EDITORIAL: Commissars of skirt lengths
We just love Richard Troupe, the dean of discipline at the José Marti High School. He's a hoot.
If you doubt our assessment of Mr Troupe's sense of humour, follow his argument to one of our reporters about his enforcement of the school's dress code.
"We have sent home students who bleach their faces as it is also a violation of the dress policy," Mr Troupe said. "If it takes five days for their skin to return to normal, then they have to stay home until then."
Skin bleaching, the experts say, is a socio-psychological problem in Jamaica, with potential health risks. It is an issue that schools might address in civics and other classes. But making it part of the school's dress code is, well, something else.
We wonder if Mr Troupe has invented, perhaps, a melanin meter, which, when placed against the subject's skin, determines whether if, and by what shade, he is lighter or darker than his melanin count.
Oh, well ... .
We have a more practical, but no less funny, imagery of Mr Troupe, and perhaps assistants, enforcing José Marti's dress code. Armed with rulers and tape measures, these commissars of length parade the school grounds, accosting female students to determine whether skirts are the requisite 11 inches below the knee.
One day, recently, a parent complained. The skirt of a José Marti student was 10 inches, rather than the 11 prescribed, below the knee, a difference that would hardly have been noted by a Victorian prude. The student was turned away from school.
Commissar Troupe says he would have been less drastic. He would, instead, have ordered the child to rip the existing hem out then send her to the school's Home Economics Department to sew a new hem to the proper length - assuming there was the cloth to accommodate it.
Here is another bit of worthwhile information about José Marti, which is named for a celebrated 19th-century Cuban revolutionary.
This year, in the CXC English exam, José Marti put up 255 students, or 71 per cent of the grade 11 cohort. In other words, the school screened out 29 per cent. But even of that, only 66 per cent received passing grades. A third failed.
We hope that José Marti's teachers aren't too busy measuring skirt lengths and wielding melanin meters to take their classes and help students in the primary purpose for which they attend school: gaining an education.
This newspaper, of course, believes that the enforcement of discipline in school is important as part of the learning process and young people's civic education. But there is a difference between reasonable and appropriate discipline and ridiculousness.
Sending home a child whose skirt is 10 inches below the knee is the latter. So, too, we feel, would be locking out of school, if the claim is true, those Tivoli Gardens High girls whose photographs appeared in this newspaper last week and whose near floor-sweeping hemlines would affront no Victorian modesty. By the way, Tivoli entered 44 per cent of its cohort in this year's CXC English exam. Its pass rate was 55 per cent.
We wonder what the skirt lengths are at, say, Campion College or Wolmer's Girls. We hope, too, that the Amish-style dress at José Marti and Tivoli will help to get their passes up at the next go. It certainly isn't working right now.
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