HAVANA TIMES — Kabir is a young friend who is about to get kicked out of high school. He decided not to get his hair cut any more, but his school won’t allow him to attend with long hair.
His mother (Veronica, a Havana Times contributor), Yusimi and Kabir himself have been recounting the dilemma from each of their perspectives. However a flood of commenters have argued that he should indeed get his hair cut.
In this post I will try to refute the arguments of those who believe that it’s best to get rid of his ponytail. I made a selection of their five principal arguments and tried to understand their erroneous thinking.
1. As a moral issue, men shouldn’t wear long hair
I won’t dwell on this point because it’s clear that it merely responds to sexist prejudices. The position taken by the official authorities in the conflict is good proof that our society is still one of patriarchal stereotypes and that these are undergirded by school rules. “Long live machismo,” they seem to be saying.
2. We must abide by what the majority thinks
First. To my knowledge, there has never been a survey concerning these issues.
Second, the submission by the minority to the majority isn’t justified except in rare and exceptional cases. From the twentieth century we were left with some moral lessons that were very clear in this respect: world wars, atomic bombs, neoliberalism and totalitarianism (which is what applies in this case). These are all terrible and must be avoided at all costs.
(If Kabir’s locks prevented his classmates from seeing the blackboard, the question would be very different.)
3. We must comply with authority
The authorities aren’t always right or use good sense, especially when their dictates are unfair and unreasonable. Had we followed this principal of unquestioning compliance, we would still be living under colonialism for having submitted to Spanish law without protest.
But let’s not going so far. The position of Kabir and his parents isn’t an act of rebellion against the supreme authority, but against an arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional interpretation that’s apparently being imposed by some minister.
4. Uniformity is a disciplinary pedagogical resource
Of this I have no doubt in the least. But discipline achieved by imposing arbitrary laws is what prepares recruits for some kind of army, not citizens in a free society.
In any case, Kabir and his parents are not seeking an exception to uniformity – to the contrary. They want females and males alike to be governed uniformly by the same rules with respect to how one wears their hair, a principal that would allow for more freedom.
The indiscipline in secondary schools is a phenomenon that is part of the crisis of the Cuban educational system. Teachers and students have to repeatedly commit the most terrible acts for them to be expelled.
I knew a teacher who sold his exams and lived to go to bed with his adolescent girls. When the administration finally cracked down on him for stepping so far over the line, the solution they found was to reassign him to a different school. Nevertheless, when faced with an act of “indiscipline” that even faintly smells of rebellion, the machine’s alarms are tripped and it shows its claws.
From my point of view, the arguments in support of Kabir getting a haircut don’t hold water. They rely on sexist prejudices or the absurd view that one should always obey the rules or an interpretation of uniformity that is itself very un-uniform.
Yet these arguments seem like polished pearls when compared to those submitted by the educational and political authorities that have handled this case.