New duds?

What would school be without a little sparring over student attire?

It's a bit unusual for dress codes to be a focus in the educational off-season. But the skin-baring summertime seems to be spurring principals and students alike to reflect on the fact that what they're seeing on the beach bears striking resemblance to what they just said goodbye to in the classroom.

Hence a flurry of activity: In Carroll County, Md., students put off by itty-bitty shorts and no-rise jeans proposed a code stricter than what adults might have dreamed up. They cite respect as an issue – and others point to a code's ability to reduce competition and wealth distinctions among kids.

In Cedarburg, Wis., officials and students are targeting alcohol logos and jeans with writing on the posterior. A code in Duncanville, Texas, bans T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, and pants that sag below the waist. And British university leaders are warning students they may have to "smarten up" if they want to graduate – and grades aren't the issue.

Even teachers are in dress-code sights: The district of Sayreville, N.J., is eyeing rules to reacquaint educators with ties and dress slacks.

It seems the Western world is awash in slobs. Schools being our first line of defense against ignorance, perhaps they should sound the rallying cry. Respect, even employment, may be at stake, after all. But even if dress stays a bit racier than we'd like, there's hope. I recall a vote to ban ripped jeans in my high school in the early 1970s. It lost. But by the late '70s we were in college - sporting Gunne Sax skirts and Frye boots.

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