As usual, schools are hosting Halloween parties this year. But some are now forbidding costumes that are too scary, gory or saddening. Kids dressed as food items or cuddly animals are encouraged.
Maybe your son wanted to dress up as a carrot for his school's Halloween parade, but it seems to me that these prohibitions could create a holiday that will only be fun for girls dressed up as furry rabbits and fairy princesses. This is a very bad turn of events for the other kind of kid—you know, the ones who are more likely to dress up as zombies. I'm talking about boys.
I can see school officials putting the kibosh on costumes that mock race or gender. Who needs that? And outlawing those tasteless harem-girl costumes or French maid getups, which sexualize little girls in a creepy way that's even more skin crawling because the little girls themselves are too young to understand it. Good riddance to those.
But costumes that are too scary? That carry a hint of menace? Let me ask you a question, Why are we so afraid of the edgy, irreverent things that boys find fascinating? Do school officials really believe that a boy dressed up as a devil or a zombie will grow up to pledge himself to the Dark Lord or develop a taste for flesh?
Many more boys than girls struggle in school. They get suspended and expelled more. They get more C's and D's. They are more likely to disengage and drop out.
What are they supposed to make of schools that champion the imaginative life of girls and outlaw the stuff that they like? For the last three years, I've been spending a lot of time looking at the underachievement of boys in school. When asked, boys who are struggling say, "School is set up for girls." I'd hate to think that is true. But honestly, this latest round of Halloween prohibitions really makes me wonder.
Here's my solution: Teachers and school officials should forget about Halloween. Carve a pumpkin in homeroom and then get back to educating our kids. What costumes your daughter and son will wear for Halloween should not be decided at a school board meeting or in the superintendent's office. The appropriate place for this debate is in your living room.
Now, excuse me while I go get into my princess costume.
Peg Tyre is the author of The Trouble With Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School and What Parents and Educators Must Do. She can be reached at www.pegtyre.com.
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