In school, there are plenty of different classes and lessons that feel unnecessary. One of the most common complaints from disinterested students is that their curriculums don’t feel as though they’re going to be useful in the outside world. Nobody actually writes in cursive, you don’t exactly use the Pythagorean Theorem every morning and the history we’re taught isn’t all-encompassing.
One Victoria, Australia high school attempted to give their students a “useful” lesson for the future… and completely missed the point.
Female students at the prestigious Girton Grammar School were told they would need a lesson on walking in heels after signing up for a “modern etiquette” class. The irony of the whole lesson being absolutely anything but modern was not lost on the students, who filed a complaint, saying, “This is 2017, not 1950.”
The school claimed that this was part of a weekly workshop in the hopes of prepping students on professionalism and decorum in the professional world. The students fired back by pointing out the dissonance in the school’s messages, including the administration’s sexist double standards.
“On the one hand, we are being expected to excel at STEM subjects alongside the boys,” students told the Herald Sun. “On the other, we are being asked to bring in high heels so that we can learn to work in them.”
The school’s headmaster, Matthew Maruff, responded to the criticism in the same publication, saying that the classes were intended to provide students with knowledge about “self-conduct in social and work environments.”
“At all times, we encourage our students to speak out respectfully on any issue that concerns them,” Maruff said. “In this instance, we were very glad that two students let us know that they felt uncomfortable being asked to bring high heels to school as part of the modern etiquette session… Several students did elect to seek advice related to wearing high heels after the session and the school was happy to support these students in that choice.”
Some parents and faculty say that the controversy is making a mountain out of a molehill, with one even commenting that she “wished” someone had given her lessons on walking on heels.
The problem here seems to be the assumption that all women will be wearing heels in professional environments and that this is an area of high priority for female students, not one for male students. Are male students given lessons on similar subjects? If students aren’t being taught the same way (or in ways that encourage them in the professional navigation of their desired fields) then it’s not only pretty useless, it’s also sexist.
If anything, the school should be teaching girls how to deal with the troubling, misogynistic work environments of today, including the offices dictated by the 35% of bosses who think women benefit from a “strict” dress code.
For now, Girton has simply perpetuated the idea that so many classes are useless beyond the schoolyears. Add “walking in heels” to the pile of unnecessary lessons, right next to cursive, the Pythagorean Theorem and biased history.