Kids are supposed to learn more in school than just how to talk right and do math good.
For example, boys should learn how to play sports. And girls should learn how to watch boys play sports... without distracting the boys from their sports.
This is the lesson taken from Bemidji, where one mom wrote to the local newspaper with a story her daughter recently brought home. According to the mom, Rebecca Hoffman, it was her daughter's second day in middle school when a gym teacher explained that girls should wear shorts of adequate lentgh, so as not to "distract the boys."
Hoffman's letter to the editor comes after the paper's coverage of a new dress code for Bemidji-area public schools. That rule stipulates that no student (boy or girl, one guesses) can wear any shorts or skirt that end more than four inches above the knee.
That change comes in response to a series of controversial school decisions last year about student wardrobe; some 12 Bemidji high schoolers were punished for dress code violations last year, and some of the instances led to parent complaints online.
Jeff Haack, chair of the local school board, says the four inches-above-the-knee policy was a reaction to "social media hullabaloo," which happens to be one of the only approved words to follow the phrase "social media" in Bemidji.
Not so, writes Hoffman, who says warnings like the phys ed teacher's to her daughter's class send a mixed message to girls. She cites studies that find adolescent girls are more likely to leave adolescence with low self-esteem and a crappy sense of self-image, both of which can be defined by how attractive they are to the boys around them.
As MPR's Bob Collins notes, those boys can get in trouble, too, but it's for wearing baggy pants, or hats. They get punished for looking slovenly. The girls for looking sexy.
"Regardless of the code’s intent," Hoffman writes, "the message sent to my daughter was that her young body is inherently dangerous, provocative and sexualized and that it is her responsibility to hide it so boys will not misbehave."
Hopefully we've all learned a lesson here. Girls should find a way to get their physical exercise in without dressing sexy and distracting the boys.
Might we suggest joining the cheerleading squad?