You call that a uniform?



by Christopher Paslay


I went to 12 years of Catholic school, so when I read Monica Yant Kinney’s recent article, Here, uniformity just might not fit, I had to chuckle. 


The golf shirts and khaki bottoms required at Friendship Elementary School in Chester County is a sad idea of a uniform, if you want to know the truth.  The trio of suburban moms who feel the policy violates freedom of choice and only serves to pacify adults who “crave conformity” need to pay a visit to a parochial school to get some perspective on the situation. 


Golf shirts and khaki pants?  Please.  For one week, these malcontented mothers should have their daughters wear a white blouse, plaid skirt, black dress shoes with knee-high socks.  While they’re at it, their sons could slip on a school blazer and tie (both with emblem), a pair of ironed dress slacks, belt, dress shirt, black socks and shoes. 


Then maybe they’d get the idea of what a uniform actually is


The Philadelphia School District has a uniform policy, but this too is a bit of a travesty, at least at the high school level.  If kids actually wore the required dress, it might be respectable.  But when the weather gets hot, like it’s getting now, there’s nothing uniform about students’ uniforms.    


Here are 10 ways enterprising Philadelphia teens manipulate the dress code and wear—or should I say don’t wear—their navy blue golf shirts.


1.  “Hulk Hogan” style.  This is when the student rips the collar completely off the shirt, tears open the sleeves at the seams, and lets the uniform hang off his body like a poncho. 


2.  “Hanging-Around-the-Neck” style.  This is self explanatory, and is achieved when the student puts his head through the neck hole of the shirt, but for some unknown reason fails to put his arms through the sleeves, thus turning the shirt into a giant navy blue necklace.


3.  “Under-the-Jacket” style.  This is when the student buys a bag of Doritos in the lunch room instead of going to his locker in the morning, forcing the student to wear his jacket over his uniform for the remainder of the day.  The number of students who practice the “Under-the-Jacket” style is directly proportional to the number of students who complain that classrooms are “too hot”. 


4.  “Book Bag” style.  This is when the student doesn’t wear the uniform at all, but keeps it in his book bag.  When he gets to class and the teacher asks, “Where’s your uniform?” the student opens his book bag and flashes the shirt like an ID badge, insisting that doing so keeps him in compliance with the school dress code.


5.  “Beach Towel” style.  This is when the student slings his uniform over his shoulder like a beach towel.  Sun tan lotion is optional.


6.  “Turban” style.  Yes, you got it.  Instead of putting the shirt on, the student wraps it around his head.


7.  “Ninja” style.  This is just like wearing the uniform “Turban” style, except the student wraps the shirt around his face, not his head.  This is the preferred style when copping Z’s in class.


8.  “Superman” style.  No red “S” here, but there is a blue cape.  This style involves draping the uniform down the middle of the student’s back.       


9.  “Grease Rag” style.  Two words:  back pocket.  This style goes well with students enrolled in CTE automotive programs.


10.  “Slap-and-Tickle” style.  Instead of wearing the golf shirt the student twists it into a cloth whip, wets the end of the whip in the nearest water fountain, and chases other students down the hall, whacking them on the backside. 


When the warm weather hits, it seems like many Philadelphia teens adopt the attitude expressed by Tommy Chong in Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke: “If we’re gonna wear uniforms, man, we should all wear something different.” 


I just wish my second grade teacher, Sister Paul, were alive to set things straight.  She could pull out her ruler and whack the knuckles of these unruly students—and unruly parents, for that matter.      


Lower Merion residents talk the talk; now it’s time to walk the walk

by Christopher Paslay


On November 4th, 2008, America voted for change.  We the people voted for Barack Obama, a man who wants to bring balance back to our country, who wants to level the playing field so all Americans can have an equal opportunity at achieving the American dream.


For many people, the appealing part about Obama is that he believes in change through an equitable allocation of resources.  He’s fighting for universal heath care, and his tax policy calls for a “redistribution of wealth”. 


In Montgomery County, according to CNN’s Election Center, 249,493 people pulled the lever for Obama—which was 60% of the county’s vote.  Lower Merion Township was a part of this vote.    


The irony is that these same Lower Merion residents who supported Obama and his principles of balance and redistribution are suddenly jumping ship when it comes to putting these ideas into action.  When the Lower Merion School District decided there needed to be a “redistricting” of students to balance attendance between its two high schools—Lower Merion and Harriton—these same residents cried foul. 


Redistribution stings when you’re the one being redistributed.  It’s okay to spread the wealth when it’s the other guy’s money—but when it’s time for you to anti-up and carry the load, things aren’t so rosy anymore. 


Here’s what I have to say to Lower Merion residents who are belly-aching over the school board’s decision to redistrict their sons and daughters: Stop crying and get over it.  You don’t know how lucky you are.  So your kid has to take a 30 minute bus ride?  Big deal.  Both Harriton and Lower Merion are excellent schools.  They are both very safe.


You think your child is facing a hardship?  You don’t know what a hardship is.  A good portion of the students I teach at Swenson Arts and Technology High School in Philadelphia take THREE buses to school.  Because students attend from all over the city, the commute for some of these kids is close to 90 minutes.  And it’s all public transportation.  Some of these kids are going through neighborhoods at 6:00 in the morning with REAL safety issues. 


And these Lower Merion residents are complaining because their child must travel 30 minutes on a FREE, SAFE, yellow school bus to an excellent school on the other side of town?  PLEASE!!  I took a 25 minute SEPTA trolley ride to school every day when I was a teenager.  It didn’t kill me.   


The most disgusting part is, some of these residents have the audacity to cry racism!  They claim they are being unfairly punished and singled out!  Their sons and daughters won’t be able to see all of their friends at their safe, clean, outstanding new school!  And boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.


Yesterday, The Philadelphia Inquirer chimed-in on the issue in an editorial headlined, Lower Merion Redistricting: Over the line.  They concluded that, “Instead of rushing to implement redistricting in the fall, the board should go back to the drawing board and reassess the impact of this plan.”  Why?  Because the way the board came up with its boundary lines “seems arbitrary at best, and racially divisive at worst.” 


Racially divisive?  What can the Inquirer possible mean by this?  You can’t “redistrict” minorities?  Only rich white folks can bear the brunt of redistribution of resources? 


The farce is that nothing is actually being redistributed!  The students assigned to Harriton will be getting equally outstanding educations!


Accusations of “institutional racism” don’t sound very fair to me.  It sounds a lot like politicking for power, nothing like the “equal” and “balanced” vision of America Lower Merion residents voted for when they chose Barack Obama.