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Lawmakers to teach school teachers to dress well, mind their manners

August 06, 2013, 17:09 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, August 6 (Itar-Tass) - Until now, only employees of Russia’s government offices and large companies have had to follow strict rules while choosing the way they dress for work. Also, the appearance of school students was unified to a certain extent a short while ago. Now it is the school teachers’ turn. The legislators wish not only to introduce a dress code for teachers, but also to set the rules of contact with students.

This legislative initiative has sparked no enthusiasm either inside the teachers’ community or among officials and members of non-governmental organizations. In their opinion, the teacher’s appearance is a reflection of inner culture, and the latter takes a while to shape.

School uniform may now be complemented with certain dressing standards for teachers. Two committees of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma - one for affairs of the family, women and children, and the other, for education affairs - have pooled efforts with the aim of drafting a federal code of school honor containing the rules of conduct for both children and teachers. As the legislators explained to the daily Izvestia, attempts to teach children to be “modest and self-restrained” will be a losing battle without making their teachers toe the line, too.

“Some teachers take the liberty of wearing overtly sexual attire and even of doing part-time jobs at strip bars during their spare time or advertising sexual services on the Internet,” the daily quotes one of the code’s authors, Yelena Senatorova, a member of the State Duma’s family affairs committee, as saying. “That’s impermissible at a time when we are so eager to see all children wear school uniform.”

Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov has said that when the new school year begins on September 1, all Russian school students will be wearing the same school uniform.

“At the federal level we have finalized unified requirements for the students’ appearance. School uniform will become a fact of life,” he said, adding that the general rules did not determine the uniform’s color or design.” The regions have been given a free hand in deciding what type of clothes school students should wear in line with the local traditions and the arguments schools, school students and their parents may come up with.

School uniforms began to be introduced after a row in the Stavropol territory last autumn. Several schoolgirls then appeared in class wearing hijabs, only to hear they would not be allowed to attend school wearing religious clothing. President Vladimir Putin threw his weight behind the school board’s decision. A short while later he said outright that all school students should be obliged to wear uniform.

Whereas school students’ uniform will be identical at the regional level, teachers will be strongly recommended to follow only framework rules. A ban may be imposed on miniskirts, deep cut dresses, bright makeup and other attributes of womanhood that are utterly irrelevant to the process of instruction.

In a sense the legislators’ initiative looks similar to the old-time idea of the Russian Orthodox Church to introduce a national Orthodox dress code, which would also imply a ban on challenging styles of dressing. That idea was mulled only for a short time, to be rejected.

Another section of a yet-to-be drafted code would instruct the teachers, the children and their parents how to communicate with each other. The code will say that any manifestation of disrespect, rudeness, bad manners or lack of restraint will be impermissible both for students and their teachers.

It remains unclear at this point how obligatory the document’s rules will be, if the code is eventually introduced. It looks like it will be a set of recommendations, but at the same time, some violations will entail punishment - from plain reprimands to the “billboard of shame” displaying photographs of teachers responsible for acts of wrongdoing.

However, United Russia legislators’ colleagues in the committees concerned, mostly Communists, have opposed the idea of a school uniform for teachers.

“I quite agree school students must wear uniform. As far as teachers are concerned, it will be a wrong thing to do. All of them are people with higher education. They are well-cultured and can decide what to wear on their own without any codes,” says a member of the education committee, Nikolai Razvorotnev.

His colleague, Oleg Smolin, is certain that a legal act is not the right place for describing the principles of morality. “It is hardly possible to teach a teacher the basics of inner and outer culture. It is a matter of morality, and not of legal regulation,” he said.

Public Chamber members have said the introduction of uniform for teachers does not look feasible at all. The head of the education committee, Lyubov Dukhanina, argues that “it makes little sense to regulate all matters at the legal base level. I believe that this specific issue might be left to the discretion of the school community.” She believes that just two words - “business clothing” - are enough to describe the way a school teacher should look like.

Teachers in St. Petersburg are discussing the dress code issue, too. As the portal says, in most schools, where the average age of the school teacher is close to that of retirement, this dress code - no miniskirts and low cut dresses - is observed anyway. “What sort of a dress code one may talk about at a time when a monthly salary is just enough to buy one dress or one suit,” say angry teachers.

Dress codes in Russia are an unknown land and what sort of punishment may be established for abusing it is anyone’s guess, says teacher Tuyana R. Banning the teacher from entering the school building? That’s absurd.

Teacher Kira O. believes that teachers’ challenging clothes are not as frequent as just vulgar ones.

“I am against casual T-shirts and jeans. I believe that clothes must be selected carefully. It is good taste, and not modesty, that should be used as the yardstick."

By the way, students pay great attention to the way their teacher is dressed, and if they like it, they approach with compliments. All questioned teachers have replied that they are not afraid of hearing caustic comments in the classroom. If the teacher is bad - teenagers will think of what they can mock at, even if he or she is dressed as a lady or a dandy. And the other way round, a good teacher will be forgiven a lot, even a shabby suit.

The director of Education Center 109, Yevgeny Yamburg, the holder of an honored teacher title, is quoted by the website as saying any normal school director can persuade his subordinates to pay attention to their appearance quite easily. But if the director does nothing, no codes will help.

“Come on, are we expected to measure the length of a teachers’ skirt? It depends on the length of legs, doesn’t it? This code looks funny and sad to me at the same time. It is an ordinary attempt to regulate matters that are an exclusive domain of a person’s inner culture, and that culture takes a very long while to shape.”

At the same time, Yamburg says that today’s teachers must be dressed up to date and by no means look miserable. “Everything must be ideal and in harmony with the current trends. Even perfumery must be impeccable. We, teachers, feel thousands of eyes riveted to us every second.”