”Sir, how does having a second earring in your ears affect your education?”
”I don’t know,” I said. “You would need to ask one of the senior staff.”
Year 8 students are at an age when they are beginning to flex their wings. Arriving at the beginning of Year 7, they have a timidity and insecurity. A year ago, they had just arrived from primary school and the “big” school was a new and intimidating place, a place where they would pass two metre tall Year 11 students in the corridor and where they would encounter very streetwise students from Years 9 and 10. A year later, there is a new cohort of Year 7 students and the Year 8 classes regard themselves as old hands.
Thus the question about earrings. I am not sure of the answer. Of course, the prohibition of hooped or dangly earrings has a logic about it, there is the possibility of them becoming caught in something. In situations where rows might flare up between students, there is the possibility of the earrings being caught by someone. Insisting that only stud earrings may be worn is a sensible course of action, but why only one pair?
The answer would presumably be that it is part of the school’s uniform policy and, if there is to be a policy, it must be upheld.
Uniform contributes much to the ethos of an institution. Smart uniform creates a sense of pride, of solidarity, of discipline. Uniform can be a very egalitarian, community-building, identity-creating thing. School colours and ties can become something in which people may take pride years after they have left an institution. But the people concerned, it is a matter of rules.
Had I been a student sitting in the classroom and not a teacher standing at the front, I might have asked a similar question. If something was not perceived to have a detrimental effect upon a student’s capacity to learn, then why was it a rule?
There seems much in the daily life of any school that seems arbitrary. Perhaps being faced with the sheer arbitrariness of school rules is a useful part of the preparation of students for life beyond the school gates.
If school life is arbitrary, it is a model of logic and consistency when compared with life in the adult world where choices are often without logic or consistency. The student who suggested that having a second pair of earrings might not affect one’s education may become a woman who asks questions about why people do what they do, why they spend what they do, why, when there are no rules, they are so dully conventional.