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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dress Code

I have no idea how long conservative blogsite RealClearPolitics keeps links online, but this editorial touches on an interesting situation. At a high school some kids have a day when they wear pro-homosexuality t-shirts, buttons, etc. So a couple of students decided to wear shirts bearing the legend "be happy, not gay" as a counter statement. The school cracked down on said counter statement.

Reminds me of them high school days.

I had a buddy who often wore two shirts; the top one would be a tasteful button-down deal, but beneath that would be a Naughty T-Shirt. He'd pull us aside, unbutton, let us admire his shirt, then button up and go about his business. Smooth.

And the school paper had a tradition of having Senior Wills so the graduating class could give some final shout-outs; you know, "I, Aaron White, do hear by bequeath my coolness to Frank Thompson cuz he needs it, and all my hugs and kisses to the Virginia Sister. If she doesn't want them she can have my apartment instead." That kind of silliness. One guy I didn't know had one: "I leave my Dr. Zog's Sex Wax shirt to Assistant Principal Smith; wear it with pride, Joe!" You can pretty much figure out the story behind that, but I thought the will was classy. He got his dig in but wasn't mean-spirited about it. It was almost friendly.

Okay, so, this editorial. The editorial frames it as a free speech matter, which is correct, but (while I am not a lawyer) I believe courts have ruled that minors are not entitled to full First Amendment rights and that schools have the power to curtail freedom of speech and expression. Usually I'm a free speech absolutist, but I can see why a school might need to curtail things to keep a building full of hormonal drama queens from fighting.The editorial also asserts that a pro-gay message is arguably as offensive to anti-gay people as the anti-gay message is to pro-gay people.

Um. Well.

I have many family members and friends who work in education, and I suspect this decision was not a result of a faculty member boosting a pro-homosexual ideology, but of the faculty trying to head off a Sharks Vs. Jets conflict. Running a school is like raising kids; if your kids are squabbling then you don't care about who's right, who's wrong, who started it. You care about restoring equilibrium. It's not time for ideology, it's time for pragmatics. If one group is wearing shirts saying "Hooray for X" and another group is wearing shirts saying "X sux," these are not equal opposite statements.

Take homosexuality out of it. Make it the Republican Party. If the school Young Repubs are wearing shirts saying Vote Republican with a red white and blue elephant on them, that might annoy people who don't like the GOP but no serious-minded person could call it egregiously confrontational. It's advocating, not condemning or confronting. Now, if some students respond by wearing shirts saying "Vote Democrat," fine and dandy. If they respond by wearing shirts that say "Republicans are Warmongering Torturers," that's confrontational and could lead to friction in the hallways. Well, "Be Happy Not Gay" is confrontational and condemning. So this isn't a case of pro-gay vs. anti-gay; it's a case of "hooray for us" vs. "you suck." The faculty's decision isn't about boosting one side of a discussion; it's about keeping the discussion civil.

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