Let Them Eat Dirt

Want to know everything that is wrong with schools today?

Kids aren’t allowed to eat dirt.

About a century ago in news biz terms, on the Fifth of May of this year, Miguel Rodriguez, an assistant school principal at Live Oak High School in Santa Clara, CA, punished five sophomores for wearing the American flag on their t-shirts. He deemed their shirts conspicuously “incendiary” mostly because other students were wearing the red, white, and green of the Mexican flag that day.


A lot longer ago than the Santa Clara wardrobe malfunction, the assistant principal of our local high school did the same thing to our daughter. We had taken our kids on their first trip to Key West shortly after we bought this house in South Puffin. The Half Shell Raw Bar is one of the favorite tourist stops there. It inhabits a building that was once a Key West shrimp packing building in the historic seaport.

The Half Shell sells t-shirts.

You know the story. “Our ‘rents went on vacation and all I got was this stupid shirt.”

[Image] Number One daughter really liked her shirt with its nubile, bikini-clad waitress, platter of oysters, and slogan. Particularly the slogan.

Naturally, her Assistant Principal went after that shirt with tar and bonfire. Number One daughter wasn’t even allowed to turn it inside out. That insidious, salacious message was still there, still capable of corrupting those innocent 1980s high schoolers. She had to call home, get a ride home, and change clothes. The school banned her from classes until she did.


The holiday of Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is not, as Assistant Principal Rodriguez and many other people apparently think, Mexico’s Independence Day. South of the Border, Independence Day is September 16. Here’s the history: Mexico was a debtor nation when, in 1861, then-Mexican President Benito Juarez stopped paying the interest on the loans. France held a lot of the notes, so they sent in their debt collectors in the form of the French army to force payment of this debt. The regional holiday of Puebla commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862.

So Live Oak High School wanted to punish five kids for not celebrating a battle over a loan default.

Never occurred to Assistant Principal Rodriguez (a professional educator) that the right principle would have been to let the kids duke it out, send them to separate corners, and use the whole experience as a teaching moment, eh?

Back to kids eating dirt.

The United States maintains a fiction that we want well educated kids. We bandy about buzz words like “experiential learning,” “critical thinking,” and “expanding horizons” while we isolate the kids from the ebb and flow of playground confrontation, intelligent decision making, or anything that might impact their self esteem. And gawd help us if we expose them to germs.

Ofttimes kids learn better when we let them be kids. That includes having the odd playground discussion over political values and eating a bit of dirt in the playground along the way.

7 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Dirt

  1. “So Live Oak High School wanted to punish five kids for not celebrating a battle over a loan default.”

    Yeah… at that, the loan default of some foreign country.

    Well said, Dick — best statement I have seen on the issue.

    (Sounds like the principal didn’t have any principles worth discussing, for that matter.)

  2. There are many reasons for slogans on t-shirts, and the one most appreiated is to make uptight people split their seams. On Usenet we call it trolling.

    But, of course, there are other reasons: Following the 911 attack on WTC we saw an inordinate number of patriotic shirts bearing the acronym USA and/or simply a big red, white and blue flag. I went to the bottom of my closet and got out my mothball smelly Air Force t-shirts, and Mrs Poleczech bought two shirts with rubberized likenesses of George W Bush on them.

    Coupla years ago at the YMCA a particulary obese Hispanic highschool gal walked in wearing a shirt with *Porn Star In Training* emblazeoned from enormous tip to enormous tip. Before I could finish realizing the incongruity of that unlikely claim, an uptight female manager appeared with a YMCA t-shirt, size XXXL to *cover up* “that insidious, salacious message”.

    I’m glad I wasn’t wearing my own retro classic t-shirt: *Eat Your Heart Out, John Holmes*. But, of course, I am an adult.

    A kid got busted a few months ago at school for wearing a t-shirt with NRA on it and *National Rifle Association* in smaller letters underneath. In another incident *Glock Racing Team* was deemed inappropriate; but the child was allowed to turn it inside out.

    But the most “insidious, salacious message” yet was the one that made the evening news because it violated the school’s principle of a drug-free campus. A kid showed up wearing *I’m Having A Maalox Moment”. Out he went.

    Mrs Poleczech has one of those, too.

    — George

  3. George, methinks the Maalox principal is another “principal without principle.” The purpose of the “drug-free campus” principle is NOT to ban aspirin… it is to make sure there is zero chance of having mind-altering substances used at school. Maalox is magnesium hydroxide (an inorganice alkaline compound whose sole influence on the body is to neutralize stomach acid,) aluminum hydroxide (ditto) and simethicone, which is a blend of polydimethyl siloxane (car wax) and silica gel. ZERO psychotropic value in any of that stuff. Of course, in reality the kid was saying “this place makes me sick to my stomach.” The “drug-free campus principle” was just an excuse which the principal grasped at. It could NOT have been applied if the kid had just had a teeshirt that said “This place is a Vomitorium” or words to that effect…. and it shouldn’t have been applied to Maalox. By rights, the manufacturer should sue the school.

  4. Bob Post wrat:

    “By rights, the manufacturer should sue the school.”

    George writes: Aluminum hydroxide, eh? Lordy. No wonder I get the runs. Think wot it must do to the kids.

    — George

  5. Mein lieber Herr Blogmeister:

    A new twist to the “insidious, salacious message” theme, and then I *may* shut up.

    I spoke with a highschool ROTC instrutor this morning at the gym, and I mentioned the purloined theme of this posting: “insidious, salacious message” and its equally twisted interpretations by school officials.

    He told me about a student who was busted at his school on the very last day of tests for bringing Kumbucha in her back pack. It was the possible 5% alcohol content of the non-alcoholic health drink that did the trick.

    Fortunately for her, she had completed her tests with passing scores; but a hearing is scheduled to determine if she will be allowed to attend summer school.

    This is an example of liberalism’s *zero tolerance*. And I have stated my opposition to that methodology many times.

    — George

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