Immigrants are Americans

In a recent letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, someone named David Ferris wrote

Unfortunately, during the 2000-05 recovery, immigrants – both legal and illegal – got the jobs that should have gone to the youngest and poorest Americans. If we don’t make every effort to ensure that any jobs created go to our own people, we’ll be looking at another “jobless recovery.”

Hate to break the news to you, Mr. Ferris, but legal immigrants are Americans. I am the son of immigrants, and they are both full US citizens who work, vote, pay taxes, and donate to charities. I guess Mr. Ferris imagines he himself is not a descendant of immigrants…

Divided States of America

Sometimes I wonder if the South losing the Civil War was such a good thing. I don’t mean that slavery should still be a publicly sanctioned and popular practice. I do mean that Lincoln’s determination to keep the union together may have been misguided, in the long-term.

Blue states. Red States. Bipartisanship. Why? Ever heard the expression about too many chefs in one kitchen?

Real change doesn’t happen in the US because there are too many conflicting interests that need to “agree” in order to get anything done. Look at health care “reform.” So the republicans don’t want health care reform to pass, because they like things the way they are, and they also want to see a democrat motion get sunk so that the democrats will appear ineffectual and lose upcoming reelections. So the moderate democrats don’t want a public option. So they also want to put in weird anti-choice clauses. So the liberal democrats want reform so badly, they’re willing to compromise their principles. In the end, what do we end up with? Either a lot of hullabaloo about a bill that won’t pass… or a bill that doesn’t really make anyone happy.

Health care is just one example, though. Look at sex education (abstinence-only v. comprehensive), immigration, marijuana regulation, prostitution regulation, gun regulation, the death penalty, military and education spending. The supreme court is a constant flip-flop of dying and retiring judges who get replaced by “impartial” judges who are either left-leaning or right-leaning depending on who’s appointed them.

Obama is the worst example of what the “united” states faces. I have a lot of liberal friends who are disappointed in his first year in office. They had hope. They believed in change. They thought Obama was liberal (after all, the conservatives kept calling him a *gasp* socialist). Obama was never liberal. He’s moderate all the way down the line. That’s how he got elected. It’s also why he’s had trouble getting anything done.

If we had a DSA (Divided States of America) instead of a USA, I bet we would all get along better, and the two countries would get more stuff done. Sure, there would still be small internal disagreements, but in the end, a greater number of people in each country would be happier with governmental policies. In one country, abortion would be legal, the government would spend more money on education than the military, affirmative action would be commonplace, everyone could have health care, marijuana would be legal and tightly regulated (as would prostitution), and sex education would teach students how to have safer sex. In the other country, abortion would be illegal, the government would spend more money on the military than on education, there would be no affirmative action, only the rich or steadily (but not self-) employed would have health insurance, marijuana and prostitution would be illegal, and sex education would teach abstinence only.

Then you could choose what America you wanted to live in, and a lot more people would be happy, no? More importantly, a lot more useful legislation would be passed in both countries.

Girl skateboarders are cool

I’m so used to seeing, over the past couple of decades, groups of boys skateboarding or one lone girl skateboarder amongst a group of boys.

Recently, though, I’ve seen a few groups of girl skateboarders walking (with boards) or skateboarding around San Francisco, and I have to say it’s refreshing. It’s cool to see these youngsters going against the traditional gender roles.

It kind of reminds me of the boy cheerleaders in Leeds.

Dress code enforcement obsession

I’ve worked in a number of high schools, both public and private. I also went to high school myself (obviously). In every school, there were always a handful of teachers or staff members who were obsessed with punishing (or at least commenting incessantly about) violations of the student dress code. I don’t think it’s appropriate for female students to dress in revealing clothing at school (what they do outside is their business). Same deal for boys showing off their underwear with saggy pants around their ankles (again, what they do outside of school is a different story). School is a place to learn. It isn’t a fashion show venue. There is a certain level of respect you show your teachers and fellow students by dressing appropriately and—unless you have to wear a uniform—there usually remains a great deal of leeway for you to express your individuality.

Nevertheless, I find this obsession with dress code enforcement to be disturbing also. Is her skirt too short? Is that girl showing off too much cleavage? Do I really want to see his polka dot boxers? These are all legitimate questions, but ultimately we as teachers and staff should focus on the task at hand, which is getting students to learn. And even though enforcement-obsessors are always careful to throw in the token mention about boys, the policing does seem to be very much about what girls (and much less so about boys) can and cannot wear, and that is ringing all the feminist sirens in my left-leaning brain. Is it empowering to dress in almost nothing, knowing that you’re probably doing that just to take advantage of how society sexually objectifies women and rewards women who embrace that sexual objectification? No. But is it a feminist act to obsess about and police the way women dress? I don’t think so, either.

To be honest, I really don’t notice it. If a student were wearing a wet t-shirt or only a g-string, of course I’d be fashion police in a second myself. But often I hear other adults commenting to me randomly (even interrupting a worthwhile discussion we were having about curriculum or logistics and scheduling) “That skirt is too short” or “Did you see what she’s wearing? That is not okay.” In some cases, there is just the shake of a head. In other cases, the faculty or staff member will actually leave our conversation and actively police the girl right away. In those situations, I wasn’t thinking, “Yes, it was too short. I thought I was the only one who noticed.” I was honestly thinking, “Weren’t we talking about something else? I didn’t even notice until you pointed it out.” I’m not in the habit of looking students up and down.

Leaving aside how sociologically problematic this constant vigilance about particularly what girls wear is, on a sheer practical level, I just feel there are other things to focus on. I’m a big fan of the cliché “You have to pick your battles.” And especially with teenagers, you do. I was a teenager once. Did my parents say something about everything I did that they disapproved of? No. We would have gotten into a million more fights then. They picked their battles and showed me what really mattered to them. I’d love it if every student dressed appropriately for school. I’d love it. Really. In the grand scheme of things, though, I’d rather focus on them doing their work, having patience with and helping other students who do not learn as quickly as they do, participating in class and extracurriculars, picking up after themselves, and learning to think critically. Call me new-fashioned, but if students can do all that, they can dress however they want.

Further Reading
School dress codes: Necessary or sexist?
Distracting Dress Codes