Why do Michael Smith and Clark J. Matthews believe the length of high school boys’ hair is important

Read the following articles and take a position as for or against the dress code from the perspective as a student, administrator, or parent. I have attached more in depth instructions and the articles that must be used as evidence. Write letter to the editor
Teaching the JAH: September 2004 (Vol. 91, no. 2) Home | About | Contact Us | View All Installments
Flaunting the Freak Flag, by Gael Graham
Teaching the Article
Exercise 1
Exercise 2
Exercise 3
Exercise 4
Primary Sources
Further Reading
Teaching the Article
Exercise 4
Public Opinion
Although the editors of both of the main newspapers in El Paso–the El Paso Times and
the El Paso Herald-Post–belittled the significance of the battle over hair length in the
public high schools, both papers placed the story of Chesley Karr’s challenge to school
ofcials on their front pages and followed his story until it dead-ended with the refusal of
the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Karr’s appeal. Both published multiple editorials about the
case and the subsequent student uprising. Similarly, some citizens of El Paso found the
matter significant enough to write letters about it to the newspaper editors. Four such letters are reproduced here. Two of
the authors find the contest between students and school ofcials gravely important, although they disagree about which
party is right. The other two authors difer over how the case should come out but (in contrast to the first two authors)
agree that the issue is trivial. A fifth letter to advice columnist Ann Landers comments on one defense of long hair; it is
not specifically related to the case in El Paso.
Why do Michael Smith and Clark J. Matthews believe the length of high school boys’ hair is important? What other issues
do they draw in to make their points? What values seem to undergird their opinions? In contrast, what does “I Like It
Short” think about the hair debate? What does Ann Landers’s reply suggest about her opinion on long hair?
Back in El Paso, why do Edna S. Kelly and Mrs. Harry E. Jordan dismiss the controversy as insignificant? What values
permeate their views? Which letter writers wrestle most with the implications of long hair, and which seem to have some
agenda other than hair? Why do they use Karr’s case to pursue the other agenda? As a whole, what can these letters tell us
about the 1960s?
Although the El Paso letters were chosen (out of a large stack of letters) because they cover the range of opinion–two
pro-student, two anti-student; two seeing great signficance, two seeing much ado about nothing–the two letters that
emphasize the triviality of long hair were written by women, and the two letters that emphasize its importance were
written by men. Do you think this is a mere coincidence? What role might gender have played in forming these authors’
opinions? Do you think “I Like It Short” was a man or woman? Why? In what other documents in the other exercises do
you see ideas about gender and gender roles?
The last document in this section is an Associated Press report on Justice Hugo Black’s dismissal of Chesley Karr’s
petition to have the haircut rule suspended while his case worked its way through the courts. Why does Black think Karr’s
case is not worth hearing? With which of the letter writers do you think Black would most agree? Why? Is the author of the
news story a neutral reporter? How do you know?
A. Letter of Michael Smith to editor, El Paso Herald-Post, Feb. 1, 1971.
B. Letter of Clark J. Matthews to editor, El Paso Times, Feb. 8, 1971.
C. Letter of Mrs. Harry E. Jordan to editor, El Paso Herald-Post, Feb. 5, 1971.
D. Letter of Edna S. Kelly to editor, El Paso Herald-Post, Feb. 10, 1971.
E. Letter from “I Like It Short” to Ann Landers, San Francisco Examiner, June 23, 1971.
F. “Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Long Hair Case,” El Paso Times, Feb. 12, 1971.
Gael Graham, “Flaunting the Freak Flag: Karr v. Schmidt and the Great Hair Debate in American High Schools, 1965-
1975,” Journal of American History, 91 (Sept. 2004), 522-43.
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