Thu, Feb 05, 2009
The New Paper
Why not trust the students instead?

Dear Principal,

Your action prompted me to re-visit this old question: Should malls be off-limits to students wearing their school uniform?

Related link:
» School bars students from mall - but is ban working?

To be fair, yours is neither the only school to have such a rule, nor is it the first.

My wife tells me her all-girls secondary school had a similar ban when she was there almost 20 years ago.

Her former school did not actively police this rule. But you've made Coral Secondary School teachers patrol the mall in search of student trespassers.

That's going to a lot of trouble to enforce a rule that seems to me Victorian.

Why? Because I can't relate this rule to any of the desired outcomes of education outlined by the Education Ministry.

I suppose at a stretch we could say your rule can make students more enterprising and innovative.

That's because your students are now actively finding ways to get around the ban, for example, by using lookouts to spot patrolling teachers.

One wag suggested you use GPS-monitoring tags on your school badges to ensure your students don't stray into malls - yet another brownie point for innovation.

But let's get back to the rationale for the rule.

Your explanation for the ban was very brief.

When The New Paper sent your school queries more than a week ago, no one responded.

And when we went to your school, we were told that you were busy.

And your school only responded after our visit - with a terse e-mail.

Yes, none of us would approve of youngsters in school uniforms behaving like hooligans in public.

But instead of treating your young charges like potential troublemakers, how about teaching them trust instead?

Tell them you'll trust them to not shame the school by lifting the ban.

Show them your respect by not having teachers play cop-and-robber games with students in malls.

Let common sense prevail by allowing students to move freely to pick up, say, lunch at the mall on their way home.

No need for them to go all the way home to change before heading to the mall.

No need to bring a change of clothes to school so students can duck into a public toilet to doff their school uniform.

On behalf of your students, please reconsider your rule, Madam Principal.

Rules should be grounded on common sense, so they encourage compliance.

An impractical and largely unenforceable rule is likely to prompt disobedience and be mocked by both students and parents.

Please don't take this the wrong way.

We know you meant well.

But let's all base our conduct on trust and mutual respect (which includes answering legitimate queries from well-meaning journalists).

Yours truly,

Eugene Wee

This article was first published in The New Paper on February 03, 2009.

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