The Culture Wars Rage On…

Sixteen-year-old Steven McDonaldson, who attends Waynesboro High School, has been twice expelled from class and lectured by the principal — for wearing a t-shirt bearing the Confederate battle flag. As the News Virginian reports:

The school dress code prohibits clothes that “reflect adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, national origin, or ancestry,” and administrators have deemed the controversial Civil War battle flag to fall into that category.

This is not a case, as in South Carolina or Georgia, where controversies erupted over the state-sanctioned display of the flag on state property. This is a case of an individual wearing a t-shirt in school. Leave the kid alone. He wasn’t misbehaving in any way. Isn’t it time we all stopped hyper-ventilating over this sort of thing?

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11 responses to “The Culture Wars Rage On…”

  1. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Post script: As much as I love and revere the American flag, I think it’s a crazy idea to pass a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the flag. We need to worry about real stuff — like making such young Mr. McDonaldson and his classmates get educations that enable them to compete in a globally competitive knowledge economy.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    this is about free speech but it’s also about using free speech in a way that provokes those than could be offended.

    In other words, you have the freedom to say what you feel but do you have the good judgement and common sense to not go out of your way to say or do something that might be interpreted by others in a negative light.

    Kids watch what adults do.. and if they see that kind of behavior at the adult level and they see that a lot of trouble is stirred up.. then some of the more mischevious of them will think that such behavior is a fun thing to do.

    and then the adults get involved and this is what we get….

    .. instead of worrying about as JB says whether or not our kids are getting the education necessary to compete in a “the world is flat” economy.

    sometimes.. I suspect that the same ones worried about flags on t-shirts are the ones who are opposed to SOLS and academic accountability. ye god.

  3. What if he wore the flag with the logo underneath that says “Discrimination is wrong.”?

  4. Tom James (aka Brave Hart) Avatar
    Tom James (aka Brave Hart)

    This is definitely good preparation for the “real” world.

    The student is now motivated to engage himself in society during his rebelious teens. And this will lead him to be more engaged in society as he drops out due to his disgust with the obvious ignorance of his elders and authority figures who deny him his civil rights and his obvious respect for his ancestors and interest in American history.

    Once again I defer to Mr. Walter Williams article on Black Confederates:

    Maybe next time he wears his shirt he could bring a copy to show the principal and school board.

    Or, “ain’t they got no principles.”

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    The benign interpretation is that the school officials, not known for courage, are trying to ban provacative speech. Yet, a simple glance at t-shirts kids wear indicates a lot of provocative speech – but it’s okay to provoke some folks and not others.

    The school officials could use it as a teaching point on tolerance – to tolerate all the provocative speech and acknowledge it bothers some one – and we can all get along anyway.

    I sense, though, that it fits a Liberal agenda for culturally cleansing the South. It fits the prejudices and ignorance of Liberals which I wrote about recently. I’ll post some photos the young fellow could put on a t-shirt and see what the school officials think.

  6. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    And I’d be willing to bet a dollar that a Che Guevera shirt is perfectly acceptable.

  7. Should this kid get in trouble for being young and dumb and wanting to wear something that would in all likliehood make at least some people angry? Of course not.

    Was the kid advocating a return to the times when that flag was flown in battle? I most certainly hope not, but again, being young and dumb means anything is possible.

    Did the principal prove that he is just as ignorant and ridiculous as the child who decided to wear this shirt? Obviously.

    Is it on the Liberal Agenda, like Mr. Bowden says? What Liberal Agenda???

    I’m a die-hard, active liberal-minded person in this country. I have attended meetings, met with officials, and even put up yard signs in my yard and bumper stickers on my car. Never have I received a copy of this Liberal Manifesto that Mr. Bowden is advocating. We don’t have an agenda, Mr. Bowden, we’re just trying to do what we think is right. This principal obviously got it wrong this time, ignorantly wrong. But it’s not on any agenda of any meeting I’ve ever heard of or been party to.

    What should he have done? Asked the kid why he was wearing that shirt, and then taken the oppurtunity to TEACH the child about what it actually means historically and what it might mean to certain groups today.

    But that’s not newsworthy or short-sighted, so it isn’t very likely to happen.

  8. I’ll take an opposing view:

    Schools should ban all shirts with pictures or messages. Period.

    Free speech is a reasonable thing, but in this case the people being spoken to are a captive audience, forced by the state to attend.

    Therefore, while the messages are not controlled by the state, allowing the messages forces them on others.

    You could argue that someone who wears a shirt with a picture or message has THE INTENT to promote that message or picture (and that is a reasonable implication).

    The school exists to impart a state-sponsored message, which hopefully is an academic one. But whatever it is, having other students sending their own messages willy-nilly detracts from the purpose of the student’s compulsory attendance.

    Obviously some pictures and messages are benign, or are nearly universally accepted. It is possible that a message that would receive unanimous praise would ALSO be a message that wasn’t already well-known (and therefore have some true academic value). But that is so rare as to be unworthy of attention.

    Most messages are at best benignly offensive to a portion of the population.

    So long as schools try to distinguish between types of messages, and seek to ban only the ones they deem offensive, they are exercising a state-sponsored censorship. This encourages people to make waves and complain in order to get their concerns heard, since it seems the loudest and most threatening protests get services.

    So it would just be better to ban all messages. I note that I’ve written columns denouncing a principle for banning shirts that said “100% Latino” on them, because it was a positive message. I stand by that, in the context that the principal allowed other shirts with messages on them.

    If no shirts with words are allowed, we don’t have to have “shirt police” seeking to stir up miscontent and anger over the shirts they find offensive. THe students can learn free from state-enforced confrontation with offensive words or meanings, without having to object and be seen as turncoats or squealers.

    I think students should have wide latitude in dress, in hairstyle and color, and makeup, to be allowed to express their own views of themselves and how they wish to be perceived by others.

    But messages on shirts are more than an expression of one’s identity, they are also calls to impress that identity on others.

    Or at least they are perceived that way. It is a fine line, I suppose — there are certainly some manners of mere dress, hair, and makeup which themselves would be seen as conveying a message rather than simply identifying the student. But that is a much smaller class of exceptions than this shirt-message thing.

    BTW, some principals already ban all words on t-shirts, and I think all pictures are probably banned some places.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar

    I agree with Charles. Schools should be enforce dress codes. Part of any code should be a restriction against ALL shirts with messages, print or logos (other than the school’s) on them. Getting into the business of saying, “that shirt’s OK, that shirt’s not,” is a recipe for trouble.

  10. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jamie: Sorry you didn’t get the memo on the Liberal agenda. Hope you get back on distro.

  11. Bill Garnett Avatar
    Bill Garnett

    A child at school is considered in loco parentis, and where is the common sense that once prevailed in such situations? Much has changed since my elementary school days in the 1950’s, but I don’t see many of these changes for the better. Case-by-case common sense solutions, away from the hype and hyperbole of zealots from whatever edge of the spectrum, should be the norm. Just extrapolate this trend from the 1950’s, on for another fifty years past today, and decide if you like what you see.

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