The Vigornia recently published an opinion piece entitled “Do Devices, Dress Code, and DoorDash downsize WA?” In it, the anonymous writer argues against certain policies that have been implemented at WA. While some of these arguments have merit, the writer ultimately did not make a convincing case on any of these issues.
The writer acknowledges that it is rude for students to be on their phones during class but suggests that this isn’t a problem for the “majority” of students. The number of students who have trouble putting their phones away during assembly seriously undermines that argument. Phones are a tremendous source of distraction for students; the writer’s objection to having hers taken away only reveals the addiction that she insists isn’t a problem. While I am sympathetic to the writer’s fear of a school shooting, we must acknowledge that these horrific incidents—while all too common—are still incredibly rare. The cost of allowing students to be on their phones through class far outweighs the infinitesimally small chance that they will need their phone in an emergency and not be able to access it.
The writer says that she needs her phone to email her counselor during class; it’s not clear to me why she can’t send an email from her laptop, which is still available during class time. She also needs her phone to visit the counselor because she keeps her ID card in the phone pocket. This problem is easily resolvable by either privately telling the teacher that she’s going to the counselor (which presumably the teacher knew anyway) and grabbing her phone or keeping her ID card in a wallet or cardholder and just taking that with her instead. She is also opposed to WA’s policy of not allowing phones in the bathroom. There are very good reasons that WA does not allow devices with cameras in areas where students get undressed. And, again, the cost of allowing students to leave class for a scroll through social media in the bathroom far outweighs any potential benefits. While I would fully support WA putting period products in bathrooms, the writer’s forgetfulness is not a reason to overturn an important school policy. Perhaps the writer should set an alarm on her phone to remind her to bring tampons and pads to school before she leaves in the morning.
Finally, I am unmoved by the argument that teachers shouldn’t care if students spend all of class on their phones. Students are still minors; it is our responsibility to make policies that serve their education best, whether they like those policies or not. Allowing them to scroll through TikTok rather than learn about the Civil Rights movement is not in their best interest.
Fun fact: DoorDash was founded in 2013 (thank you, Google). You may find this hard to believe, but that means that Worcester Academy existed for 179 years before DoorDash and (here’s the wild part): everyone survived. The policy against allowing students to order Door Dash during the day was implemented in order to keep our community safe and to allow our security team to focus on people who need to come and go from campus during the day. The writer offers a series of objections: not liking the food in the dining hall, not enough protein, not enough time to eat, and discomfort eating in front of others. Each and every one of these issues could be solved by doing what I did every single day in high school: bringing lunch from home. Finally, the writer complains about food being thrown out. If students know that violating the policy will result in food being thrown out, might I suggest they stop violating the policy?
This complaint demonstrated a lack of understanding both of the dress code itself and the reasons for it. First, Worcester Academy’s dress code is gender neutral. It simply does not say that boys have to wear collared shirts and girls can’t wear spaghetti straps. Second, to respond to the writer’s question of whether or not we are “seriously still enforcing” dress code, we quite evidently are not. Students wear sweatpants freely as well as sweatshirts of all colors with many different logos expressly prohibited by the dress code. While I will tell students in my own class when they are out of dress code, it is entirely obvious that on the whole, we are not, in fact, enforcing dress code.
On the issue of professionalism, the writer can’t seem to make up her mind: is the issue that students don’t want to learn to be professional or that they are professional despite being out of dress code? I’ll address both points. The writer suggests that the Worcester Academy dress code is setting them up for jobs they don’t want because so many of them will be basketball stars, actors, and doctors. I wish nothing but the best to the basketball stars among you; you are the blessed ones who will be allowed to spend your life in athleisure. You may find this hard to believe, but, um, most of you will not be basketball stars. Actors? Well, you better get used to wearing what other people tell you to wear. Costumes are like that. And doctors? I don’t know about you, but every doctor I have ever seen has been professionally dressed. My doctor wears slacks and either a blouse or sweater under her white coat, depending on the weather. I have been seeing her for 15 years, and I have never seen her in a crop top and leggings.
The writer then notes that since a boy can look professional without a collar and a girl can look professional in spaghetti straps (again, the dress code is gender neutral), the dress code is silly. The writer does not address the sweatpants and oversized sweatshirts that have proliferated since the weather turned cold. Are those professional? What about pajamas? Do students look professional and appropriate in pajamas?
The writer also doesn’t address other reasons a dress code might make sense. Perhaps students don’t want white collar jobs when they grow up (a claim that may apply to some students, but about whose universality I am highly dubious). But there is significant research suggesting that how a person dresses affects their attitude and capabilities (want better grades? Put on real pants in the morning). What we do in the classroom is substantively different from lying on your bed scrolling through Instagram, and students should dress accordingly. Your teachers work hard to create an environment where we take learning seriously; when you assume that my classroom is an extension of your bed, you disrespect me and that environment, and believe it or not, that does affect your learning outcomes.
Our job is to provide guidelines and boundaries that will allow you to do your best learning and be prepared for whatever the world brings, whether it’s a basketball court, a stage, or a hospital. And since part of our job is to prepare you to think more clearly and make better arguments, I invite the anonymous writer to respond to my arguments and convince me that students should be allowed to roll into school in their pajamas, scroll through social media all day, order takeout, and maybe occasionally learn something if it fits into their busy schedules.