Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking One Giant Step Toward Seriousness With Neckties

I found this post rather interesting.  It is dated but it is timeless in meaning and it makes a great point regarding dress codes and ties - Jeffrey Hunter

Published: November 16, 1990

To the Editor:

In "The Ties That Bind" (column, Oct. 25) William Safire commends Frank Mickens, principal of Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, who wants to require his male students to wear neckties (news story, Oct. 19).

During my 10 years as music chairman at Boys High School (later merged with Girls High School to form the present amalgam), I often wondered what would happen if, by some wand of magic, the 3,000 boys would, just for one day, suddenly acquire notebooks and attend classes instead of loitering in the hallways and fighting in the lunchroom. Fat chance! Sadly, my fantasy was never fulfilled. Very few of the boys ever bothered to attend classes or even complete the basic academic curriculum. Perhaps neckties and a dress code might then have served as the alchemy for my magical wish.

Today, I fail to understand why there is such a fuss over a dress code for students. Any observer who has ever visited a high school knows that performing groups and gym classes (Frank Mickens was a gym teacher during my tenure at Boys High) have mandated dress for these students. Boys High School, even then, was no exception.

Manifestly, neckties do, indeed, evoke lots of noise from various missionaries. But the latent issue in this urban school is that of education. In this setting the schoolhouse must be operated and viewed as a special place if it is to be successful. Therefore, appropriate dress indicates demonstratively that those who attend this place have acquired the requisite mind-set for effective building of character. Moreover, positive attitudes and seriousness of purpose regarding education and the business of life become cherished ideals. The side effect here is the enhancement of self-esteem. Furthermore, children in urban schools, especially adolescents, constantly demand of parents and those in loco parentis that they set limits. Neckties, as a minor cog, serve as a beginning in respect of pupils demands.

I am well aware of these demands of students because I served for 14 years as principal of a difficult but highly successful New York City public school. In 1978, I mandated a dress code for pupils and teachers. The pupils and parents welcomed it; the teachers didn't. The issue went to arbitration, and I was overruled. This case dealt with teachers' dress codes in New York City. However, after this decision the school's teachers established their own dress code and became models for pupils.

I submit: The dress code works wonders; the underlying concern is the setting of boundaries for effective education of urban children. Kudos is due Frank Mickens, and blessed be the ties. WILLIAM D. WHEELER Bronx, Oct. 26, 1990

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