Sunday, June 27, 2010

Would Jesus Wear a Uniform?

I was driving the National Road, as the paved highway is identified on the Biliran map, engaged in an argument with myself. As is often the case, I have no facts at my disposal so I simply concoct the different points of view in my brain.

Why do Filipino public school kids wear uniforms, and is it a good or bad thing?

In the US, public schools generally do not require uniforms. Church or private schools often do.

There are some good reasons for uniforms. For example, they ensure consistency of dress so poor kids don't get caught being poor. Rich people can't wear stylish shoes or other expensive trappings and thereby put down less glamorous classmates. If poor people can't afford the uniforms, they can just stay home and fish.

In the US, uniforms are sometimes used to suppress gangster style dress and the bloodletting that comes with over-the-top macho showmanship.

Uniforms also offer a rallying symbol. Hurrah for the good old green and gold; one for all and all for us.

Another reason, neither good nor bad, is “that's the way we've done it for a long time”. Well, actually, if you are pro-change, that is a bad reason.

There are some other bad reasons for uniforms. They iron everyone into the same cloth and suppress individual expression. They cost more money than last year's jeans and big brother's hand-me down shirt. They look goofy if the popular style is short and the required hemline is long. If one looks like a goof, one often feels like a goof. Then one starts BELIEVING inside that one is a goof.

I won't say anything about the militaristic formations schools demand as their kids line up prior to the start of the school day to salute the flag with pledges or songs. All that is lacking is a mandated goose step past the principal's office.

Many schools in the US take the half-way approach, publishing a dress code that allows both individual expression and prudent garb. For example, dress hemlines must drop below the knees, no gang colors allowed, no sandals, no armless t-shirts, and so forth.

In the Philippines, I see overdone authoritarianism as a huge problem – check the surly attitude of service people in government offices and many retail stores - and, of course, its obverse is relentless obedience that takes the form of lack of creativity, lack of ambition, lack of protest, and lack of risk-taking.

The uniforms seem to me to be reflective of a national mind-set that young Filipinos are not expected to think or act for themselves. They are not expected to be responsible in choosing their dress. They must follow the rules laid down by the elders. Alas, the elders are predominantly a bunch of big egoed, money-bound power-mongers with zero sense of compassion, generosity, concession for the common good, or public service perspective. To argue with or disobey these power-pips is a huge personal affront to their Big Egos, provoking threats, goon squads, and on occasion, weapons. They likely prefer kids be jammed into uniforms and their mouths stuffed with cotton to suppress any kind of intellectually bound objection to the way the Egos manage things.

Now again, I have no facts, so I could easily be wrong. Remember, I am just arguing with myself.

Perhaps the schools are churning out thousands of independent thinking, ambitious, talented go-getters. They are just all going overseas to go get, leaving the stiffs to care for the local economy and social values, the latter featuring the shooting of journalists, coddling of criminals, trashing of paradise and other upside down thinkings.

I do know the school kids all look alike, undistinguished, as I drive past them on the National Road. I fear they are made to bend to a consistence of appearance and thought, not driven to get outside imposed limits, not driven to challenge and create and excel.

I put 2 plus 2 together and can't help but come up with 4. And 4 falls way short of being a 10.

And, no, Jesus would not wear a uniform. Nor did He require his disciples to look, think, or act alike. He believed in the wholeness of spirit not the limitations that occur when an individual's spirit is stuffed into a container.

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