Red and white blues



It’s happening everywhere.

The forces of political correctness have been picking off one innocent tradition after another.

It hit Wakefield this week.

The School Department announced that for this year’s High School graduation ceremonies, graduates will wear “gender neutral” gowns instead of the traditional red for boys and white for girls.

No, this is not a late April Fools’ Day column.

The school administration originally wanted all graduates to wear the same red graduation gowns. Fortunately, when the seniors heard of that decision, many of them signed a petition insisting on some role in determining what their own graduation ceremony would look like.

In the process, the students managed to salvage some remnant of tradition. They told the administration that they liked the traditional red and white gowns and wanted to keep them.

Kudos to the students.

graduation_whsSo after numerous discussions between students and the administration, the administration finally agreed that graduates would still wear red and white gowns, but it will be without regard to gender.

A moment of weakness or sanity? You be the judge.

Apparently a compromise pink colored gown was not considered.

One can only imagine how much staff time, not to mention student time, was expended on this.

In a letter dated April 7, Wakefield High School principal Richard Metropolis informed parents of high school seniors of the decision to go gender-neutral for the graduation ceremony. Unless I’m missing something, the letter offers no specific reason for the change.

The closest thing to an explanation comes in this sentence.

“The change is in support of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommendation that schools should eliminate gender-based dress codes for the school day, any special events and especially graduation ceremonies.”

The DESE has a 13-page, single-spaced guideline for “Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment” and “Non-discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity.”

Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen. And you thought there were no good jobs out there for gender studies majors.

whs_graduation2If you didn’t already know, it would be unclear from the letter whether the impetus for this change originated with the administration or was due to a groundswell of discontent among students regarding the traditional boy-red, girl-white gowns.

But a clue may be found in another sentence in the letter to parents.

“The High School administration has collaborated with members of the senior class over many hours in an effort to arrive at consensus around how to best represent our school’s Core Values.”

Hmmm, let me think for a moment. Who uses terms like “Core Values” – your typical high school student or your typical school administrator?

What’s unstated is which of the High School’s “Core Values” this move to gender-neutral graduation gowns is meant to address. The Wakefield High School web site lists two Core Values:

“Wakefield High School is a student-centered community committed to excellence in teaching and learning.”

“Wakefield High School is a respectful learning community that promotes personal responsibility and acceptance of individual differences.”

I’m going to guess that it’s the second Core Value that’s at play here, the one that talks about “acceptance of individual differences.”

Except, apparently, for anything that calls attention to that most fundamental individual difference of all – gender.
We can only speculate as to what’s next – getting rid of the Warrior team logo? You know damn well that’s coming. And it won’t come from the community or the students either.

It’s only a matter of time.

[This column originally appeared in the April 14, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

4 Responses to “Red and white blues”

  1. 1 Annemarie

    As a mom of a graduating senior I believe in the school keeping is time honored traditions. We are a small little town with equality in its vision but the school administration needs to realize that in keeping with these traditions is does not mean discrimination to gender. it is plain and simple a tradition. Would Notre Dame change their colors or logo if there was a gender issue amongst their students??? I am pleased that the students rose to the occasion of defending their school traditions and in no way should it mean anything but that to any person amongst the school body.

  2. If memory serves — and it does less and less every year — the Class of 1973 had a write in campaign for “Beer Bottle Brown” colored gowns which, despite being popular among a majority of the students was , of course, squashed by school administration. Boys and girls both wore blue gowns and it was no big deal. Keep up the good work Mark.

  3. 3 Emily Miller

    This has become an argument of offending “PC progressive liberals” as if there aren’t actual students behind this who are affected by this gender binary. I am at a loss for how you could believe that the color of a graduation gown is such an important, irrevocable symbol of Wakefield pride that it is more important than the students for whom this is an issue. You write as though the “acceptance of individual differences” demands that acceptance of those who conform to gender norm be mutually exclusive to acceptance of non-conforming genders. Having one color gown is an accommodation for those who don’t identify on the gender binary, and other than a denial of “tradition,” this will not negatively affect other students. While it is no one’s place to demand you change your opinions, I believe it is within the realm of human decency and respect that we allow such non-offensive changes that only serve to help some, while hurting no one else. Is this tradition so important that the students who it negatively affects should be ignored?

    • 4 Mark Sardella

      Why not just let every student chose the color gown of the gender with which they identify?

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