My son informed me that tomorrow is “dress like a cowboy” day at his exclusive prep school. The following day is “80s day”. Both are supposed to be fun, special days in the lead up to Homecoming, which is this weekend.
Being in love with an actual ranch-managing cowboy, this news naturally gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m excited that my son will actually get to wear his gorgeous, expensive cowboy duds (purchased for his weekends at the ranch) to school. On the other hand, I know that “cowboy day,” like “Hawaiian day,” is probably designed to be somewhat ridiculous, meaning that to the administrators and students of this school the idea of dressing “cowboy” is just plain silly.
It’s ironic, in a way, because just last week the school hosted a big “diversity” workshop for the entire sixth grade, where the kids listened to the school psychologists talk about the importance of “respecting cultural differences”. I guess that respect doesn’t extend to cowboys…who, I can only assume, are thought to be relics of a bygone era, or nothing more than yokel versions of Yosemite Sam.
I wonder if it ever occurred to anyone at the school that there might be a student among their ranks who actually lives a cowboy life now and then, on an actual cattle ranch in Southeastern New Mexico. I also wonder how “dress like a cowboy” day is going to impact the way my son feels about his own identity as a part-time ranch kid. After all, it took a lot of work to get him past his own stereotypes of cowboys and country people in general when we first started visiting the ranch. And now, it seems, his own school might be reinforcing some of those negative stereotypes of cowboys. I mean, you don’t have “dress like a doctor” day, or “dress like a professor” day, presumably because those professions aren’t considered ridiculous at the prep school.
Maybe I’m overthinking this. Then again, maybe I’m right in thinking that respect for cultural diversity needs to be more than skin-deep, and ought to include rural people, and cowboys, too.