The Toronto District School Board recently announced changes to their official dress code. Shaping the direction of the new code is the TDSB’s push to ensure that school attire reflects “individual expression of identity, socio-cultural norms, and economic factors,” which it deems “important factors to a person’s health and well-being.”
What has so far caused the most controversy is that the new policy allows students to wear hats in class while the national anthem plays at the start of the day. In a tone-deaf move, the news broke the morning Canadians were paying their respects to those who fought at Juno Beach on D-Day.
It’s the second blow against the Canadian anthem in the last two years. Back in early 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shut down debate in the House of Commons and pushed through legislation that changed the lyrics of “O Canada” to become “gender neutral,” replacing the lyric “in all thy sons command” with the awkwardly forced “in all of us command.”
Removing Your Hat to Show Respect Goes Back Centuries
The tradition of removing your hat in certain situations goes back hundreds of years. It was a sign of reverence to God when entering a church or addressing someone of higher rank. This subsequently entered Western culture as a sign of admiration or respect.
Not so long ago, taking one’s hat off during the anthem, while entering a building, while praying, or while eating was universally observed etiquette. Such actions recognized that there were situations, spaces, and people deserving of respect. In this case, that would be respect showed to the business of schooling and to the country that pays for and provides that schooling.
Even on the 19th-century frontier, it was customary for men to take off their hats when talking to women. Why? Women were held in high esteem and all men knew they deserved to be treated with a certain level of decency. Now? Policies like the TDSB’s new dress code reinforce the end of deference that has been seeping into the culture.
This Is Radical Leftism Masquerading as a Dress Code
This isn’t about the fact that there are too many bare midriffs, low-riding pants, and spaghetti-strap tops in schools—and there are—this is about propogating an insidious ideology. The TDSB’s rationale for the new dress code policy makes this clear:
Historically, school dress codes have been written and enforced in ways that disproportionately and negatively impact: female-identified students, racialized students, gender diverse, transgender and non-binary students, students with disabilities, socioeconomically marginalized students and Indigenous, First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students. Focused, explicit, persistent and determined action is required to challenge and overcome this history.
This is postmodern neo-Marxism dressed up in meaningless odes to “inclusivity” and “diversity.” It’s leftism 101, and like everything it touches, it’s destroying school culture.
The radical postmodernists reject objective truth, facts, and all other sources of tradition or meaning—in fact, they reject the concept of meaning itself. Neo-Marxists, in turn, believe that all history should be viewed as a story of the “oppressed” versus their “oppressors” (note the TDSB policy’s absurd line about using the new dress code to somehow “challenge” and “overcome” historical slights). Add those two treacherous doctrines and voila! you get the new TDSB dress code.
For the leftists running the education system, dress codes shouldn’t make anyone feel “oppressed” or be grounded in any objective, traditional standards. They must also apparently be wrapped in a banner of apology for the perceived sins of every white man in history. Nothing redresses colonialism’s centuries-old injustices like allowing teenagers to wear spaghetti-strap tops, pajamas, and onesies to school.
Even the New ‘Standards’ Are Meaningless
The very name of TDSB’s new policy reflects a fall of standards. The policy document that used to be titled “Appropriate Dress” is now just called “Student Dress.” Why? Using the word “appropriate” implies a judgment call involving a measure of objective truth. The postmodernists can’t have that. Once you start labeling some things “appropriate,” people might get the radical idea that other things may be “inappropriate.” That brings up crazy notions of “right” or “wrong” and before you know it, we’re executing heretics like it’s 1692.
Not all standards have been washed away by the TDBS’s new policy, however. Sure, students can now openly parade exposed stomachs, midriffs, cleavage, thighs, and hips. But don’t worry. The new policy specifies that “bottom layers must cover groin and buttocks and top layers must cover nipples.” If that doesn’t finally crush the oppressive cisnormative patriarchy, I don’t know what will.
At its heart, this is about more than just hats, anthems, or the tiny, opaque bits of fabric required to cover your unmentionables. And the problem isn’t relegated to loonie school boards in Toronto, Canada. The fact that education systems are now dominated by leftists is a problem that affects the entire continent.
Student’s Don’t Know What’s Best
Allowing students to wear hats during the national anthem is emblematic of a much wider problem in school culture—one that has become far too casual, irreverent, and focused on student tastes. Most education in North America now focuses on making school “experience” fun and comfortable.
As award-winning education author Cheryl Lowe once put it, “there is a lost art of taking school seriously.” The lack of gravitas in most North American classrooms should worry every parent with school-aged children, as well as all those concerned about future generations.
Proper education requires a certain level of seriousness combined with systematic, formal instruction. Classrooms should be quiet, orderly, and driven by respected teachers who function as the expert—ideally because they are experts. Modern education, however, places the students as experts. Students call the shots now in most classrooms, not teachers. This is how you get dress codes that cater to students’ whims.
Instead of boards and teachers establishing objective rules of etiquette and decorum, the “standards” that do exist in schools today are often set by the students. After all, what high schooler isn’t an expert on modesty and virtue? This is the inmates running the asylum.
In most schools now, students “teach” each other, engage in “project-based learning,” and control the pace of the classroom. An emphasis on play, discovery, and exploration might be appropriate for preschool. However, carrying these priorities into K-12 education has been, in the analysis of Lowe, “the single most destructive influence in education today.”
Schools Need to Address Their Gravitas Deficit
The casual atmosphere that accompanies these student-catered standards and practices reveals itself in several ways. A growing number of students refer to teachers by their first names, hang out with them on the weekends, and know everything about their personal lives.
A teacher’s area at the front of the room used to be protected by a halo of reverence. Now, it’s common for students to grab items off the teacher’s desk or sit in his chair when it’s free. Teachers used to be seen by students as mentors and exemplars. Now, many teachers try to make students their best friends. This lack of decorum and respect further erodes the gravitas deficit facing our schools today.
The TDSB’s new lax dress code that also allows students to disrespect the national anthem is just a symptom of an entire system that is in deep trouble. Education must re-embrace the teaching of respect, the value of tradition, the need for virtue, and objective standards of etiquette. Until then, any attempt at academic excellence will be a fantasy, and the cultural rot will continue to fester.