High school students' 9/11 sweatshirts: offensive? harmless? newsworthy?

So a group of students at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, MI (my alma mater, btw!) made some sweatshirts over the Christmas break to show a little Junior Class Pride.

I believe the front of the sweatshirts just had the year “2011” on it, but the back is where the controversy was found. There was a big 11 fashioned to look like the World Trade Center. Underneath were the words “You can’t bring us down.” There was a thunderbird (the school mascot) flying toward the 11/buildings.

Some additional facts:
-About half of the 1,700 students at Edsel Ford HS are Arabic
-About a third of Dearborn’s population is Arabic
-The handful of students that wore these sweatshirts were Arabic males
-This has been in the papers and on the local news and message boards for the past two days, with public opinion ranging from “Deport them!” to “Meh.”
-Here’s a link to a story.
My questions: Do you find this shirt offensive? Do you think this incident is newsworthy? Do you think the fact that Arabic kids made/wore them is significant?

1 vote for offensive.

1000 votes of stupid to any adult or school administrator who approved or sanctioned it.

I don’t care what race they are–I do think it’s tacky as hell. What’s the point of making a 9/11 reference?

No one approved it. They had them made on their own dime over the holidays. As soon as they showed up at school, they had them taken away.

Tasteless, at least. A lot of high school kids like tasteless humor.

No and no.

“Teenagers try to shock their elders with the clothes they wear. Film at 11”

Non-offensive, non-newsworthy, and the kids’ ethnicity is irrelevant. I would have approved the design.

Clicking the link, that 11 looked exactly like an eleven to me, and not at all like the WTC. The WTC had several visual characteristics, none of which were repeated in the 11:
-the long linear shape of the windows (the windows on the 11 are foursquare)
-the “belts” which were windowless support floors at 1/2 and 2/3 up (the windows are continuous)
-the plain rectangular shape. (the 11 is serifed top and bottom)
-the buildings were not side by side (the 1s of the 11 are side by side)

Other than being 11s with windows (windows that look nothing like those on the WTC, and probably look a lot more like the windows of their high school), I cannot understand how you can connect this with 9/11, unless you’re the type of person that’s mad that muslims are allowed to go to high school freely.

Is it seen as offensive because a lot of these students are Arabic? What would have happened if students at some white-bread high school elsewhere in Michigan had designed a shirt like that?

If it is offensive because they are Arabic, then the people taking offense are racist, IMHO.




I can see why others would be upset but I wouldn’t be bothered.

If they were aiming for a first reaction of “world trade center” they kind of missed.

Is it offensive? No. Is it newsworthy? Not in the slightest. Should anyone be getting in trouble over this? No, why the hell would they?

11s don’t typically have windows on them though. There’s no doubt that the reference was intentional. However, these are kids and kids don’t see things in quite the same way that experienced adults see things. After all 9/11 was half a lifetime ago for these guys and probably had no direct influence on their lives.

There’s an episode of Police Squad where Abraham Lincoln is shown pulling a gun in Ford’s Theater, spinning around and firing at (presumably) John Wilkes Booth. It is funny! Had it been JFK in a limo taking pot shots at the Dealey building it would no doubt have been deemed offensive. My point is that 9/11 to these kids is little more than a distant and vague memory.

That 11 looks about as much like the World Trade Center as two side-by-side games of Jenga. Which is to say, not at all.

Not offensive, not newsworthy, no matter the race.
Dorky? Kind of, but, they’re hs kids.

I AM mystified as to how a school believes that they have the right to confiscate somebody’s personal property.


A question to the people hung up on the artistic aspect: You don’t see how two upright rectangles with windows could at least *symbolize *the twin towers? Does all art need to be an exact replecation of the subject for people to know what is being inferred?

Or, rather, is your opinion here that the art is so bad that anyone who sees “World Trade Center” in that shirt is just looking to be bothered?

This. The artwork must at least suggest the represented thing in some obvious and unambiguous way. For example, if the artwork displayed a hollow square with windows, it would be a reach to say it represented the Pentagon. the 11s look a lot more like the Empire State Building x2 than the WTC.

Since this is a local news story, it popped up in my local news feed, and when I saw it I was surprised at how little I cared. Not that I don’t care whether they get in trouble, or I don’t care that they made the shirt, I just don’t care about any part of it.

Maybe it’s because of how recently I was in high school, or how not recently it was, but I really cannot imagine giving a flying fugg about anything anybody in high school does inside of high school. Their attempts to become relevant to the real world, and our attempts to allow them, are tiring to me.

They’re doing the exact same thing that teenagers in the 60’s did with long hair (for the boys), miniskirts (for the girls), protest against the Vietnam War, etc. What’s shocking has changed since then, but some teenagers’ desire to differentiate themselves from older people by doing something shocking hasn’t.

I’ve heard people wonder what teenagers would do to shock their parents these days when we’re so much less conservative than parents in the 60’s. Well, here it is. Enjoy.

I don’t get what’s supposed to be offensive about it, nor do I get what difference it makes that the kids are Arab. I think this sounds like an example of people just looking for an excuse to be indignant.

Three groups made mistakes here:

  1. The kids who designed the shirts. They could be slightly offensive and the kids might have known that if they hadn’t been 8 or 9 years old in 2001. No big deal.

  2. The school officials who leaked the story. Seems like the school and students dealt with a slightly offensive shirt via careful discussion and compromise - the horror! What are our schools teaching these days!

  3. The lazy-assed reporter(s) who had nothing better to do with their soap-box than try to stir up some racial hatred. What does the racial make up of the school have to do with anything other than an attempt by the reporters to create some heat for their story?

Those of you who take issue with the realism of the design*, would your opinion change if you knew that the kids intended the graphic to look like the WTC but simply failed? IOW, suppose the kids, when questioned, all admitted that it was their intent to depict the events of 9/11 substituting their class year and class mascot for the WTC and airplane. The pithy phrase was gravy. I have a feeling some folks will obstinately feign complete and utter surprise that anyone might confuse a stylized numeral for the graphic representation of two skyscrapers - these folks know deep inside they are dishonest in the extreme.

*thus implying that the graphic was not an attempt to depict 9/11.