I agree with Matthew Farley – send them home! If the skirts are not in line with school rules, then he has every right to enforce due punishment for what is in fact a contravention of stated school policy.
As a society we have become a bunch of rule-breakers; no one wants to wait their turn or stand in line or listen to authority.
Clearly with all the bad behaviour we have in our society, which is complained about ad nauseam, our rein on discipline is fading away only to be remembered in reflections of the past. We complain about indiscipline on the one hand and then condemn those who try to enforce it.
I remember when I was attending school at Springer Memorial Secondary, I broke a rule and used the excuse that I did not know I was in fact breaking a rule. The teacher made me write 200 times: ignorance of the law is no excuse for an exception. First and last time I wrote lines in my life; it was not a pleasant exercise.
In this case, two inches under the required length is not cause for an exception. Rules are rules and need to be enforced or, with our human nature, we will break them. School is where students get prepared for adulthood and the working world.
If we allow schoolchildren to feel they can flaunt school rules, whether it is their skirt hems, earrings, shoes or whatever else, we will breed a class of citizen who fails to understand, respect and adhere to the rule of law.
I am sure that many of you are saying, can two inches really matter that much? I don’t want to speak for Matthew Farley – he can do that quite well for himself – but I believe the heart of the issue is the principle of the action and the message that is sent by the punishment. If Matthew Farley can make so much noise and confusion about two inches, what would happen if I did something bigger? I agree [with] Mr Farley – once the rule is not applied arbitrarily and the measuring stick is straight – no quarter.
Again, I am aware there is also the sentiment that in context of all the problems within the educational system, two inches is neither here or there. I disagree. It is because we ignore the small things that we have the big problems.
If we practised nipping things in the bud before they can mushroom, it could perhaps save us a lot of frustration in the long term. Imagine if we had a Matthew Farley in some households across the island who enforced the very basics of respect for elders and good manners? What about if we were to apply his brand of adherence to rules to the office attire of some workplaces? Whole offices would shut down and perhaps rightly so. We cannot be wishy-washy when it comes to discipline; we have to have a position and stick to it.
I was also happy to see the number of parents in the newspaper lined up to meet with the principal. I can only hope that those same numbers are reflected at parent-teacher meetings.
I do not blame children for non-adherence; it is parents who spend the money and are in charge of directing and controlling the activities of their children. I agree it is unfair – the parents, not the children, should be suspended.
However, I would agree that there has to be some balance in the application of the punishment and I do understand that having students at home might lead to more harm than good. In that context, get it fixed quickly and then beg for the student to be returned to school immediately – that is what is worth lining up outside the principal’s office for the whole day.
We see only two inches in the present as vexatious and frivolous. Those two inches will eventually make a significant contribution to the total fabric of this society. How that fabric is shaped could very well be defined by the nature of those two inches.
• Chantal Munro Knight is a development specialist and executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Email [email protected]