by Brian Clarey

Guilford County Schools has invited parents to weigh in on “existing policy, dress code and procedure.” Consider this my two cents.

For almost 10 years now, I have sent my children off to school in the standard mode of dress — SMOD, in shorthand — which consists of khaki pants, a sensible belt and a collared, Polo-style shirt.

And every year I ask myself: What is the benefit of dressing our children like middle-aged men who have given up?

I understand that a standard of dress creates uniformity, curbs discipline problems and mitigates the resentments and prejudices of income inequality among students. And I know that, if left to their own devices, many of our students would be walking around the halls with body parts and undergarments hanging out.

But honestly, school is oppressive enough without dressing everybody like tiny golfers. It’s got to be hard on the teachers, too. I imagine that on some days all these kids look exactly alike to them.

And consider this: Children have very few means of self-expression. And more emphasis on math and science — necessary, we’ve been told, to prepare our kids for the world they will inherit — means less emphasis on music and art and writing, the things that develop a child’s creative side. It’s looking more and more like Pink Floyd’s meat grinder from The Wall out there.

Kids express themselves with the way they dress. But in most schools they are not allowed to do so in the place where they spend the most of their time, in public amongst their peers — the one place where they need to express themselves the most.

My oldest son starts high school next week, and for the first time in his life he will be able to wear whatever he wants to school. His back-to-school shopping was itself an act of self-discovery. He’s elated, with a wardrobe that says something about himself, and not the adults who tell him what to do all day.

Now he fully understands what I’ve been saying all these years: SMOD sucks. And it’s probably unnecessary. It’s likely that half of the students will dress like that anyway.

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