Saturday, August 27, 2011

"That spring began an intense move toward the wearing of the pants"

In this week's Chicago Reader, Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis talks about her time at Kenwood High School in the late 1960s. This moment inspired her to "buck the system":

At Kenwood High School, then-principal Elizabeth Mollahan was no stranger to the neighborhood. The former principal of Kozminski elementary, Mollahan was tapped to head the new high school in 1966 after a serious campaign. She did what most new principals did—raided the system for talented veterans and found a few fresh faces, while giving most of the faculty the leeway to stretch themselves and inspire young minds. She did, however, expect an adherence to a dress code that included skirts or dresses for girls.

One of my dearest friends recently recalled having to take off the pants under her skirt in one of the Willis Wagons during the winter because it was a "disciplinable offense." This sparked an underground rebellion from girls who wouldn't dare participate in the walkouts. In an interview for the student newspaper, I asked Miss Mollahan why she was so adamantly opposed to allowing girls to wear pants. Her response? "Since this is a predominantly black school and the black matriarchy is so prevalent, we want to maintain the self-esteem of the black boys. Girls in pants would destroy that." And she said this to me with a straight face.
Well, I'm sure this is still true today about the Black matriarchy. The young men may well have been doing better back then than they are now. I would expect however that such logic would be dismissed out of hand. Now it's a lot more than having women in pants.

If that was ever an issue, and that's not to say that this makes sense to me, now we're way beyond who must wear what to class everyday.

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