Its just about impossible to get students interested in public policy, much less sparking their interest in changing it.
So when a kid like Matthew Nance steps forward, its a cause for celebration - whether you agree with his efforts or not.
Matthew, a junior, came to a Columbia County school for the first time this year when his family moved from Germany. It wasnt international culture shock that got his attention when he first entered the halls of Evans High, however: It was the dress code.
Arent there more important things to worry about than whether kids tuck in their shirts? Shouldnt we be focusing on education? Of course; but the fact is, were trying to do both with a school dress code that emphasizes neatness, helping to foster an atmosphere conducive to learning.
The problem with putting such a code into practice is that neatness is entirely in the eye of the beholder, and some beholders are tougher on dress-code enforcement than others. (One overzealous Evans Middle educator was even forcing students on the first day of school to tuck jackets into pants until someone set her straight.)
Matthew, and plenty of his fellow students, were struck by the mixed messages of this disparity. So Matthew put his civics lessons to work, following the Constitution literally by petitioning his government for a redress of grievances.
In all, more than 1,000 students signed a petition that Matthew then presented to the Columbia County School Board, asking that the tucking rule be deleted from the countys dress code. Trustees were divided on the issue, but narrowly approved removing T-shirts from the requirement.
Matthew, who welcomes the change as a step in the right direction, didnt get everything his petitioners wanted. But politics is all about compromise - another lesson.
Dress codes are sticky, personal subjects, crossing boundaries of home, school, work, finances and fashion. Ideally, parents would insist their children dress neatly, and clothing would never be an issue. But as long as there are uncaring slobs, there will be a need for rules to clean them up.
Matthews mini-crusade is an important step in reminding the rule-makers that sometimes the rules can go too far - and in reminding the rest of us that no change happens unless someone first speaks up.
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