The fall of identification nation


Oct. 8, 2009, midnight | By Lauren Teixeira | 10 years, 11 months ago

A look back at the controversial cards


This summer, after a decade of enhancing outfits, preventing abductions and inducing controversy, IDs were let go. No longer were we mandated to wear the pieces of plastic visibly-above-the-waist. For a few days, the announcement dominated Facebook statuses and casual conversation within Blair social networks. Then, we proceeded to...not wear our IDs.

So what's changed? Well, ID wearing has decreased (nominally). We might be more vulnerable. Security guards will have less to do. (Or is that why we have the lunch policy now?) The change has been subtle, yet significant. It is the end of an era — what future Blair historians might call the "ID era." Like many tumultuous periods in history, it was a time of unrest and anxiety, as well as a time of cultural fertility.

For example, some of us still remember the infamous ID controversy of 2006, when students found out that the shiny new cards were offered in an exciting range of colors. But the idea was hardly collect 'em all. In fact, they were assigned based on the programs within Blair — including a harsh bright yellow for English as a Second Language students. Community reaction was immediate and severe. In a racially and economically diverse school already vulnerable to self-segregation, why would the administration seek to divide students further? In a Silver Chips Online poll, two-thirds of students voted color-coding a "hideous embarrassment." Tantalized by accusations of segregation, media from all over the tri-state area descended upon Blair. But after a while, 1984 references and incensed Facebook groups get a little stale. People go back to discussing more important issues of the day, like Pluto's demotion in the universe to a minor planet. The next year, the color coding was gone and so was the media storm. Although the requirement of wearing IDs at all times remained, it provoked only the measly annual controversy.

But IDs, already unpopular, would never recover from the stigma of the color-coding debacle. Ensuring their wear became increasingly difficult. To some students, they were physical reminders of unjust policymaking. To others, they were just a cumbersome and ugly accessory. Still more "forgot them at home." The daily struggle between students, security guards and teachers became a tired, pointless exercise. So Principal Williams' announcement this August was a long time coming. The ID policy's tarnished credibility, coupled with a severe dearth of compliance among students, guaranteed its speedy decline. The impossibility of enforcing it subverted the policy's original intent, which was to single out intruders through their lack of ID. Math teacher Peter Engelmann, one of the most prominent enforcers of ID wearing back in the day, said of the revised policy: "Either everyone's on board or they're not." And depending on whom one asks, students have not been "on board" the ID policy since 2006, after the crisis, or rather, since 1998, when the policy was first instituted.

But the legacy of the doomed badges is not all bitter. It prompted one of Blair's cultural mainstays, Dr. Coleman's ID rap. (For uninitiated underclassmen — the ID rap was a massively popular one-hit wonder conceived, written and performed by Dr. Coleman. Some sample lyrics: "IDs, IDs, IDs.") Although Coleman refuses to admit nostalgia for the ID era, he breaks into a smile at the mention of his brainchild. No word, though, on whether he's planning to drop a new single — or a new ID policy. We're holding our breath.



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