Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The Joplin School Board will take up the issue of tattoos and teachers at its next board meeting. Back in the day, ear rings on men were considered taboo. Not so much anymore. The bigger issue are body piercings and tattoos.

I have seen many of my younger peers in the education department with ink, piercings, or both. Tats on the forearms and ankles as well as lip, nose, eyebrown and tongue piercings are also popular in mainstream youth culture.

Students, of course, don't mind. It's the parents, older teachers and some administrators who are concerned. You remember the schools that banned students becuase of pink or green hair, don't you?

Is it really a big deal to have a tat on the forearm? Well I suppose that depends. Is it a problem for me to wear a shirt? No. But the school might object if I wear a shirt with a pot leaf or beer can on it. They should. I would expect a principal to object if a teacher had a nude pin-up tattoo visible to students. But a dragon or a butterfly? Who really cares?

What does the tattoo have to do with the education of the students? In the not so distant past, male teachers could not wear ear rings to school. Nowadays, that is rarely a problem. The world will eventually move on and forget the distractions.

Thanks to Skinny Kitty who pointed me to this KSPR 33 article.


Jeremy D. Young said...

Once again, shouldn't parents have the right to decide what their teachers' values are? If a parent decides that they want to have educators in their childrens' lives that share in their own values, who are the schools to make those decisions for them? Diversity is a double edged sword. Children are impressionable, and the teachers that they spend their entire day with for 5 days a week have a significant impact upon their lives. It's the parents' right and responsibility to make the decisions about these things.

Jack said...

How far do we take that?

Parents who don't want their child learning from a Republican?

Parents who don't want their child learning from a Christian?

Parents who don't want their child learning from an African American, Hispanic, or Asian?

How about a parent who doesn't wan their child to learn from a person in a wheelchair or a little person?

Part of learning life is learning to work with and deal with all kinds of people and ideas.

You have the right to not participate and home school or private school. That's your expense. The state offers Honda services, but if you want Cadillac services, then you will have to pay for that.

Some choose to live in gated communities where everyone thinks the same and does the same and looks the same. They pay a might high price for that luxury.

The rest of us live in the world and come into contact with all types of people.

Jeremy D. Young said...

Yes, parents have the rights and responsibilities of making all those decisions. The general population should not have the right to impose their watered down standards on all of us.

The state offers a MOPED at Cadillac costs. Government education doesn't deliver a high enough quality education. Yet they spend more money per student than all but the most extravagant and wasteful private school systems.

The biggest problem with the Government schools is that by stealing everyone's money, everyone wants a say in how that money is spent, or how their values are represented. With the diversity of the United States, you cannot represent all views in one system. The only sane solution is to stop stealing everyone's money and allow each group to use their money in the way they see most fit.

Many like to say that you can't legislate morality, but they usually mean you can't impose heavy handed moral standards on people, but neither can you force low morality on everyone. The government doesn't have the right to make those decisions for us.

If someone decides to educate their children in such a way that is intolerant of others, I think that is a significant error in judgement, however, I will defend their rights to make that mistake. I will also fight for the requirement that they be held responsible if their decisions cause their children to injure others.

One of the things that inherently comes along with the types of freedom and choice that I'm arguing for here is responsibility. Without personal responsibility in the justice system, no matter what the level of freedom, our society will fall prey to lawlessness and chaos. So, yes, we are in need of responsibility reform as well, and it may very well be something that is more important than our freedoms, but it doesn't mean we should continue to give up our freedom just because our justice system is flawed as well.

Jack said...

You already have the right to leave the public school and go to a private school. No one is stopping you.

Just like no one is stopping you from putting solar panels on your house and getting your own power from the sun. But, it's not CU's job to put those up there for you.

In my opinion, you are wrong about your rights. It is not your right to micromanage every government agency just because your tax money supports them. You do not have the "right" to say how, exactly, your tax dollars will be spent. You cannot put all your taxes in Homeland Security and None in Welfare. It just does not work that way.

Find me the place where you have a legal "right" to be able to micromanage or declare where each penny of your tax dollars are spent. You keep using the term "right" in a place where you do not have those rights.

You might want those rights. You might feel entitled. But you do not have them. Your rights resides solidly in your vote. That is how you and your views are represented. You can vote for city council, school board of education, legislator, etc.

Or so it is from my point of view.

Jeremy D. Young said...

Yes by all that's good in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. We Have ALL RIGHTS INHERENTLY. Rights are not granted to us by the government, they are endowed by our Creator. We have the rights, but we have delegated them. We are the government, and if the government takes upon itself it's own reality, then it is OUR responsibility to take those rights back. It is only reasonable to delegate our rights to the government when we have those desires in common. Where there are differences, the solution is not to make everyone conform, but to give the rights back to the people and let them handle those responsibilities themselves.

If you doubt my statement
"The biggest problem with the Government schools is that by stealing everyone's money, everyone wants a say in how that money is spent, or how their values are represented."
Then you need to be reviewing all the major Supreme Court decisions about the First Amendment and schools. The core of all of those cases is based upon conflicts of interest where the massive collections of public money are concerned.

The First Amendment protects all of the rights I am talking about. At it's core, education is inherently religious. Educators need the freedom of speech that protects their ability to say what they believe. Parents need the freedom to take their children to the educators with whom they agree on education philosophies. We cannot pretend that there is such a thing as a neutral education, or that you can teach in such a manner that does not affect or interfere with the parent's world view.

I don't know whether I need to apologize for the intensity of my comments, but I assure you that it is not with anger or disrespect that I am writing to you.

Thank you for challenging my thoughts, and I hope that they are well organized enough to continue to encourage a response.

Anonymous said...

We need to get the Government OUT of abut 09% of what they are involved in! The more involved the Government get, the worse things get.

Jack said...


You do not need to apologize for a dang thing. It's okay to be intense and passionate and strong in your views.

But I caution you to be careful about your definition of "rights". One might be tempted to take that definition and apply it to our inherent "rights" to have government-sponsored health care for all.

You said:
"At it's core, education is inherently religious."

I cannot disagree with you more. Education is not religious unless one is inclined to make it so. Education is the acquisition of knowledge, not the worship of a God.

But I now see why you make the statements you make. We have different perspectives.

I'm glad you are passionate and I don't take it personally. We can disagree and still be buds.

Jeremy D. Young said...

Thank you for pointing to a miscommunication on my part.

I should have said something like "at its core, education is dependent upon belief."

Knowledge can be defined as the intersection of that which a person has justification to believe, and that which is true. We cannot have knowledge without belief.

Jack said...

If by "belief" you mean a belief in God, your statement is, in itself, a belief rather than a fact or truth.

You don't need God to learn about pollination, mathematics, or proper grammar. Now, one might need God to help answer those deeper questions like "why are we here?" or "what is our purpose?" Those are great questions. Although belief in God is not fundamental to answer these questions. It's just fundamental for Christians to answer them.

I think you are confusing Christian truth with truth.

Jeremy D. Young said...

What I mean by belief is what is described in the wikipedia article about epistemology.

Whether you believe in God or not, you still believe a body of things. There are some things that are true which we don't believe, other things which we believe but are not true, and finally, there are things that are true, and which we believe, and this is what is called knowledge.

So this philosophical definition of knowledge is what I am basing my statement upon.

Christians may have coopted the term believer, but we all have beliefs. Everything that we trust to be true and act according to is a belief.

All beliefs are interrelated (at least for people that rely upon logic). Each of us has fundamental understandings of how the universe works (not just astronomically), and what the purpose of mankind is. Upon these foundations all of the rest of our knowledge is laid down.

It is my proposition to you that subjects aren't merely subjects to be taught alone, but they are all different facets of the same reality. You cannot have Music without Math, or Art completely independent of Physics (light), because in the real world they're dependent upon each other. When subjects are taught as if they have no connections we get incomplete persons who do not have the ability to come up with understanding beyond what they're fed.

Man I wish I could do this for a living :P I have quite enjoyed this conversation, but I took a vacation day today, so I'll be much slower in my responses tomorrow :)

Jack said...

The comment about education being religious confused things a bit. I'm with you now.

College philosophy classes spend weeks on the subject of truth. What is truth? Can we ever really know truth? Is there such a thing as pure truth?

As for the acquisition of knowledge, it does not occur in a vacuum. So why do we insist on teaching Communication Arts one hour, and science another? We don't solve real life problems by only dealing with one subject, then another. We infuse our prior knowledge and solve problems using what we know.

The constructivist philosophy, among many things, asserts that the classroom experience should be authentic and real world (as often as possible).

Do you believe that all public schools are bad? And that private schools are the only solution to any education? Why or why not?

Oh yeah, this is fun. You betcha.

run_deep said...

Those were my knuckles.

I had something to write before I read the other comments, but responding to some of the ideas expressed is taking precedence. Endearing anecdote will follow the fire and brimstone.

Jeremy D. Young (caps mine) has asserted that parents have the "rights and responsibilities to make" decisions regarding the political beliefs, race, religion, and able-bodiedness of their children's teachers.

That is true.

But they do not have the right or responsibility to decide any of those things in a public school. A public school has the responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the United States which guarantees rights to all. Full stop.

Now, if a teacher is imposing his views on students, that changes things. The parents and the school have every right and responsibility to intervene.

Completely apart from this legal issue are Mr. Young's concerns about our public school system.
I am sorry Mr. Young feels the government is "stealing" his money to use it to educate children. I will be the first to say that the present system is the most efficient imaginable, but it does go a long way towards its goal of ensuring that every child has the opportunity of achieving a solid education. In other words, of providing each young citizen with the means to secure his or her rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If Mr. Young's prefers that his children be home-schooled or attend a private school, he is certainly within his rights. Would he have to pay for that? Yes. Our taxes are spent for the public good. Does he complain that the state builds roads on which he never drives?

Finally, the teaching of values has reared its complex if not unattractive head in the debate. As teacher of literature, I do not believe that you can examine a work without examining the values if professes. If you discuss _A Modest Proposal_, Swift's beliefs about the inherent worth of children is bound to come up. This is not limited to literature. Even in a mathematics, the values of hard work, academic integrity, positive social interaction, respect for one's self and others are only the beginning of a myriad of values that will modeled if not taught directly. The issue gets more complex in literature largely because of the selection of works as well as the blurring of the line between the views of the author and the views of the reader. We can read _Mein Kampf_ (and probably should) without suggesting that we go slaughter a few million Jews. But what do we do when a student suggests just that, even in jest? Do we teach values? You bet. There is no way not to. Most if not all schools now have mission statements that provide some direction in this area, but it remains complicated. If we read _The Diary of Anne Frank_ in my class, am I converting my students to Judaism because my grandfather was Jewish? Or am I taking the Nazis' side because my grandmother was German? (And yes, the were married to each other). I would like to think neither. I am teaching a fascinating piece of literature and history.

The aforementioned anecdote goes thus:

I noticed a friend of mine in the school I taught at in Madrid didn't wear his earring when teaching. When he told me that the principal had told him not to, I immediately went out and had my ear pierced. Well, re-pierced. The hole had closed. Unfortunately, my aikido teacher made me take it out. Of course, he made everyone take their earrings out, not just the boys.

So, I was robbed of the showdown I so gleefully anticipated. Darn the luck.


run_deep said...

Sorry, didn't have time to proofread before class.

Wanted to say that the public school system is far from the most efficient...

Jack said...

If a school opposes my ear rings, then chances are that we will not get along on many fronts. I doubt our philosophies will jive.

run_deep said...

The funny thing is, I don't think she would have had the balls to say anything to me. But, alas, we never got the chance to find out.

Jack said...

Run Deep,

Why do administrators care if a male teacher has an earring or a teacher has an exposed tattoo? What is the issue? How does it relate to education?

Jeremy D. Young said...

awww... Why do you actually have to talk about the real topic?? :) For disclosure sake, none of the teachers at my daughters' school has visible tatoos, and no males are allowed to have any piercings. The reason I didn't directly discuss my preferences on the matter is because I don't think it's appropriate to try to enforce MY values upon you or your children. This has been the core of my argument, not only that it is wrong to force values on someone, but it is also wrong to enforce a lack of certain values on people as well.

run-deep said:
But they do not have the right or responsibility to decide any of those things in a public school. A public school has the responsibility to uphold the Constitution of the United States which guarantees rights to all. Full stop.

Everyone wants a piece of the control over public schools because it's where they send their children and it's where their hard earned money goes. When a community is of one mind on what values the teachers should posess, there is no conflict, and they can come together and form a school for the good of the community.

Run_deep then goes on to support my argument that values are inherently taught in an educational setting. The reason this is relevant is because values are diverging more and more between people in the same cities and communities, and it is harder and harder to find compromises and middle ground that are acceptable and effective at the same time.

For Jack's question:
Do you believe that all public schools are bad? And that private schools are the only solution to any education? Why or why not?

No of course not. Some are horrible, but Springfield's Public schools are better than many. Not all private schools are top notch either. It's not funding style that determines educational quality. Quality is only part of the equation though. I've been focused on the rights of Parents to choose an education for their children where the school's and teachers' purpose and methods are in sync with their own.

I am thankful that I do not have to sacrifice quality of education to acheive the values, purpose, and method of education that I desire for my children. I would however very much consider taking a loss in quality to acheive a school with the desired values.

Unfortunately time is short. I will continue to read and reply as I can.

run_deep said...

Please understand, I said that a school district's mission statement often provides some direction in the area of the teaching of values. However, these values, even if shared by every last member of the community, cannot violate anyone's constitutional rights. More concretely, if everyone in the community thinks a Jew or an African-American should not be teaching in the public schools, that does not give them the right to discriminate in their hiring practices.

Jack said...

Funny you bring that up, Runs Deep. Discrimination is just one of those values that Jeremy was talking about. Not everyone can seem to agree not to discriminate against certain persons. In fact, there are many who would choose to use their value system to discriminate. That's where it all breaks down.

I've never thought of an earring or tattoo as a value, but that's just me.

Busplunge said...

As for me, for whatever it is worth, I don't want anything on my body I wouldn't want hanging on my living room wall for the rest of my life.

HAH! (that's a big Chris Matthews' "HAH" for those who might be interested in what it is.)

Jeremy D. Young said...

In summary, I don't think there should be any Federal or State involvement in education. At a local level, you are going to continue to have strife and court battles if you require all people to pay in to a school system.

But don't worry, the NEA and state teachers unions have enough control and power that I'm not going to see what I want happen for quite some time. Every politician in both parties is completely afraid of crossing the education lobby.

I'll continue to pay double for my children's education, but what about the people that are poor and stuck in schools that fail them? How are they supposed to get out? What about poor athiests in rural school districts, how are they supposed to find a school that teaches the way they want if the majority are Christians? Why is it fair for the educational majority to dictate to everyone what the values of the schools will be? What about clusters of Muslims, or Buddhists, or Gays, or [insert other group oppressed by ...]? Why is it right to turn the tide and do exactly what has been fought against for so many years? Yes, it was wrong for public schools to continue to be Christianity based when the parents aren't Christians. I'm just saying it continues to be wrong to have the views of the majority forced upon the minorities. My proposed solution is to break up the power structures and allow education to be dealt with in smaller chunks. I'm not alone.