Short hair rebel

At the middle school I (fourth from the left in the photo holding up two fingers) attended for three years, the rules regarding hair and uniform were very strict.

Pim attended Thai schools where life was not always smooth for her. Now a student at the prestigious Duke University in the US, she looks back at one part of Thai school life that was particularly bothersome.

From the very first sentence, you know that Pim hates short hair and sees no good reason for the rules requiring it in Thai schools. Notice, however, she tries very hard to present both sides of the argument, an essential part of good opinion writing.

Short hair rebel

Pim Chuaylua

I never want to have short hair again in my life. For nine years while going to Thai schools I had to cut my hair short according to regulations. On the first Monday of every month, the teacher carried a list of student names and measured the length of our hair from our earlobe with her finger. If the length was greater than half an inch, our names would be marked on the list. Sometimes, the teacher just cut our hair in front of the class.

At the primary level, I went to an all-girls private school for six years. The teacher checked our hair every month. However, we could tie our hair with blue, red or black ribbons and use colourful hair clips.

I lost confidence because I didn’t think I looked good with short hair. Some of my friends moved to private and international schools. I envied them because they could grow their hair long, dye their hair and have really shiny ponytails. They always laughed about how short my hair was. I was so humiliated and eventually stopped hanging out with them.

I tried to rebel against my teachers so many times. I hid in the bathroom with my friends for two hours when the teacher checked other students’ hair. I tried using a hair clip to curl the end of my hair to make it look short. I failed, as usual, because the teacher straightened the end of my hair using her fingers to ensure that it didn’t exceed half an inch.

In middle school, the end of our hair had to be exactly 1 centimetre from our earlobe. No colourful hair clips or ribbons were allowed. I (left) never felt confident when going to school or going out on weekends.

It got to the point that the teacher could not tolerate this anymore. She asked me, “If you can’t follow a really simple rule, how can you grow up to be a good citizen who follows the laws of society?” She always emphasised that the goal of having short hair was to ensure that students could focus only on academics, not on appearance. Students should believe what adults say. They know best.

Looking back now, I still question what my teacher said. I spent lot of time in middle school crying about how I didn’t like how I looked. However, I studied very hard. I got into Duke. I wouldn’t have spent less time on my academics if I had had long hair. Moreover, I believe I’m one of the good Thai citizens who always gives back to society. I got involved in projects to make education accessible to kids in poverty. I firmly believe that having long hair would not make me a corrupt or indifferent citizen. I question whether questioning the existing rules is an indication of how good or bad a person is as a citizen or a student.

In high school, we finally were allowed to have long hair and wear ponytail to school! However, hair dye and colourful ribbons were still not allowed. That's me on the right.

Some adults, like my dad, argued that the reason for having short hair was not only for the students to focus on academics, but also to prevent disease caused by lice which is more infectious in humid weather. It’s better to keep one’s hair short, especially because young children don’t know how to take good care of their hygiene. Perhaps, but I still think schools could educate young people to keep their body clean instead of arbitrarily telling them to cut their hair.

Of course, this whole essay is about me, a girl who never wants to have short hair ever in my life. One of the reasons is as simple as I don’t like short hair. However, looking deeper at this issue now, I think it poses a few more questions. I wonder how Thai people would answer them.

First, when seeking a solution to a problem, should schools educate students to understand the nature of the problem or should they just give out orders? Should schools prohibit all students from having long hair instead of teaching them about how to be hygienic to avoid disease? Second, was I wrong when questioning the rule that all students should have short hair? Was my teacher right when saying I would not be a good citizen if I could not follow a simple rule? Essentially, does one’s willingness to follow orders determine how good he or she is as a citizen?

Learn from listening

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  • academics (noun): connected with education, especially studying in schools and universities - วิชาการ
  • accessible: that can be reached, entered, used, seen, etc - ที่สามารถเข้าได้
  • adult: a fully grown person who is legally responsible for their actions - ผู้ใหญ่
  • appearance: the way that somebody/something looks on the outside - ลักษณะภายนอก, การปรากฏตัว
  • arbitrarily (adv): using power without restriction and without considering other people - อย่างถืออำนาจ
  • argue: to give reasons why you think that something is right/wrong, true/not true, etc, especially to persuade people that you are right - ห้เหตุผล, อ้างเหตุผล
  • argument: a reason or reasons why you support or oppose an idea or suggestion - เหตุผล
  • avoid: to try to prevent something from happening - หลีกเลี่ยง
  • citizen: someone who has the right to live permanently in a particular country - พลเมือง 
  • confidence: being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future - ความมั่นใจ
  • corrupt (adj): willing to use their power to do dishonest or illegal things in return for money - ทุจริต, โกง
  • curl (verb): to form a curved or round shape - ขดตัว
  • determine: to decide what will be done or happen - กำหนด
  • disease (noun): a health problem and problem with a person's body, often caused by an infection, either from a bacteria or virus - โรค
  • dye: to change the colour of something using a special liquid - ย้อมสี
  • earlobe (noun): the soft part at the bottom of the ear - ใบหูส่วนล่าง, ติ่งหู
  • emphasise: to stress something such as an idea, fact or detail; to explain or show why something is important - เน้น
  • ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
  • envy (verb): to wish you had the same qualities, possessions, opportunities, etc. as somebody else - อิจฉา,ริษยา
  • essential: necessary - ที่จำเป็น
  • essentially: the true, important or basic nature of somebody/something - เป็นหลัก, โดยพื้นฐาน, ตามความเป็นจริง
  • eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • exceed: to be more than something; to go beyond a limit - เกินกว่าที่กำหนด
  • existing (adj): present now; in use now; used now - ที่มีอยู่
  • firmly: in a strong or definite way - อย่างหนักแน่น
  • focus: to give attention, effort, etc. to one particular subject, situation or person rather than another - เพ่งความสนใจ
  • goal: aim; purpose - เป้าหมาย จุดมุ่งหมาย
  • hang out: to spend a lot of time at a place or with someone - ใช้เวลามาก สังสรรค์ คุยกัน เช่น กับเพื่อนๆ
  • humid: hot and wet in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable - ที่ร้อนชื้น
  • humiliated: made to feel so ashamed - รู้สึกเสียเกียรติ
  • hygiene: the degree to which people keep themselves or their environment clean, especially to prevent disease - สุขลักษณะ
  • hygienic: clean and not likely to cause illness or disease - ถูกสุขอนามัย
  • indication: a sign that something happened, is true or exists - เครื่องบ่งชี้
  • indifferent: does not care about something; not interested - ไม่เอาใจใส่
  • infectious: able to cause an infection - ติดต่อกันได้
  • involved (verb): taking part or having a role in something - เกี่ยวข้อง, มีบทบาท
  • issue: matter; a subject that people discuss or argue about - ประเด็น
  • law (noun): a rule that deals with a particular crime, agreement, etc. - กฎหมาย, ระเบียบ, กฎข้อบังคับ
  • lice (noun): small insects that live on the bodies of humans and animals - แมลงปรสิตเล็กๆ ที่อยู่บนคนและสัตว์
  • moreover (adv): in addition; furthermore - ยิ่งกว่านั้น, จากนั้น
  • nature: the basic quality of feature of something - ลักษณะที่แท้จริงของสิ่งต่างๆ, ธรรมชาติ
  • opinion: your feelings or thoughts about somebody/something, rather than a fact - ความเห็น, ความคิดเห็น, ทัศนคติ
  • order (noun): something that somebody is told to do by somebody in authority - คำสั่ง
  • pony tail (noun): a bunch of hair tied at the back of the head so that it hangs like a horse’s tail - ผมทรงหางม้าของเด็กผู้หญิง
  • pose a question: to ask a question, especially one that needs serious thought - ถาม
  • poverty: the condition of being extremely poor - ความจน
  • prevent (verb): to stop somebody from doing something; to stop something from happening - ขัดขวาง, ป้องกัน, กัน, กีดขวาง
  • private: involving groups, businesses or industries that are not owned or controlled by the government - เอกชน
  • prohibit: to not allow; to ban - ห้าม
  • project: a planned piece of work that is designed to find information about something, to produce something new, or to improve something - โครงการ
  • rebel: a person who opposes somebody in authority over them within an organization, a political party, etc; a person who does not like to obey rules or who does not accept normal standards of behaviour - คนขัดขืน, คนหัวรั้น
  • rebel: to fight against the government or to refuse to obey rules, etc - กบถ
  • regulations: official rules that control the way things are done - ระเบียบ ข้อบังคับ
  • simple: easy to understand; not complicated - ง่าย,ไม่ยุ่งยาก, ไม่ซับซ้อน
  • society (noun): people in general, living together in communities - สังคม
  • solution: a way of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation - วิธีแก้ปัญหา
  • tolerate: to accept something unpleasant without becoming impatient or angry - ทน ยอม
  • willingness (noun): not objecting to doing something; having no reason for not doing something - ความเต็มใจ, ความสมัครใจ
  • wonder: to think about something because you want to know more facts or details about it - สงสัย
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