School Gang Policy Double Plus Ungood

CHS Junior wears t-shirt promoting his band. School principal thinks band is a gang. Mother called in. Principal says t-shirt’s reference to boy’s neighborhood is gang promotion. Mother pissed. School board annoyed. Progress reports.

34 Responses to “School Gang Policy Double Plus Ungood”


  • I read this article earlier this morning and this stood out in my mind:
    Gilmore said that when she arrived at the school, she asked which part of the shirt could be gang-related and that’s when she was shown the list of names. “Nine hundred block, that’s our address,” she said during an interview after the incident. “That’s our community, our home.”

    She worries that children who live in low-income neighborhoods might become ashamed of where they live if they are told they can’t wear shirts with their neighborhoods names on them.

    “They’re stereotyping our kids,” Gilmore said. “The kids should be able to take pride in where they live.”

    Its not your kids’ fault that “gangs” have caused this. From what I understand “gangs” tend to form in lower income areas as well (not saying that they can’t or don’t form elsewhere.) And they can still take pride in where they live. Just don’t wear it or write it all over the place. Or be more precise. You have a great aluminum can drive every year? Make shirts saying “2006 900 block can drive” or something, not just the number.

    Today’s society has put alot of restrictions on us. I’m pregnant and have a cold. I can only take Sudafed. Well, the drug dealers have made that impossible for me to get at odd hours – like 7 am on a Saturday when I’m running errands to beat the crowds. Or at least its no more one stop shopping – my Waynesboro Kroger has no pharmacy so can’t sell it and for some odd reason the Wal-mart pharmacy hasn’t been open when we went by at 9 & 10 am on different Saturdays.

  • First off, kids in Charlottesville have no need to form gangs. Life in the ville is easy. Second, I’m all for freedom of speech but one should expect the reactions. That goes with dressing in goth, punk, jock, etc. styles. The ban on select words won’t prevent gangs. If they really want to make some changes the should work on the community. Work on making Charlottesville more interesting for kids/teens.

    To mom133d
    The restriction on Sudafed has to do with curbing the methamphetamine epidemic. Having lived out west, I’ve seen the intensity of this drug. You don’t want a meth lab or meth users anywhere near you. In my opinion, they should just take that stuff off the market but they won’t because the makers of Sudafed are making a ton of money off the crisis. Trust me, we’re only in the begining stages of meth. Putting restrictions is the least that they can do. You’ll want it banned when a meth lab blows up in your neighborhood or if you move in to an apartment that was once a meth lab.

    “I can only take Sudafed.” – Try using something without ephedrine. It’ll be safer for your baby.

  • The idea of going after members of ‘gangs’ simply for their status as members of ‘gangs’ is ridiculous. You know what a ‘gang’ is? It’s a group of people who are friends. If a group of young people are black, low income and have the gall to show a little pride in themselves then suddenly this is supposed to be a ‘gang’ and somehow discrimination against them becomes acceptable. This is not right.

    If someone is engaging in criminal behavior then investigate that criminal behavior and prosecute it. Unless they have committed an actual crime, people have the right to free association and the right to free speech. Yes, this includes young black people.

    Can anyone here imagine a white kid wearing a non-offensive t-shirt for his band being sent home from school as a gang suspect? Of course not. This kid’s only crime was being black. I’ve often said that the problem of racism in Charlottesville is hugely exagerated and malicious, racist intent is frequently ascribed, incorrectly, to actions taken by local government and school officials. Scottie Griffin deserved to be fired. But this is different. The only way that this story starts to make any sense is when you see the picture of the mother and find out that the kid was black.

  • I’m going to weigh in on this discussion In support of “school uniforms.” Yes “uniforms for all students in public school.”

    It accomplishes several goals. The primary benefit as I see it is that it elminates the fashion and status competions and for lower income parents it minimizes the costs associated with that those competions. Additionally it also gets rid of these types of unneeded distractions (and subsequent bad P.R. or resulting lawsuits) as to whether or not an image or word on a t-shirt is offensive(profanity), gang related, etc.

    It’s been adopted by several school systems in other states to deal with the issues I mentioned above, and seems to work pretty well.

  • I’m all for freedom of speech but

    I always get a laugh when I spot sentences that begin this way. It’s a sure way to spot somebody who is not, in fact, “all for freedom of speech.”

  • I attended both School Board meetings, and thought I’d throw this out there. The specific reason on that specific day had to do with information that suggested there was going to be a fight between two gangs at the high school.

    I was sitting behind some students at this last board meeting and they were pretty upset that they weren’t allowed to wear these types shirts to school when another segment of the population is allowed to “wear all that Dixie crap.”

  • Something very similar to this happened at Albemarle H.S. when I was a freshmen. A guy came to school with a bandanna on and he was taken by the resource officer and questioned about whether he was in a gang or not. He wasn’t part of a gang and many students were outraged so as a protest several students ( I want to say a few hundred) came to school with bandannas on.

    When I was in high school I hated the idea of uniforms but I see it as a very good idea. For one parents won’t have to spend money on the back to school outfits. Secondly, and most importantly, it removes the competition and problems that arise from different styles of clothing. Clothes tend to add another distration and uniforms would benefit the education process because it would remove one of those distrations.

    RD.. I just wanted to say that everything isn’t easy in Charlottesville for everyone. I think this is a common misconception because of the large amount of wealth in the area, but there are a lot of people in this area who live have to struggle to get by. Isn’t there a substantial percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch in city schools? I think that alone can help you understand that everything is not as easy as it seems.

  • cvilleyankee… and I personally find “all that dixie crap” to be just as inflamatory as a shirt with a gang name written on it.

  • UVA08, I’m not disagreeing with you. I wanted to repeat that particular statement because if the school is going to be in the habit of sending kids home because attire causes students not to feel safe, they’re going to need to take into account more than just those students who wear shirts often associated with gangs.

    Once you start saying one type of attire is unacceptable, I think you’re going to have to expect that other people are going to find different types of attire unacceptable. I’m only sorry that student didn’t stay around to get up and repeat that statement to the Board, I think it would have been interesting to see the reaction.

  • Hey All,
    According to Charlottesville’s Police Chief, there are no gangs in the city. He’s made mention of this in several media accounts… downplaying their existence.

    In many TV reports, he’s back-pedaled through the “West Side” Crew’s indictment and other large-scale drug operators arrests… and continually states there are no gangs in this city.

    Now here you have the prinicipal of the city’s high school saying that city police had publicized certain names and phrases as potential red flags. It’s all disturbing and points to an even bigger problem in Charlottesville: accountability.

  • rd21ytl Says: Quoting me

    “I can only take Sudafed.” – Try using something without ephedrine. It’ll be safer for your baby.

    This is from the dr – UVA’s Women’s Place, and other drs across the country. I asked what I can take and was told Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) and Tylenol (acetaminphen). So I take it when needed rather than scheduled doses. Natural herbal supplements have not been tested enough for me or my dr to use on my baby.

  • It looks like an overreaction. Did the principal even ask this young man what the words stood for? Our police and school officials in reacting to an alleged ” gang problem” here seem as willing to disregard civil liberties as the Bush administration is in the name of fighting terrorism. Another example of how we rushing to exchange liberty in the name of safety. We have juvenile crime,yes, but where is the hard evidence of organized criminal street gangs here? Jack is absolutely correct in his definition of a gang.
    Yes, in regard to to another point, that about school uniforms . Yes, they might produce the kind of conformity and order that some want in our society. Suppress these kids individuality-after all free spirits don’t make very good corporate drones or cannon fodder. They might start questioning things.
    I remember the “hair wars” of the 60s and no way could I support forcing something on today’s kids like uniforms. I suppose the idea there is to get them all to look alike so maybe they think alike, all become good, respectable types who go to church on Sunday and vote Republican. Granted there are some who might take to a more regimented, structured environment- there are the military academies for them. But that is not the answer for the youngsters thriving at the Living Education Center for Ecology and the Arts.
    We need to produce more poets and philosophers, not more Wal-Mart CEOs and land developers.

  • A few thoughts:

    – There’s no mention of the student’s “band” or any musical group in the Daily Progress reports or during the parent’s comments to the School Board. “Southside” is a well-known name for their neighborhood. Not sure why this subject is filed under “music.” Yes, the student raps, but he was not wearing anything referring to his musical group. His rap name was on the shirt, but the group name wasn’t any sort of rap group.

    – There have been several fights, in and out of school, over the last 2-3 years that have been neighborhood-based. As many as 40-50 teens were involved in some of these fights. Two students were hospitalized this fall with serious stab wounds. It would have been reckless for the CHS administration to allow these shirts to provoke a disruption (or worse) after receiving word from city police that there was a good chance for a large fight between neighborhoods that day.

    – Students right to free expression should be protected, but the safety and uninterrupted education for all students must come first. I think that was the primary thought behind the school’s actions.

    This is an issue that should be debated, but I think there was some misinformation clouding some of this discussion.

  • Yes, the student raps, but he was not wearing anything referring to his musical group. His rap name was on the shirt, but the group name wasn’t any sort of rap group.

    I guess I could have called it “the name under which he performs music,” but the difference between that and a “band” is really kind of academic. (Pun intended, now that I think about it.)

  • I’m going to agree with CvilleTeach. There’s a difference between a “rap name” and Band name. Especially with a type of music which is more often than not associated with drugs, street violence, and a criminal culture. The difference between “band name” and “rap monnikor” is lbig enough.

    The Last time I looked, in public schools there was no “student right to free expression.” The school newspaper, yearbook, and even the validictorian’s speach all get censored by the administration for appropriateness. Traditionally t-shirts are no different but they usually fall under “Dress code” as inappropriate attire.

    Hollow Boy wrote:

    Yes, they might produce the kind of conformity and order that some want in our society. Suppress these kids individuality-after all free spirits don’t make very good corporate drones or cannon fodder. They might start questioning things.

    You’re missing or ignoring my point. Uniforms are about making the “Learning environment” an environment more conducive to “Learning”. The types of clothes people wear when they are in school have little or no effect on what they later on become in life. Too often in an educational environment clothes and fashion styles are used by students to group themselves into smaller subgroups… punk, goth, redneck (dixie flag), gangsta, etc. At this time in their lives “in school” they should be focusing on education. No one is more- or less likely to become a Poet or Philosopher as a result of a school uniform requirement.

    I remember Mr. Leatherwood (the current principal) when I was a student. He was one of the few teachers that were respected by those students in his classroom and he was one of the few teachers I respected. I think he made the right decision. As for those that would try to suggest this is an issue of race or ethnic culture. The parent, student, and principal are all african american.

    I will also say that the confederate flag, like gang attire, should be prohibited from school. That’s a no-brainer. I mean we wouldn’t allow a student to walk around with the nazi flag on an item of his/or her clothing.

  • I’m going to agree with CvilleTeach. There’s a difference between a “rap name” and Band name. Especially with a type of music which is more often than not associated with drugs, street violence, and a criminal culture.

    So is the problem, to your estimation, hip-hop culture? If the name of his band had been on there, rather than the name under which he performs, would have have made any difference? Is it cool for expression be a little less free when it’s delivered in the form of spoken rhyme with a strong back beat? Given that hip-hop is more popular among black students than white, don’t you think this represents an equal protection concern? Or is there a substantive difference between the stage name adopted by those who engage in spoken rhyme and those who engage in pitch-altered rhyme? If so, if he’d been using his stage name as, say, a rock musician, would that have been less worrisome?

    Questions, questions…

  • I should mention that this all reminds me of the 2002 matter of a Jack Jouett student wearing an NRA Sports Shooting Camp t-shirt. He was made to turn it inside out after being told that gun imagery was not acceptable. (Nevermind that AHS’ logo features a guy with a gun.) Two years later, the kid won the NRA-backed lawsuit.

    Free expression a protected right, even in schools? Whatddya know! Shades of Tinker v. Des Moines?

  • So is the problem, to your estimation, hip-hop culture?

    No. Hip hop culture has it’s place. When I’m stuck in traffic I listen to it because for me it relieves stress. But this issue isn’t about “hip hop culture” it’s about gang associated terminology.

    If the name of his band had been on there, rather than the name under which he performs, would have have made any difference?

    If his either name was commonly associated with a street gang then sure. It would have made a difference. However this issue isn’t about music.

    Is it cool for expression be a little less free when it’s delivered in the form of spoken rhyme with a strong back beat? Given that hip-hop is more popular among black students than white, don’t you think this represents an equal protection concern?

    Of course it’s not. However this wasn’t that sort of issue. This was an issue where there was the concern about terms with associated with gang affilliation.

    Or is there a substantive difference between the stage name adopted by those who engage in spoken rhyme and those who engage in pitch-altered rhyme? If so, if he’d been using his stage name as, say, a rock musician, would that have been less worrisome?

    The issue was did his t-shirt posses terminology associated with gang affiliation.

    If that terminology is his “rap name” that’s one thing.. if it’s his neighborhood that’s another.

    From the progress article:

    Kenneth Leatherwood, principal of CHS, said that city police had publicized certain names and phrases as potential red flags. A list Gilmore obtained from the school included the names Southside, PJC, G2, 900 Block and South First Street.

    So it looks like the neighborhood name is at issue and not the “rap name” or band name. In this instance the way you’ve framed the story and issue here is misleading. It’s about his neighborhood and not his “rap name” or “band name.” Therefor the catagory of “music” should be inapplicable.

    As for “Tinker v. Des Moines”… black armbands during the vietnam war. That’s hardly an adequate comparison to the current social issues. I’m not a lawyer so my comments regarding the free expression of students are based soley on my personal experience during my time as a student in the Charlottesville public school system, and associated media exposure on the subject.

    From that document about Tinker v. Des Moines:

    The problem posed by [Tinker v. Des Moines] does not relate to regulation of the length of skirts or the type of clothing, [393 U.S. 503, 508] to hair style, or deportment. Cf. Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District, 392 F.2d 697 (1968); Pugsley v. Sellmeyer, 158 Ark. 247, 250 S. W. 538 (1923). It does not concern aggressive, disruptive action or even group demonstrations. Our problem involves direct, primary First Amendment rights akin to “pure speech.”

    One could argue that wearing gang associated terminology could be a clothing issue, or a deportment issue.

    I honestly don’t know where you get the time to look up this sort of minutiae. As I’ve said I’m not a lawyer so I’m only going by what I know to be current accepted practice. And I don’t have the time to dig through case law to attempt to prove my point.

    Anyway that’s my 2 cents.

  • Note: Much of the bolding in the above post was unintentional.. I must have messed up with my attempts at the html tagging.

  • “I’m all for freedom of speech….” Seriously I am. Waldo, I understand how that phrase comes across especially if one watches a lot of cable news, but that was not my intent. All I was saying was that if you dress the dress, expect the reaction. I use to wear old punk/metal t’s to school some of which was offensive. Was I told to cover up and to not wear some of the t’s, yes. Did it make me mad, sure. Was that to be expected, yes. Is it right via the first amendment, no. You can’t change ignorant people no mater how hard you try but you can change yourself.

    Waldo – The majority of hip hop album sales are to young white suburban kids and yes, the problem is that hip hop has focused more on the seedier side of rap. You don’t see Jurrasic 5, Blackalicious, Atmosphere, or MF Doom being promoted to the extent of 50cent.

    TrvlnMn – You can associate almost every musical genre with sex, drugs, or violence. Electronic music – Drugs. Metal – Violence, and drugs. Pop – Drugs and sex etc. etc.

    Mom133d – I just don’t trust the drug companies. There was a segment on the today show on how most cough medicines don’t work. Most colds go away in a couple days with or without the otc meds.

  • You don’t see Jurrasic 5, Blackalicious, Atmosphere, or MF Doom being promoted to the extent of 50cent.

    And ain’t that a shame? :)

  • Tinker settled once and for all that free expression is not left at the door of schools, but the line drawn is that it has to be legitimate expression — one cannot claim that the brand of one’s jeans is expression. But a word written on a shirt clearly is expression.

    Interesting topic!

  • Even if the shirt was exclusively a reference to the student’s pride in his neighborhood I don’t see how that would change anything. He is a member of a group of people who see value in their own community and express a pride in themselves. It’s not saying ‘these other people are worthless and should be shot.’ It’s saying ‘hooray for us.’

    Frankly I see no difference between this statement vs. wearing a shirt with the name of one’s football team on it.

    When white people express pride in themselves and their community, it’s a sign of good self esteem or a healthy sense of competition. But when poor black people express unity and pride then suddenly this is ‘gang behavior’ and we have to start cracking down on them and banning their expressions. This is RACISM plain and simple.

    If you want to do something about gang-related violence then arrest people who commit violent crimes. Being a member of a ‘gang’ is not criminal and is not wrong. The word ‘gang’ is usually just a term used to describe a group of poor, young black people. Never mind if they’ve actually committed a crime, right? Just showing a little pride and unity while being black is apparantly enough for many of you to applaud this kid’s punishment. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • When white people express pride in themselves and their community, it’s a sign of good self esteem or a healthy sense of competition. But when poor black people express unity and pride then suddenly this is ‘gang behavior’ and we have to start cracking down on them and banning their expressions.

    That’s the crux of it.

  • so where do i get a “Friendship Court” t-shirt at?

  • Jack wrote:

    The word ‘gang’ is usually just a term used to describe a group of poor, young black people.

    From dictionary.com:

    Gang- n,

    1. A group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit.

    2. A group of adolescents who band together, especially a group of delinquents.

    3. Informal. A group of people who associate regularly on a social basis: The whole gang from the office went to a clambake.

    4. A group of laborers organized together on one job or under one foreperson: a railroad gang.

    5. A matched or coordinated set, as of tools: a gang of chisels.

    6. a. A pack of wolves or wild dogs. b. A herd, especially of buffalo or elk.

    The first definition listed above is the most commonly accepted one. Regardless of race gangs, as the police use the definition, are criminal enterprises.

    A similar non-criminal organization would be:

    Club- n, A group of people organized for a common purpose, especially a group that meets regularly: a garden club.

    In this instance I’m going to trust that the police know what they’re talking about when they are using the term “gang” instead of “club.”

  • > No. Hip hop culture has it’s place. When I’m
    > stuck in traffic I listen to it because for me it
    > relieves stress. But this issue isn’t about “hip
    > hop culture” it’s about gang associated terminology.

    Wait, wait– i’d just like to revisit this statement for a second.

    You think the proper place for Hip-Hop culture is to relieve stress for people who are privelaged enough to be stressed out about things like traffic? But when it’s used to express personal pride in one’s community and to promote self-expression, then it becomes unacceptable?

    I’m with Jack on this one. The reason they’re telling this kid he can’t wear his shirt and they’re not telling football players they can’t wear team shirts around school is because this kid is black, and because hip-hop (unfortunately) isn’t sanctioned and respected by public institutions the same way football is.

  • I knew you’d get my back, James. :)

  • James wrote:

    You think the proper place for Hip-Hop culture is to relieve stress for people who are privelaged enough to be stressed out about things like traffic? But when it’s used to express personal pride in one’s community and to promote self-expression, then it becomes unacceptable?

    Don’t put word’s in my mouth.

    That’s the “when” of when I listen to hip hop. When it’s used to express pride in one’s community and as a form of self expression that’s okay too.

    However this argument isn’t about hip hop. It’s about gang terms on a t-shirt in a “public school.” Again quoting the pertinant portion of the daily progress article:

    Kenneth Leatherwood, principal of CHS, said that city police had publicized certain names and phrases as potential red flags. A list Gilmore obtained from the school included the names Southside, PJC, G2, 900 Block and South First Street.

    According to the article “900 Block” was the offending term. So as far as I am concerned the music element of this issue is irrelevant to the discussion. Should the students be allowed to wear clothing that expresses gang affiliation? That’s what this is about.

  • I come down on the side of the school uniform bunch – libertarian ACLU leanings notwithstanding.

    I think the free speech issues are almost impossible to sort out when one attempts to restrict the speech on any content based approach.

    Using the inflammatory example of Hip-Hop: only the completely naive or disingenuous would argue that there is no relationship between Hip-Hop ‘culture’, the gangsta image it frequently describes and the behavior of a lot of people – there’s often quite a bit more going on there than just ‘listening to music’. It would be similarly false to argue that listening to hip-hop is the sine qua non of delinquency or criminality. It’s the old question: does art imitate life or life art? The answer is: both. So, as with the NRA case in Albemarle, it is a mistake to attempt to selectively target ‘gang symbols’ or any particular language – the system will be in a game of constant catch-up, and in the process of such a ‘dragnet’, pick up a lot of kids who are entirely innocent.

    However, Cvilleteach is right on: the schools can’t very well ignore obvious incitements to violence. They are acting in loco parentis and liable for the safety of students. If ‘gang violence’ (more like large melee-style fights – nothing so structured and organized as a real gang) broke out at the high school, we’d hear yet another outcry about how the educators are failing our community by allowing this kind of situation to develop in the schools (which is particularly galling to educators when parents send their kids out the door every morning dressed for confrontation). ‘Colors’ often act as non-verbal communication systems and might very well be an inflammatory incitement that leads to trouble. We don’t allow the kids to stand in the hallways inciting each other to fight with verbal slogans and you don’t hear anyone hollering that those restrictions are unfair restraints on speech.

    The answer, to my thinking, is a uniform system – that side-steps the question of selective restrictions on ‘speech’ (clothing) entirely. You would argue the “Tinker” case invalidates even that kind of restriction – but you forget that the SCOTUS has always held that yelling “fire” in a crowded theater isn’t protected speech. Similarly, a ‘red bandana’ signifying ‘southside’ on the arm of a student might be a similar challenge to the ‘blue bandana’ wearing ‘westhaven’ kid. A uniform system (the code for acceptable gym clothing will give you an idea of how this might be implemented) gets around these issues, since everyone is subject to the same prior restraint, without regard to the content of whatever that speech might be – just as a student’s first amendment rights do not guarantee them to spout out verbally at any moment they choose (say the middle of class) because it is disruptive to instruction. We recognize a compelling state interest in allowing a time restraint on speech since the speech itself would make the state’s duty of education impossible. There is a restraint on speech, but it applies equally to all speech, and doesn’t attempt to distinguish based on content. If clothing becomes a new ‘language’ or form of speech which similarly interferes with the state’s (school as extension of government) interest in performing it’s function to educate, then a similar compelling interest exists to ‘restrain’ that speech. Uniforms==silence.

    Uniforms also have a number of ancillary benefits: cheaper for parents (you might be very surprised how much cheaper), and a ‘levelling’ of the social status playing field. It removes a lot of issues that interfere with the learning process & environment by distracting or pre-occupying students. Do we really want kids sitting in class obsessing over what shoes, jeans or shirts different kids are wearing?

    As a student, I’ve been in both types of schools – uniforms (dress codes) worked extremely well. Very interestingly, the cost of wardrobe for a coat & tie private school dress code was cheaper than it had been in casual clothes in the city schools. I also remember what happened in 1984 with the melee that resulted from the 10th anniversary KTR special edition – which recalled the racial tension that led to the closing of Lane and creation of CHS.

  • > According to the article “900 Block” was the
    > offending term. So as far as I am concerned
    > the music element of this issue is irrelevant to the discussion. Should the
    > students be allowed to wear clothing that expresses gang affiliation?
    > That’s what this is about.

    as has already been pointed out, in this case “gang affiliation” and “pride in one’s community” are the same thing. as far as i know, this kid is not actually part of a group that’s engaging in criminal behavoir like theft or extortion; and if he is, he should be punished for that, not for wearing a t-shirt.

    your distinction between the words “club” and “gang” is purely an issue of semantics — the school’s saying he’s in a “gang” even though the police chief claims there are no “gangs” in charlottesville. presumably the police chief is referring to criminal gangs, so even if this kid is going around saying he’s in a gang, he’s talking about a social group and not a criminal group. and being part of a social group is a huge part of what high school is about, for better or for worse. [more about that below]

    maybe this kid should wear a shirt that says “900 Club,” he could claim it was a splinter group of Pat Robertson’s 700 Club.

  • on the issue of school uniforms, i thought it might be useful to quote at length a portion of David Foster Wallace’s 1999 essay “Authority and American Usage” :


    A Dialect on English is learned and used either because it's your native vernacular or because it's the dialect of a Group by which you wish (with some degree of plausibility) to be accepted. And although it is a major and vitally important one, SWE [Standard Written English] is only one dialect. And it is never anybody's only dialect. This is because there are – as you and I both know and yet no one [in an argument about proper usage] ever seems to mention – situations in which faultlessly correct SWE is not the appropriate dialect.

    Childhood is full of such situations. This is one reason why SNOOTlets tend to have such a hard social time of it in school. A SNOOTlet is a little kid who's wildly, precociously fluent in SWE. Just about every class has a SNOOTlet, so I know you've seen them – these are the sorts of six-to-twelve-year-olds who use whom correctly and whose response to striking out in T-ball is to shout "How incalculably dreadful!" The elementary-school SNOOTlet is one of the earliest identifiable species of academic geekoid and is duly despised by his peers and praised by his teachers. These teachers usually don't see the incredible amounts of punishment the SNOOTlet is recieving from his classmates, or if they do see it they blame the classmates and shake their heads sadly at the vicious and arbitrary cruelty of which children are capable.

    Teachers who do this are dumb. The truth is that his peers' punishment of the SNOOTlet is not arbitrary at all. There are important things at stake. Little kids in school are learning about Group-inclusion and -exclusion and about the respective rewards and penalties of same and about the use of dialect and syntax and slang as signals of affinity and inclusion. They're learning about Discourse Communities. Little kids learn this stuff not in Language Arts or Social Studies but on the playground and the bus and at lunch. When his peers are ostracizing the SNOOTlet or giving him monstrous quadruple Wedgies or holding him down and taking turns spitting on him, there's serious learning going on. Everybody here is learning except the little SNOOT - in fact, what the SNOOTlet is being punished for is precisely his failure to learn. And his Language Arts teacher – whose own Elementary Education training prizes "linguistic facility" as one of the "social skills" that ensure children's "developmentally appropriate peer rapport," but who does not or cannot consider the possibility that linguistic facility might involve more than lapidary SWE – is unable to see that her beloved SNOOTLet is actually deficient in Language Arts. He has only one dialect. He cannot alter his vocabulary, usage, or grammer, cannot use slang or vulgarity; and it's these abilities that are really required for being accepted by the second-most-important Group in the little kid's life. If he is sufficiently clueless, it may take years and unbelievable amounts of punishment before the SNOOTlet learns that you need more than one dialect to get along in school.

    This [author] acknowledges that there seems to be some, umm, personal stuff getting dredged up and worked out here; but the stuff is germane. The point is that the little A+ SNOOTlet is actually in the same dialectal position as the class's "slow" kid who can't learn to stop using ain't or bringed. Exactly the same position. One is punished in class, the other on the playground, but both are deficient in the same linguistic skill – viz., the ability to move between various dialects and levels of "correctness," the ability to communicate one way with peers and another way with teachers and another way with family and another with T-ball coaches and so on. Most of these dialectical adjustments are made below the level of conscious awareness, and our ability to make them seems part psychological and part something else – perhaps something hard-wired into the same motherboard as Universal Grammer – and in truth this ability is a much better indicator of a kid's raw "verbal IQ" than test scores or grades, since US English classes do far more to retard dialectical talent than to cultivate it.

    the above quote is about language and not about codes of dress, and it’s about elementary-schoolers and not high-schoolers, but it seemed incredibly relevant and i hopefully it’s pretty easy to see why.

  • sorry, that quote came out all tiny. my HTML-fu is comparatively weak.

  • I embiggened the font size a little.

    I should embiggen the font size of all the comments. I may have a 20″ widescreen LCD at 1680×1050, but the type is tiny.

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