The Deciding Factor


A Black History Month Letter to My Young Brothers and Sisters of Westside High School:

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” These words penned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspire our generation to reach high and achieve more than previous generations. Dr. King knew that we could be great if we would just focus on the true meaning of education.

Today I sat in a meeting of faculty, administrators, and a few parents, to discuss the important new dress code policy that will go into effect next school year. It was a civil, but tense meeting because some attendees believed the dress code policy raises issues about “freedom of expression.”

“Freedom of expression.” Do we even know what that means?

February is Black History Month. For some of us this is important because it is a reminder of the struggles those before us had to endure in order for us to attend (and be a faculty member of) a school such as Westside. It was not so long ago that the doors of schools like Westside would have been closed to over half their student populations.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Adults who lived in this country during the 1950’s and 60’s should remember this, and today’s students should study this; but our memories are short, and our love of history — clearly non-existent. Our priorities now reflect our selective memories and short attention spans. We want our “freedom of expression” but do not want to remember the sacrifices made, and that must be made, in order to fully enjoy what “freedom” really means.

True story:

A parent at today’s meeting said that his children had a choice to go to three schools – Westside and two others. Was the deciding factor over which school to attend the school’s outstanding magnet programs?


Was it the high quality of instruction and rigorous curriculum?


What, then, tipped the scales in Westside’s direction?

No dress code. No uniform.

“Freedom of expression.”

Dr. King must be rolling in his grave.

There was a time not so long ago when receiving a high quality education was the be-all, end-all. It was seen as the key to opening doors, and leveling the playing field so that we could be players in the game. It was about taking care of educational business and achieving the “intelligence plus character” that Dr. King described.

Today, “education” is about being able to wear whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want, and being educated is, oh-by-the-way, an afterthought.

The argument raised against uniforms is that personal “freedom of expression” is being infringed upon. I say that writing a good essay, poem, or song; playing great music; creating a beautiful piece of art; dancing; performing in the theatre, being a great athlete, or orator; creating a mouth-watering dish; attempting to preserve our environment; and treating others with kindness and generosity are the true forms of self-expression. When did our wardrobe become more important than these noble undertakings, or become the deal-breaker for determining where we should receive an education? Have we really been reduced to this?

Yet here we are. The world and Westside have changed because there are those who do not understand the meaning of “freedom.” The “freedoms” once taken for granted are being whittled away every time a student lets someone in a door that was supposed to be locked. When a student refuses to wear his or her ID (or even show it). Or, when a student uses someone else’s ID and tries to pass it off as his or her own. “Freedom” comes with responsibility and when we act irresponsibly those freedoms are lost and we all suffer.

So what are you going to do? Are you going to be outraged and fight for your wardrobe, or are you going to come to school to become a person of intelligence and character even though possibly inconvenienced just a bit by having to wear a blue shirt?

It’s Black History Month. Choose wisely.

T Moser

Tarah Moser, Graduation Coach/Teacher

Ms. Moser holds a BA from Howard University, and an MA from Louisiana Baptist University.  She has been teaching for 15 years in the subjects of English and Communications.  Currently, she is directing students into their futures as Westside High School’s Graduation Coach.  She loves to read and write, and to see her students excel and reach heights they never thought they could reach!