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Jewish World Review August 31, 2001 / 12 Elul, 5761

Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom
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Consumer Reports

Back to school: Revenge
of the boomers -- IT'S back-to-school time, friends, and that can mean only one thing: lawsuits.

This one comes from the Houston area, where a mother felt compelled to explore legal action after enrolling her child in kindergarten only to find that - gasp! - the school had a dress code.

One of those dress code limitations - along with no ripped clothing, no halter tops and no gang-related items - was no earrings for boys.

For girls, earrings were OK.

Therein lies the problem.

According to Diana Lincoln, whose 4-year-old son Colton wore a diamond stud in his left ear, this was just sooooo unfair.

"Why can the girls have earrings and not the boys?" she said.

When she was told, as pretty much everyone who has ever gone to school has been told, that "those were the rules," she reacted the way we now react in the year 2001: She explored a sex discrimination lawsuit.

Never mind that the girls can also wear bras while the boys can't. This, I was told, when I spoke with Lincoln last week, was not the issue.

The issue was her son and his desires. He wanted a gold stud in his ear, just like his natural father and his stepfather wore. (How lucky, at age 4, to already have two in the paternity category.)

"This is what he wants," she said, "and I want to teach him to stand up for what he believes in."

Personally, having never worn an earring, I don't see the big fuss. Then again, when I was 4, all I believed in was never running out of Cocoa Puffs.

Today's child is different. Today's child must be coddled, spoiled, respected and worshiped as if he or she were the only child ever to emerge from the womb - which is pretty much what many of today's spoiled parents believe.

"Sexual discrimination is alive and well," Lincoln declared, sounding more like someone on the steps of the White House than in the kindergarten parking lot. "It should not have an age limit on it."

Hmm. Do the words "You need to find a bigger issue" mean anything to you?

I have no objection to a boy's wearing an earring. Purple hair. Fake nose and glasses. Doesn't bother me at all.

But I do know that one of the lessons of school is that it's a place for rules. Some of them are silly, perhaps. But rules just the same. It's not a small lesson to teach children - that they can't always get what they want.

I mean, if we really looked back on it, what's the point of lining up each morning for roll call? Why not just drop in any old time?

And what's the point of raising hands before speaking? Can't we have freedom of expression? What's the point of calling the teacher Mrs. Peterson, instead of "Jamie"? Aren't we all human beings?

These might, in some nirvana community, be legitimate questions. But in a public school, where getting kids to keep quiet long enough to teach them is a problem, the fewer distractions the better.

And if the school thinks a boy with an earring in kindergarten would be a distraction, is it asking that much that the parent comply?

Apparently it is, in an era when no one can tell anyone what to do. Lincoln points out that one of the teachers had an eyebrow piercing. She also says the school threatened to have her son removed by police if he didn't remove the earring.

OK, that's nuts, too.

But the rules clearly state, in writing, what is and isn't allowed to be worn. And Lincoln could always transfer her son to another school.

If we take a hacksaw to every school rule and challenge it as unfair to our precious child, there will be even less learning going on than there is - and right now, Johnny can barely read, unless it's in a chat room.

Besides, there are other problems. This weekend, young Colton is celebrating his fifth birthday.

What if he asks for a skirt?

Comment on JWR contributor Mitch Albom's column by clicking here. You may purchase his runaway bestseller, Tuesdays with Morrie, by clicking here.


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04/16/01: Before you file that extension...
04/11/01: Ever want to break an airport agent's neck? This guy did!
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