Thursday, August 07, 2008

In loco parentis

This week my life has imitated my art.

A few months - oh, geeze, MONTHS? I need to get to work - ago I was working on Fear of Clowns (formerly Jacking) and I needed a reason for a kid from South Central to walk around a white neighborhood talking to white people in a benign way. So I thought, class project. But what class project would get you to go to a different neighborhood and talk to people? So I thought, petition.

What if the kid's history teacher assigned them a first amendment project where they split into groups and each group practiced one of the five freedoms in the first amendment and his group got petition. Then he would have to go around Los Angeles getting signatures to support his cause to stop the education budget cuts.

Well it just so happens I have persuasive writing as the curriculum this semester in my tenth grade class, so I kept thinking about this petition thing. And last week we started the project.

I assigned one group to petition, one to making a flyer to pass out to the students (freedom of the press) and one to bring our argument to the principal (speech and assembly). Religion was too hard so we'll just have a class discussion on that one.

Anyway, the kids were allowed to choose any topic they wanted that related to school, so they decided they want to get rid of the drab school uniforms they're supposed to wear.

And most of them threw themselves into it. The teachers and administrators were assholes about it - one guy shouted at my kids that the school system pays for them to wear uniforms and they should shut up and do as they're told, one administrator decided the issue was too "devisive" and my students shouldn't be allowed to get anymore signatures. We'd already collected 500 at that point and caused no trouble.

So in the end in one hour my kids collected 637 signatures. That's a lot for one hour. Then yesterday we took our cause to the principal. The kids read their speech, then the Q&A began. They didn't win their case but they did a good job defending it and even though they were sad I was terribly proud of them all.

And now there's talk of what to do next. I told them they did the project and I'm out of it, but now they know how to speak up and demand what they want, so if they want to take the argument to the parents - which was the principal's suggestion - they can. And several of them plan to.

So that was pretty cool. My screenplay gave me an awesome two weeks of lesson plans.


  1. Very cool! Those sound like awesome kids.

  2. I like the idea of kids getting involved with something like this. But it's no surprise that teenagers would choose a shallow idea such as clothing. I'm all for personal freedom and individuality but school uniforms, in both inner city schools and wealthy schools, solve a lot of problems.

  3. For them this is no shallow pursuit. They don't have control over much of their lives, so they'd like to be able to dress as they choose. And to be honest I think an enforced dress code is just as effective as uniforms.

  4. I learned years ago (said the old teacher) that the ONLY way to get my little wanna-be-gangstas to write with any feeling was to lie about school uniforms>
    "Yeah, the, uh, Principal was just talkin' 'bout that...turns out some parents are worried about the test scores dropping and they think it'd be a good idea if you all wore slacks and white button-downs..."
    IT'S HILARIOUS. Kids who can't spell 'famous' the same way twice start trying to channel Jesse Jackson- 'the perfidy of our nonchalance is delinquent without the fuckin' slacks'.

  5. I believe in school uniforms for areas that gangs are problematic, while an enforced dresscode for the rest. On the other hand, I believe students should have a say in what that uniform will be. I've seen alot of terrible uniforms out there. That is often the reason there is such reticence over wearing a uniform. Perhaps the compromise your students should seek is not to get rid of uniforms, which many would not accept, but to have a say in the colors and styles of those uniforms.


Please leave a name, even if it's a fake name. And try not to be an asshole.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.