Thursday, July 31, 2008

Uniforms and symbols (again)

Hmmm - if I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself. Hardly the same thing but if I'd known people take what I write on this blog seriously enough to be considered worth responding to, I would have made a better argument than this one about the whole bangles, uniforms, courts thingy.

Norm takes issue with what I wrote here. Now I find myself in the position of having to seriously defend a school management that have little sympathy for. Nevertheless, I basically hold my position for the following reasons:

1) Norm finds himself 'proud' of the decision a British court has made in this case. On one level, I suppose if you agreed with the decision of the court one might feel pride. But my response is different: the fact that a matter like this has to go to court in the first place is, I think, a pretty dismal state of affairs. You may choose to believe that this kind of legalism - indicative everywhere of a breakdown of trust - is entirely the fault of the school but I'm afraid that while I often run out of patience with the more strident voices of the 'new secularism', I retain a certain residual hostility to the number of exceptions that are made in our education system to people's religious sensibilities - which brings me to the second point:

2) This is a trivial case - the school in question was, as I've already conceded, being 'anally-retentive'. However, to isolate this example is to illustrate an ignorance of the vast swathes of exceptions that are made on the grounds of religion in our schools today. You don't want your child to be taught evolution? I have to tell you from experience that the pupils of the religious have been allowed exemption from biology lessons on these grounds. Music? If you think it is earthly, sensual, demonic, I can say with the authority of experience that if you insist on your child's exemption from these classes on these grounds, it will be granted by today's pusillanimous education establishment. Sex education classes? Ha ha - forget it. I could go on but it would feed into the next point:

3) Hitherto I was feeling all reasonable and serene - but at this point of Norm's it has evaporated completely:
"The only thing Shuggy has that might pass for a reason against this is as feeble as it is old:

[B]etter a school run by anally-retentive assholes than one where no-one's running it, where the fucking kids are setting the agenda...

It's the threat of anarchy. Shuggy doesn't explain why, if two exceptions can be permitted without such a worrying descent, three exceptions can't be. Why does an orderly school uniform regime - and that's assuming uniforms are vital, which is itself open to question - break down not at watches or ear studs or both, but just at the point of a bangle or bangle-equivalent?"
Norm thinks I'm making an argument based on the threat of anarchy. Allow me to demur. Hear this: I am making my argument from the experience of anarchy. And if perhaps a little more imagination could be applied to the idea of what anarchy at the chalk-face in the east end of Glasgow looks like, maybe Norm would show a little less haste - and dare I say a little more humility - before he dismissed my arguments as 'feeble' and 'old'.

Update: I missed two letters to the Gruaniad that Norm links - presumably because he thinks they are worth reading. I'm unsure why. Are they being ironic? Frankly, I'm past caring. But let me give you a sample anyway:
"So if her bangle can be worn, so also ought those stating, for example, "Chelsea are Great" or "Elvis Lives"."
Or T-shirts with slogans like 'Fuck the Pope' or 'No Surrender to the IRA' on them? On what grounds should they be excluded? It is, after all, part of their identity, man. And I think they have a reasonable claim to suggest this is a religious identity. So spare me this bullshit - please!

Update #2: GoergeS has pitched in. Here's a segment:
"Supporting the ban Shuggy is chiefly concerned about who is running the place, the kids or the school? Being a teacher, he would, naturally, prefer it to be the school, and having been a schoolteacher myself I have some sympathy.

Which is more than Norm does, but then Norm hasn't had to be dealing with uppity kids in tough schools. He has never felt the pain."
I'm being selective, of course - so read the whole thing. But permit me to enjoy the truth in the selection I've made here because the truth is what this is.

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