|(Illustration: Liu Rui/GT)|
Kids' hairstyles often attract disapproval from the elderly. Even in the US, a five-year-old boy from Ohio was forbidden to go to kindergarten this April unless he changed his mohawk.
However, such problems are more likely in East and Southeast Asian countries, where collective culture prevails over individualism. Different hairstyles, along with dress and grooming, are easily condemned by school authorities.
Today, students in these countries want more freedom. The pursuit of personal goals has long outmatched the old school "collectivism."
In fact, the regulations over students' hairstyles have already loosened in recent years. In Thailand, pupils were allowed a wider range of coiffures than identical pudding-bowl bobs and army-style cuts earlier this year. Girls are also able to grow their hair long.
But the new rules still regulate that boys cannot grow their hair down the nape of their neck, and girls have to wear their long hair tied back in matching ponytails. This small compromise, often seen in China, South Korea and other East and Southeast Asian countries, is evidently insufficient.
The hairstyle issue is often sparked by students' complaints, like the anonymous letter written by a 15-year-old Thai student to Thailand's National Human Rights Commission in 2011. His voice might reflect a growing independent consciousness, saying the rules violate human rights and personal freedom.
The most extreme protest waged by students is suicide. There have been several cases concerning this issue. A 14-year-old girl jumped from a building simply because her school forced all students, including girls, to cut their hair short in April in Dongying, Shandong Province.
Rebellious and unstable teenagers are more likely to resort to such extreme matters over what might seem to be small issues.
As such confrontations grow, the hairstyle issue keeps stirring debate.
The proponents of strict hairstyle rules argue that untethered freedom in dress and grooming will make young students more distracted from textbooks by pursuing strange new hairstyles, and may result in a bad atmosphere where students flaunt their own personalities.
Others think this is transparently ridiculous, and that allowing students their own choice would give them more confidence and creativity at school.
It seems that all the debates and discussions are focusing too much on the legitimacy of hairstyle rules and whether they should be annulled entirely.
The problem is this is not an all-or-nothing issue. There is no side capable of convincing the other to the ground.
As an important component of school regulations, dress and grooming rules should follow the one and only function of all codes, to make the school a good place for students to be educated.
Rules can be changed or rearranged as long as they are acting as a positive role in boosting the morale of students.
More flexible strategies should be considered to ease the tension. A junior school teacher once asked his students to try new hairstyles at the start of a winter vacation and take pictures for a "hairstyle contest" which would be held at the beginning of the next semester.
The only requirement for the contest was that they have to change their hairstyles back when the new semester begins. Everyone followed the rule and it became a class game, rather than a source of tension.
This is of course not the only way to deal with the problem. The policymakers, such as teachers and school authorities, can make the school rules more acceptable if they are more willing to apply empathetic strategies to their students.
As long as the bottom line of education is guaranteed, the school authorities are responsible for exploring a freer environment for their students.