Shout about what makes you happy sad or mad ... why we should celebrate Diversity

2nd January 2009 at 00:00

I am a fully qualified male teacher in my second year of practice. I dress in a smart, casual style and wear my hair in a tidy, collar-length style. I don't like it cut short.

Over the past year I have applied for several jobs. Yet when I go into the interview room beady eyes look at my hair and notes are made. In every case, I haven't got the job. Am I being discriminated against on the grounds of appearance, I wonder.

What are they thinking? Hippy? Poofter? Tranny? Sorry to use the vernacular but I feel that's the mentality I'm dealing with. In fact, are these interviewers a bunch of rednecks? Or just stuck in a men's hairstyle time warp circa 1935? Would I get the same treatment if I had dyed hair, facial piercings, earrings, tattoos or any combination thereof? (Which I don't).

It seems to me that this is either a form of inverted sexism, or bigotry and hence a form of discrimination. Not all girls like their hair long and by the same token, not all guys like theirs short. In these days of equality, both genders should have equal freedoms. Teaching is not a uniformed profession, unlike the Army, nor do teachers have the Army mentality of obeying orders unquestioningly. We are free thinking individuals and ought to be free to express our individuality in dress as well as in speech and teaching styles.

If strict conformity in dress becomes the order of the day, how far will it go? Will we all have to wear a tuxedoevening dress to work, only to be turned away by the security staff because we've omitted a cummerbundmatching accessories?

British society is multi-racial and multi-cultural and supposedly tolerant of diversity. The education system should reflect that and be about equal opportunities, embracing all creeds. Different learning styles and different dress styles, as it were. Not just for pupils but for teachers too.

Jeremy Claydon teaches art and design in the FE sector in Hounslow, west London.

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