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I’ll Give You Something to Fight For

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Oh look, a kindergarten student has been expelled for showing up to school with a Mohawk.

Is it just me or is it pretty much a daily occurrence that some damn kid somewhere gets sent home from school for having hair or clothes that are deemed inappropriate?

And then the poor thing is paraded about in the media while the parents prattle on about human rights abuse and how they feel it is important to fight for their child’s freedom of self-expression.

Oh spare me.

These kinds of battles aren’t about human rights or freedom of expression. They’re about the parents’ desperate need for attention and their misguided hopes that their child will somehow make some kind of mark on the world, however frivolous.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a curmudgeon. I am a big fan of Mohawks. I also think crazy hair and clothes are actually good for kids. But if another adult, an adult charged with maintaining an environment conducive for learning for several hundred children, tells me my son’s appearance is disruptive, I’m going to respect that.

I’m going respect it even if I think it’s kind of foolish, even if I think the school is being overly cautious and conservative. Because I believe there is a value in respecting other people’s wishes and desires, even if you don’t completely agree with them; it’s called compromise and I believe it is an important value for my son to learn.

It’s not that I won’t encourage his passion, far from it. I think the passion of youth is a glorious thing. I will be sorely disappointed if Graham doesn’t go through a (hopefully brief) phase in which he proclaims himself a Marxist-Socialist-Anarchist and vows to dedicate his life to railing against the status quo and the bourgeois trappings of his middle-class existence.

But also I dearly hope that Graham never squanders his passion protecting the rights of kindergarten students to attend school looking like what their parents imagine to be counter-cultural revolutionaries.



If he does, it won’t be with my blessing because it smacks of self-indulgence. And I don’t think North America needs more self-indulgent children: I know it doesn’t need more self-indulgent adults.

It’s important for us to teach our kids to stand up for their principles, but it’s equally important for us to teach our kids which principles are worth standing up for.

Clothing and hair? Just not that important. Not in this country anyway.

If parents want to get their kids fired up over human rights, they should talk to them about Darfur. Afghanistan. Iraq. Tibet. Cuba. Introduce them to the folks at Amnesty International.

Get them fired up over creating a world without millions of children who would cut off their arm, never mind their hair, to go to a school where administrators enforce silly rules in an attempt to maintain order and a peaceable learning environment.

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