Fixated on Shoes

My husband’s/son’s school is obsessed with shoes. Yes, shoes. It has very strict rules about the types of shoes one can wear on the soccer field and at the indoor gym, and what one can do in those spaces.

On the soccer field, no heels are allowed, which is reasonable. But also, no cleats are allowed! On a soccer field! And kids are allowed on the soccer field only at designated times–during recess, for P.E. class, and for after-school sports. Otherwise, keep off!

As for the gym, kids were instructed at the beginning of the school year that they are to wear only white-soled sneakers while in the gym so as not to mark up the flooring. These days, my son has P.E. class in the gym, and his teacher has asked that the kids set aside a pair of sneakers specifically for the class. The soles of these sneakers have to be spotless so as not to dirty the gym floor. To keep them clean for P.E. class, they cannot be worn at other times. If a kid doesn’t have a pair of sneakers that fits these criteria, s/he has to take off his/her shoes and play bare-footed. My son has a new-ish pair of sneakers that he wears every day, including to P.E. class, so he has to participate bare-footed.

When I first heard about this rule before school started in August, I felt annoyed and irritated. For starters, no one mentioned this policy prior to our move, so we were unprepared. Moreover, prior to our move to Taiwan, I had already spent quite a bit of money on a few pairs of shoes for my son to make sure he has what he needs for school and for living in Taiwan. Included in that purchase was a pair of sneakers, which are in excellent condition even after three months of school. To complicate matters, my son has extra, extra wide feet, so it isn’t easy to find shoes that are comfortable and durable for him.

When my son came home earlier this week with a reminder of this rule–again–I was outraged. I told my son to have his teacher contact me if she wants to discuss this rule, and I will tell her why I will not purchase yet another pair of shoes for him when he already has perfectly suitable shoes for P.E. class.

Why does the school have such strange rules about footwear in its athletic spaces? The reason is this: three years ago, the school spent a gazillion dollars (and that’s only a slight exaggeration) building a new, state-of-the-art school building. Two years ago, it spent a gazillion dollars completing a state-of-the-art sport complex, which includes the soccer field and indoor gym, which boasts “special” flooring imported all the way from the United States that cost an arm and a leg. Essentially, the school spent too much money on constructing these buildings and is now on a tighter budget, unable to spend as much as they should on maintenance of these facilities.

This is why I refuse–on principle–to buy another pair of sneakers for my son. It’s neither my fault nor my problem the school didn’t think ahead while planning its construction budget. Those involved were so focused on impressing the world they forgot to think about how they were going to keep up the facade (pun intended). As far as I’m concerned, I’ve done my part as a parent in providing what my son requires to participate fully in every aspect of his schooling. If the administrators require additional and unnecessary supplies or equipment that have nothing to do with education and that have no bearing on the quality of education or a student’s ability to learn, that’s their problem and it’s up to them to come up with a solution. And if they wanted to build a museum where nothing can be touched, they should’ve done that. But this is a gym at a school, it is used by hundreds of kids on a daily basis, and scuffed floors are to be expected sooner or later.

This is not a one-time thing either, or I wouldn’t be getting so worked up about it. This is merely one in a series of things we deal with because of the school’s shortsighted and irresponsible decision to blow its budget on a building. Other educational decisions are affected by this decision as well, including resources for the students and teachers. Even some students have noticed. For example, my husband doesn’t have enough textbooks for one of his science classes, and one student grumbled, “The school spent too much money on this stupid building, and now they don’t have enough money for books.” Yup, pretty much.






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