Anne here, talking about schools and rules and uniforms.I've always worn a uniform to school, ever since my first year at school. It's standard practice here — and in the UK. That's me in the group on the right, the year we lived in Scotland. I was eight. (I'm in the middle of the second front row, next to the girl in the dark tunic.)
A friend of mine has been discussing school rules with her young teen daughter. She (the daughter) recently received a detention because… well, this is how she answered the punishment sheet when asked, Which rule did you break?
She answered: I was wearing two small parts of my hair out.
Why did you choose to disregard the school rule?
I don't know, really.
We have school rules so the school community will operate smoothly.
Yes we do need rules but some of them are too strict. I don't think they should have the rule in the first place – how is wearing my hair in the way I want it going to disrupt my learning?
What changes will people around you start to notice if you abide by rules?
That my hair is off my face
The two high schools I attended had the same very strict rules about hair and uniforms. Most schools in Australia — government and private —have uniforms, and one of the rules at my school — and that of my friend's daughter — was that if hair (for girls or boys) touched the collar, it was to be tied back. So all the girls had tiny pigtails, some really tiny — an inch or so long.
And we all thought it was ridiculous.
Uniform rules were also strict. I got busted once in year eight for being out of uniform — I was spending the night at my married sister's house and had gone straight from my suburban high school to the central city library where she worked and was helping out in the library until she finished work. They needed milk for coffee, so I ran around the corner to buy some and was caught — at 6.15 pm — in uniform but not wearing my hat and gloves. So the next week I had detention.
And when we moved to the city and I went to a different school, I used to meet my brother after school at the university across the road so we could drive home together and he used to tell me to "lose the lid" — ie take off my bottle green school hat, which was mega uncool. I did, but I kept a wary eye out in case I was caught.
At various times in various schools, there are debates about the wearing of school uniforms — occasionally about whether school uniform should be compulsory or not, but mostly the debate is about how strictly the uniform rules should be enforced.
As a young teacher at inner suburban government high schools I was supposed to discipline students for not wearing full uniform, sending boys home for not wearing a tie in summer, and girls for wearing white socks with their summer uniform instead of the official brown ones. I never could see the point in sending children home because of their socks or ties.
It took me a while, as a young teacher, to understand that strict uniform rules were not so much valuable in themselves and were not even really about the uniform, but were more a symbol of school discipline. If uniform rules were strictly enforced, the school had a reputation as "a good school." But it still went against the grain to me to be spending so much time fussing over petty rules and regulations.
Uniforms have long been a way of identifying the students who go to a particular school. Here are schoolboys heading off by train to attend Eton school in England in 1937. Very much being branded as young gentlemen.
And these days here and in the UK and in many parts of the world, a school uniform is standard wear for all school children. I well remember seeing the kids in Malaysia emerging from poor kampongs (villages) with limited facilities yet proudly dressed for school in gleaming, beautifully pressed white uniforms. And I love the look of Japanese schoolchildren in their cute sailor suits.
So I must admit, it was rather a nice surprise to see that some things hadn't changed all that much, that my friend's young daughter is being disciplined for the exact same sort of infringements as I was as a girl — and for that matter, my mother — that no matter how much we think the world has changed, some things haven't — not the schools who enforce the rules, nor the kids who mutter about them.
What about you? Did you ever wear a uniform to school? Ever get busted? Do your kids wear uniforms? Do you like the idea of school uniforms or not? And what rules did you break when you were at school?