school dress codes discriminate against girls.

Supporting that conclusion is the assertion that the vast majority of disciplinary actions for dress code violations happen to girls. This is, in and of itself, (so the modernist logic goes) clear evidence of discrimination on the basis of sex.

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Indeed, according to the “experts,” school dress codes are far more focused on feminine apparel than on boys’ clothes. To quote directly from the article:

“These things are distracting to other students, particularly males. Girlhood expert Shauna Pomerantz of Brock University says that “dress coding” students for being distracting is a form of victim-blaming.

“It’s saying the male response is your fault. Your body is causing negativity,” explains Pomerantz. Sexist rules also set a precedent for men, she adds. “It is offensive to men. It suggests they don’t have the ability to talk to a female student without going wild.”

Radical Ideologies

If you have never heard of Shauna Pomerantz, you are not alone. Before reading the article, I had no idea that there was any such person as a “girlhood expert.” Driven by curiosity, I went to her biography on Brock University’s web site. The first sentence is telling, “Drawing from posthuman, new material feminist, poststructural, and postmodern theories, my research sits at the crossroads of sociology and cultural studies, with a particular focus on girlhood studies.”

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If any of those academic buzzwords sound as unfamiliar to you as they do to me, let’s unpack her self-description.

  • Posthumanism—The idea that human beings should use technology to experience sensations that we have not been able to, due to the limitations of human nature.1
  • New material feminism—The idea that the material world as it now exists is inherently oppressive to women. The cure for this situation is emancipation based upon sexual freedom.2
  • Poststructuralism—The idea that language does not connect to truth, but is only a code that is not connected to the outside world. Therefore, words mean whatever you want them to mean.3
  • Postmodernism—A belief that traditional ideologies are primarily used to maintain political and economic power, so classical reason should be replaced with an ideology based upon skepticism as well as subjective and relative thought.4

The common thread between all of these radical ideas is an atheistic rejection of natural law. There is a sense that the world is unjust and should be radically remade. They see the rejection of common rules and limitations as the necessary path to their brand of social justice.

Of course, the new world will need rules of its own. One has to wonder who would make those rules. My guess is that Shauna Pomerantz and her associates would entrust themselves with that task. The purity of their complex philosophy could be maintained in no other way. It is the oldest trick in the revolutionary’s playbook.

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Decaying Dress Codes and a Decaying Society

What these radical philosophers seem to miss is that young men and young women have a responsibility to each other. Young women have a responsibility to dress in such a way as not to inflame the passions of young men. Young men have the responsibility to behave appropriately in their presence. We used to call it modesty and respect.

Consider the classroom of the early twentieth century. These schools did not need a dress code, and the reasons are apparent to anyone who looks at photographs of classrooms from the period. A student’s parents simply made sure that their children were properly dressed to the best of that family’s financial resources and the moral standards of the day. Jackets and ties on boys and frocks on girls were not at all uncommon.

As the first two-thirds of the twentieth century wound along, there was a steady deterioration in dress codes as informality replaced the traditional decorum of the classroom. Then came the Sexual Revolution of the sixties and the steady deterioration became an avalanche. Seemingly overnight, clothing that would have been regarded as a sure sign of low morality in 1960 became commonly accepted by 1968. Soon, school dress codes would follow.

Those who went to schools that did not require uniforms as late as the early seventies will still remember the last vestiges of functioning dress codes. In the spring of 1970, I was a student in a public junior high school. Young ladies were expected to wear blouses with collars and sleeves and skirts. Young men were expected to wear dress shirts with collars and dress pants. No one could wear anything sleeveless, shorts, or denim.

In due course, the changing standards of the time soon did away with many of those restrictions. Girls could wear slacks, shirts and blouses lost their collars, and everyone wore jeans.

The deterioration would continue. In today’s public school classroom, the basic rule appears to be that everything between the armpits and mid-thigh had to be covered. However, even this minimal standard is not always observed or enforced.

Under these circumstances, most of those punished for dress code violations are likely to be young women. Despite the rhetoric of the feminists, this does not happen because there is some discriminatory intent. Rather, the cause can be seen in the ways that “fashion” has developed. One can see this simply by looking at the catalogs. The boys in them wear loose t-shirts and jeans—slovenly, but their bodies below their necks are covered. The girls’ fashions are considerably more revealing.


The new wrinkle in this article is its author’s injecting the subject of racism into the dress code discussion. The article argues that dress codes are racist since African-American students are more likely than white students to be punished for dress code violations.

However, every good radical knows that the best way to silence those on the other side of the argument is to talk about racism. There simply is no way that someone who is not a radical can defend themselves. No matter what one says, the response will either sound condescending, uncaring, or just plain foolish.

Ultimately, you can never convince a radical that you are not a racist, no matter what you say. Trying to convince them only makes it worse. They say things like, “our society needs to have a deep conversation about race,” but the only thing that they will accept is everybody else acquiescing to their ideas of racial “justice.”

It is tempting to continue discussing how the Left abuses the very real issues of race to advance their agenda, but that would be to run down a blind alley. The dress code issue really has little to do with race. If the Left can get us talking about race, we are more likely to give in on smaller issues like school dress codes—and they win.

The Real Reasons They Want to End Dress Codes

Why does this group of feminists want to change dress codes? They will say that unfair dress codes cause students to be removed from class which hurts their educations. That is a smokescreen. If they were really concerned about student achievement, they would favor more stringent dress codes—maybe even uniforms. What they want is what the Sexual Revolution has always promoted, for humanity to sink more deeply into the cesspool of immorality.

Adolescents are the low hanging fruit which the leftists are most eager to pick. This is especially true in an age in which family structure is such a shambles. Even the most religious student has a hard time resisting the rampant sexuality all around us. Satan’s work is done, and our children are taught by word and example to believe that Catholicism’s moral code is unreasonable and unattainable.

Which is, of course, what the feminists have wanted all along.

“The most powerful driving force of the Revolution is in the disordered tendencies.”
— Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

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