[Photos courtesy of my lovely niece, Lee Naziri]
I think I have written about school uniform and its (negative) educational value many times, yet somehow, I do not have the feeling I have written enough. I hope you can read my frustration with this topic in my sarcasm, because I am not happy at all.
My daughter Noff asked me to brush her hair today.
“Can you do my hair in two pig tails?” she asked.
“Sure, pig tails, pony tail, whatever makes you happy”, I thought to myself, went to the drawer where we keep all her hair bands the hair brush, took out a pink hair band and a yellow one and put them on the table, preparing to brush her hair. To my surprise, Noff put the hair bands back in the drawer and got red and black ones instead.
“We are not allowed to wear pink hair bands”, she said.
“Has someone told you anything about your hair band?” I asked her.
“Yes, we can only wear green, red, black and white”, said Noff (green and red are the school uniform colors).
Now I have some questions for you:
- Why on Earth would anyone be bothered by a 7-year-old’s hair band color?
Schools, as you may know, have lots of problems with bullying, mental health, parents divorcing, devastating literacy and numeracy levels, drop outs, violence and racism. Surely, the right way to fight all those sicknesses of our society is not by making sure that my 7 year old daughter wears the right hair band.
- How on Earth is the color of the hair band related to kids’ learning?
Schools, as you may know, should be the best place for kids to learn. This is why the private school and tutoring industries are blossoming and tutoring advertisements are distributed in the public schools’ newsletters. Surely my daughter will not read more or knows her math and science better if she wears the right hair band.
- What on Earth is the value of raising 1,600 obedient kids?
Schools, as you may not know, are all about discipline and conformism. “If you break their spirit when they are young, they will do exactly what you want them to do later” seems to be their motto. Kids will grow to be extraordinarily obedient teenagers and adult citizens because they know exactly the consequences of wearing a pink hair band. But what about creativity? What about happiness?
- What on Earth is the importance of killing kids’ individuality?
Schools, as you may not know, are all about aiming for the average. This is how the “tall poppy syndrome” came about. They teach kids not to stick out to make it easy for the system to “handle” them. They teach kids who are born in the same year the same things and test them by the same benchmarks and expectations, because being an average society is the essence of our education system. But surely, advocating mediocrity is not the way to come up with young leaders, young creative minds and lots of future innovation. This would require wearing pink hair bands.
- Why on Earth would a school system bother to waste public money on chasing hair band offenders?
Schools, as you may know, have an ever-declining supply of resources and funds. This is why at the beginning of the year, they ask parents to pay a “voluntary” contribution to cover expenses that are considered “non-essential” (and are therefore not covered by tax money), like the library, Internet, copying, excursions. And if you do not pay, your child will just have to miss out. Additionally, teachers have 30 kids (or more) in every class, which should leave them very little time to be uniform policemen. Yet, the deputy principals’ role seems to do a lot with discipline and teachers still manage to find time to check students’ uniforms. Even the school’s weekly newsletter, funded with my own “voluntary contribution”, contains regular pleas to ban pink hair bands and the likes. Surely, instead of funding a newsletter full of “dangerous uniform law infringements” and tutoring ads, parents could spend their money on something that actually promotes their kids’ wellbeing, academic success and happiness.
- How on Earth can this contribute to kids’ social abilities?
Schools, as you may know, are the best places to learn social skills. If kids do not compete with each other by comparing hair band (“Mine is pink and yours is white”), how will they learn social skills relating to clothes? Surely, kids will not threaten anyone by showing off their pink hair band and will not use their hair band to bully, hurt or abuse other kids. If we want to teach them how to build rapport with their friend, we need to do is teach them to copy others and to try to look exactly like the others. At the same time, we must teach them to use their pink hair band to show their individuality. Doing this at an early age will prevent us later on from having buy brand name clothes and gadgets (“Because I want to be like my friends”) or seeing our kids pierce themselves only because others do it.
- Where on Earth do we have uniform and why?
As you probably know, prisons, slaves, waiters and sales people wear uniforms to brand an organization. Branding is important for every organization. This is why one school has the kids’ wearing a black and gray uniform and another chooses blue and red. Each school can brand itself using public money this way. You see, kids with uniforms are easily recognized by others and are reminded they “belong” to an organization. As a promoter of diversity and acceptance, I see this as encouragement for segregation, discriminations and so on. This is especially true when kids are controlled to the pink hair band level.
As you can see, I am not happy, not happy at all. And my daughter’s school is a good school – we picked it also because it puts less emphasis on hair bands than other schools do (we know of others whose uniform rules cover bras and underwear!).
The Journal of Education Research published in 1998 an investigation into the claim that the use of a uniform will decrease substance use (drugs), decrease behavioral problems, increase attendance and increase academic achievement.
This Scientific School Uniform Research concludes:
The findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems, or attendance. Contrary to current discourse, the authors found a negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement
[Quick, bring me my soap box]
So join me in creating the “Pink hair band” movement, which allows the kids to wear whatever they like in their hair, regardless of uniform. Talk to you friends, call your local politician and raise your parental concerns at meetings of the school parents. Together, we can get schools to teach our kids important stuff and let them be individuals, pink hair band and all.