Dear Parents & Students:
No doubt by now you have heard and probably even discussed the decision by Canada’s largest school board to “loosen” up its uniform requirements and policies for students. Teachers abandoned business attire in this system a long time ago. The reaction has been predicable insofar as there are clearly two polarized camps and points of view.
There may be some practical reasons for the school board to have taken this position on how students may dress, i.e. administrators and teachers unwilling or incapable of enforcing rules, litigation from parents who resent anyone telling their children how to dress, the lack of appreciation for the purpose of decorum, etc. Those who support some use of a standard form of dress cite mostly economic justifications for having a uniform. In the publicly-funded Catholic schools uniforms are in force for this purpose as well as providing a level playing field for its students. However, I have to admit I fear there are other more serious reasons for abandoning a dress code of any kind.
When one reads the press release from the TDSB, it is apparent that there is a view on the part of this public board, in an attempt to meet the desires of all its constituents, a legitimate exercise, that the values it espouses are entirely secular and post Judeo-Christian. It can be argued that this is fair as many of the students and employees of the board are not Christian or Jewish. The decision to relax even further the dress code for its schools is the result of the logical progression of eliminating and devaluing anything that can be traced to the Judeo-Christian ethical framework that has built our society. More troubling, is that this rejection of the values of the Greek, Roman and Christian legal and religious heritage signals a period in history that is fundamentally retrograde. The “loosening” of a dress code serves as another reminder that we have entered not only a post-Christian era, we have also discarded remnant traces even of the last two hundred years of liberal secularism, which at the very least protected things like religious freedom and promoting the values of family and patriotism.
At De La Salle, we do regard the rights and responsibilities of the individual but not at the cost of undermining the sense of community so central to the Christian view of the world. Simply expressed, the team is more important than the individual’s role on the team. Teams wear identifiable signs – uniforms, are intended to unite and give a sense of clear purpose and togetherness. It is a pity that those making decisions in the public realm of education fail to see and appreciate the need young people have to learn the importance and advantages of going beyond themselves. The individual is best served and his or her talents best expressed within the community of persons. This reality is most sublimely understood in the nature of the Blessed Trinity – a communion of Persons. In the fulness of personhood and not in a shallow expression of individualism do we find meaning.
Why all the fuss over the way people dress? First, as Catholics, we must hold firm to the belief in the holiness of the body. The body is to be dignified and not desecrated as is too common today in so many ways. The body and the manner with which we choose to adorn it should be modest and decorous. There is a place and time for different modes of clothing. Since the Christian is called only to the vocations with respect to our sensate nature – marriage and celibacy – we must help young people learn appropriate expressions of external dress as well. As well, we need to help young people understand that provocative styles of dress are not in keeping with a healthy self-image and they acknowledge that our bodies are gifts to be treated with profound respect and reverence.
In addition to the dress code issue, the position the public board has taken to reject the notion that removing a sports cap or hat is unnecessary is an unfortunate development in both the lack of appreciation for decorum but it also reflects a growing misconception that Western society has nothing more to offer because of its errors and sins in the past. Revisionist history is always dangerous because of its dearth of perspective and its lightweight approach to history in general.
How ironic that the very day we learned of the board’s decision to allow for people the option to keep their hat on during the playing of our national anthem, was the same day that people gathered in Normandy, France to recall the sacrifice of Canadians who fought to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy! A shameful affront to those who wear uniforms to serve and protect us. When we forget such things or belittle them we become less.
You can be assured that at De La Salle we continue to believe that our students should dress modestly and wear their uniforms and team jerseys with pride and as signs of who we are and what we are called to represent.
Brother Domenic, fsc