The View From Here – Kids must learn that being smartly dressed is not comparable to being smart

Tom Henihan

Instead of evoking the idea of learning and education, having students return to school is now just another marketing opportunity like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc.

Watching TV commercials, one sees the clichés abound, especially the tired and tiresome stock scenario of pouting children and the ebullient parents who are looking forward to getting the kids out from under their feet.

Ironically, most children approach the end of summer with more enthusiasm than adults do.

Returning to school for kids is a mixture of trepidation and excitement: a return to the grind of daily classes but also the security and productivity of a structured routine and most importantly, at least for the first few days, reconnecting with friends, fellow students and even teachers.

However, commercial interests who target young people and their parents, package the entire back-to-school experience in superficial gauze that absolutely ignores any reference to education.

Everything is presented graphically with the high-contrast, ultra-bright synthetic colours of clothing, school supplies and accessories.

In the current media: commercials, TV shows and movies, school is painted as a menagerie of precocious social types with impeccable dress sense, which has to make matters unbelievably difficult for many regular kids struggling to find terra firma among such fleeting stereotypes.

Real superficial social types most successfully emulate superficial, fictional social types. This must make socializing and hanging out in school frustrating for complex, thoughtful and intelligent young people.

According to the media and those who use it as a platform to sell their wares, kids learn from their feet up, starting with footwear, jeans, and other apparel, because apparently in that universe, smartly dressed equates with being smart.

Typically, kids want to return to school looking good and feeling that their clothes and demeanor fit with contemporary norms, and the need to conform to certain norms is not exclusive to children or teenagers.

It is easy to understand that new clothes and school supplies might be an incentive for kids in looking forward to a returning to school and while school should be a place of academic discipline is should never be austere.

However, it is up to parents and teachers to instill in children a sense of measure and equip them to recognize when mercenary interests are relentlessly offering them the lowest common denominator.

It is also up to parents and teacher to help children recognize when they are being tempted away from things of real and enduring value.

Parents and teachers must impart to children the value of things beyond appearances, things such as character, intellect and the imagination that will serve them best, and equip them best to serve others.

We should all find it objectionable, when the very environments and institutions that should be synonymous with learning and lofty aspirations are dumbing down, and depicted as places where the artificial and the superficial carry the greatest social cachet.


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