I serve on a School Advisory Committee, although my children no longer attend that school. That's how I learned about two upcoming issues for Seminole County Schools: the adoption of a standardized dress code throughout the county, and the new rules for the Pledge of Allegiance, which allow children to sit respectfully if their parents have authorized it.

I've already had trouble with the Pledge, and now this rears its ugly face. Judging by the visitor comments after the news story I quoted above, I'm in the minority. Of course, neither those grammatically incorrect ravings nor the quotes reprinted in the story reflect well on the majority's education. If these are the best arguments to be found, I'm ashamed of my neighbors. Not to mention the school system.

What is our goal here? I'm trying to raise healthy, happy adults who can contribute to civilization. I hope that's what everyone is working on, because that's what civilization needs. Forcing kids to say the Pledge doesn't help us achieve that goal. Or any goal, for that matter.

Take a moment to consider what the Pledge of Allegiance is. It's an oath to be devoted to the flag and the United States itself. These kids aren't old enough to make an oath. They don't know what 'allegiance' is. Forcing them to recite any oath is nothing more than indoctrination -- brainwashing, if you want to get incendiary. Any such dogma should be left solely to the parents, not the government.

Which leads me to the event that literally had me banging my head on the table. One of the other committee members at the meeting actually said, "If that's the way the parents want their children to be raised, we're going to enforce that."

Now we've come to the crux of the matter. That tacitly admits that saying the Pledge is a matter of upbringing, and must therefore be decided by the parents. But it also asserts that raising the children is the school's job.

Soffe shorts

I vehemently disagree. Education is the school's one and only job. I raise my kids.

This segues directly into the dress code. Some of the committee members were a little upset at some of the restrictions, like the prohibitions against flip-flops and sleeveless, collarless shirts. There was even dismay over the exclusion of Soffe shorts. According to the principal, although these things don't necessarily cause problems in the elementary schools, there are problems in the middle and high schools. The flip-flops are dangerous, because they make kids trip up the stairs; the Soffe shorts are just plain distracting. (Yes, I can see how I would've been distracted when I was that age.)

I contend that the school's job is education, and that education requires a productive learning environment. Anything that disrupts the learning environment disrupts the education, and therefore must be corrected.

The schools already had their own dress codes, but by standardizing across all the county schools we achieve more consistent enforcement. As a side benefit, the transition between grade levels is easier, and might not require a complete wardrobe change. (My kids grow like weeds, so we change wardrobes every four months anyway.)

One might argue that mode of dress is also a matter of upbringing. As it happens, I'd agree. But I'd also insist that the school must provide an environment where all the students can learn; otherwise it's not fulfilling its purpose. If one of the students was screaming obscenities during the Pledge (or any other time, really), I'd say that student needs to be removed until he ceases disrupting the learning environment. Same for distracting clothing: remove the student causing the disturbance and allow him to return when the disruption is corrected.

So, I support the standardized dress code for the same reason I oppose the Pledge. I want the school to teach my kids, not raise them, and anything that prevents education needs to be corrected.