Think back to when you were in high school; did you wear a uniform to school? Throughout the country, school districts and parents are fighting over whether students should be forced to wear uniforms or not. But are school uniforms stifling freedom of expression or just putting kids on an even playing field? I’m going to summarize two articles on the topic of school uniforms. The first one is “Uniforms don’t stifle creativity” by the St. Petersburg Times, published Oct 2010 in Opposing Viewpoints. The second article is “School uniforms stifle freedom of expression” by Greenhaven Press, published 2008 in Opposing Viewpoints.
The first article, in favor of school uniforms, has two authors that discuss the benefits of school uniforms. The first author discusses her own childhood; she grew up in the private school system and wore a school uniform from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Her point of view is that while kids may not enjoy wearing a uniform, it teaches them about being professional and prepares them for an adult world. People in the business world wear a uniform of sorts every day; can you imagine a court of law where the judge was wearing a sloppy t-shirt or jeans with their underwear showing? She also says that uniforms set a tone to the atmosphere and a behavioral expectation. Students should be encouraged to dress for school just like they would if they were working at a job.
The second author of this article has the same point of view that school uniforms help students to learn. She talks about school dress codes in non-uniform schools and how the enforcement of dress codes, takes too much time that could be better spent teaching. She also says that uniforms don’t stifle creativity. Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, both extremely intelligent men, grew up wearing uniforms to school. She says that schools are for students to learn and not to indulge in distracting fashion shows.
The second article, opposed to school uniforms discusses the downfalls of school uniforms. The author compares school uniforms to the Star Trek Borg, the bad guys. The Borg believed that the individual was nothing and the collective was everything. School uniforms are to accomplish the same effect; the student’s individuality is taken away. The author says that many parents favor school uniforms because it could make school clothes easier and cheaper to buy. And administrators think uniforms will ensure kids behave better. Neither of these is necessarily true. School uniforms are often expensive and since they are required, you have to spend the money on them. As to behavior, if matching uniforms guaranteed better behavior, no soldier would ever go AWOL and no prisoner would ever get into a fight. The author’s biggest problem with school uniforms is that it takes away the student’s individuality. Sticking students into cookie cutter clothing teaches conformity and students lose their individuality.
After reading these articles, I have decided that I am stuck on the fence. There are some aspects of school uniforms that I like. I think that the way many children dress is unacceptable, and as a parent would not be allowed in my house. But thinking back to when I was teenager, I often left the house wearing one thing and changed at school because my parents did not allow certain clothes. If my parents wouldn’t buy them for me, I would borrow the clothes from my friends who had them. I also think that school uniforms do help students to prepare for a professional world. Students get used to dressing a certain way and when they get into the workforce are more prepared for the uniforms that they will have to wear. I also think school uniforms help to take the focus off what students are wearing and can be a benefit to less fortunate families who cannot afford to keep up with the latest fashions.
There are other aspects of school uniforms that I don’t agree with. Some administrators think that school uniforms will help students to behave but I have seen many schools with uniforms, that the students are far worse behaved than those without. Even in private schools, where students wear uniforms, behavior is still an issue that teachers and parents face. I don’t think that uniforms really affect behavior, because if kids are going to misbehave or treat others badly, it doesn’t matter what they are wearing. School uniforms, especially at the high school level, can be easily adapted to fit a certain student’s individual style but sometimes that can go overboard. Some schools will allow students to accessorize their uniforms wearing socks or ties of their choice. But how easy is it for the school uniform skirt to become the naughty schoolgirl skirt. Some female students have been fighting the conformity by hiking their skirts up. Other students will adapt their uniforms by accentuating their body with piercing or gauged ears.
Students, like with everything else in life, will try to push the boundaries. Whether school uniforms become the norm or not, it will remain a discussion for years to come.