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Uniformed to uniforms?
Morgan Ella Fay
Should public schools have uniforms?
“In the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year measured, 18.9 percent of public schools said they required uniforms, up from 12 percent in 1999-2000, according to the Education Department. More than half have a dress code.” (Clifford 1). However this was just for middle school and lower, Ocean Country was first to introduce uniforms to their high school in 2008 (McConville 1). Since 2008 National Center for Education Statistics have said 57% of schools have some kind of uniform (Toppo 1). Since the introduction of school uniforms to public schools in America parents and students have been torn between them. While some think that it’s a good thing to have uniforms because they not only help the student’s look and feel more professional, but they get the students into a working mindset, as well as prepare them for the workforce where most jobs assign their employees a uniform. However, the problem that the other side sees is that uniforms keep the students from expressing themselves. Though this argument is easily dismissed because of the few who wear their pants at their ankles or the girls who are very nearly hanging out of their shirts, or lack thereof. On the other hand, an argument that concerns the parents more than the students is the cost. Many families can’t afford to shop at anything but resale stores and have problems buying uniforms, such as the schools in New Orleans one uniform can cost up to one hundred and sixty-five dollars (Messitt). Depending on how it’s done, uniforms can be a good and cost effective way and still allow the students to put a bit of their own twist on them, as well as help the students prepare for life outside of school.
The most understandable argument that the parents and some students present is the cost. The price depends on the kind of uniform the school wants, if it’s the traditional uniform that people image when a uniform is mentioned, then yes the price will be much higher than a strict dress code where everyone is wearing the same kind of clothes but are allowed to wear pants or skirts (for girls obviously) and most any kind of shoe is allowed then the price is going to be much less. According to Suzanna Moore, a writer for the Belfast Telegraph, a newspaper in Northern Ireland, who once had to wear a uniform, dislikes them for many reasons but mostly because she had to get a weekend job to help pay for the uniform. Again this depends on the kind of uniform the school wants, if it’s traditional then there is little leeway when it comes to what you change up about the uniform so therefore there is little anyone can do about the cost. In schools where the uniform is a strict dress code, such as Fruitland ID, then the students are allowed to wear whatever kinds of shoes they want, so long as the laces are the right color, this makes it easier for students and parents to pay cheaper shoes.
However, to the students cost is put aside for the dislike of the uniform itself. This argument had the largest following and the most points to it of all of the other problems that people have with the uniform, such as the ones Suzanna Moore has and makes it known in her article School Uniforms: Turning our Kids into Soulless Conformists that when she bought new shoes for school, with the money that she had earned herself, her mother had still had to write a note to allow her to wear them this, she thought, made her more conforming to the system (Moore 1). To help back up this claim by Moore, which is by comforting to uniforms a student’s stop questions the system, is Stephanie Clifford, a writer for the New York times who wrote, A Little Give in the Dress Code, in which Clifford quotes Andie, a thirteen year old student from Briarmeadow Charter School in Houston TX, "My science teacher looked at my turquoise leggings and said, 'This is not going to work,'" Andie said. "So I told her there is nothing in the dress code against wearing turquoise leggings." end quote. Most people believe that since a students can’t wear the colors they want to wear or because they have to wear their pants on their hips and butt, then they can’t express themselves properly. However, a classmate of mine had no problem expressing herself through her make-up, she would often wear make eyelashes that came in so many different colors and one pair even had poke-a-dots on them and the teachers didn’t stop her from doing this, so also always had impressive hair when she came to school, she had her hair do things that hair shouldn’t be able to do with accessories of all kinds to help decorate it. It’s not imposable for a student to express themselves while in a uniform, they just have to be creative to do it. An article written by Jana Giles and eight grade student from Moncton, N.B., Canada called, Public School Uniforms: Good or Bad?, made a list of everything she thought was good and bad about school uniforms, this includes that uniforms are boring because people would be wearing the same thing every day.
From the schools point of view the uniforms can help lessen problems with discipline. Such as teasing, according to Daijah Mallet, a writer for the Detroit Free Press, quote “Schools report that school uniforms decrease fighting and violence that arise out of arguments over fashionable clothes.” end quote. Most people have been teased because of their clothes but if everyone is wearying the same thing then less people have to deal with being the butt of a joke. This idea is supported by Patricia Garuka Mugume, a mother who sends her children to a school with uniforms, this mother states that "If I see a student who is dressed up inappropriately, it makes me think that the parent is not paying proper attention to the child and how he dresses," (Umutesi 1). Uniforms can also be used to promote school pride, if a student is wearing a uniform then they have a sense that they have to behave outside of school or the school might get a bad reputation and then the rival schools will look better.
A decent argument presented by those who don’t like uniforms, but for some reason isn’t as talked about as cost or individuality, is that since school uniforms make everyone look alike its harder to find one particular student. Educationists argue that this compromises the security and identity of students in case of a problem (Umutesi 1). This is true, however, a school can simply call the classroom that the student is in or ask for the student to come to the office over the speakers.
Again an argument that has some ground to stand on but isn’t used very often is that school uniforms are unpractical for the parents to go and find and for the students to wear. The parents would have a harder time with finding uniforms because sometimes the school doesn’t sell them, they have to go to the local stores and piece them together. However when argued from the students prospective this argument sounds more like whining and less like a main point, such as when Dylan Ankersen, a writer for the Gainesville Sun states, “Students now have two wardrobes, one for leisurely wear and a second set comprised of school polos that cost much more.” Many adults have two sets of clothes, one for work and one for play, when separated clothes may help people keep their minds on what they are doing, whether their at the office or if their at the club. A uniform is meant to help the person look and feel more profession and to physically make the business, or in this case school, look better as a whole. A school whose students are dressed in baggy clothes, with immodest blouses or pants look more dirty then a school whose students are held to a strict dress code (uniform).
Also, when students are in the frame of mind for work their behavior improves. According to an article written by Scott Learn and Holley Gilbert, writers at the Oregonian, called Adults Give School Uniforms High Marks who interviewed Heather Maharry the school secretary for McLoughlin middle school in which she stated that, "Originally, I worried about it violating their civil rights," she said. "But I have to admit the behavior does seem to have improved this year." If the students behavior not only improves by just having uniforms as well as get them used to dressing properly for work then why don’t more schools have uniforms?
There will always be people for and against school uniforms. The arguments for each side in many aspects will stay the same. If the parents have to buy back to school clothes anyway, why not buy a uniform? If buying the uniform is inconvenient do the rewards of that uniform outweigh the time spent trying to find the pieces to the uniform? Do uniforms make children accept whatever the system tells them to do, or do they provide a first argument for students to think about? Do school uniforms keep students from expressing themselves? Is it so bad for a student to have clothes for school and for play? Each point made can be countered by the other side easily enough, but the cost is flexible depending on what kind of uniform it is and students can find ways to put a little bit of themselves into the uniforms and once a student goes into a job that requires them to wear a kind of uniform then they will be ready for it.
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Giles, Jana. "Public School Uniforms: Good or Bad?." Times-Transcript. 27 Aug. 2011: F.7. SIRS Issues
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