Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Organized Anarchy

In Fremont, California, the battle is over and the anarchists have won. In the local high school, at least.

Now, alongside the chess club, the key club, the Vietnamese club, and the debate club, the school also has an anarchists club.

Excuse me? Aren’t anarchists supposed to be opposed to any sense of order or government? Then how did they get together long enough to decide they needed an official club? This makes about as much sense as the promoters of a psychics convention having to alert attendees when and where they will meet. If they’re really psychic, shouldn’t they know without having to be told?

The Anarchists Student Union is not a huge group, only about a dozen members. Yet it’s interesting that they were able to get themselves organized long enough to go to the school board and get their group classified as an official school club.

Don’t get overly concerned. These kids aren’t advocating total chaos. They’re bright kids -- mostly honor students -- who want to raise political awareness of the causes they espouse.

Still, I doubt that their meetings will be regular in any sense. First of all, you can throw Roberts Rules Of Order right out the door. They’d be better off consulting the newly re-released version of Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book.” Everyone’s an officer and there’s no need for a parliamentarian, either. In a group of anarchists, does the majority rule?

It could be worse. This could be real-life politics, which are even odder.

Monday evening as I was flicking around the channels looking for something to watch, I came upon C-SPAN’s live coverage of the Iowa caucuses -- on two separate channels, one for the Democrats and one for the Republicans.

Now, go ahead and try to name one thing that’s more exciting than seeing a bunch of people sitting around a school cafeteria debating which one of them would replace the interim deputy precinct captain, and whether such an important decision could be decided by a voice vote or not. Thankfully, C-SPAN was there to capture this thrilling event live!!

As the camera scanned the crowd -- paid attendance: well over 60 people, not counting the kids running the bake sale -- I was reminded of the one and only time I attended my neighborhood homeowners association meeting. You know, the folks who want to put a lien on your house because your gutter downspout is over the neighborhood limit for wet leaves or you accidentally put your trash can out at the curb before dusk had fully settled.

These were basically those same people. The kind of people who, at some point in their life, have stood up proudly and with a straight face said, “I nominate Arlene Barfarkle to be our recording secretary! She’s the only one who can do justice to the minutes of our meetings!” Do I hear a second to the motion?

I’m glad that C-SPAN aired these meetings, but I wish more Americans would have seen them. Then they could have laughed as the importance of these caucuses was overemphasized by the rest of the media as the launching pad for our next President.

Please.

All they really did in Iowa was convince Orrin Hatch of the one thing that everyone else already knew: that he had absolutely no chance of becoming President. He made his withdrawal announcement today and was immediately greeted by the deafening silence of several million Americans asking, “You were running for President? We had no idea!” C’mon, this guy got fewer votes than None Of The Above!

On the other hand, this does give him the political opportunity of a lifetime. If he acts quickly, maybe he can lock up the nomination for recording secretary of the anarchists’ club!

All in favor, say aye.

Monday, January 17, 2000

Dress For Success

In Granite City, Illinois, the school district is seriously considering putting a new dress code into place.

Not for the students. For the teachers. That’s right, the teachers.

In a classic example of a couple of people ruining it for everyone, some of the school board members were concerned about the apparel worn by a few teachers.

They already had a policy telling teachers to “dress appropriately,” but apparently that’s too vague. The proposed new policy would ban, and I quote: blue jeans; crew neck athletic wear; nylon gym shorts; cotton athletic sweat suits; Spandex pants and shorts; excessively tight clothing; revealing clothing and cut-off denims. And shorts should also be no higher than 2 inches above the knee.

Let’s examine this.

What responsible adult wears a sweat suit to work? Unless you’re going for a run or headed to the gym for a workout, in what business establishment is a sweat suit the correct attire?

When I see someone out in public wearing a sweat suit, the same question comes to mind as when I see a woman in curlers at the supermarket: Do they think no one can see them? Do they have no concept where the casual dress line is drawn? “Hmm, pajamas would fall right under the inappropriate bar, but I want to show the world I’m a completely lazy person, and I think sweats are the way to do it!”

The same applies to shorts, whether or not they’re cut-offs. There’s a columnist here in town who led a ridiculous campaign last year to make it acceptable for guys to wear shorts to work. Okay, I can see the need to stay cool under sweltering work conditions. So we’ll include an exemption for foundry workers. Everyone else on the job, pull on a pair of pants!

Speaking of pants, I just can’t see what the problem is with jeans on a teacher. Since when is denim bad, Dockers good? How does that affect the educational experience? “Sorry, Mr. Jenkins, I can’t name the capital of Portugal because I’m too distracted by the fine Levi Strauss product you’re wearing.”

I can remember fighting for the right to wear jeans to school as a kid. Until then, boys had to wear slacks -- this was actually so long ago that people still used the word “trousers” -- and girls couldn’t wear pants at all, just dresses or skirts. When that changed, did academic standards go straight to hell? No, of course not. But the era of bell bottoms followed soon thereafter, so it wasn’t a time completely without obstacles.

Teachers then were attired more formally, too. Female teachers were dressed mostly in skirts, with the exception of the occasional language teacher who committed the limegreen pantsuit faux pas. Every male teacher wore a jacket and tie. Although every school did have that one cool teacher that the students all loved -- usually in English or running the drama club -- and he wore a turtleneck! Ooooooh.

As to the question of when it’s appropriate for a teacher to wear tight or revealing clothing, here are the simple rules, broken down by gender: For men, never! For women, only if you look like Brandi Chastain.

The superintendent of schools in Granite City says that most teachers do dress suitably for the job, so a more precise dress code may not be needed. But they are going to retain their zero tolerance policy, which expels any student who so much as peeks into the teachers lounge during lunchtime.

I’m not sure, but the rumor is that they’re wearing Spandex in there.