Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Jersey that won't go away

Letters and comments are flooding the local paper about the jersey story. In this letter, the author claims (as many commenters do in various places) that the school's action is unconstitutional. The headine--that the schools don't trump the Constitution--doesn't even make sense. The Constitution is not an authority or a specific administrative decision. The Constitution lays the ground work for how decisions are made.

And the fact of the matter is that the schools have innumerable rules that pull and tease the limits of what the Constitution establishes and allows. Certain forms of speech are not allowed in schools. Student property stored in lockers is subject to searches without all the same supporting documentation required in other settings. And, yes, dress is regulated.

The author of the letter suggests that the Steelers fan wanted to express another opinion. Again, if he'd worn a Seahawks jersey expressing his opinion with a gang sign or a sexual expression, the school would have banned it...AND EVERYBODY WOULD HAVE UNDERSTOOD AND AGREED WITH THAT DECISION. And NO NEWS STORY.

The most bizarre element here is that everyone is getting so worked up over a non-issue. Oh, it's the principle of the matter. What principle, you say? The letter writer's bottom line: "It's always good to challenge authority when you think they're wrong."

Governments, organizations, families, every structure that involves more than one person uses some amount of coercion (in the mix of persuasion, guilt, encouragement, pleading, etc.). And while none of us likes to be coerced, we do have to SUBMIT sometimes, and it wouldn't be called submitting except that it's NOT what we prefer. If we could all do what we prefer, it would be called harmony, which is short-lived and situational, at best, and we wouldn't have to submit to anybody or anything.

In other words, submitting to authority (which the school board code of student conduct calls for) only matters when it's not something you prefer or would choose for yourself on your own. But when we lose trust of the authoritative institutions in our lives (as we have), we feel ourselves less willing to submit. Unfortunately, more bad than good tends to follow from this.

No comments: