Sunday, April 05, 2009

The middle school peace process

Can middle school kids - rich ones in particular - be made non-obnoxious? There will be peace in the Middle East before that feat is accomplished.

As for banning the wearing of bar mitzvah sweatshirts at school the Monday after, so as not to offend the kids who weren't invited to someone's party... gosh. I thought those shirts were relics of the 1980s, dug up and worn ironically by hipsters circa 2006. Seems they not only still exist, but are potent enough when worn non-ironically to hurt a middle-schooler's feelings.

I did get a kick out of this, however:

"Jason Thurm, 13, collected more than 200 of the personalized sweatshirts from his friends and donated them to a church."

8 comments:

PG said...

It looks like it's having some effect on the need for discipline in lower and middle income schools, so that's good. I agree with the mom who said that in places like Scarsdale, they probably ought to make the parents come in for the workshop first.

Phoebe said...

I get how progress could be made in terms of discipline as in having students not physically hurt one another. As for emotionally...

If I'm skeptical, it could be because I went to a middle school that was already doing all the things that are supposed to make being that age bearable - school uniforms, single-sex education, talks on 'feelings' - and yet the experience was miserable all around, dreadful for the unpopular kids but perhaps even worse for the popular.

Nick said...

sweatshirts ... is this an east-coast thing? when I was 12 I moved from a school where I had a number of jewish friends (in long beach, california) to a very goyische school in florida (where they did not know what hanukkah was, much less understand why I longed to consume fried potato pancakes with applesauce). at the only bat mitzvah [side note: why is that word not in firefox spell check?!] I went to, there were no sweatshirts...

Phoebe said...

I don't know if it's an East Coast thing - as I mentioned, it's not something I'd ever seen, except in its rummaged-from-Salvation-Army form.

PG said...

The apparent decoupling of the bar/bat mitzvah from its religious origins is really interesting to me. Hindu culture has equivalents of the "now you are an adult" transition, but I don't know of anyone whose sari ceremony, for example, included a big party for the honoree's school friends. Those ceremonies are treated as more internal to the community, whereas non-cultural celebrations -- birthdays, graduation, etc. -- are like any other kid's. Proof of better assimilation by Scarsdale Jews than Texas Hindus?

Phoebe said...

I have no idea why that would be, but it's certainly an interesting question. But I'm not so sure I'd phrase it as "decoupling [...] from its religious origins." You mention "Hindu culture" - the sweatshirts, etc., are an example, if a potentially unflattering one, of Jewish culture and religion, intermingled Then as Now.

(As far as I know, the bat mitzvah is purely cultural in origin, in the sense that the back-in-the-day religious did not have such a ceremony, nor do some traditionalist sects today. Which is not to say it isn't celebrated religiously. It's just that, for girls, there was no religious form rendered profane by the handing out of sweatshirts.)

PG said...

Specifically American Jewish culture, surely? Or do bar and bat mitzvahs in Israel and across the diaspora also feature sweatshirt distribution?

Phoebe said...

Well, as my 'finding' re: the 'singles culture' of French Jewry suggests, American Jewish culture often is Jewish culture, for better or worse, because of the cultural influence of Roth/Allen/Seinfeld/bagels and the like.