School hair tan­gle: racism or dis­ci­pline?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

THE DE­CI­SION by Wyn­berg Boy’s School to in­sist that one of its pupils con­form to the school’s hair reg­u­la­tions (“Hair we go again”, Week­end Ar­gus, July 29) sparked an emo­tional de­bate on so­cial me­dia about whether this was racism or dis­ci­pline.

If rules ap­ply to chil­dren of all races, then the rule should not be seen as racist. If the style, “step­ping”, can be done on all types of hair, it has noth­ing to do with hair tex­ture or cus­tom.

The ques­tion we should be ask­ing is: would per­mit­ting the “step­ping” style com­pel the school to al­low ev­ery other hairstyle? If the aim of uni­for­mity is to guard against sub­tle but dam­ag­ing fash­ion com­pe­ti­tion and to in­sti­tute dis­ci­pline, then there might be merit in stip­u­lat­ing what is ac­cept­able and what is not when it comes to school dress code.

If all other black and coloured chil­dren and their par­ents are happy with the rules, it will be dif­fi­cult to make an ex­cep­tion for one child.

If abid­ing by the gen­er­ally ac­cepted dress code is aimed at in­sti­tut­ing dis­ci­pline from a young age, can it be a bad idea?

In­still­ing dis­ci­pline is vi­tal for an in­di­vid­ual’s de­vel­op­ment and char­ac­ter build­ing. I re­call an Amer­i­can psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor talk­ing about a vi­ta­min de­fi­ciency in our chil­dren, which was the cause of ill-dis­ci­pline. He called it vi­ta­min N for “No”.

He cited the ex­am­ple of how eas­ily chil­dren got what they wanted be­cause they lacked dis­ci­pline. Such chil­dren become ill-dis­ci­plined as adults be­cause they are ac­cus­tomed to get­ting their way.

We see ev­i­dence of this in ma­tric balls. Par­ents on the Cape Flats can spend be­tween R10 000 to R15 000 for ma­tric balls, which have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with ed­u­ca­tion, but the same par­ents will not pay school fees or have money for text books.

I have never sup­ported ex­pen­sive ma­tric balls and I am pleased that both my chil­dren agreed it was a waste.

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