Tradition for the Sake of Tradition

The UK has been going through an immense heat wave. Many schools in the UK have dress codes for the students, such as collared shirts, shoes, and colors of the clothes. During the hotter temperatures, students are holding true to their uniforms, but are succumbing to the effects of  heat exhaustion and coming close to passing out. Needless to say, the students cannot focus on learning.

I completely understand the situation. When I was in elementary school, I passed out due to heat exhaustion. I collapsed to the ground, face and body against the hot asphalt. Yard supervision saw what happened and acted immediately. I went to the hospital and spent 10 or so hours being filled with IVs. Since then, I’ve been aware of what hot weather can do to a person and make staying hydrated a priority. In fact, when I was teaching, I told my students to constantly drink water with the underlying motivation that I was preventing a repeat of what happened to me.

Now, when I read about the students and heat wave, it hit me personally. At one school in the UK, most of the students are able to take all necessary measures to deal with the heat – except if your a boy. The school maintains a strict dress policy and – in the boys case – they have to wear pants at all times. Everyone else can wear skirts or pants.

The reason – because it’s school policy.

Students and parents complained. How can students learn if they are dealing with sweltering heat? Why maintain the dress code if it is preventing student learning? You’d think this would be a worthy argument. However, the school maintained the policy and responded that the students would be reprimanded if they broke the dress code.

So, as a response, a group of boys borrowed skirts from some of the girl students and wore it to school. It was a protest. They would not suffer from the heat anymore.

Now, I’m looking at both sides of this situation. I get what the school is trying to do. They are keeping to the rules and policy. It’s something the kids will experience when they are adults. Also, at some points, the schools must maintain their stance when rules are challenged, because ultimately it is in everyone’s best interest that the rules are kept.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation – where I’m the one challenging the rules and the one that is enduring the barrage of challenges. Rules are in place for a reason. And when you ask someone about why the rule is there, there should be an explanation for the rule.

But, when you have rules for the sake of tradition – that boys wear pants – because that’s the way it is, that’s not an explanation. Follow the rule for the sake of the rule? No. That’s not a defense. Furthermore, if you don’t follow the rule, you’ll be reprimanded? That’s not not an educator response, that’s a power response. To follow a rule – without a reason – because I say so sounds beyond the character of an education administration and more like another kind.

And I’m not just saying in this situation but for a lot of situations you see in education. There are rules in place on boys and girls that have been there for decades that are outdated, misused, or just plain wrong. And our students are going through different kinds of struggles because the schools are keeping to the rules because, well, that’s the way it’s always been.

If your defense for a rule is because “that’s the way it’s always been”, then 1) you don’t even know why that rule is in place and 2) you’re not responding as an educator if the rule is hindering student learning as well as not showing any other kind or enough of a benefit to justify keeping the rule.

When times change, the rules change.

Hearing about students going through a struggle while the school responds with reprimands really, really get’s under my skin. However, I will say that the school has heard about the complaints and are looking at the policy. I really hope that the school can see what their students are going through and make an “educated” response.

Still, good on the boys for making a stand and good on the girls who let the boys borrow the skirts. I hope to see such teamwork – the same and reciprocated – as these students grow into adults. They are showcasing a tremendous courage in their youth.


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