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Do School Bans Really Teach Children Anything?

Updated on December 8, 2011

Young Woman


Does Banning something at School Teach Children Anything?

British schools have been in the news lately. Banning make up, mirrors and skirts because they cannot regulate them. One school has banned make up for 14 – 16 year old girls, and removed the mirrors from their lavatories, after reasonable make up rules were ignored. Saying that because girls were spending too much time in the toilet in their lunchtime, and teachers were spending half an hour a day, talking to girls about their make up, the only sensible thing was to ban it completely. Another school banned skirts after girls were wearing them too short, in contravention of reasonable skirt length rule. Is reaching for an outright ban on completely normal teenage behaviour sensible, and was it not ever thus? A complete ban does not teach teenagers how to moderate or regulate their own behaviour.

Most British schools have compulsory school uniform and teenage girls, and boys, have always adapted the uniform to suit their own ideas of fashion. Forty years ago, parents and teachers controlled this tendency very successfully. It was all very simple. Girls were not allowed to wear short skirts or make up to school. Parents and teachers controlled this with common sense, and humour, using two different tactics. Parents played their part in enforcing school discipline. Teachers used their commonsense.

During the nineteen sixties, teenaged girls wanted to wear micro mini skirts as Mary Quant, Twiggy, and Lulu did. Parents and teachers naturally did not want young girls wear skirts that showed their underwear to all and sundry. Parents, when buying their daughters’ school uniform skirts ensured they were the correct length and that no alteration was made to the skirt, and that, when their daughters left the house for school, each morning, the skirt was not rolled up. Teachers seeing a girl with a too shirt skirt simply told her to roll the top down. Also spot checks were made, once a term or so, all girls were asked to stay in the hall after assembly, they then knelt on the floor, the headmistress or senior female teacher walked up and down the rows with a yardstick measuring the distance between hemlines and floor. Any skirt more than two inches from the floor earned its owner detention, or extra work. Girls knew where they stood and they could be slightly fashionable, but not take it to an extreme degree. Girls also knew that there was little point in complaining to their parents about teachers punishing them for having too short a skirt, since parents would agree with the teachers.

Teachers dealt with make-up in a slightly different way. Make-up was forbidden and girls knew it was. However, teachers ignored discreet eye make up, a little mascara or similar. Teachers all carried the small handy packets of tissues (Kleenex) , and girls sporting heavy make-up were simply handed a tissue and told to go and wash their faces, repeat offenders were given detention or extra work. It took very little time on the part of teachers and those breaching the ban got no sympathy from their parents or their peers, in fact, other girls were likely to tell them off for overstepping the mark. Girls learnt the difference between heavy and discreet make up, self-discipline, and were still allowed to do something perfectly natural for girls of that age.

These two approaches seem much more sensible than banning natural behaviour. They also teach youngsters about moderate behaviour and allow them to follow perfectly natural inclinations, without endangering themselves or looking like fools. Bans do not teach youngsters anything at all and do not help them to learn self-discipline. Surely, education is supposed to teach and educate the whole child rather than just filling their heads with facts.


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  • Mercia Collins profile image

    Mercia Collins 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    It just seems very heavy handed to me and lacking in common sense

  • Anaya M. Baker profile image

    Anaya M. Baker 6 years ago from North Carolina

    I went to public school in America, so no real dress codes but a few rules. Skirts couldn't be too short, etc. For us, if we wore something against the rules, the punishment was to go to the school nurse and she would give us something to wear. No one wanted to wear "nurse clothes," they were hideous! The system worked pretty well! Plus with makeup, we would sneak it all the time, and moms and teachers would overlook a little light mascara and such. Sometimes we'd put on blush or lipstick, then wipe it off with a tissue so that you could barely see it. As long as it wasn't obvious, it was ignored. It seems to me that there are better ways to deal with the problem than an outright ban, I'm amazed that parents and teachers have lost so much control that a simple "wipe it off" or "change your clothes" doesn't work anymore.

  • Silver Poet profile image

    Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

    Banning makeup? Where's the personal freedom of expression? My goodness, there are a lot of rules! If a young girl wants to look like she's wearing war paint, she obviously has some issues. But anything short of a full fledged clown face, and I don't see how it interferes with reading, writing, and arithemtic.

  • Mercia Collins profile image

    Mercia Collins 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    both I think Hpedneau

  • hpedneau profile image

    Holly Pedneau 6 years ago from Princeton, West Virginia

    Very interesting hub! I'm not really familiar with the school systems of Britain but are teachers more concerned with girls placing too much importance on personal appearance? Or the sex appeal that comes with short skirts and make-up? Either way, like you stated those issues will never go away -- I totally agree.