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seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Posted by Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 08:59 (108328)

I have never taught in a school in which the students or the teachers wore uniforms. I have heard the various arguments for them: takes away the competition in dressing, makes everyone more equal, keeps the focus more on the academics, etc. There are some schools in my district in which the students and teachers do wear uniforms. It had never been an issue where I taught, but now with our new school opening, it is being considered.

The PTA bought a t-shirt for each child and a polo for the faculty and staff with the school name and logo. Now we are to wear them on Thursdays each week. An informal poll was taken of the staff to see what we thought about wearing uniforms every day next year.

My immediate thought was that I didn't want to wear a uniform as I enjoy wearing 'Christmas clothes' during December, jumpers with apples and schoolhouses on them, sweatshirts with whatever we're currently studying on the front, etc. The children and I 'get into' whatever we're learning, and they get excited when they see me wear these clothes. I think it's fun, and that helps my enthusiasm level. To change to a polo and skirt or pair of khaki pants each day would be boring to me. I know many others who think it would be nice to not have to think about what to wear each morning. I respect their right to feel that way and to choose to wear them each day. But I am not anxious to do so. However, I do want what is best for the whole and dutifully wear my shirt on Thursdays even though I don't enjoy doing so.

I might add that in our rural school, there has never been a great diversity in what the children wear. They all wear jeans and sweatshirts or t-shirts and shorts in the hot weather. There has not been a problem with some having cute little outfits and others feeling left out. Of course there is to be redistricting for next year to bring our school up to 600 students, so perhaps that could become a problem. I don't know.

I was just curious as to what your experiences and thoughts on the matter of school uniforms might be. A big part of me wants to hang onto the freedom to 'be myself' and yet I want what is best for the school and want to keep an open mind.

Thanks,
Suzanne :-)

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

marie on 2/07/03 at 09:48 (108335)

I had to wear a uniform at 3 schools I attended. YUK, I hated it.

I have heard many positive things from administrators at elementry and middle schools. They give the kids a choice of 2-3 pairs of pants that can be purchased at Kohls...that includes a pair of blue jeans. They also get a choice of 3 different colors of polo shirts and 2 pull over sweaters. Both students and teachers like choices. Having several items to choose from or mix and match would be nice. As far as uniforms for teachers I personaaly feel the same as you. I do like having a staff shirt and one assigned day to wear with jeans.

marie

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

pala on 2/07/03 at 10:00 (108337)

yes we are considering getting the soil up a little highter. your granma's idea sounds nice. maybe i'll try that.

never thought too much about school uniforms except this: it eliminates the poorer children from having to keep up with fashion and it also takes the fashion thing out of the equation. malybe lets people look deeper.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

john h on 2/07/03 at 12:06 (108346)

Suzanne: in some of the countries i have visited all the children wore uniforms (Thailand and I think Japan). I sort of thought it was to prevent distinguishing the rich from the poor but do not know that?

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Nancy N on 2/07/03 at 12:09 (108347)

Suzanne--

I think you all know that I teach in a private middle/high school rather than a public one. We do not have uniforms for our kids, but we do have a dress code. When I first heard about that, as someone who has never found dress codes to be anything but ridiculous, I was disappointed. But then I walked through the mall, a few days before I started teaching for the first time, and noticed the things that teenagers wear. I'd never really paid attention before. I found myself suddenly appreciating the whole dress code notion, thinking 'I won't have to look at that... or that... or that...'

I think the point of our dress code is to make sure that everyone 'dresses the part.' It's easier to enforce for boys than girls, though, so the code is undergoing some revision. Boys have to wear a tie each day, unless the wear a sweater/turtleneck. T-shirts are not allowed, nor jeans or sneakers. Girls have minimum skirt lengths and can't wear spaghetti straps, but like I said, it's harder to tell if they're in dress code or not.

One day this week, one of the boys came in with a t-shirt under an open flannel shirt, which is already out of code, and on top of that he had a length of chain around his neck, held together with a padlock! When I saw him, it really gave me an appreciation for the code. I'm sure he was quite a distraction in class because he was dressed so differently than everyone else, and I think that's another reason why we have it. The focus isn't supposed to be on what you wear (or what you got away with wearing), it's what's between your ears. Most of the time, if the code is enforced, a kid like this would be sent to the dean's office and his parents would be called to bring him acceptable clothes, and he would not be allowed back in class until he'd changed. (I saw this kid at the end of the day, and his dad is one of our teachers, so I'm not sure what happened in his case, though I know several teachers reported him.) And the kids who violate the code stand out like sore thumbs once you get used to the idea that the kids should be held to a higher standard. So I'm not against it anymore, as long as it doesn't become too totalitarian. I think it's OK to ask them to look respectable as long as they're allowed a reasonable amount of personal expression. We have a clever kid who's protested the code 'legally' by doing things like cutting two shirts in half and re-sewing them together to make one half-and-half shirt, or making an outfit out of duct tape (I kid you not. It's actually rather impressive).

Because our code has been hard to enforce (and because most of the male teachers are very uncomfortable confronting teenage girls about dress code violations), they're changing things to a more uniform approach--basically, items were chosen from the Land's End catalog, and parents are going to be told 'Anything on these pages, or similar to the items pictured, is acceptable. Anything else is not.' It is essentially a uniform, though they'll be able to choose different colors and I think they'll have more than one style, but I'm not totally sure. Part of me says that this is going too far, and part of me says that if we want to be able to enforce the code, this may be what we need to do. Otherwise, it takes up too much time and energy.

That said, teachers aren't subject to the code, as long as we look professional. Much as I'd love to wear sneakers to work, the only times I do are on designated dress-down days (exam time, or the specified days when you pay $3 to dress down, and the money goes to a certain charity or school group that's trying to raise money--an excellent way to get cash out of teenagers!). I'm not sure if I've answered your question, but that's how we do things where I work.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Pauline on 2/07/03 at 12:34 (108353)

Both my husband and I had to wear a uniform when we went to school. No boys at my school not girls at his. Both our sons went to a private boys prep school and wore uniforms.

We told them attending school was a privilege and their uniform was just part of their job dress code. No big deal was made about it. It was easy and everyone looked nice and appeared equal. As a result my kids do not go nuts for designer name clothing, look for bargins when shopping and seek out women with the same values for dating. I think we also got the education we paid for, but its more exciting to actually hear it from the boys themselves.

Here's one parent who was happy to wear a uniform, and am glad that I could provide the same experience and a quality education for our sons.

Anyone still have their old uniform????

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Carole C in NOLA on 2/07/03 at 12:39 (108356)

In junior high and high school, some parents buy their daughters frightfully expensive clothing so that they can be popular. This puts a lot of pressure on the less well dressed and their parents. It can be the source of family turmoil, not to mention a drain on the budget when/if the parents give in.

Also during these years a lot of unnecessary effort is expended to make sure kids follow the school dress code.

So, I can definitely see an advantage to uniforms in grades 7-12. Sure, the kids are individuals, and let them nurture and cultivate the individual talents and personality that allows the other children to see them as individuals too.

Younger kids are pretty much dressed by their parents, so maybe it doesn't make as much difference for them. Uniforms might be cheaper, though.

Teachers should wear whatever they please!!!!

Carole C

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 15:40 (108379)

I sincerely appreciate all your responses. I can see that some choice within the context of a uniform would help, and if it caused students to not be looked down on because of dress and to 'look deeper' as Paula suggested, then it would bring about good.

And I can see that uniforms would be easier to monitor than a dress code. I graduated from high school in 1970, and those were the days of girls being observed in homeroom for dress length and then being sent to the principal's office for 'measuring' (much as you see in the movie, 'Mr. Holland's Opus'). Of course some girls hemmed them up just an inch or so above the regimented length just so they would be taken home by the principal to change!

I don't know if we can ever make things such that we keep students from forming cliques and looking down on other groups. But I know we have to try. And of course I don't teach high school or have to deal with bizarre fashions. I'm probably dressed the strangest in my room when I wear my penguin jumper! :-)

I try very hard to teach my students to not judge one another and to be kind and respectful. Every year on Martin Luther King's birthday when we discuss what he worked for, most of the children are dumb-founded that I can remember a time when the color of someone's skin could determine whether he could go in a restaurant to eat. They just look at me and ask, 'Why??'

In my little school I have been lucky to not see children being ostracized because of dress or things money can buy - mainly because very few, if any, have a great deal of that! But in the first school where I taught, I can remember 2nd and 3rd graders being snippy about dress and the latest fads. I will never forget one little girl coming to me so happily to show me her new shoes. She told me she bought them at the Dollar Store. I bragged on them, and then a child said, 'You got those at the Dollar Store?' and gave her a sneering look. I quickly reprimanded that child and assured the other one that I loved the shoes and that I shopped there. But the damage was done, no matter what I said. That made me so sad. It was a relief at my next school to find such an absence of that attitude.

But I do like what you said, Carole, about teachers wearing whatever we please! And I am positive that the most expensive things I ever wear are my SHOES!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

nancy s. on 2/07/03 at 16:56 (108387)

uh oh, am i too late? i only have a few minutes but wanted to say that as a child i was very envious of the kids who went to catholic school and had to wear uniforms. i don't know if i would've felt that way if the girls' uniform was ugly! but i liked it: it was a navy blue jumper.

then again, i was also envious of girls who wore braces on their teeth! i thought they were cool. so i'm not sure you can take my opinion seriously!

a uniform can even things out quite a bit. the school & peer pressure is incredible, and i imagine a uniform takes away some of that pressure. back then i cared more what people thought of me, and i could've done without the clothes pressure. they can always get individual in dress outside of school. as paula says, uniforms might make kids appreciate other aspects of people's individuality more and look deeper -- not only into others but into themselves too; just a guess. but in this day and age 'looking deeper' needs all the help it can get.

now i'd have to be dragged kicking and screaming to wear what other people are wearing. the mass-chosen uniform would probably not be what i personally would choose so probably wouldn't feel true to my rustic self, and i'd end up with a nervous breakdown!

for what it's worth,

nancy
.

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 18:31 (108391)

Of course you're not too late, Nancy! :-) I'm glad to get your perspective as well. It's interesting to note that as a child you wished you could wear a uniform. I'll have to say the children have been proud of their new t-shirts. Perhaps a perfect world for me would be for the children to wear uniforms and the teachers get to dress how we choose (within reason, of course)! I guess the mass-chosen uniform is what I don't want for myself. But we shall see how it goes. I'll keep you all informed!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

pala on 2/07/03 at 18:40 (108392)

did i miss something? i understand why students need uniforms but i have not heard about teachers having to wear them. is this common? what is the purpose of it?

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 18:47 (108393)

I don't know, Paula. That's what I can't understand. Our principal has decided this would be wonderful and would make us a true 'team'. But I am already a part of a real team, and it has nothing to do with what we wear! As you said, it is much deeper than that!

I'm 5'11' and my best friend and co-worker is a foot shorter and quite heavy. We do NOT look the best or feel the most comfortable in the same kind of clothes. And everyone else there is somewhere in between. We all have our styles and unique personalities. My friend and I make a good team as well as my other closest co-worker who has taught 43 years even though there are many differences in us.

Thanks for thinking about this with me.

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

pala on 2/07/03 at 19:21 (108396)

do teachers have any input? i taught a million years ago and hated how the administrators were gods and the teachers treated like children. how is it now? i think it is silly that teachers should be required to wear anything other than what they want. (unless their stabbing each other for trendy sneakers in your school)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 19:53 (108401)

We are SUPPOSED to have more input now. Site-based councils were mandated a few years ago in all schools in Kentucky. However, it seems that with all the talk of having a say, in reality, it is still pretty much how you remember things. The committees and councils have token representatives of parents and teachers, but the administration still controls.

I try to keep my mind on the children and my work with them so as not to get in a negative attitude about school. Most of the time I manage to do that, but sometimes...:-)

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

pala on 2/07/03 at 21:04 (108420)

that is the only way to keep going. focus on the children. great attitude. it takes character not to get side tracked by all the petty stuff.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Julie on 2/08/03 at 04:51 (108439)

Suzanne, I'm coming in on this a bit late, because I needed to think about it, but now here's a bit of perspective from over the water, where school uniforms for children are the norm. I remember being appalled by this when I first came to live in England. I felt that the children were being regimented, but it was explained to me that the rationale is that uniforms are a leveller, minimising the visible difference between wealthy and poor, and encouraging children to treat each others as equals without reference to money and class. Perhaps there's some truth in it, but then England is still a deeply class-ridden society, so doesn't look as though school uniforms have made much difference.

Does the wearing of school uniforms encourage children to look deeper? I wouldn't know, but somehow I doubt it. The visible differences are superficial, and kids, who can be quite cruel, have their unerring little ways of sniffing out the underlying ones. There must be more effective ways of encouraging children to behave kindly and respectfully towards others.

My guess is that it's probably better to encourage the development of individuality, clothes being one way of expressing it,and if that results in snobby judgements and sneering attitudes, well, that's life, and you could argue (I would) that kids are better off learning to cope with them, as with most aspects of reality, from the start.

As for uniforms for teachers - words fail me. That really does seem like regimentation, and I can't see any justification for it. The 'team' argument is specious - you're a team or you aren't, and it has nothing to do with your clothes, as you said. But your clothes are one way of expressing who you are, and in your case, Suzanne, of how creatively you teach. It seems extraordinary that your administration would want to put a damper on that.

I hope the vote goes the way you want it to. But if it doesn't, I know, knowing you, that you'll cope and somehow turn it to your pupils' advantage!

Re: The concept of a "team"

Nancy N on 2/08/03 at 07:25 (108442)

You know, I totally forgot about it when I posted earlier but my kids in Ireland had uniforms, too. In their case, it was a sweatshirt with the school's logo on it, which they wore each day with whatever else they wanted. But it was still a uniform.

Julie's post has me thinking about the whole concept of 'team,' and how it seems to be used/abused in US society these days. It's one of those buzzwords that's so ubiquitous that I wonder if it means anything anymore. Julie's right--you either are a team, or you're not, and how you dress is not likely to make you like your coworkers more or less. I get the sense that it's a word that administrators--in all fields--are overusing because it makes them sound good (much the same way that people think saying 'utilize' instead of 'use' makes them sound smarter, when in fact it says to me that they don't know that there's a distinct difference in the meanings of the two words). When I worked in te corporate world, the English major in me wanted to be sick every time the 50-cent words came out--'leveraging our core competencies' was one of my favorites. I had just graduated from college but felt like I was living in a foreign country, because I sure as heck didn't understand the language!

It all seems very silly to me. Are we so pathetic that we need to hide behind big, fancy words (or words like 'team' that go back to our overemphasis on athletic success)? Yes, it's important to be able to work together, but do we need cheerleaders at work? It all makes me look at the culture we've built and wonder if we have any idea what we've created--it really feels like a Potemkin village to me.

Re: The concept of a "team"

Julie on 2/08/03 at 08:26 (108445)

Nancy, did you ever find out what 'leveraging our core competencies' means?

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

john h on 2/08/03 at 10:35 (108457)

Julie: Mother Superior and her teachers very much wore uniforms and were very proud of them. They could hide their rulers under those outfits to blast your knuckles when you got out of line. As for me - being in uniform for a large part of my life I dig them. Never have to worry about what to wear or dressing down or dressing up. Now I have to consider 12 pair of birks each day. What shall I do? When I was in college we all had to wear a coat and tie for dinner. this was not some prestigeous ivy league school but a small misdwestern liberal arts college (Coe College in Cedar Rapids). Have the times changed or what.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Carole C in NOLA on 2/08/03 at 11:05 (108463)

John, you now have TWELVE pairs of Birkenstocks? Sheesh. If you got just two more pairs, you could wear a different pair every day for two weeks straight. One would think that you like them. lol

Times have indeed changed. Coe College was a very well respected college when I was in high school and highly recommended, though I haven't heard much of it lately (perhaps because of its small size).

Carole C

Re: The concept of a "team"

Nancy N on 2/08/03 at 11:53 (108474)

I think it was a high-falutin' way of talking about making good use of your biggest talents. Now, THAT is something everyone can understand--why don't they just say that?? The whole 'leverage' thing makes me thing of crow bars, not businesses. I swear, I think marketing is the biggest threat to the English language. I was looking at a book called 'Junk English' which is about this very subject, but I haven't got a copy for myself just yet.

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

marie e on 2/08/03 at 19:14 (108516)

I should share that I spent half of my school years in Catholic Schools. I was envious of the kids in public schools that got to wear what they wanted...of course dress codes were much stricter in the 60's & 70's. When I fianlly was allowed to attend public schools it wasn't cool to look like you had money. I bought my jeans at goodwill and most of the clothes I really loved were bought at second hand stores. I suppose that clothes have always been a way for me to express my individuality.

John mentioned that the kids in Japan wear uniforms. I toured several schools in Tokyo and Kyoto. Yes they do wear uniforms. Japan leads the world in secondary math education. We lead in post-secondary math. They practice the teachings of Confuscious. Individuality is not valued in their society. However Western influences have taken the traditional Japanese by surprise. You see Japan leads the world in technology but they are way behind on software development....because it takes the creativity nurtured in the individual to come up with these kinds of products. Japanese schools are undergoing change. They are seeking ways to encourage individuality.....the poor teachers are beside themselves because suddenly they have a class of individuals...it is simply not part of their culture. Believe it or not the teachers in Japan are looking to Americans for help in this matter.

I think uniforms are fine for younger kids as long as there are options and choices for the kids. I don't like the idea of uniforms for high school kids...dress code YES. We are preparing these young men and women to be independent from their families. They need to learn how to make all kinds of decisions including what is socially acceptable atire.

well that's my 2 cents. marie

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Suzanne D on 2/08/03 at 21:59 (108531)

Thanks again to everyone who replied. I agree that to be part of a 'team' doesn't mean looking alike.

Nancy, don't you find that in education there are certain 'buzz words' that make the rounds for awhile and everyone seems to use them when they are 'in'? I can remember when 'benchmark' was on all the presenters' lips. And then there was the push to use different 'genre' of literature in the reading texts. Today I had to attend a meeting about professional development, and I kept hearing the term 'job-embedded'. At least the words are easier to remember than the initials for all the new programs! Before a faculty meeting, we will be told to bring our SISI documents, for instance, and in our new reading program, we have 5 or 6 sets of initials just in the lesson format such as SAP (student active participation), etc... I had better stop as I am sure this is getting boring!

Julie, thanks for understanding about my dress being part of my creativity as a teacher! Some people don't understand that but the children seem as if they do. And you're right: I don't think we can make children treat everyone fairly just because we try to dictate that they look alike. And learning kindness and respect does not come from not recognizing any differences in people but in valuing them in spite of these differences.

There is a 25 year old young woman who comes to my classroom as a volunteer each Friday afternoon. She is a friend of mine from church, and I suggested to her mother after she graduated at age 21 (special ed students in a self-contained classroom can stay in school until that age) that she might like to come and help 1/2 day a week. She washes the children's desks each time she comes, and I include her at holiday parties. She helps us keep the desks clean, and it helps her to have something to be interested in and to feel successful. It also helps the children, for they learn first-hand that she is a nice person whom they appreciate and like despite her handicaps of which they are aware. They really like her, and she really likes them. The highlight of her year is the volunteer luncheon held each spring when they are recognized. And, yes, she is part of our team!

Thanks again! I appreciate being able to discuss this with you all!

Suzanne :-)

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 07:59 (108552)

Suzanne--

I haven't been in education long enough to notice the terms you're talking about--though I also suspect I may be more insulated from them because I'm in a private school, and therefore not subject to state mandates. But I do think there are buzzwords that pop up throughout the corporate culture and they trickle down into the common lexicon. That's actually the part that bothers me the most, because I think we end up with these terms that are, essentially, meaningless, and people throw them around without having any idea what the heck they're actually saying. It seems both ridiculous and unfortunate to me, especially since we have this wonderful language that expresses so many things with such detail, because it has freely borrowed words from other languages to fill the gaps. So why must we come up with this big, ugly, meaningless terms? I think it's some deeply-seated psychological way of avoiding the real facts by using fancy words that don't mean much.

It sounds like your classroom is a wonderful and welcoming place for everyone, Suzanne. I hope you're proud of yourself for creating such a special place for everyone.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Suzanne D on 2/09/03 at 08:12 (108555)

Thank you, Nancy, and I agree about the buzzwords! It seems to me that if you can't explain something, then just create a high-sounding word or acronym which no one really understands but doesn't want to appear not to be current enough to know, and you are in business. It has always reminded me of Hans Christian Anderson's tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. Only the innocent child got to the truth of the matter while everyone else scurried around pretending so as not to appear out of the loop.

And you're right: we have a wonderful language largely not used to a full extent. We don't really need new words!

By the way, I hope you are feeling even better today!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Re:Language

Julie on 2/09/03 at 08:32 (108559)

Nancy and Suzanne

I once heard George Steiner (he was speaking at an OUP sales conference in about 1970 - we were about to publish his study of language, 'After Babel') say that we use language to conceal, rather than to disclose, what we really think and feel.

I think jargon and buzzwords fit the theory rather nicely.

Re: Re:Language

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 08:40 (108561)

George Steiner--now there's a name I haven't heard in a while. When I was living in Northern Ireland, the father of the family was reading one of his books and agreeing with some, taking issue with others. I have no idea which book it might have been, but I do remember that there was an article/chapter in it about American culture and how very little of it is original. Made sense to me, since nearly everyone who's made a cultural difference was from a foreign background. But Joe was a big jazz lover and was highly surprised (as was I, after I read the article) that Steiner didn't at least give us credit for jazz. Of course, Joe was being sort of passive-aggressive in asking me to read this part of the book, seeing if he could provoke a reaction out of me :)

Now I think I'm going to have to see if I can figure out which book that was, because it was fairly interesting. I know Joe sent him a letter after he finished, raising some points and contesting others.

But, getting back to the point (!), I think you're right. Language is used equally to expose and to conceal, perhaps more of the latter than the former. Especially (but not only) in business communications.

Re: Re:Language

nancy s. on 2/09/03 at 09:00 (108563)

i don't know george steiner, but he sounds wise.

when the small nonprofit organization i worked in for four years around 1980 (earthwatch) started using these corporate buzzwords and jargon, i knew it was time for me to go!

nancy
.

Re: Re:Language

Julie on 2/09/03 at 09:24 (108567)

Yes: probably especially in business (and don't forget politics) but I think in personal communication too. I was so struck by Steiner's statement, delivered unequivocally and with great panache, as his his wont, that I've never forgotten it. It makes you think about what you say and write, and helps in the attempt to be honest and clear.

I'll bet you took the wind out of Joe's sails when you agreed with him about the lack of originality in American culture! It isn't quite fair, though, since American culture is still very young compared to most other cultures, and it isn't quite right, either. What, for instance, about American writing, American folk song (which doesn't all emanate from English folk song by any means). Steiner has always tended to go overboard - it's one of the things that makes him so fascinating on history and culture. As for jazz, I suppose his argument was that it all came from African rhythms?

Re: Re:Language

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 09:31 (108569)

Yeah, I've never been the biggest defender of American culture--which Joe should have suspected since I had flown the coop to Europe!

You're right, we have had less time to form a true culture than everybody else has. Though it's easy to coast on what's been done before, too. I think a lot of the African-American writers certainly have had a unique perspective, for instance, but perhaps Steiner is as guilty as so many of us are in forgetting about them when we think of American literature.

I don't remember a specific argument on jazz--in fact, I'm not sure if he even mentioned it. It could be that we were both surprised by its omission. This was all about 7 years ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

I decided to see if I could find the book in question online, and I think I did. And an article on Slate about the 'Archives of Eden' essay, which sounds like it's the one I remember. It's at http://slate.msn.com/id/2948/ if you're interested.

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 10:00 (108574)

talk of american culture reminds me when ghandi first visited the west a reporter said 'what do you think of western civilization?' ghandi replied 'i think it would be a great idea'

Re: Re:Language

Suzanne D on 2/09/03 at 14:11 (108594)

I would certainly agree that jargon and buzzwords fit that definition quite well. And when language is used to conceal rather than reveal, it also seems to be used to keep certain people 'out'. Only those who are deemed important enough to be privy to all the lingo can fit in. The rest are made to feel as if there are important things going on, but that they aren't wise enough to be a part of it all. I think it's another way to control people. That may seem extreme, but down to the bare bones, it looks like that to me.

There was a massive education reform in Kentucky a little over 10 years ago. It came - not from the teachers and schools - but from the legislature. The state department of education was dismantled at the time, and many new programs and ways of doing things were initiated. All this took us unaware, and we struggled to play catch up and figure out what was expected of us.

There came a much publicized convention to which 2 teachers and the principal from each school in the state could come to learn all about the reform (particularly ungraded primary which was mandated by the state to begin the next year). Everyone was so full of questions and anxiously awaiting the reports of those who went. I had the opportunity to go, and in meeting after meeting and in every address, we learned basically nothing about how to teach in this new setting. We were told that we were professionals and were being 'trusted'; we could now be 'free' to really be professionals. We heard lots of rhetoric with no practical answers. Yet each speaker followed the last by saying how great this was and how wonderful that our state was pioneering this reform.

When we returned, that is when I thought of the old tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. In that story, everyone in the kingdom was afraid to say they saw no clothes, so they parroted everyone else's compliments to the king. I stated that I felt that way at the end of the convention. Follow-up meetings were held, and this time only 1 teacher went with the principal, and I was not chosen. But I had to be honest, and that is how I saw it. In the following years, we have all felt the frustration of the whole scenario. We've just tried to keep teaching the best we could and still meet whatever conditions were mandated. Since that time, we are more or less back to grades as before. And no one still really understands all the jargon they said to us when it all began.

Suzanne :-)

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 15:40 (108600)

just look at history. you know, it's not atrocity tor profit that gets me , that's human history. it's how easy it is to convince the masses that it's a good thing . what's that quote, something like 'the difference between the evil and the stupid is that the stupid never give it a rest'

Re: Re:Language

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 15:44 (108601)

There's also 'All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.'

Re: Re:Language

nancy s. on 2/09/03 at 16:22 (108608)

who said that, paula?! i want to know who i'm quoting when i repeat it, although if you'd like i'll give you most of the credit. pretty soon i'm going to have a start a whole file of paula quotes.

nancy
.

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 18:36 (108622)

not sure who said it. a friend once gave me a great book of cynical quotes. it's around here somewhere. when i dig it out of the chaos , i'll look it up. i was surprised at the time, twenty years ago, to hear i was cynical. i thought i was perceptive and realistic. but i loved that quote book so i decided to join the ranks of the humorous disgusted. looks like i might be pulling you in with me. it's dark down here, but it is hilarious.

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 18:39 (108624)

i was planning on an evening of positivity after suzannes efforts on my behalf. so don't be encouraging my typical outlook till tomorrow, nancy, you devil. by then i'll be bursting to be cynical and bitter again

Re: Re:Language

nancy s. on 2/09/03 at 20:41 (108635)

you ARE perceptive, also cynical, and often realistic. you can't always be realistic, though, because no one can be. as for joining the ranks of the humorous disgusted, that's got a lot more going for it than simply 'the disgusted'! you aren't really pulling me down there in the dark. i actually tend toward optimism; but i've seen enough darkness and spent enough time there to feel at home with it in a way too. most of all, in addition to kindness, i appreciate truth/wisdom and humor, and sometimes they come with cynicism or irony. they can come in many different forms and personalities, and i welcome almost all of them. you're certainly welcome!

enjoy your night of positivity now. i vote you keep it up till at least midnight. maybe give us a report before i drive off for our warm sunny holiday in michigan on tuesday morning.

nancy, only a part-time devil
.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

marie on 2/07/03 at 09:48 (108335)

I had to wear a uniform at 3 schools I attended. YUK, I hated it.

I have heard many positive things from administrators at elementry and middle schools. They give the kids a choice of 2-3 pairs of pants that can be purchased at Kohls...that includes a pair of blue jeans. They also get a choice of 3 different colors of polo shirts and 2 pull over sweaters. Both students and teachers like choices. Having several items to choose from or mix and match would be nice. As far as uniforms for teachers I personaaly feel the same as you. I do like having a staff shirt and one assigned day to wear with jeans.

marie

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

pala on 2/07/03 at 10:00 (108337)

yes we are considering getting the soil up a little highter. your granma's idea sounds nice. maybe i'll try that.

never thought too much about school uniforms except this: it eliminates the poorer children from having to keep up with fashion and it also takes the fashion thing out of the equation. malybe lets people look deeper.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

john h on 2/07/03 at 12:06 (108346)

Suzanne: in some of the countries i have visited all the children wore uniforms (Thailand and I think Japan). I sort of thought it was to prevent distinguishing the rich from the poor but do not know that?

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Nancy N on 2/07/03 at 12:09 (108347)

Suzanne--

I think you all know that I teach in a private middle/high school rather than a public one. We do not have uniforms for our kids, but we do have a dress code. When I first heard about that, as someone who has never found dress codes to be anything but ridiculous, I was disappointed. But then I walked through the mall, a few days before I started teaching for the first time, and noticed the things that teenagers wear. I'd never really paid attention before. I found myself suddenly appreciating the whole dress code notion, thinking 'I won't have to look at that... or that... or that...'

I think the point of our dress code is to make sure that everyone 'dresses the part.' It's easier to enforce for boys than girls, though, so the code is undergoing some revision. Boys have to wear a tie each day, unless the wear a sweater/turtleneck. T-shirts are not allowed, nor jeans or sneakers. Girls have minimum skirt lengths and can't wear spaghetti straps, but like I said, it's harder to tell if they're in dress code or not.

One day this week, one of the boys came in with a t-shirt under an open flannel shirt, which is already out of code, and on top of that he had a length of chain around his neck, held together with a padlock! When I saw him, it really gave me an appreciation for the code. I'm sure he was quite a distraction in class because he was dressed so differently than everyone else, and I think that's another reason why we have it. The focus isn't supposed to be on what you wear (or what you got away with wearing), it's what's between your ears. Most of the time, if the code is enforced, a kid like this would be sent to the dean's office and his parents would be called to bring him acceptable clothes, and he would not be allowed back in class until he'd changed. (I saw this kid at the end of the day, and his dad is one of our teachers, so I'm not sure what happened in his case, though I know several teachers reported him.) And the kids who violate the code stand out like sore thumbs once you get used to the idea that the kids should be held to a higher standard. So I'm not against it anymore, as long as it doesn't become too totalitarian. I think it's OK to ask them to look respectable as long as they're allowed a reasonable amount of personal expression. We have a clever kid who's protested the code 'legally' by doing things like cutting two shirts in half and re-sewing them together to make one half-and-half shirt, or making an outfit out of duct tape (I kid you not. It's actually rather impressive).

Because our code has been hard to enforce (and because most of the male teachers are very uncomfortable confronting teenage girls about dress code violations), they're changing things to a more uniform approach--basically, items were chosen from the Land's End catalog, and parents are going to be told 'Anything on these pages, or similar to the items pictured, is acceptable. Anything else is not.' It is essentially a uniform, though they'll be able to choose different colors and I think they'll have more than one style, but I'm not totally sure. Part of me says that this is going too far, and part of me says that if we want to be able to enforce the code, this may be what we need to do. Otherwise, it takes up too much time and energy.

That said, teachers aren't subject to the code, as long as we look professional. Much as I'd love to wear sneakers to work, the only times I do are on designated dress-down days (exam time, or the specified days when you pay $3 to dress down, and the money goes to a certain charity or school group that's trying to raise money--an excellent way to get cash out of teenagers!). I'm not sure if I've answered your question, but that's how we do things where I work.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Pauline on 2/07/03 at 12:34 (108353)

Both my husband and I had to wear a uniform when we went to school. No boys at my school not girls at his. Both our sons went to a private boys prep school and wore uniforms.

We told them attending school was a privilege and their uniform was just part of their job dress code. No big deal was made about it. It was easy and everyone looked nice and appeared equal. As a result my kids do not go nuts for designer name clothing, look for bargins when shopping and seek out women with the same values for dating. I think we also got the education we paid for, but its more exciting to actually hear it from the boys themselves.

Here's one parent who was happy to wear a uniform, and am glad that I could provide the same experience and a quality education for our sons.

Anyone still have their old uniform????

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Carole C in NOLA on 2/07/03 at 12:39 (108356)

In junior high and high school, some parents buy their daughters frightfully expensive clothing so that they can be popular. This puts a lot of pressure on the less well dressed and their parents. It can be the source of family turmoil, not to mention a drain on the budget when/if the parents give in.

Also during these years a lot of unnecessary effort is expended to make sure kids follow the school dress code.

So, I can definitely see an advantage to uniforms in grades 7-12. Sure, the kids are individuals, and let them nurture and cultivate the individual talents and personality that allows the other children to see them as individuals too.

Younger kids are pretty much dressed by their parents, so maybe it doesn't make as much difference for them. Uniforms might be cheaper, though.

Teachers should wear whatever they please!!!!

Carole C

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 15:40 (108379)

I sincerely appreciate all your responses. I can see that some choice within the context of a uniform would help, and if it caused students to not be looked down on because of dress and to 'look deeper' as Paula suggested, then it would bring about good.

And I can see that uniforms would be easier to monitor than a dress code. I graduated from high school in 1970, and those were the days of girls being observed in homeroom for dress length and then being sent to the principal's office for 'measuring' (much as you see in the movie, 'Mr. Holland's Opus'). Of course some girls hemmed them up just an inch or so above the regimented length just so they would be taken home by the principal to change!

I don't know if we can ever make things such that we keep students from forming cliques and looking down on other groups. But I know we have to try. And of course I don't teach high school or have to deal with bizarre fashions. I'm probably dressed the strangest in my room when I wear my penguin jumper! :-)

I try very hard to teach my students to not judge one another and to be kind and respectful. Every year on Martin Luther King's birthday when we discuss what he worked for, most of the children are dumb-founded that I can remember a time when the color of someone's skin could determine whether he could go in a restaurant to eat. They just look at me and ask, 'Why??'

In my little school I have been lucky to not see children being ostracized because of dress or things money can buy - mainly because very few, if any, have a great deal of that! But in the first school where I taught, I can remember 2nd and 3rd graders being snippy about dress and the latest fads. I will never forget one little girl coming to me so happily to show me her new shoes. She told me she bought them at the Dollar Store. I bragged on them, and then a child said, 'You got those at the Dollar Store?' and gave her a sneering look. I quickly reprimanded that child and assured the other one that I loved the shoes and that I shopped there. But the damage was done, no matter what I said. That made me so sad. It was a relief at my next school to find such an absence of that attitude.

But I do like what you said, Carole, about teachers wearing whatever we please! And I am positive that the most expensive things I ever wear are my SHOES!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

nancy s. on 2/07/03 at 16:56 (108387)

uh oh, am i too late? i only have a few minutes but wanted to say that as a child i was very envious of the kids who went to catholic school and had to wear uniforms. i don't know if i would've felt that way if the girls' uniform was ugly! but i liked it: it was a navy blue jumper.

then again, i was also envious of girls who wore braces on their teeth! i thought they were cool. so i'm not sure you can take my opinion seriously!

a uniform can even things out quite a bit. the school & peer pressure is incredible, and i imagine a uniform takes away some of that pressure. back then i cared more what people thought of me, and i could've done without the clothes pressure. they can always get individual in dress outside of school. as paula says, uniforms might make kids appreciate other aspects of people's individuality more and look deeper -- not only into others but into themselves too; just a guess. but in this day and age 'looking deeper' needs all the help it can get.

now i'd have to be dragged kicking and screaming to wear what other people are wearing. the mass-chosen uniform would probably not be what i personally would choose so probably wouldn't feel true to my rustic self, and i'd end up with a nervous breakdown!

for what it's worth,

nancy
.

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 18:31 (108391)

Of course you're not too late, Nancy! :-) I'm glad to get your perspective as well. It's interesting to note that as a child you wished you could wear a uniform. I'll have to say the children have been proud of their new t-shirts. Perhaps a perfect world for me would be for the children to wear uniforms and the teachers get to dress how we choose (within reason, of course)! I guess the mass-chosen uniform is what I don't want for myself. But we shall see how it goes. I'll keep you all informed!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

pala on 2/07/03 at 18:40 (108392)

did i miss something? i understand why students need uniforms but i have not heard about teachers having to wear them. is this common? what is the purpose of it?

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 18:47 (108393)

I don't know, Paula. That's what I can't understand. Our principal has decided this would be wonderful and would make us a true 'team'. But I am already a part of a real team, and it has nothing to do with what we wear! As you said, it is much deeper than that!

I'm 5'11' and my best friend and co-worker is a foot shorter and quite heavy. We do NOT look the best or feel the most comfortable in the same kind of clothes. And everyone else there is somewhere in between. We all have our styles and unique personalities. My friend and I make a good team as well as my other closest co-worker who has taught 43 years even though there are many differences in us.

Thanks for thinking about this with me.

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

pala on 2/07/03 at 19:21 (108396)

do teachers have any input? i taught a million years ago and hated how the administrators were gods and the teachers treated like children. how is it now? i think it is silly that teachers should be required to wear anything other than what they want. (unless their stabbing each other for trendy sneakers in your school)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

Suzanne D on 2/07/03 at 19:53 (108401)

We are SUPPOSED to have more input now. Site-based councils were mandated a few years ago in all schools in Kentucky. However, it seems that with all the talk of having a say, in reality, it is still pretty much how you remember things. The committees and councils have token representatives of parents and teachers, but the administration still controls.

I try to keep my mind on the children and my work with them so as not to get in a negative attitude about school. Most of the time I manage to do that, but sometimes...:-)

Suzanne :-)

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

pala on 2/07/03 at 21:04 (108420)

that is the only way to keep going. focus on the children. great attitude. it takes character not to get side tracked by all the petty stuff.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Julie on 2/08/03 at 04:51 (108439)

Suzanne, I'm coming in on this a bit late, because I needed to think about it, but now here's a bit of perspective from over the water, where school uniforms for children are the norm. I remember being appalled by this when I first came to live in England. I felt that the children were being regimented, but it was explained to me that the rationale is that uniforms are a leveller, minimising the visible difference between wealthy and poor, and encouraging children to treat each others as equals without reference to money and class. Perhaps there's some truth in it, but then England is still a deeply class-ridden society, so doesn't look as though school uniforms have made much difference.

Does the wearing of school uniforms encourage children to look deeper? I wouldn't know, but somehow I doubt it. The visible differences are superficial, and kids, who can be quite cruel, have their unerring little ways of sniffing out the underlying ones. There must be more effective ways of encouraging children to behave kindly and respectfully towards others.

My guess is that it's probably better to encourage the development of individuality, clothes being one way of expressing it,and if that results in snobby judgements and sneering attitudes, well, that's life, and you could argue (I would) that kids are better off learning to cope with them, as with most aspects of reality, from the start.

As for uniforms for teachers - words fail me. That really does seem like regimentation, and I can't see any justification for it. The 'team' argument is specious - you're a team or you aren't, and it has nothing to do with your clothes, as you said. But your clothes are one way of expressing who you are, and in your case, Suzanne, of how creatively you teach. It seems extraordinary that your administration would want to put a damper on that.

I hope the vote goes the way you want it to. But if it doesn't, I know, knowing you, that you'll cope and somehow turn it to your pupils' advantage!

Re: The concept of a "team"

Nancy N on 2/08/03 at 07:25 (108442)

You know, I totally forgot about it when I posted earlier but my kids in Ireland had uniforms, too. In their case, it was a sweatshirt with the school's logo on it, which they wore each day with whatever else they wanted. But it was still a uniform.

Julie's post has me thinking about the whole concept of 'team,' and how it seems to be used/abused in US society these days. It's one of those buzzwords that's so ubiquitous that I wonder if it means anything anymore. Julie's right--you either are a team, or you're not, and how you dress is not likely to make you like your coworkers more or less. I get the sense that it's a word that administrators--in all fields--are overusing because it makes them sound good (much the same way that people think saying 'utilize' instead of 'use' makes them sound smarter, when in fact it says to me that they don't know that there's a distinct difference in the meanings of the two words). When I worked in te corporate world, the English major in me wanted to be sick every time the 50-cent words came out--'leveraging our core competencies' was one of my favorites. I had just graduated from college but felt like I was living in a foreign country, because I sure as heck didn't understand the language!

It all seems very silly to me. Are we so pathetic that we need to hide behind big, fancy words (or words like 'team' that go back to our overemphasis on athletic success)? Yes, it's important to be able to work together, but do we need cheerleaders at work? It all makes me look at the culture we've built and wonder if we have any idea what we've created--it really feels like a Potemkin village to me.

Re: The concept of a "team"

Julie on 2/08/03 at 08:26 (108445)

Nancy, did you ever find out what 'leveraging our core competencies' means?

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

john h on 2/08/03 at 10:35 (108457)

Julie: Mother Superior and her teachers very much wore uniforms and were very proud of them. They could hide their rulers under those outfits to blast your knuckles when you got out of line. As for me - being in uniform for a large part of my life I dig them. Never have to worry about what to wear or dressing down or dressing up. Now I have to consider 12 pair of birks each day. What shall I do? When I was in college we all had to wear a coat and tie for dinner. this was not some prestigeous ivy league school but a small misdwestern liberal arts college (Coe College in Cedar Rapids). Have the times changed or what.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Carole C in NOLA on 2/08/03 at 11:05 (108463)

John, you now have TWELVE pairs of Birkenstocks? Sheesh. If you got just two more pairs, you could wear a different pair every day for two weeks straight. One would think that you like them. lol

Times have indeed changed. Coe College was a very well respected college when I was in high school and highly recommended, though I haven't heard much of it lately (perhaps because of its small size).

Carole C

Re: The concept of a "team"

Nancy N on 2/08/03 at 11:53 (108474)

I think it was a high-falutin' way of talking about making good use of your biggest talents. Now, THAT is something everyone can understand--why don't they just say that?? The whole 'leverage' thing makes me thing of crow bars, not businesses. I swear, I think marketing is the biggest threat to the English language. I was looking at a book called 'Junk English' which is about this very subject, but I haven't got a copy for myself just yet.

Re: Thanks for all your thoughts!

marie e on 2/08/03 at 19:14 (108516)

I should share that I spent half of my school years in Catholic Schools. I was envious of the kids in public schools that got to wear what they wanted...of course dress codes were much stricter in the 60's & 70's. When I fianlly was allowed to attend public schools it wasn't cool to look like you had money. I bought my jeans at goodwill and most of the clothes I really loved were bought at second hand stores. I suppose that clothes have always been a way for me to express my individuality.

John mentioned that the kids in Japan wear uniforms. I toured several schools in Tokyo and Kyoto. Yes they do wear uniforms. Japan leads the world in secondary math education. We lead in post-secondary math. They practice the teachings of Confuscious. Individuality is not valued in their society. However Western influences have taken the traditional Japanese by surprise. You see Japan leads the world in technology but they are way behind on software development....because it takes the creativity nurtured in the individual to come up with these kinds of products. Japanese schools are undergoing change. They are seeking ways to encourage individuality.....the poor teachers are beside themselves because suddenly they have a class of individuals...it is simply not part of their culture. Believe it or not the teachers in Japan are looking to Americans for help in this matter.

I think uniforms are fine for younger kids as long as there are options and choices for the kids. I don't like the idea of uniforms for high school kids...dress code YES. We are preparing these young men and women to be independent from their families. They need to learn how to make all kinds of decisions including what is socially acceptable atire.

well that's my 2 cents. marie

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Suzanne D on 2/08/03 at 21:59 (108531)

Thanks again to everyone who replied. I agree that to be part of a 'team' doesn't mean looking alike.

Nancy, don't you find that in education there are certain 'buzz words' that make the rounds for awhile and everyone seems to use them when they are 'in'? I can remember when 'benchmark' was on all the presenters' lips. And then there was the push to use different 'genre' of literature in the reading texts. Today I had to attend a meeting about professional development, and I kept hearing the term 'job-embedded'. At least the words are easier to remember than the initials for all the new programs! Before a faculty meeting, we will be told to bring our SISI documents, for instance, and in our new reading program, we have 5 or 6 sets of initials just in the lesson format such as SAP (student active participation), etc... I had better stop as I am sure this is getting boring!

Julie, thanks for understanding about my dress being part of my creativity as a teacher! Some people don't understand that but the children seem as if they do. And you're right: I don't think we can make children treat everyone fairly just because we try to dictate that they look alike. And learning kindness and respect does not come from not recognizing any differences in people but in valuing them in spite of these differences.

There is a 25 year old young woman who comes to my classroom as a volunteer each Friday afternoon. She is a friend of mine from church, and I suggested to her mother after she graduated at age 21 (special ed students in a self-contained classroom can stay in school until that age) that she might like to come and help 1/2 day a week. She washes the children's desks each time she comes, and I include her at holiday parties. She helps us keep the desks clean, and it helps her to have something to be interested in and to feel successful. It also helps the children, for they learn first-hand that she is a nice person whom they appreciate and like despite her handicaps of which they are aware. They really like her, and she really likes them. The highlight of her year is the volunteer luncheon held each spring when they are recognized. And, yes, she is part of our team!

Thanks again! I appreciate being able to discuss this with you all!

Suzanne :-)

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 07:59 (108552)

Suzanne--

I haven't been in education long enough to notice the terms you're talking about--though I also suspect I may be more insulated from them because I'm in a private school, and therefore not subject to state mandates. But I do think there are buzzwords that pop up throughout the corporate culture and they trickle down into the common lexicon. That's actually the part that bothers me the most, because I think we end up with these terms that are, essentially, meaningless, and people throw them around without having any idea what the heck they're actually saying. It seems both ridiculous and unfortunate to me, especially since we have this wonderful language that expresses so many things with such detail, because it has freely borrowed words from other languages to fill the gaps. So why must we come up with this big, ugly, meaningless terms? I think it's some deeply-seated psychological way of avoiding the real facts by using fancy words that don't mean much.

It sounds like your classroom is a wonderful and welcoming place for everyone, Suzanne. I hope you're proud of yourself for creating such a special place for everyone.

Re: seeking opinions on school uniforms...

Suzanne D on 2/09/03 at 08:12 (108555)

Thank you, Nancy, and I agree about the buzzwords! It seems to me that if you can't explain something, then just create a high-sounding word or acronym which no one really understands but doesn't want to appear not to be current enough to know, and you are in business. It has always reminded me of Hans Christian Anderson's tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. Only the innocent child got to the truth of the matter while everyone else scurried around pretending so as not to appear out of the loop.

And you're right: we have a wonderful language largely not used to a full extent. We don't really need new words!

By the way, I hope you are feeling even better today!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Re:Language

Julie on 2/09/03 at 08:32 (108559)

Nancy and Suzanne

I once heard George Steiner (he was speaking at an OUP sales conference in about 1970 - we were about to publish his study of language, 'After Babel') say that we use language to conceal, rather than to disclose, what we really think and feel.

I think jargon and buzzwords fit the theory rather nicely.

Re: Re:Language

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 08:40 (108561)

George Steiner--now there's a name I haven't heard in a while. When I was living in Northern Ireland, the father of the family was reading one of his books and agreeing with some, taking issue with others. I have no idea which book it might have been, but I do remember that there was an article/chapter in it about American culture and how very little of it is original. Made sense to me, since nearly everyone who's made a cultural difference was from a foreign background. But Joe was a big jazz lover and was highly surprised (as was I, after I read the article) that Steiner didn't at least give us credit for jazz. Of course, Joe was being sort of passive-aggressive in asking me to read this part of the book, seeing if he could provoke a reaction out of me :)

Now I think I'm going to have to see if I can figure out which book that was, because it was fairly interesting. I know Joe sent him a letter after he finished, raising some points and contesting others.

But, getting back to the point (!), I think you're right. Language is used equally to expose and to conceal, perhaps more of the latter than the former. Especially (but not only) in business communications.

Re: Re:Language

nancy s. on 2/09/03 at 09:00 (108563)

i don't know george steiner, but he sounds wise.

when the small nonprofit organization i worked in for four years around 1980 (earthwatch) started using these corporate buzzwords and jargon, i knew it was time for me to go!

nancy
.

Re: Re:Language

Julie on 2/09/03 at 09:24 (108567)

Yes: probably especially in business (and don't forget politics) but I think in personal communication too. I was so struck by Steiner's statement, delivered unequivocally and with great panache, as his his wont, that I've never forgotten it. It makes you think about what you say and write, and helps in the attempt to be honest and clear.

I'll bet you took the wind out of Joe's sails when you agreed with him about the lack of originality in American culture! It isn't quite fair, though, since American culture is still very young compared to most other cultures, and it isn't quite right, either. What, for instance, about American writing, American folk song (which doesn't all emanate from English folk song by any means). Steiner has always tended to go overboard - it's one of the things that makes him so fascinating on history and culture. As for jazz, I suppose his argument was that it all came from African rhythms?

Re: Re:Language

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 09:31 (108569)

Yeah, I've never been the biggest defender of American culture--which Joe should have suspected since I had flown the coop to Europe!

You're right, we have had less time to form a true culture than everybody else has. Though it's easy to coast on what's been done before, too. I think a lot of the African-American writers certainly have had a unique perspective, for instance, but perhaps Steiner is as guilty as so many of us are in forgetting about them when we think of American literature.

I don't remember a specific argument on jazz--in fact, I'm not sure if he even mentioned it. It could be that we were both surprised by its omission. This was all about 7 years ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

I decided to see if I could find the book in question online, and I think I did. And an article on Slate about the 'Archives of Eden' essay, which sounds like it's the one I remember. It's at http://slate.msn.com/id/2948/ if you're interested.

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 10:00 (108574)

talk of american culture reminds me when ghandi first visited the west a reporter said 'what do you think of western civilization?' ghandi replied 'i think it would be a great idea'

Re: Re:Language

Suzanne D on 2/09/03 at 14:11 (108594)

I would certainly agree that jargon and buzzwords fit that definition quite well. And when language is used to conceal rather than reveal, it also seems to be used to keep certain people 'out'. Only those who are deemed important enough to be privy to all the lingo can fit in. The rest are made to feel as if there are important things going on, but that they aren't wise enough to be a part of it all. I think it's another way to control people. That may seem extreme, but down to the bare bones, it looks like that to me.

There was a massive education reform in Kentucky a little over 10 years ago. It came - not from the teachers and schools - but from the legislature. The state department of education was dismantled at the time, and many new programs and ways of doing things were initiated. All this took us unaware, and we struggled to play catch up and figure out what was expected of us.

There came a much publicized convention to which 2 teachers and the principal from each school in the state could come to learn all about the reform (particularly ungraded primary which was mandated by the state to begin the next year). Everyone was so full of questions and anxiously awaiting the reports of those who went. I had the opportunity to go, and in meeting after meeting and in every address, we learned basically nothing about how to teach in this new setting. We were told that we were professionals and were being 'trusted'; we could now be 'free' to really be professionals. We heard lots of rhetoric with no practical answers. Yet each speaker followed the last by saying how great this was and how wonderful that our state was pioneering this reform.

When we returned, that is when I thought of the old tale of The Emperor's New Clothes. In that story, everyone in the kingdom was afraid to say they saw no clothes, so they parroted everyone else's compliments to the king. I stated that I felt that way at the end of the convention. Follow-up meetings were held, and this time only 1 teacher went with the principal, and I was not chosen. But I had to be honest, and that is how I saw it. In the following years, we have all felt the frustration of the whole scenario. We've just tried to keep teaching the best we could and still meet whatever conditions were mandated. Since that time, we are more or less back to grades as before. And no one still really understands all the jargon they said to us when it all began.

Suzanne :-)

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 15:40 (108600)

just look at history. you know, it's not atrocity tor profit that gets me , that's human history. it's how easy it is to convince the masses that it's a good thing . what's that quote, something like 'the difference between the evil and the stupid is that the stupid never give it a rest'

Re: Re:Language

Nancy N on 2/09/03 at 15:44 (108601)

There's also 'All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.'

Re: Re:Language

nancy s. on 2/09/03 at 16:22 (108608)

who said that, paula?! i want to know who i'm quoting when i repeat it, although if you'd like i'll give you most of the credit. pretty soon i'm going to have a start a whole file of paula quotes.

nancy
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Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 18:36 (108622)

not sure who said it. a friend once gave me a great book of cynical quotes. it's around here somewhere. when i dig it out of the chaos , i'll look it up. i was surprised at the time, twenty years ago, to hear i was cynical. i thought i was perceptive and realistic. but i loved that quote book so i decided to join the ranks of the humorous disgusted. looks like i might be pulling you in with me. it's dark down here, but it is hilarious.

Re: Re:Language

pala on 2/09/03 at 18:39 (108624)

i was planning on an evening of positivity after suzannes efforts on my behalf. so don't be encouraging my typical outlook till tomorrow, nancy, you devil. by then i'll be bursting to be cynical and bitter again

Re: Re:Language

nancy s. on 2/09/03 at 20:41 (108635)

you ARE perceptive, also cynical, and often realistic. you can't always be realistic, though, because no one can be. as for joining the ranks of the humorous disgusted, that's got a lot more going for it than simply 'the disgusted'! you aren't really pulling me down there in the dark. i actually tend toward optimism; but i've seen enough darkness and spent enough time there to feel at home with it in a way too. most of all, in addition to kindness, i appreciate truth/wisdom and humor, and sometimes they come with cynicism or irony. they can come in many different forms and personalities, and i welcome almost all of them. you're certainly welcome!

enjoy your night of positivity now. i vote you keep it up till at least midnight. maybe give us a report before i drive off for our warm sunny holiday in michigan on tuesday morning.

nancy, only a part-time devil
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