August 18 2005

School Uniforms

Normally I stay away from hot-button political issues, but one I have been thinking about more and more is school unifroms.

I never thought I would say it, but I am beginning to see the usefulness of the concept. There are no statistical studies that show conclusively that school uniforms improve performance, decrease discipline problems or truly cost you less in the long run, but there is one advantage I can see that can’t be measured…a decrease in peer pressure.

Anyone that has spent anytime in a non-uniform school system can tell you that you are constantly judged by your peers. There is a pressure to live up to the latest fashions and trends, a feeling that you must be in the know with fashion. School uniforms remove that pressure and creates a level playing field. In turn, that decreases pressure, can raise the self-esteem of the students who can’t afford to keep, or care not to.

On the flip side, there are the people who say it kills a student’s individuality, takes away their freedom. My question is, “How?” How is this any different than wearing a uniform to work at a fast food restaurant? Do you get a job at “Jon’s Greasy Burgers” and say “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t wear this uniform, it kills my free spirit.” Do you think you can get a job at a place in the mall and not follow their dress code? Nope. School is your first job, no matter what anyone says to the contrary. And there are ways to play inside of school uniform rules, creating a unique look without violating the rules.

Let’s even take it inside the school. Sports uniforms? Band uniforms? Cheerleading uniforms? Oh, those are ok, but not any other time. Uh-huh. I know in my time in school that the sports players and the cheerleaders always took great pride in wearing their uniforms on game day, so why should any other type of uniform be different?

The only arguments I have really been able to find always go back to it killing a students sense of self. Folks, why don’t we try the wild concept of improving your inner being, and not being so concerned with your outer appearance? There is also the complaint of cost. Most schools who do have a required uniform also have programs to help lower income families with the cost of the purchases.

There are some studies that show uniforms do actually provide a safer environment. Long Beach, CA tried uniforms for the first time in the 1994 – 1995 school year, and the statistics speak for themselves: (source here with all the raw data) Assault/Battery -34%, Fighting – 51%, Robbery -65%, Chemical Substances -69%, Weapons or look-alikes -52%, Vandalism -18%, Dangerous devices – 50%. Gee, and people say school uniforms have no effect. Yeah. None. Uh-huh.

There is also the fact, why do countries as England and Japan have school uniforms without all the hassle? Why do people not complain about Catholic and private schools? There is a reason schools use uniforms, they do have a positive effect in my opinion. Or should I pull out statistics how badly our schools lag behind other countries? Countries that use uniforms mind you. While it is not the only reason they kick our behinds, it does factor in.

I encourage you to go out and do your own research, form your own opinions. I truly do not expect to change the countries views on this, but you have to at least ponder the pros and cons of it. You can find some of the sources I read here, and they do cover both sides of the debate. School Dress Uniforms:A Review, School Uniforms:Pros & Cons, Some Of The Benefits Of School Uniforms, Uniform-ly mistaken.

And I certainly welcome comments from everyone, pro or con, on the subject. This is an issue that needs debate.

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