Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Punishing Individuality - Weekly Column Update

The Web Editor at Potomac News took an interest in my column for this week, titled "Where does youthful individuality bump into disruptive behavior?", so it's up on their site, complete with a picture, and they gave me a link from their front page. I've also got a comments section there.

It's a shameless request, but if you have an opinion, please post it to the PotomacNews web site, it shows an interest in my column. Of course, the floor's open here as well.

The column is about one of the basic attributes that make America great, our individuality, and how it is endangered by our Public School system.

I use for examples the boys kicked out of school for showing pride in their heritage, and the girl kicked out of school for her hair color, who also told her story here.

The thrust of the article, told by selective excerpts:

This "individualism" critical to our country's success is passed from generation to generation, father to son, mother to daughter. Responsibility for your own actions, pride in your own work, self-worth and self-esteem, accepting and embracing those different from ourselves -- these are the sometimes hard lessons that make our nation strong.

But today individualism is threatened by the very school system charged with teaching our children those lessons. "Zero-tolerance" policies teach children to blindly follow orders, and to judge perceived harm without regard to individual circumstance. Speech codes in schools teach self-censorship and "group-speak," based not on personal ethics or manners, but on threat of punishment. And then there is the arbitrary imposition of dress codes.


But it was wrong to bar my daughter with no evidence of disruption, just as it was wrong to punish the kids for their T-shirts. These arbitrary actions have a chilling effect on both students and parents. Punishing non-conformity out of often unfounded fear of disruption harms our children, and teaches intolerance rather than acceptance.

My daughter's school is an excellent school, and the principal is a good man who I'm sure acted in good faith. But the fact remains my daughter, the T-shirt boys, and probably others have been removed from school for positive expressions of individuality. Mindless conformity is not a lesson we should be teaching our children.

1 comment:

John said...


Well said. Her hair color was certainly not disruptive. I posted as much on the newspaper's website.

Most importantly, I hope your back mends asap! God bless.

John Grigsby