Why There Is No Dress Code at NCA

To legislate or relate; that is the question.

At a Christian school we try to work through applying principles, but so often things degenerate into a negative list of rules:  Don’t wear your hair longer than the collar!  Don’t wear a skirt that is two inches above the knee!  We end up following the pathway of the pharisees, and like them we do it all in the pursuit of righteousness.  On the school leadership team, I have seen the descent from a neat set of one or two rules to fifteen, to thirty, to …  You can get to a place where “Logo sweatshirts are permitted, as long as they are worn to and from the classroom or to play outside.  The logo itself must not be offensive, agressive or violent (oh dear, here’s another set of clarifying rules waiting to happen!).  An exception can be made for sweatshirts that were bought on school trips (why this exception and why not others?).

The key to defeating this problem is to look beyond the details to the principles.  Why would we not wear a certain article of clothing?  What are the positive values that we want to promote with our clothes?  We need to move away from a legislative, “What can I get away with and not get canned?” to a relational, “What can I wear that would promote unity, harmony, and community?”  The focus should be on the latter.  The discussions about dress with students shouldn’t be reduced to, “I am the authority and I say this is not appropriate!”  We shouldn’t make a list of rules to try and catch every little thing that we don’t approve of.  There should be a patient dialog with a student to find out why they are wearing certain clothes.  Classes should discuss why fashions become popular.  We should look at pictures of student age icons wearing various clothes and say, “What is this icon communicating?” The discussions should be appropriate to age. 

The questions that drive our education should lead to an understanding of why certain behaviors, attitudes and concepts are prevailing.  Once persuasive arguments founded in strong student teacher relationships have broken down,we should only use legislation as a last resort.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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8 Responses to Why There Is No Dress Code at NCA

  1. rookie1987 says:

    I would have to say that a dress code is seen as needed by some because not all people have the same standards as to what is appropriate and what is not. Our current dress code is too strict for some and not strict enough for others. There are a few oddities in the code which have been brought about because of different issues arising. I agree that the principles should be the guiding force and not the details. I at times tend to take rules and push on the limits till right before the breaking point. I believe our whole society has a problem with rules and regulatoins and laws. I mean take a look at our court system where detail rules the day and principles for the most part are thrown out the window. I say this because known criminals are let off because of details. But going back to students I think there is a lot to learn about people from what they wear, but as the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
    Salt and Light

  2. Jason4Christ says:

    Hmmmm… Yes, the principles behind all rules are important and should not be thought of as so shallow. Life is not so black and white as “this is offensive” and “this is not offensive”. It seems the previous generations would just slap more clothing on someone wearing revealing clothing. But we should not just treat it as a “mindless trend”. First, we should investigate if the person who wears whatever they’re wearing has reason for it (i.e. desiring attention, desiring to rebel, etc.). Second, we should teach people to think. Think through things. If one thing bothers me, it’s a mindless “because I felt like it” that permeates so many peoples motive. If you can’t tell me why you did what you did or why you said what you said or why you’re wearing would it be to harsh to say that you’ve no business doing, saying or wearing it then?? Thanks for the thought provoking blog!!

  3. We tend to get so caught up in what we are wearing, how we look, who is wearing the latest trends, or who just got something new, that we forget the bigger picture: we are here to learn. At my previous college (OSU-3 years) I was in six organizations at one point. I had to dress up all the time, (look nice) I was a major prep and spent hours getting ready to to impress everyone. I got so caught up in what was expected of me (to look a certain way) that I lost focus of who I was and what I was going there for which was an education! I liked your comment “What can I wear that would promote unity, harmony, and community?”Getting dressed in the morning shouldn’t be about what a certain set of rules say b/c then people think what rule could I break today, or constant question themselves if they are breaking a rule. It shouldn’t be about who can I impress today (all about me) or who can I put down with what I wear (rebelling or thinking that you are better than someone by what you can afford). What we wear should express our own unique tastes. When we start getting obsessed with how we look for people or a certain set of rules we lose who we are a bit in the process. We try to mold to other people’s expectations of us and not our own. God made us each unique in our tastes for a reason-so we do not all look the same (variety is a good thing). We need to be modest to an extent since we are Christians but I think that as adults we are capable of figuring out what this means. I do not think that we need to have a certain set of rules telling us what to wear. I think that we are capable of making wise decisions if given the freedom to. It is when rules are applied that people tend and do to rebel in every way that they can. ~M.S.Anderson

  4. I agree with you that often times dress codes can follow the path of the Pharisees but I defiantly feel there is a often a need for them. If only people were mature enough to realize what is appropriate or what would, as you put it, “promote unity, harmony, and community.” The rules begin to add up as people take advantage of the freedom they have. Do the rules seem crazy at times? Yes, but most are added after the freedom has been abused.Unfortunately it doesn’t seem many people even consider what their clothes might communicate to others – or, even worse, they don’t care. Maybe I’m being selfish but I don’t feel its right for me to have to sit behind a guy wearing a T-shirt with an offensive saying on it, or sit uncomfortably next to a girl who is getting too much attention for her less then there outfit.Although I like fashion, I may be one of the few that sometimes wish for uniforms…as long as it suits my taste…

  5. Jitzig says:

    To me it seems that the more I am aware with my need to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, the more I realize that I do not want to participate in such activities. However, this can be ambiguous. We would have to go deep into the hearts of so many people and see what they consider to be the likeness of Christ. Ideally, we would all get the same vision from reading the same Word of God. In an institution like we are in, it seems likely that we could change the dress code by preaching the same message. I believe that for the most part, this can happen. However, it is sin that prevents us from seeing the error of our ways. We may all be hearing the same message, but we all struggle with sin at different levels. We may all be on the same page as to what we should wear, but I think that the infection of sin prevents the ability for us to exclude legislation. Legislation brings about a sense of aesthetics and commonality within this instution. We are to mimic Christ in our actions. If our leaders are legislating with Christ in mind as well as realizing that they are subject to error and are willing to hear conflicting opinions, I see a nice harmony between rules and obedience.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Simply put… there are more important things to teach kids than what to wear and what not to. Dress for success? Designer clothes? WHO CARES? God sure doesn’t… too bad society does.

  7. Perhaps the idea of “church discipline” should not be limited to the local “church”. (I like to call it the local extension of the body of Christ, but hey, that wouldn’t be very practical a sign, would it? lol) Teach what the Word of God says, and actually trust the students to do so. Rebuke where needed, and if necessary, put the rebellious Christian out into the world with the hope of their restoration. How then, could this be fleshed out in an instituation such as Moody where a good deal of money is paid to come here, be fed, have a place to stay, etc? It will not happen as long as we replicate some of the practices of the world. We are to be radically different from the world. Moody does indeed stand out, but usually as people who are “spiritual” and generally nice in the eyes of the world. Our differnce seems to be our moral code instead of an unthinkably different lifestyle. Granted, the world will never “get it”, there should be more of a contrast than there is. We are not called to just this! Could you imagine if we lived for example, having all things in common or taking sin VERY seriously? I submit that we as God’s people would be rejected as a bunch of crazy’s and the problem of the body of Christ being riddled with non-committed “pious” church-goers would not be as intense as it currently is. This is not to say we should never invite unsaved people to listen to preaching or whatever, but to include them in fellowship is definately counter-productive. Asa

  8. alexgoreham says:

    Although we should not judge by what people look like, it really hard not to. For Christians its important to present themselves as workmen approved by God. The way one dresses is part of that. In other words, i don’t think is correct for a person in ministry to be wearing a see through shirt or shorts that do not even cover their butt,so on and so on. I also don’t think that people in full time ministry need to be wearing a polo and dress shirts all the time. I think at Moody we have a dress code because the men and woman that pay for our tuition want Moody students to present themselves in a certain way. Hey, i am getting free tuition, i can obey that rule for 4 years. ALEX GOREHAM

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