Friday, December 4, 2015

Take off that hat

Elli's school has an issue with hats.  That is, children sometimes like to wear hats and this is apparently an intolerable burden to the administration, an unforgivable offence.  I just don't get that reaction.  There is certainly a prevalent attitude in our culture that taking off your hat is in some ways a respectful act, and it has often butted heads with cultural norms that require turbans, kippahs, or other head coverings.

When I see children coming inside from recess and being immediately scolded to remove their hats and carry them instead of wearing them I want to go up to the teacher or administrator in question and ask why, exactly, it matters if they are wearing a hat or not.  How can this be a priority?  You only have so much energy and time, so wasting it trying to correct hat usage means that you have less available to try to achieve other things.  You know, things that might matter.  That child having a baseball cap on while they climb the stairs strikes me as something that does not in fact matter, and so it shouldn't be a priority.

In general it bothers me just because clothing requirements set by the government bother me.  Aside from clothes which directly affect other people (say a shirt emblazoned with racial slurs) I can't find any argument for government employees enforcing dress codes like this.

I also think the message we should be sending to children is that what they wear is their own business, not other people's.  This is especially true for girls as they get far more severely policed in that way throughout their lives, but it is true for everyone.  There is no safety reason to enforce hat removal.  There is no risk of causing harm to others.  The only defence is that it is the way things have always been done, and I don't think that is a compelling case at all.


  1. Just so you know, many (most?) teachers hate no-hat rules. They are super annoying to enforce, especially in high school as 50% of your interactions with kids in the hallway end up being negative ones where you're telling them to take their hat off. There are some arguments floated around about identifying who's from the school and who's not or being able to see faces on security cameras but I don't buy those. I suspect that the main reason is a 'that's the way it's always been done' or 'indoor hats = disrespect' mentality. There also might be an aspect of competition between public and catholic schools for students where schools want to have a reputation in the community as the 'clean cut and good at enforcing the rules' school so that they can get more students and, thus, more money. Yet another reason to hate the existence of a separate school board.

  2. Clearly you're unaware of the Yonge/Eglinton gang wars, each identified by their head wear. Be wary if Elli starts sporting strange new tattoos.

    Maybe hats block the kids behind them from seeing the front of the class?

    Why do teachers bother enforcing it? Are they performance measured on whether they do it or not?

    1. If someone who's 5"2 blocks peoples' views by wearing a hat, then someone who's 6"1 is already doing so without the hat and we need to redesign the classroom layout.

      As for gangs, that doesn't at all explain the rule's enforcement in my home town of Perth, Ontario. It's a rural town of 6000 people, and as such does not have gangs. Yet the "no-hats" rule was strictly enforced.

      As it happens, I *did* ask my teachers about why it was enforced. I didn't feel the need to wear hats, but others did like to, and the rule made no sense to me, so I asked. The answer was about respect - it's disrespectful to keep one's hat on.

      Now, this is kind of a self-fulfilling statement, isn't it? If there's a rule against wearing hats, then wearing them signifies disrespect for that rule. If there isn't any rule against wearing hats, then wearing them does NOT signify disrespect for that (nonexistent) rule. But the teachers don't get to make those kinds of rules, so the former case prevails.

  3. Maybe you can raise it at the next Parent Council meeting?

  4. Sounds like bikeshedding (


  5. I think the roots of this issue go back to proper British school obedience and cultural conformity. When subjects flaunt non-conformity - be it dress or language or behaviour - authorities tend to squirm and fear simple acts as being the beginning of the end of their structured society.
    Here is the link to an interesting flip-side (or upside down) version of this issue in tropical Australia.
    Mike Z.