Bill Marvel is a man of eminent character and integrity. Unlike Liz Bouchard who has yet to even graduate high school, he has accomplished much personally, professionally, and civically in the real world for decades.
More importantly, Bill’s school commentary — which recently drew an indignant response from Ms. Bouchard — was simply correct. For those two reasons alone, Bill needs no defense from me or anyone else in rebuttal to Ms. Bouchard’s letter, which, I emphasize, she had the constitutional right to write.
Nonetheless, I am going to call Ms. Bouchard out on her response because it is emblematic of larger problems afoot in this country. The truth may be “uncomfortable” for Ms. Bouchard to hear, but better she begin to learn it now than in the real world when it is too late. She has a little growing up to do at Bowdoin and beyond.
Bill’s obvious point in his school commentary about the pajamas vis-a-vis low scholastic performance numbers at Kennett is that many in today’s world — from students to young adults to even older people — don’t want to work or work hard for what everyone else in generations prior had to work for; they just want it to be handed to them sitting in their pajamas in their recliners playing video games all day, even though that’s not how reality works (for most people, at least), even if we all want it to. These “snowflakes”— for lack of a better word — want to be “comfortable”: pampered, provided for, and pandered to in every way, without any pressures, practical concerns, or personal responsibilities whatsoever.
Although every generation has had its slackers, the difference is that today’s impressionable young people — especially students —a re being told by the cultural elite that it’s okay for them to be narcissistic and self-indulgent; that things like obeying the law, working hard, achieving standards, acting professionally, being productive citizens, serving one’s country and community, and being selfless are merely discriminatory constructs of old white men. The problem is that not only is such a concept as the elite are peddling racist, sexist, and ageist itself, and ludicrous to boot, but it generally sets those who embrace it up for failure later on when they are rudely awakened by life's reality. Life is inexorably “hard” at some point for everyone — sometimes for one’s entire life —and it requires preparation and training for best dealing with it. “Snacks and naps” are for kindergarten — not high school, where students are supposed to be dress-rehearsing for the real world.
Bill and other concerned adults speak up about school issues because they have the valuable wisdom and experience from having lived life to do so — and also, quite frankly, because they pay the taxes that support the schools (rule of thumb in a democracy: if you pay, you get a say). Students have neither of those qualifications.
Ms. Bouchard was also wrong when — with great irresponsibility and immaturity — she both said that “[i]t is truly unfortunate to see men still commenting on teenage girls [sic] bodies,” and referred to adults and the practice or condoning of “body shaming.”
Ms. Bouchard had no real defense of her position so she clearly resorted to what was either a sexist trope or false scandalous innuendo against Bill or men in general — fashionable tactics these days for the same above wokerati who tell people it’s okay to be narcissistic. There was no mention in Bill’s commentary about teenage girls’ bodies — or teenage boys’ bodies or anybody else’s bodies for that matter.
Clothing standards for students (generic) was simply discussed. Moreover, both responsible adult women and responsible adult men can and do have opinions on the public subject of students’ dress, girls’ and/or boys’ — including when the students are the daughters or sons of the adults having the opinions.
Furthermore, opposing pajamas or other excessively loose fitting items of clothing as acceptable dress in schools is neither practicing nor condoning so-called “body shaming.”
Putting aside the fact that, again, Bill in his commentary never mentioned anyone’s body shape or size much less denigrated it, the woke concept of “body shaming” is questionable at best, and dishonest at worst. Who is actually doing the shaming when so-called “body shaming” occurs? Isn’t it really the people supposedly being shamed? In other words, the people feel a-shamed of themselves for how they look, and rather than taking responsibility for their own bodies — either by losing weight or exercising or whatever, or simply accepting themselves as beautiful the way they are — they blame others for their own uncomfortableness in their skin. We all have our moments of self-consciousness about our bodies, but wearing pajamas are never going to make those moments go away.
Ms. Bouchard has her entire future ahead of her, and I'm sure everyone wishes her well with it. As she goes to college and then graduates and forges a life for herself, she may well look back one day at Bill’s commentary and think: that old guy was right after all. Or maybe she won't.
Jim Pietrangelo lives in North Conway and is a frequent letters contributor.