A move by Changhua County’s Ershuei Junior High School’s to harmonize the color of students’ shoes sparked off an unexpected protest by students, leading to an award-winning video clip and the school allowing students to wear sneakers of all colors.
Called the “shoe revolution,” the protest was touched off by a school survey asking teachers, students and parents about their opinion on whether canvas shoes of all colors and types favored by students were unsuitable for sporting events and whether students tended to compare their sneaker brands to see “who has the most expensive one.”
Because of the small student population at Ershuei Junior High, the opinions of the parents and teachers prevailed and the school decided on “black sneakers for male students and white sneakers for female students.”
However, the rule met immediate opposition from the student body, with a number of students saying they would not abide by the new rule.
Second-year student Tseng Jou-hua (曾柔華) and four other students took the lead by collecting opposing opinions throughout the school and making posters to broker some sort of negotiation with teachers and the school’s principal — a movement that was approved and supported by their homeroom teacher, Hu Shu-hua (胡淑華).
Highlighting the shortcomings in the new regulation and with the slogan “Please respect our happiness,” Tseng succeeded in having the teachers re-initiate discussion of the issue during a school meeting.
The result was that the school decided to loosen the regulations to “no restrictions on color, but canvas shoes must be changed to sneakers.”
Tseng said the whole process gave her a great sense of accomplishment, adding that she was glad the teachers were willing to listen to the students and arrive at a middle ground for both parties because the original regulation would have only antagonized students and led to greater conflict.
The students’ protest was also made into a seven-minute video clip and was submitted to the World’s Largest Design for Change School Contest. The clip earned the group the “breakthrough” award.
According to the students who participated in the contest, “democracy is a process of learning and not simply challenging authority; it’s a process of communication and concession.”
Principal Huang Chung-ping (黃仲平) said the whole process demonstrated the value of “schoolyard democracy.”
Both sides were able to negotiate and work out a solution to a conflict, with both parties taking responsibility for the final outcome of the negotiations, he said.
Humanistic Education Foundation chief executive Feng Chiao-lan (馮喬蘭) said the school’s efforts to unify the color of students’ shoes or how they should wear their jackets were silly and that education should not be confined to exerting control over such tedious matters.
Feng said although the school seemed to have achieved procedural justice by conducting a survey, its action was not justifiable. The students’ willingness to use rational methods — canvassing votes and persuading teachers — was commendable, Feng said, adding that it was “the children that led the adults progressively to a better state.”
Huang Chi-teng (黃子騰), director of the Ministry of Education’s Department of Elementary Education, said the ministry does not have a strict school dress code, leaving it to schools to form their own regulations as long as students are “tidy and clean.”