‘Gender specific school uniforms can cause serious distress’ –
one more example of saying goodbye to reason and good sense.
[Image courtesy of Chris Millett via Flickr.com ©©]
You'd have thought Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People had enough on his plate right now. Dealing with, in no particular order, child abuse and neglect, the sexualisation of minors, teenage pregnancy, binge drinking, drug addiction, gang culture, and record youth unemployment.
But no, Tam Baillie has found a bit of down time to put the full weight of his office behind the needless gripe of a 13 year old schoolboy from Falkirk who wants the right to go to school in a skirt. Well, actually, the 13 year old in question doesn't himself claim that right but he wants others to have it. Exactly how many are currently queuing up for the privilege isn't clear. But even in Falkirk I bet it's not many.
So it is that Mr Baillie, at public expense, has found himself compelled to wave goodbye to all reason and good sense and to assert that boys should indeed be allowed to wear skirts to school. Because, quote; "gender specific uniforms can cause serious distress".
Trust me, school uniforms, full stop, cause serious distress; distress to fashion conscious girls who take exception to pleated skirts and blazers, distress to rebellious young lads who have an issue with knotted ties and pressed flannels. School uniforms, to repeat, are not their gear of choice. THAT'S THE IDEA.
The idea is to free schoolchildren from the pressure of having to select an appropriate outfit every day and, crucially, to stop kids from poorer homes from feeling self conscious. In short school uniforms are generally recognised as useful levellers, liberating youngsters from the tyranny of fashion and their peers and letting them concentrate on schoolwork.
Instead of telling the 13 year old contrarian to find something better to do with his time - and, more to the point, telling his parents not to encourage him - Mr Baillie's had to give this eccentric petition time and thought out of all proportion to its importance.
He's had to because of the Equality Act 2010 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which have suggested to legalistic minds that children with so called "gender variant" issues should be exempt from standard school uniform. Those same legal minds, however, have stopped short of imagining the distress a boy in a skirt might in reality experience at the school gate.
Nobody wants to see a boy or girl distressed at all. Either at school, or elsewhere. And any young person with anxieties about his or her appearance, identity, or sexual orientation should have access to trained and sensitive adults who can provide appropriate pastoral care.
And most schools provide it. But that care's ill served, (and possibly undermined), by equality- and rights-driven gesture politics that long ago cut all ties with the world most of us live in.