Teacher Labels Classroom Ban on Hats, Hoodies in Classroom a Microaggression

Ban perpetuates 'European tradition'

students classroom
Getty Images
January 16, 2018

A Michigan public high school mathematics teacher challenged the ban on students wearing hats and hoodies in the classroom as a "microaggression," in an article for an "enlightened masculinity" blog.

Paul Hartzer, who teaches geometry at Hamtramck High School, according to his resume, argued that removing a hat indoors is "a European tradition, and many feel that expecting students of color to learn and follow this guideline is yet another way in which European 'culture' is shown as superior to their own heritage."

A "common defense for hoodie bans is that we teachers are preparing students for the 'real world,'" wrote Hartzer, but that insinuates "we're suggesting that the corporate America model is what they should be striving towards."

"This is a European model of success, tied to 1950s White Men. It implies there's something wrong with any other route to success … which is a microaggression," he wrote for The Good Men Project, where he is the lead editor of education.

Further, banning hooded clothing can also be a "socioeconomic microaggression," as money-strapped students may have to update their wardrobe to comply with the school guideline.

While school administrators have cited reasonable concerns about students hiding earbuds or weapons beneath their headwear, Hartzer contended that schools may be "using logical-sounding reasons to hide a more problematic reason for such classroom bans: To enforce respect through control and appearance."

"Another very Eurocentric value is that appearance is more important than reality," he wrote.

Hartzer argued that students wearing earbuds will likely continue to be inattentive even if he removed them, and it was not worth the risk disrupting the rest of the class by confronting him. "Power struggles become an issue of costs vs. benefits," he wrote.

Hoodies can denote gang membership, whose obvious risks can be mitigated by prohibiting such clothes, but Hartzer questioned if school safety is best served by "reminding students multiple times a day that they're seen as potential criminals."

"What does a student of color hear when a white authority figure enforces what they see as a trivial, arbitrary rule?" asked Hartzer.

"Microaggressions against anyone who isn't an affluent, able-bodied, white, cis Christian man are tragically widespread in our culture," he wrote.

Hoodie and hat bans are another one of the education system's "disingenuous policies that start with disrespectful implications about our students," he concluded.

Hartzer, who has taught English and mathematics in Michigan since 2012, was not immediately available for comment.

Published under: Education