14 May, 2010

An F In Common Sense

An F In Common Sense


Is it unfortunate that while I’m listening to Duke Ellington, I am reminded of Tom & Jerry shorts? As an adult, I can totally rock Duke. This shit is really, really good. But it’s funny that my mind immediately ventures over to the cartoons when I hear the sleazy sounding muted trumpet. I guess it was a good thing that the cartoons used all of that jazz music because it stored it somewhere in my over medicated and super caffeinated excuse for a brain. It was like a conspiracy of the cartoon people and the jazz people to slowly take over the minds of little kids. Maybe they implanted messages in our little, fragile minds for some kind of revolution to take place where we’re all drones in their cartoon/jazz army. Or maybe the jazz just fits a cat and a mouse beating the shit out of one another.

We’ve talked about dress codes quite a bit. We all know how we’re supposed to look where. Let’s not be dumb about it. When you have court, you clean up a bit. When you have a funeral, you put a tie on. When you have a red carpet premier of your latest film, you trade coke to an aspiring model/actress to carry your arm so that E! channel can ask you questions of no consequence, like, “Who are you wearing?” There are some theatres that we know modification is not welcomed, yet we so very often try and fail to integrate our aesthetic beliefs into those theatres. We usually just cover up and let the day go on. Why? Because the cable bill isn’t going to pay itself. If anything, it’s going to go up from last month because cable companies are just as much terrorists as Peta, NOW, and Greenpeace combined. But it’s always nice to know that sometimes people push back (“...and we are the ones who bump back.” Name that movie.). Like Mark Johnson out in Salt Lake.

I don’t know too much about Salt Lake. I know that it is a lake and it features salt, and that the city was founded by Latter-day Saints around 1850. But that’s about all I know. I don’t think I’m interested in knowing much more than that. In the Ogden School District, new dress code rules have been put into place. Among other things, men now have to wear a collared shit, and on the whole, the dress is to appear professional. That’s all well and good (maybe more well than good), but part of the new code requires tattoos to be hidden. This is where Mark Johnson comes in. Remember when I mentioned Mark Johnson?

Mark Johnson is tattooed. He is also a teacher in the Ogden School District, and has been for fifteen years. One of his mods is on his forearm, clearly visible to his students, and under the new dress code rules, must be covered while he teaches. Mark Johnson has never heard a complaint from a student or a parent, he told the Standard-Examiner (a paper of news), and claims that his modification spurs more positive conversation and discussion. Mark Johnson also told the paper that the dress code perpetuates the negative perception of body modded people. Mark acquiesced to the dress code rules because money is a nice thing to have, and it would be stupid to not make money over a dress code. Or is it? I just wrote ‘or is it’ because it sounded sinister.

I jeer the school district for their policy eliminating something that is a part of everyday life. I completely understand that the school doesn’t want lazy teachers strolling in with flip-flops and ragged clothes; looking like they just drove home from AC after banging thirteen hookers and blasting ten pounds of meth (or, as I call it, Wednesday). I understand that a certain degree of professionalism is required in the theatre of education. But I would be more inclined to think that the school board’s time would be much better spent working toward the education and preparation of the students for the real world than it is spent on figuring out what a teacher ought to look like. The aged question is always, “How does the forearm tattoo effect the teacher’s ability to teach?” The answer is always the same; it doesn’t. It’s an unfair question because the issue isn’t about that.

So what is the issue? What is a teacher supposed to look like? Does the teacher’s appearance directly relate to the school in which he teaches, and is that portrayed image something that matters to the students anyway? The kids don’t give a shit. I think I can assume that having no knowledge of what goes on in the walls of their school. I do know that Ogden High School are the fightin’ Tigers, and the girls’ basketball coach, Coach Russel, is the only girls’ basketball coach in the sate to have 500 wins. Congratulations, Coach Russel. But the kids don’t care about what is going on with the aesthetic of the teachers. They are concerned with what Meg said about Angela, and whether Judy made out with Rickie or Paul in the woods during gym class. They are concerned with finishing their papers on time, and not leaving their books in their lockers because they don’t want another detention. The school board is what is concerned about what the school looks like. In fifteen years of Mark Johnson’s career, he never heard a complaint about his forearm modification. That tells me that the parents don’t care either. The parents only care that their kids are getting taught, and if their tax dollars are being spent correctly. Some parents also care about the kids not learning natural selection in Science class or condom use in Health class; but we call those parents idiots.

So if it’s not an issue to the people who matter, then why the rule change? Why fix unbroken things? The school board needs to know that modification is something that is a part of everyday life. They might not like it, but it’s a fact. Whatever their opinions are regarding tattoos and piercings and heavy modifications, the fact is that after their students toss their stupid hats in the air, they are going to be a part of a reality that sees modification as a part of the lives of many a type of person. What’s so wrong about having that introduction to modification be in the place in which they are comfortable? I understand if the guy’s tattoo is a zombie Hitler fucking Osama Bin Laden in the mouth while they both ride an atomic bomb that’s falling onto an orphanage. But I highly doubt it. Maybe the school board ought to get off the man’s ass about dumb shit and let him teach.

Kids aren’t stupid, as much as we want to think they are. Kids are much more worldly than you and I were when we were wading through the personality raping experience that is called high school. These kids know much better than to think ill of a guy with a tattoo. They know what’s important, and what is important is being good at athletics so that they don’t have to get a real job. Except for that long haired kid who plays acoustic guitar at parties to get laid. Dude, you suck. You’re never going to get a record contract. Go to college. I focus on the kids here because that is what the school board ought to be focused on. Any decision they make ought to be in the best interest of the children they teach, and collared shirts and covered tattoos don’t translate to higher test scores. At least not to me. If Mr. Gamble didn’t wear a tie to school everyday, odds are pretty good that I still would have failed AP Biology. Just a hunch. Maybe the school board ought to stop not leaving children behind with individuality robbing ordinances like hiding tattoos, and start putting that energy into programs that will keep them sober and out of the reach of the long arm of the law. Seems a bigger problem to me, but I’m a sober, law abiding nobody.

Mark Johnson, I applaud your stance on body modification and I also understand your compliance in the interest of keeping your job. You have an important job, Mark Johnson, and I know without knowing you that your mods don’t affect your work. I do not applaud the school board, however, for flaunting their doucherly attitudes about modification around under the guise of professionalism. It assumes that one cannot be professional and be modified. We know that’s bullshit. And we know that modification helps to solidify our sense of beauty and individuality. So is the school saying to these kids that one can’t be individual and professional? That might be my picking fly shit out of pepper, but it’s something to think about. Looking at the state of country, it seems to me that covering a teacher’s tattoos is the last thing on the long list of amendments to the education system we need to address. These kids are our future leaders. Who wants to move to Canada with me? I’m coming Marjorie, my future wife. Stay beautiful, kids.

Talk to A. Robert Basile on AIM at Basilephone
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  1. I agree with this. I also agree with Mark Johnson's stance. I like that he stood up for himself and also complied. A win win situation. Fact of the matter is (as if I haven't said it enough), people are going to judge. If you are trying to attract more people to your school or a certain "type" of person, you're going to go the length. Dress code, hair length, grooming, these are all things that our likelihood of being hired depend on.

    Are they thinking of the students in the whole spectrum of things? Of course not, but who does? Seems like children are always forgotten, always taking the backseat.

    On a lighter note, I would be glad join you in Canada when I receive my next request for jury duty.

  2. This is just one of those things that really stick in my side and piss me off. I complied at my last job, because I was desperate for money, but I only complied up until I got another (must higher paying job)... I fucking quit last week, I wasn't dealing with that shit anymore, besides I start the new job this week, & they don't care if you show your mods; as long as you're professional and get the job done right. This is how it should be everywhere, because I've noticed over the years that I'm so much more professional than most non modded people (and nicer to my fellow man I might add).
    I wonder if this country will EVER get to the point where it'll take it's head out of it's ass, and realize how stupid it is to waste so much energy into this.
    Thank you for yet another great blog,

  3. I don't know what my school's stance on mods is. I know we have a number of teachers with visible tattoos (nape of neck, forearm, calf), and one with about 20 earrings along one ear. It would be interesting to look into. I know we aren't allowed to wear denim, so my guess is that less "socially acceptable" mods would probably be frowned upon, but I don't know if we have language in our handbook which spells it out.

  4. if my teachers had had tattoos instead of dumbass sweaters with apples embroidered into them, i probably would have paid more attention because i would have thought they were real people with real lives, not these crazy lonely shut ins with 15 cats (no offense to "cat people") oh and by the way Andy, "zombie Hitler fucking Osama Bin Laden in the mouth while they both ride an atomic bomb that’s falling onto an orphanage" - priceless