Flat White

Sometimes in life you just need to wear the right shoes

1 February 2018

1:00 PM

1 February 2018

1:00 PM

The Gap State High School in Brisbane’s west has made news because of its strict adherence to its uniform policy. The ABC reported that dozens of parents have taken to social media to vent their anger after their children received detention for wearing the wrong shoes to school.

Last year the school warned both students and parents that the school intended to strictly enforce their uniform policy and that shoes worn would have to adhere to policies requiring that they be black leather lace-up school shoes, which have a heel no greater than 20 millimetres and no lower than 5 millimetres.

While one can either agree or disagree with the school’s policy, no one gets to decide which rules they choose to follow. Sometimes in life, you just need to wear the right shoes.

Schools enforcing uniform policies is nothing new. From my own school days, I remember parents arguing with school administrators over their daughter’s nose ring or their son’s mohawk. There have always been parents who felt the rules don’t apply to their special child. To those free spirits, rules can seem arbitrary and cruel. And they may well be right, but a lot of rules in life are stupid.

I once had an accounting job where I couldn’t wear my suit jacket, I was required to wear a business shirt and a tie, but the partners wanted to give the practice a relaxed casual vibe. I didn’t feel relaxed or casual, I felt both over and underdressed at the same time. However, I wasn’t the one setting the rules. I hadn’t worked 60 hours weeks for the best part of my life to build an accounting practice, they had.

The world is full of hierarchies and chances are unless you’re the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg you’ll probably spend a lot of time at the bottom of them. Not following the rules is the privilege of the very rich, the talented or the unemployed.

Let’s imagine that one these little darlings gets accepted in the University of Queensland Law school, graduates and gets their graduate position. They’ve bought themselves a stylish navy suit and decided to match them with a pair of brown brogues. GQ  magazine assures them this is the look. However, the senior partner in their new firm walks past, shakes his head and just says, “Never brown in town” before walking off.

Now our graduate has a choice, does he dismiss the senior partner’s opinion, ignore the informal rule; or does he do the smart thing and race down to the shops in his lunch break and buy himself a smart pair of black oxfords. In one of these scenarios the young man has a hope of passing his probation; in the other he doesn’t. I’ll let you guess which one is which.

Incidents such as what has happened the Gap State High School are part of a worrying trend of hyper-individualism. Increasingly people have the expectation that the world should change for them rather than the other way around. This is the natural consequence of our endless focus on rights devoid of responsibilities.

There may be very good reasons why the school believes that a strict uniform policy is necessary. Whatever they are it’s certainly not for individual parents to decide what school policy should be.

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