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TUPPER: A little bump and grind

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
The Daily Republic
(605) 996-5020 customer support
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

When we're teenagers, things that seem terribly important at the time become comically unimportant when viewed from the vantage point of later life.

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I'm sure that'll be the case with this year's Mitchell prom-goers, some of whom were upset about school officials cracking down on the style of dancing known as grinding. You may have read a story about it on Wednesday's front page.

Grinding is nothing new. It was happening when I was in high school in the 1990s. In fact, there's probably never been a song that inspired more grinding than 1993's "Bump N' Grind." (If you were paying attention to popular music in the '90s, you surely recognize the song's slow, chant-like hook: "I don't see nothin' wrong ... with a little bump and grind.")

Years before R. Kelly was irking parents with that song, there were other controversial dances. As long as there has been popular music, there have been adults and teenagers fighting about the way the music inspires the teenagers to move their bodies.

That's one way to view the local grinding controversy -- just another in a line of disputes that'll continue long after today's high schoolers have kids of their own.

Those of us with kids still living at home -- especially those of us who are fathers of daughters -- tend to view it more critically. When my 7-year-old daughter grows old enough to dance at the prom, I'd rather not have a teenage boy grinding his crotch against her body.

If you could travel backward through time and witness some of my behavior on the dance floor during the mid-1990s, you'd see it involved grinding and other embarrassing antics. Parenthood has made me a hypocrite; I admit it, but I make no apologies for being smarter now than I was then.

I understand that kids will be kids. When no adults are watching, teenagers sometimes engage in behavior that would make their parents cringe. It's part of growing up and figuring out how to be independent.

But when adults are present, they have a responsibility to model appropriate behavior.

That's exactly what Mitchell's school administrators did last weekend, and they should be commended for it. Senior High Principal Joe Childs was right when he said of grinding, "I don't think that creates a climate of mutual respect." What it creates is a climate of hyper-charged sexual tension, and that should not be cultivated or condoned at a school event.

The adults, meanwhile, are not entirely blameless. It's my guess that most kids don't know any other way to dance and have probably never benefited from an adult's dance instruction. If school administrators are going to outlaw the only form of dancing known to many students, there ought to be some school time set aside during the weeks leading up to prom for instruction in appropriate styles of dance.

Mitchell was formerly the site of an annual polka festival. There are plenty of people in this city who could teach kids the two-step, square dance, jitterbug, waltz and other styles.

That would undoubtedly sound lame to high schoolers at first, but think of how beneficial it could be, both for the older folks who'd get to share their knowledge and for the students who might gain a lifelong skill.

When those kids age into their 30s and 40s and beyond, they won't have much use for grinding. And with no knowledge of any other dance styles, they'll be left on the sidelines anytime dancing is called for.

Ultimately, that's one of the many things wrong with a little bump and grind.

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