Do you ever hear of or witness a seemingly silly little something that is so mind-bendingly infuriating that you feel completely compelled into action?
Don’t get me wrong there are many, many daily occurrences of idiocy and stupidity worldwide, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson instantly spring to mind as two perfect examples not to mention the Darwin awards, they are always good for offering up a cross-section of the gene pools most eligible candidates that make re-establishing the eugenics movement look like a sensible solution for our continued future as a species.
This week, however, I was troubled by something that may seem rather innocuous in the grand scheme of things but if left unchecked will become a deep-seated nonsense of a situation that could pave the way for untold amounts of future extreme political correctness when in all reality we should be trying to stem some of these more ridiculous and ludicrous trends and instead replace them with a large dose of long overdue common sense.
The incident occurred at a generally well performing secondary school in a large town in Cornwall. The academy is attended by some 1300 pupils.
My step-daughter’s son has just started his first term there following on from primary school. He is a bright, intelligent and polite little chap of eleven, who is also quite serious and very sensible. To give you an example of this, on only his second day at this big new school, in this enormous new change of routine, his intended bus home was cancelled due to a technical fault. He lives three miles away from his new school. A kind woman had also been waiting for the bus and she chatted to him whilst they waited, eventually she phoned her husband who subsequently collected her by car and she offered this little boy a lift home. He thanked her for her kind offer but very sensibly declined on the basis that she was a ‘stranger’ (hurrah that wonderful boy!) but instead asked her if she could possibly take a message to his mother, since he did not have his mobile phone on him and couldn’t remember her mobile number, to tell her that he would wait for the next bus along. The woman was very impressed with his highly commendable and sensible response and kindly did as she was asked and my step-daughter was relieved to be notified that he was safe and would be home soon. My step-daughter does not drive (yet!) and at this time she was 8months and 3 weeks pregnant, her fiancé was at work an hour away and she was unable to contact him. In the end her son actually walked the three miles home with two other friends who were also stranded and who live in the same area arriving home just before his mother could start to panic at his lateness but thankfully his actions have instilled a deep sense of both pride and trust in his ability to sensibly and maturely cope with situations out of the ordinary, despite his young age (though he has been reminded of the importance to make sure he carries his mobile phone with him in case of emergencies). Thankfully, at the start of his new term, my step-daughter spent £50 on a pair of decent, sensible, durable, comfortable, black leather, school shoes, because three miles, mostly uphill, is quite a walk with a huge school bag full of books!
So, imagine if you will, the utter surprise to my step-daughter when her very sensible 11 year old son who at the time of the incident, had only been at his new school for two weeks and is still literally trying to ‘find his feet’ returned home a little sombre and distressed, having been reprimanded by the head of his form year and told that if he continues to wear “those shoes” to school he will receive a detention.
His offending shoes are pictured here:
They are very normal, black leather shoes, that were purchased on the basis of both their durability and their comfort since he has a flat foot condition and many cheaper shoes are not comfortable to him. I can thoroughly empathise as I too find it difficult to find shoes that are comfortable, though I have quite the opposite in as much that I have a very high arched instep (pes cavus) and buying shoes is a veritable nightmare. Probably why I have over a hundred pairs of shoes and frequently wear only about three of them (three pairs that is, not three shoes, I’m not that weird!).
As an eleven-year-old boy, it is hardly likely that he would choose these shoes as a ‘fashion statement’, I’m sure he would much prefer to wear a pair of Adidas Predators or a pair of Nike Air Max but obviously he was out shopping with his mother for a pair of ‘sensible school shoes’ so his choices were limited to Clarks or Skechers as they are the best fit for his feet and to be found in the better quality array of the ‘school shoe section’ which would suggest that they are deemed to be both practical and suitable attire. Skechers are often recommended to Doctors and Nurses and people in the care sector who are on their feet all day. I’m not on commission with them or anything like that, this is not a thinly-veiled Skechers endorsement nor do I work for them in any capacity, well, apart from just one single evening a number of years back when I was a ‘hostess’ at a Skechers event in Convent Garden, but that really is beside the point and the only two things I really remember about that evening were the free cocktails and meeting the rather lovely and thoroughly decent Peter Andre! Nope, sorry, there is a third thing, I remember wearing really stupid uncomfortable high-heeled shoes that made walking on the cobbles through Covent garden nigh on impossible.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that these shoes were not chosen for their brand name or for any other reason than they were smart, they were leather, they were comfortable and they were the prerequisite black shoes that are able to be polished as denoted by the school uniform rules (e.g. no trainers, skate shoes or canvas shoes). There is no specific mention of conforming shoes having to be lace-up’s since it is quite common for many modern shoes to have velcro fasteners now. I do have to be entirely honest at this point and say that the school rules do specifically imply no shoes with a ‘logo’ but as an intelligent and rule-abiding adult you tend to assume that they mean nothing with a coloured label or any garish or bold symbol or branding, you do not expect that to run to a simple, very understated, barely visible embossment to the heel. I believe that Clarks shoes which have long been the staple choice for parents to dress their children in, in the knowledge that their feet will be well looked after, also carry a similar simple embossment to the leather. Does this mean that Clarks shoes would also be considered non-conforming at this particular school? Can you imagine a more absurd situation? Surely that would shake our wholly English middle-class establishment to its very core!
It, therefore, seems entirely ridiculous for the ‘Head of Year’ to year 7 pupils (‘first years’ to us old timers), who perhaps has a penchant for over-flexing her power, to discipline a bewildered new starter over what she deems to be ‘non-conforming’ shoes because she has decided to take the rules and regulations to the absolute extreme. Honestly, I am all for following school rules, being smart, being polite, being respectful, toeing the line, but this ruling is frankly ludicrous and gives parents of new pupils at this school an early indicator of what is clearly considered ‘important’.
What IS important is that our children receive a decent education to shape their brilliant, individual minds for a better future. What IS important is that bullying is NOT tolerated at any level, not between children, not from teacher to child and not in the staff room where no doubt the power-hungry Theresa May’s of this world make life a little less tolerable for the more easygoing teachers who are actually the ones who want to make a difference in our children’s lives by providing them a stable education in things that matter and by treating them with humility and distinguishing the uniqueness and individuality in these fine young adults, rather than treating them all as a group of young offenders and rule breakers.
Yes, of course, children and young adults should respect school rules and authority and of course, they should respect their teachers and all members of staff but hand in hand with that, the teachers should also respect our children. They should give them guidance in a practical, reasonable and sensible manner. I am not against discipline where it is necessary and justified but stamping authority on very young impressionable students over very, very trivial matters just seems unnecessarily intimidating.
Despite that most of the people who have waded in on the debate genuinely believe these to be perfectly suitable school shoes and frankly cannot understand what this silly woman’s actual point is, you have to beg the question….
Is it the fault of the eleven-year-old boy here as to what shoes he has ended up wearing to school? Is it at all likely that he would have gone shopping for these on his own?
If this woman possesses a modicum of common sense (and let us hope and pray that she does since she is in charge not just of a single class of students but of the entire year), she should surely come to the conclusion that the answer is NO! No, this eleven-year-old pupil is not to be held accountable for the uniform choices he is wearing, so, therefore, what is the point in reprimanding the pupil and threatening punishment to someone so young, someone who is still trying to establish himself in a scary new school, full of much older pupils, over something so insignificant?
Will it, in any way, shape or form affect his or any of his peer’s abilities to learn in the classroom?
This one particular woman in question (she has been called many names in the past few days by a number of people, but we shall keep it respectful here) went on to suggest that my step-daughter should, having already spent a good deal of money on what she believed are practical and good quality shoes for her son, buy an ‘unbranded’ pair of shoes from Asda for him to wear from this point forth, regardless of their comfort or practicality, but at least they will conform to school rules!
What next? Will pencil cases have to be plain black no longer bearing the name of your favourite football team or girl band, a bit of harmless fun? Will any child who has to wear spectacles have to choose from the national health range because it wouldn’t be fair if one child sported a pair of ‘designer’ frames? Will rucksacks, backpacks, and schoolbags be vetoed if they happen to have a splash of colour or an interesting design? Where will it end? This sounds scarily like the start of all the worst aspects of communism and it is happening right here in our schools, the foundation for our children’s mainstream education.
Should we send all of our children to school in identical uniforms, with identical accessories where they can receive their identical bog standard education and indoctrinated set of so-called values to become the next in a long line of ‘generic’ adults?
‘In’ walk individuals, ‘out’ walk zombie drones.
On the basis of this one encounter, this rather inflexible woman with her petty and pointless but never-the-less adamant objections sounds like she would be far better suited to the role of a traffic warden or a parking attendant than someone responsible for shaping the minds and futures of our young and gifted offspring.
Would any of us genuinely want this sort of narrow-minded, rules for rule’s sake, jobsworth ‘enlightening’ our children?
It is certainly not the sort of attitude you would expect from a school whose motto is “Believe, Achieve, Succeed”
“Behave, Enslave, Mislead”
I would like to add that not all the teachers and staff share the same rigorous views as this one individual. From some of the sympathetic comments and even the apologies that my step-daughter has received from other members of staff, it would seem that they too are equally as frustrated at having to concentrate on matters of little significance or importance. I can only hope that some of these over-excessive rules are relaxed or overturned so that teachers and staff can once again concentrate principally on what is fundamentally important, namely on providing a good standard of education and support to their pupils. Surely a teachers job is already hard enough without making it even harder.
I will leave you this week with my favourite (shoe related) quote from the film Erin Brokovich (Year 2000, Universal Pictures/Columbia Pictures)
This quote follows a particularly patronising incident by a stuck-up, rigid city lawyer who suddenly realises that she has bitten off more than she can chew…..
Stuck up lawyer: Okay, look, I think we got off on the wrong foot here…
Erin Brockovich: That’s all you got, lady. Two wrong feet in f*cking ugly shoes.
The Virtual Recluse