The other day, I was reading a blog post how Texas schools are considering forcing students who violate the dress code to put on a prison jumpsuit. While that doesn’t directly relate to school uniforms, it got me really thinking more and more about the ever-continuing debate about whether or not school uniforms are worth the trouble. Also here in Ireland, there’s much to do about school uniforms – the continuing melodramatic debate.
One thing I’ve noticed about the school uniform debate is that parents tend to be more in favor of it, and kids tend to be more opposed. Being young, I’m against it. I went to a private school where uniforms were required from kindergarten right through 6th grade, then I went to public school where free dress was the norm from then on.
I have to admit, when you’re at a school where uniforms are already a policy, being told what to wear doesn’t seem like a big deal at a time. But if a school were to switch from a free dress policy to a uniform policy… that wouldn’t go over so well.
The school uniform debate is undoubtedly a complex issue, but here are some commonly discussed pros and cons and what I make of them:
School uniforms prevent the hassle of deciding what to wear every morning. To be honest, I think this applies more to girls (or guys who are picky about what they wear) because there’s always more pressure about appearance for girls.
That said, waking up and already knowing exactly what you’re going to wear definitely saves the hassle of having to decide. For those who don’t stress in the morning about what to wear, this won’t really make a single difference.
Uniforms help children focus more on school work and less on what they’re wearing. Another slight truth. With everybody wearing the same thing, less focus is on what another person is wearing… aaaand it cuts back on checking out the other gender (school uniforms are never flattering).
Also, when my private school would have its occasional days where we could wear what we wanted, we were noticeably more rowdy. I think this might be because it was a rare treat — in a school that switches from free dress to uniforms, the difference wouldn’t be as noticeable I don’t think.
School uniforms save money. This one I don’t believe in. When I had to wear uniforms, I would always change into normal day clothes the instant I got home. What this meant was my parents had to pay for two sets of clothes instead of one: they had to update my casual wear every year, as well as my school uniforms.
Not only that, but being a little kid who liked to run around and get sweaty, this meant I had two outfits that needed to be washed every day, meaning more laundry for Mom, costing her both time and money.
School uniforms cut down on gang activity at school. Since gangs like to wear similar clothes (by colors, mainly), wearing uniforms cuts down on gang activity. This one is harder for me to elaborate on: in my private school class, there were too few kids to even have gangs, and even in my high school gang activity wasn’t huge.
However, I can see this working a bit — if gangs don’t have any way to mark themselves as a gang, it could discourage them from being in a gang. This also ties into safety a bit: it might be harder to hide a gun or a knife in a school uniform than in another outfit.
Uniforms stifle individuality. There’s definitely some truth to this. A lot of kids go shopping looking for clothes that express themselves in some way. Whether it’s a t-shirt of a band they like, some pants that look great on you, or something else, clothes are a classic way to express individuality.
From the school’s point of view, I can see how this is a good thing: curbing individuality can cut back on cliques and gangs, creating a more unified student body, leading to less trouble. But from the kid’s view, it becomes noticeably harder to express yourself and stand out.
Uniforms are uncomfortable. Obviously, this one depends on the uniform itself. As a general rule, most school uniforms are rather formal. And as everyone knows, formal clothes can be rather uncomfortable. Forcing kids to wear stifling clothes on a hot day not only makes them uncomfortable, but it also distracts from school work.
Some uniforms also aren’t very synchronized with the weather: if you can’t wear a quality jacket to school and your uniform doesn’t provide one, what do you do if it snows? On a related note, I remember that the boys’ shorts at my private school were tiny. Being used to wearing longer shorts, most boys felt uncomfortable and exposed wearing shorts and instead opted to wear pants.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What’s your take on the school uniforms debate? Do you think kids should be told what to wear or be able to make their own choices? What is (or was) your school’s policy regarding uniforms and/or a dress code?