Informailty in Our Society

Mr. Kohls writes about informality in his American Values paper. He says that Americans are a very informal people and that if you come from a formal society you should not be offended if you are called by your first name and not addressed in the formal way. The first statement is true, however I believe that it should be taken offensively. Informality is great but when dealing with people of other cultures and with people of higher standing, Americans should take more caution. Informality in dress and education are two big problems that I see taking over American society.

When a function at school calls for “business casual”, most of my peers would show up in jeans and a “nice shirt”, which for most of them means a clean t-shirt or maybe a polo. People my age aren’t taught what “formal”, “casual-formal” or any of sort of dress is. This is very important for life, for if you show up to a job interview in jeans, sneaks and a “nice shirt” you probably won’t be considered for the job. most Americans (teenagers especially) do not understand the importance of knowing the difference between “informal”, “semi-formal” etc. Informality in education is an even bigger issue. The fact that student walks around my high school yelling out rude comments, calling teachers terrible names and being totally comfortable with having a 65 average is very disturbing.

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Teachers and administrators allow all this to happen by letting school become such an informal place. However, it’s not something that they are doing alone. Most of American schools are like this, so my school is simply following the crowd. Informality is definitely seen in American society today, especially in dress and education. However, I do not see this a positive value as Mr. Kohls does.

The informality of dress in our society is adversely effecting the futures of America’s youth. Evan Gahr says “Poor kids: They’re told proper dress is a prerequisite for workplace success. Then they arrive at their first job to find everyone dressed like suburban barbecuers.” (Gahr) Unfortunately I find that kids, teenagers especially, are not taught about dress as a key to success. Throughout my more than two years in Auburn High School, no teacher or administrator has ever given me or my classmates a lesson on different types of dress and what is appropriate for certain situations.

However, Auburn is definitely not alone. I attended two proms last May at two different school districts in Central New York and saw a lot of dresses that were not at all appropriate for a prom that was designated “formal” on the invitation. The widely accepted rule for women’s formal attire is long dresses or ball gowns.(Nellis). At both of these proms I saw at least ten girls with knee length dresses and a few with seams higher than knee length, which was rather disturbing. It is obvious that we, teenagers, are not taught that informality is not always a good thing to exhibit in society.

In my research I came upon an article called “Uncomfortable on Casual Day” by Evan Gahr, which I cited earlier in this paper. Gahr discusses Casual Day at his workplace and how it made him uncomfortable to see his coworkers in jeans and t-shirts instead of the more appropriate suit and tie (Gahr). It is easy for students these days to sympathise with Mr. Gahr. We are surrounded with peers that wear sweatpants, usually too large or rather tattered, hoodies and girls who rarely bother to do their hair beyond throwing it in a ponytail and a headband. This is not productive to a learning environment.

All our high school careers and even most college careers, we are taught that we have to be comfortable in order to be productive. This is not the case. If one of my more “comfortable” peers decides to pursue going into corporate America or management of just about any store in the country they will be very unhappy to find that sweatpants are not going to cut it in any field. Casual day or not, they are simply not acceptable. I am not advocating that we should all wear uniforms or pants suits to school everyday.

However, I don’t believe it is too hard for everyone to put on a pair of jeans that fit and, if not a blouse then, a nicely fitting t-shirt. For the men, the same would be acceptable, possibly even breaking out a Polo every so often. Learning to look nice in school is just a stepping stone to learning what is expected in the “real world”. It is important to know what attire is appropriate for the situation at hand. This means understanding tattered sweatpants are not tolerable in a learning environment, no matter what classmates wear. There should be a rule in our handbook that states sweatpants and tattered jeans are not acceptable in school.

Schools are filled with nothing but informality. Even though we still call (most of) our teachers “Mr., Mrs.,” and so on, that is about where the formalities end. Students don’t acknowledge when a teacher walks into the room, we leave the room when the bell rings although we ought to wait until the teacher dismisses us.

“It is a lot more informal in the classroom here than in Europe,” said Heike Alberts, associate professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (Cunnane). Many teachers say in the curriculum that students are handed at the beginning of the year “The bell doesn’t dismiss you, I do.” They rarely enforce this and even if they try, my peers mostly laugh and walk out of the classroom anyway. Teachers need to be taught how to take control of their classroom. The workshops that they have attended in the past are obviously not working correctly.

I see my teachers leered at or take rude comments from students most days out of the week. Unfortunately female teachers have to take this more often than male. I have had both male and female teachers in my past years at high school. I see the female teachers take far more back talk and rude comments, that at times border on sexual harassment, than the male. Through my research I have found this is not only in our school. Professer Alberts also stated that she found female lecturers were more likely to experience uncivil behavior than other groups and that the comments bordered on sexual harassment and usually questioned authority of the female teacher (Cunnane).

Teachers should be given helpful trainings in how to successfully control their students. They should be hands on, not just slideshows and speeches. If teachers can learn to control their classrooms, all the students can learn without the hassle of dealing with disruptive classmates. High school is stressful enough without adding the irritation of rowdy peers. Although informality is a value that Americans are proud to call their own, it is something we must use cautiously. There is a fine line between informality and disrespect.

When choosing clothing for school, students should think of what they would want to be seen in in a business situation, for that is what we are preparing ourselves for in the long run. Teachers likewise need to be taught how to take care of disrespectful students. Informality shouldn’t go so far that students are permitted to call teachers rude names or to simply ignore them completely. With the correct programing, teachers can be taught to take control of their classrooms once again. As for dress of students, an amendment should be added to our dress code stating sweatpants are not permitted in school. It is possible to be informal and still have class.