Get out of students' hair

Get out of students' hair

Earlier this week, the debate over student hairstyle rules returned after Veera Khaengkasikarn, deputy permanent-secretary for education, uttered perhaps the most perplexing statement ever said in 2020 during an interview in Tham Throng Throng Kab Jomquan on Thairath TV.

Sitting across the table from two student activists, he said, about student hairstyle as follows:

"Let's say nongs want to keep your hair as long as one sog [a Thai measurement unit from the top of your middle finger to the end of your elbow or about 50cm], your parents will be in trouble for they have to buy shampoo for you to wash your hair with. When you sit in a classroom, the sog-length hair will block the view of your classmates. That's how other people feel."

He went on to add that student hairstyle can't just be about personal feelings and rights. Student hairstyles must be contigent to the approval of other concerned parties such as parents and teachers and whether they agree to let the students keep their hair long. He also said that students living in rural areas may not have enough money to shampoo or blow-dry their long hair and they may get lice as a result. And lice can spread to their friends.

His statement inspired so many questions, mockery, memes and articles (such as this one) due to its unintentionally hilarious nature. Some went as far as questioning how he got to be an education chief in the first place.

It's obvious that PhD Veera, whose CV shows an extensive education background in education management from Thai institutes, as well as many past positions in managing education on provincial and regional levels, had a bad hair day (hair pun #1) and temporarily forgot about the concept of gravity and how it works unless he's thinking about an Afro or a mohawk. Or did he think about Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Yugi Mutou or Lady Bunny? Does he really think that the cost of shampoo is that big of a deal?

The most hair-raising aspect of this statement (#2) is that it implies that students' personal rights and freedoms are automatically overridden by how phu yais think they should look or behave. I'm not against adult supervision when it's done for the benefit of the children, mind you. But the hairstyle rules and uniforms serve little purpose in my opinion and have even less to do with their ability to learn. Please Google images of what Finnish classrooms look like to get my point.

The Thai "education" seems to be obsessed with hairsplitting (#3) details from the length of your hair, the sock colour to using only school-brand bags. Why does the education system seem to want to force students to fit into rigid boxes? Does it hope to produce obedient clones who question nothing? I certainly hope not.

On the other hand, affording them more freedom to express themselves through hairstyle and attire can be a learning opportunity for students and teachers alike. Tell them to dress and wear a hairstyle that's appropriate for school. Let them figure out what that means for themselves and others. The worst thing that could happen is that a few students go overboard with their fashion and need to be told to correct it.

Why is it a problem when students use their head to question the logic, necessity and relevance of having rules governing what they can or cannot do to their own bodies in the first place? It's not a crime to question things and not follow every rule blindly.

Isn't it time for schools to really let their hair down on student hairstyles? And perhaps get out of students' hair, too?

Pornchai Sereemongkonpol

Guru section Editor

Guru section Editor

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