Tuesday 25 June 2019


Varadkerógánaigh [The Taoiseach's Youth] is a very long and well-fada'ed word which might become useful if Leo Varadker's blue-shirts more further to the right, start the rhetoric about Foreigners, and need some fit young people to implement the pogroms.
Years ago in a previous life when our home-educated daughters were merely a twinkle aspirational, their much older brother The Boy went to a succession of different schools (7 in three different countries UK NL US up to the age of 14) with a wide variety of ἤθη ethoses. In England, when he joined the local Catholic secondary school, he was required to wear a pale blue shirt, having experienced primrose yellow and white in previous places; each with a different tie. The uniform of my school, where I acquired my very expensive education, was consciously modelled on the fashions of the 19th century patriarchy - to which we were expected to aspire. That uniform was particularly demoralising for teenage me and I really didn't want to subject the chap to the same sort of nonsense.  I was ranting about the iniquity of school uniforms to some friends at work and may have used the phrase Hitler Youth. A fellow parent of a teenager suggested that school uniforms, far from being iniquitous, were on the contrary, equable because everyone, rich and poor, high-born and low-life, wore the same kit. And it cost the same for everyone, too. It wasn't possible to distinguish, by the externals alone, who would go far and who would go on the dole.

Harrrrumph! That struck me at the time as a specious, one-dimensional, argument. Just because every family has to buy the same uniform, doesn't make that a good idea in itself. If it was a good financial deal, kids would wear the uniform outside of school and to Mass on Sunday. But they don't (or won't); so compulsory uniforms are an additional financial burden on poor families that have clothes (that children like to wear?) enough to keep the wind and rain off already. And why do kids all have to dress the same? when they are all so different.
That's where my crack about the Hitlerjugend Hitler Youth [R, of course] came from: part of the training for soldiering, even for child-warriors, is to dehumanise the recruits with shouting and hazing and exhausting exercise so that they become interchangeable and are prepared to take one for the team in circumstances where normal people would put their head down and scuttle away to safety. Uniforms are essential to that interchangeability; and that's fine for soldiers but seems a peculiar requirement for school. It is a symbol and a symptom of the homogenisation that goes on when you cram 30 kids of the same age in the same room for 5 hours every working day. The corners get knocked off so that everyone can fit. Every unique difference and direction of curiosity gets channelled channelled into 30 units fit for the economy. Each mother's son and daughter is, of course still unique, beloved for their quirks and foibles, but they are a lot less foibly than they were as 5 y.o.s.

Now one of the invisible certainties /peculiarities of school uniforms is that, even in co-educational schools, the uniform is different for boys and girls: ties for boys, skirts for girls. Progressive schools, especially for under-11s, have moved to gender neutral track-suits in a particular colour and probably with the school emblem. Last week St Brigid's National School in Greystones is in the news for announcing that, come September, their solution to respect and inclusivity is a gender-neutral uniform policy. Apparently the change was triggered by a well-argued case from the student council; who brought it to the Principal; who brought it to the Board of Management and It Was So. Girls will be allowed to wear trousers and >!choc!< boys let wear skirts. Well, there was a red-mist STORM in the media about it. It's taken about 100 years for us to get used to women who wear trousers but the blokes (as ever) are waaaay behind. If a gender-confused or épater les bourgeois chap turned up in a skirt "he would be sure to get his head flushed down the t'ilet by the school bullies".

Whaaaat? How is that more normal, tolerable than a chap in a skirt?

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