Modern American History Essay

Pages: 6 (1636 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

¶ … American History

The cultural revolution of the 1960s and early 1970s brought about, not only in the U.S., but throughout the entire world, a revolt of the younger generation against what they perceived as restrictions to their expression for their parents, teachers or other figures of authority. In order to be a successful revolt, this generation needed anchors it could believe in and attach itself to it, controversial issues on which their position would certainly be different than that of the authority figures.

In the early 1960s, the cultural arena was a potential anchor that the generation could use. This was controversial not necessarily because of the music itself, but because of its implications into other related areas, such as fashion and dancing. The music that the Beatles made was innocent enough in its early messages, but their impact was felt in the way they dressed and grew their hair, which made the younger generation adopt them as rebel anchors.

So, hair was one of the related products of the cultural revolution during the 1960s. However, hair's symbolism and capacity to differentiate goes back a long way, perhaps to the Antiquity. Everybody is familiar with the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah, where the strength of the man is in his hair. Ever since the ancient times, hair has been associated with sexuality and strength in man.

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On the other hand, as the article "Flaunting the Freak Flag: Karr v. Schmidt and the Great Hair Debate in American High Schools, 1965-1975" shows, hair was also a mean to differentiate between cultures. For example, white colonialism would impose cutting the natives' hair as a sign of their imposing authority. This mention is necessary, because in discussing the article, we will need to draw historical parallels between the exercising of authority at different times in history.

TOPIC: Essay on Modern American History Assignment

The aim of this paper is to approach the Karr vs. Schmidt case and the grate hair debate from three different perspectives: the students' perspective, the teachers' and administrative staff perspective, and the judicial perspective.

From a students' perspective, as Chelsey Karr clearly mentioned, growing longer hair was both "a cultural statement and a practical matter." The superficial motivation of the cultural statement was Karr's wish to belong to the peace movement. However, as the hippie and peace movement was a movement against the actions of the government, the federal authority, Karr's affiliation with such a cultural trend was also, intrinsically, an affiliation with a movement of revolt against a central authority, in this case the school administration.

At the same time, it was also an identity statement for Karr, in view of this affiliation to a cultural movement where, especially during the late 1960s, long hair became the common denominators of most rock bands. Musicians grew their hair long as a distinctive mark of their cast, but also because it was a statement on their own behalf against the central authority.

From a practical perspective, Karr's motivation, potentially used by other students as well, was that he had returned from a vacation on the farm and haircuts had been more difficult to obtain there. Similarly, returned to school, the practical argument would have supported the idea according to which it is much simpler to get more rare haircuts.

The teachers' and school administration argumentation revolves around the idea of authority and exercising this authority. Beyond futile and puerile arguments, such as the fact that longer hair might be dangerous during the experiments in science class, the problem was not even necessarily the longer hair itself, but the fact that this went beyond the very strict framework of rules and regulations that the school system imposed. The framework itself was not necessarily the primary issue of concern, but a breach in this framework and the non-recognition or fight against the imposed authority, if left as such, could have later led to more serious breaches of authority.

It was, in my opinion, a similar manner of thinking as we would see going on during the same period of time at a more macro, national level: the protests at Berkeley or Ohio University were dangerous because they could transform themselves into a large movement against state authority and impact the established order in the state. The act of challenging authority, if nor fought against from the very beginning, from small issues such as hair, could be dangerous in challenges it can bring on bigger issues in terms of importance.

This argumentation is further held in place by the fact that the hair was not the solitary issue targeted by the schools, as we can see from the article. The hair length was just part of a much longer list of regulations that were included in the school systems. These included in some schools dress codes, school uniforms etc. And went as far on (but again in corroboration with breaches of authority and potential protests) as not wearing protest black armbands in school.

There was also a connection between the cultural revolution and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. In my opinion, the teachers' stand was not only against the affiliation to a cultural movement, but towards or against the affiliation to a dangerous sexual revolution that allowed for the demarcation lines between genders to be removed or at least, to be less emphasized. For individuals growing up during the 1920s and 1930s, this was an impossible act.

Further more, this also has to be seen from a Cold War perspective, where the ever-present tension with the Soviet enemy made all authorities reticent to allow any form of exacerbated freedoms. Especially in Europe, notably France, but probably also in the U.S., belonging to a cultural movement usually also meant affiliations with leftist ideology, which was usually only one step away from Communism. The fight against Communism and the Soviet Union often took, in its micro form, the instruments of fighting against longer hair.

This turns the issue to the judicial segment I have mentioned in the thesis. From a judicial point-of-view, there were two perspectives, with different branches, that could be used. First of all, the children and students in schools could be considered as enjoying all the rights and obligations of regular U.S. citizens, which would have foremost meant that they would be protected by the U.S. Constitution and that, in that way, they could enjoy basic freedoms, such as the freedom of expression.

Following on this logical train of thought, fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression (but going further to include Amendments Five and Nine) would mean that the individual in school would be able to express himself by any mean he saw fit, including through longer hair, even if that meant a sympathy with a certain culture or trend.

The other judicial perspective is that the school itself is not a framework in which the Constitution has to be applied to the students, but an environment operating by its own laws, outside this constitutional framework. Obviously, this is a difficult interpretation, because removing the constitutional rights for students can give way to dangerous impositions from the teachers and administrative staff that could go even beyond the simple long vs. short hair debate.

Obviously, it is also interesting to point out that even the judicial opinion sometimes pulls away from the actual facts and resorts to the long reasonable vs. unreasonable debate. In Judge Suttle's decision, "the haircut rule is not reasonably related to the professed goal," sustains the court on November 19 (Graham, 2006). However, such arguments were reversed at the Court of Appeals, that cited that constitutionality did not apply in these cases, as of our argument previously used, decision which virtually marked the defeat of high school students in their demarches (despite Karr's case going up to the Supreme Court).… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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