Friday, September 15, 2017

Matchy Matchy

We have a saying here in early childhood-world. If you see a child persist in a certain kind of behavior, say, screaming when they don't get what they want, it usually means that someone, somewhere, is rewarding that behavior.

So let's talk about matching tshirts.

The t-shirt printing companies must be making a killing in Howard County what with all the community groups wanting to turn out for meetings, hearings, and protests in gear that matches their cause. If one person holding a sign is good, ten are better. If they all wear the same color, it has visual impact. If they wear matching t-shirts, it presents an imposing visual message. Looks great in photos and on the tv news.

At some point people observed the goings-on in the County Schools and perceived that the groups with the matching t-shirts got better service than those who didn't. And once that cycle of rewarding behavior began, it has dominated the scene.

I have nothing against t-shirts in and of themselves. But I think we've gotten stuck in an unproductive cycle where the people with the money to create and buy matching t-shirts expect that they will win the day. What about the people who can't afford to do that? Are their concerns less valid? Do they deserve the leftovers after the t-shirt people divide up the pie?

I think it's time to break this cycle. I'm not sure how to do that. Do we specifically forbid the matching t-shirt gambit? Censure it like schools have with articles of gang apparel?

As a teacher I'd say that the way to extinguish an undesirable behavior is to stop rewarding it. And let's decide as a community what kind of behavior is worth rewarding.

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