Sat | Sep 26, 2020

Kristen Gyles | The path of discipline

Published:Wednesday | August 12, 2020 | 12:19 AM
Schools must also teach their pupils that hygiene is of paramount importance.
Schools must also teach their pupils that hygiene is of paramount importance.

This big excitement over hairstyles is telling our students that the world is one big free-for-all. Our students are so undisciplined because they are not being taught to follow school rules.

Criminals are running circles around law-abiding citizens because of the lack of discipline in the society. Children should not be taught that they should ‘express’ themselves at the expense of following rules. Whether said rules are archaic or colonial is not the issue. Rules are rules.

With that said, I propose that our schools do what is necessary to see to it that a disciplined environment is maintained. They should ban hair processing. Our children must be taught that school halls are not red carpets and as such, hair processing must be done away with. Too many students are using it as a tool of self-expression by waltzing through the school gates with flat twists and curls and all manner of extravagant styles.

These force-ripe young people, who are growing up way too fast, are trying to turn our schools into fashion shows. They are now turning up with braids and Afros and even worse – locs! We have set a bad precedent for them by allowing them to perm their hair. School is not for the purpose of flaunting self-expressive hairstyles. No more perming.

Schools must also teach their pupils that hygiene is of paramount importance. This is why buns should no longer be allowed. Those darn things are harbouring lice, and some are big enough to house an entire family of cockroaches. I stand by the sentiments of the well-thinking Jamaicans who say we should ensure our students are protected from unhygienic and unhealthy haircare practices. They say no locs, and I agree! And no more buns!

Once we can implement and enforce these measures upon our students, we know they will be safe from indiscipline and they will be safe from lice … and cockroaches.

BE CONSISTENT

Anyway, I am sorry, but I can’t honestly keep up this nonsense any longer. I don’t know how others do it on a continuous basis. I have simply tried my best to set a consistent and unbiased example for those who wish to preach the sermon against hair locking in schools.

Schools should not be indoctrination systems. Especially when said indoctrination is archaic, silly and colonial. Yes, rules are rules. And dumb rules are dumb rules. If locs are not to be worn in schools because they provide too great an avenue for self-expression, processed hair should be banned, too. Can we at least be consistent?

We keep expecting brilliance and innovation from students who we insist on inebriating with stupidity on a daily basis. They are taught that it is wrong to wear certain hairstyles, are not told why, and then are bashed for asking why, because “rules are rules”.

Our public education system, as constructive as it has been in giving our youth academic guidance, has, in a multiplicity of cases, ruined the psyche of many youth and engineered the minds of many young people to adopt colonial thinking under the guise of ‘discipline’.

There is absolutely nothing disciplined about hair processing. But this is what our students are taught subliminally when students with natural hair have so many rules and regulations governing how their hair must be worn.

One day a few years ago as a sixth-form student, I woke up with lollipops and unicorns floating in my head and decided I wanted to be cute. I wrapped my locs into some cute little ‘chiney bumps’ and gave myself a cute little bang at the front of my head. As someone who couldn’t ordinarily comb or style her hair to save someone’s life, I was very proud of my creation. I went to all my classes that day, and, in fact, got compliments.

Near the end of the school day, though, a very senior member of staff stopped me in my tracks. She informed me that my hair was not appropriate for school and that I should pull it out. I asked her why it wasn’t appropriate for school. Her response was that it was not appropriate for school. I won’t say anymore on that.

There is a reason some students resent school and everything that comes with it. In the minds of some children, school is another word for prison. Just a trip to any one of our public tertiary institutions will show that the average student is either wearing a rainbow on their head or has hair almost long enough to sweep the floor. Why is it that when given the chance, our students do everything humanly possible to change their hair?

When a student spends their entire childhood (that is, their first 18 years) stuck in a system that tells them they must stay within the confines of certain specific hairstyles that they find hard to produce naturally, it is, on a subconscious level, tantamount to a prison experience, even if it is not obviously internalised that way consciously. The poor student leaves the high-school system, goes off to college and returns with the two sides of their head shaved off and with long green plaits hanging from the middle. Why not? Why not take the freedom while it lasts?

It is mind-blowing that at this stage we are still having conversations about locs being somehow problematic. The concept of emancipation is for some people, just that – a concept. Nothing that can or should ever actually be achieved. This is what is actually holding us back.

Anyway, just to make myself very clear, I am certainly not against us going the path of discipline. We can ban locs. And hair processing.

Kristen Gyles is a mathematics educator and actuarial science graduate. Email feedback to kristengyles@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.