You will notice that the “hats off in the house” rule is included in the course-syllabus. It is an item in the “Guidelines for Classroom Decorum”:
Hats and head-coverings off during class-time. A college-level humanities lecture is a serious, adult occasion and a civilized, professional activity even quasi-solemn in character. The Instructor therefore institutes the “no hats” rule to help students, especially the hat-wearing ones, make the sometimes-difficult transition from their state of pre-critical high-school-and-popular-culture conformism to that of adult, civilized, intellectual reflexivity and ethical independence. In practice, the “no hats” rule applies mostly to men, but in principle it includes women.
At the beginning of the semester, I urged students to read the syllabus thoroughly. I urged it repeatedly, practically until I was blue in the face. Had you done so (obviously you have not), you would not have said to me, as you so confidently did, that the “hats off in the house” rule was not included in the syllabus. From where did that absurd confidence come? Do you think that the instructor does not know his own stipulations? You are making erroneous assumptions about your relation to your preceptors and you need to correct them before disaster strikes. I recommend you strongly to read the syllabus. It is bad policy, five weeks into it, to be in doubt or ignorance concerning the requirements of the semester.
Consider… You will not wear your baseball hat to the crucial – the “my-career-depends-on-it” – job-interview at the end of your senior year. Were you to do so, you would definitely not get the job. You will not wear your hat when your new boss calls you into his office for consultation. Were you to do so, you would risk your good reputation in the firm, and very likely your job. Hats in the house and hats in institutionally serious settings like a college classroom are infra dig and prospect-killing; they are unprofessional, and a sign of immaturity. Your four years of undergraduate matriculation are the beginning of your professional life and that is why I make the minimal request of students (all students) to comport themselves professionally, dignifiedly, and respectfully in the classroom. You are in the adult world now, one obligation of which is to cooperate with institutional requirements. Doffing your hat belongs to all that.
As I said to you earlier today, your dignity as a person does not reside in your hat, nor does your identity. Indeed, the baseball hat is the conformist gesture par excellence of prevailing popular culture. It shouts, “I’m just like everyone else!” And whoever is “just like everyone else” is not an individual. I therefore ask students, both for the sake of their independence and for the sake of their individuality, to make the minimal professional and personal gesture of removing their hats indoors – an old custom, incidentally, honored by our grandparents and great-grandparents going back innumerable generations. Now if it were the case that you believed your identity to be bound up in your hat, you should know that this is not so. Your attachment to that bit of haberdashery is a restriction of your identity, not a declaration of it, a fact that follows from its being also a conformist, hence in turn a non-distinctive, non-personally-differentiating, affectation.
By the way, I quite believe you when you say that none of your other professors insists on adult comportment in the classroom. Many instructors nowadays pander to students, try to be friends with them, try to be cool, rather than insisting on the seriousness and dignity of higher education. I do insist on the seriousness and dignity of higher education, just as I insist on adult comportment in the classroom. You will be interested to know that I have discussed this matter with the dean and that he agrees with me that my insistence is well within the parameters of instructor-management of the student-enrollment. He even thinks that it is a good idea. You will find that I am unlike your other professors – or unlike most of them, anyway – in many respects, and not only where it concerns hats. I am not a liberal, not a relativist, not a deconstructionist, not a materialist, not a determinist, not a multiculturalist, not a diversitarian, not a feminist. On the contrary, I am an independent thinker, which is what I would like to help you become.
One final, practical consideration: You might find it advantageous before the semester is over, were I to do you a favor. You might miss a quiz and want to negotiate it or you might do better on discursive assignments than on quizzes and want me to take that into consideration. I often do favors for students, who often desperately need them, but I do so only on a condition. Doing favors is a reciprocal, a quid pro quo and a do ut des, proposition. My principle is that I am cooperative with those who are cooperative with me, and not with anyone else. This is the very foundation of the social arrangement.
I am very sincerely yours,