High school is tough enough on its own without any additional responsibilities. Now imagine for a moment you are a star athlete for your school, participating in football, basketball and track. You are also a young dad trying to raise a baby. And, oh yeah, you also have the highest grade point average of anyone in your graduating class and are the valedictorian. Now imagine being told, despite all your accomplishments, you won't be allowed to participate in your high school graduation, perhaps one of the most memorable days of your life.
That's the real-life story of Andrew Jones from Amite High School in Amite, Louisiana. When he showed up for graduation, school administrators told him he couldn't participate in the ceremony unless he went to the bathroom and shaved his beard. He was told that it was school policy that male students aren't allowed to have facial hair, even though his beard was never an issue in the four years he was a student at the school. Jones shaved the sides of his beard, but left a small goatee on his face, and wasn't allowed to graduate.
Now yes, to be fair, there are people who will say that the rules are the rules, and that Jones clearly didn't follow them. But you can't make that argument because school officials didn't follow the rules either. Jones' facial hair was never an issue in the four years he had the beard while attending classes. Also, other students in the school district allegedly had facial hair during graduation. You can't enforce the rules when you feel like it or when it's convenient for you.
This is simply a lack of critical thinking in so many ways from the school officials. These are the very people who are supposed to be setting the standard of excellence for our children, preparing them for the life in front of them and to enter the real world, yet when it comes to using common sense over something that shouldn't have even been an issue, there is none.
I don't know Andrew Jones personally, but from media reports out there and what I have read, this is a good kid. This is someone with a future ahead of him. This is someone that other kids should be looking up to academically and in sports. He's going to college on an academic and sport's scholarship.
He has some facial hair, and had that facial hair all of high school. So what? Big deal. The guy has some facial hair like millions of other men. This isn't a troublemaker. This isn't someone causing problems. This is a good kid who was treated unfairly and school officials screwed up big time.
Jones' aunt summed it up perfectly. She said, "For a young man that talented, and very academic, to hold a 4.0 and still manage to be a father to his child, the sky's the limit to me."
I hope Andrew Jones doesn't let this spoil his future because I'm predicting big things for this kid. He's got the smarts. He has the athleticism. He's a natural leader who's not willing to be bullied and pushed around. If he doesn't go pro in the NFL or NBA, he'll make a great entrepreneur or valuable asset to whatever company is lucky enough to get him.
For everyone else out there, whether you are with the educational system in America as an administrator, teacher or whatever, it's time to start teaching critical thinking skills. Math, science, language arts and history are certainly important, but where is the critical thinking? What are we doing to ensure our children know how to think on their feet and make smart decisions in real-life settings? This is certainly a terrible example.
What happened to Andrew Jones demonstrates such a lack of critical thinking, it's unbelievable. It's time we check delusion at the door and start operating from objective reality. It's time we put our efforts into solving problems that really matter. It's time we become critical thinkers.
As for Jones, Amite High School owes him an apology. In fact, what they should do is allow him to participate in another graduation ceremony, give his valedictorian speech and walk across the stage like he should have been able to do in the first place.