Preparing High School Students for Adulthood?

dress code hanger

It is the start of a new school year, and we begin the discussion of dress codes.  The Chicago Tribune recently published an article about an Evanston Township High school that created a more inclusive dress code, that expressly forbade the administration from enforcing it differently based on size or sex.  The comments were mostly from readers who say that dress codes are meant to prepare students for adulthood, and that one cannot wear leggings in the office and young people should be dressing for their futures at school.

Is the purpose of high school to prepare students for the “real world” anymore?  With the removal of trade classes and life skill classes it feels less and less that way.  When my parents were going through school there were shop classes and home economics classes.  When I was going through school there were home economic and business economics classes.  Now a days most high schools are disregarding these life skills classes in favor of college predatory classes.  Most states have foreign language requirements for all students, and upper level math requirements.  These classes are great to prepare a student to enter a four year college or university, but do not prepare you for adulthood.

Society has become more casual.  The the growth of fashion-leisure industry it is appropriate for women and men to do daily activities in clothes that would have only been acceptable at the gym.  The same people who are against girls wearing jeggings to school are upset when the media reports a school asking parents to stop dropping kids off in their pajamas.  Kids see what their parents wear and want to model them, not just their peer group.  A twelve year old has much less control over what is in his or her closet than a seventeen year old.

So if adulthood is more casual, and high school is aiming to prepare students for college, then what is the issue with casual clothes in school?  My four year public university had no dress code.  I was more likely to see people in pajamas then in suits.

Rather than focusing on clothes educators should focus on respect.  Instead of dress code violations we should have a respect code violation.  School should be preparing students to enter the world with respect for themselves and respect for others.  Not with the belief that men or women in authority will only be looking at how you dress.

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