When thinking about what a school uniform might look like, Angus Young of AC/DC comes to mind. His uniform, or performance costume, is that of an English schoolboy, dressed in a suit type uniform with shorts instead of pants and a funky golfers hat. A group of girls and boys all wearing the same colored uniforms assembled in front of the catholic school down the block is another picture that comes to my mind when thinking about school uniforms.
The image of school uniforms has been attached to students of European and private schools. Such images, of students dressing in school uniforms, have led to stereotyping and a negative attitude towards schools enforcing a uniform policy. Children are presented as robots without the ability to express themselves in a society that promotes self-expression and individuality. The problem is that the cost of expressing oneself and being an individual can be astronomical. It is not uncommon to hear that a 15-year-old somewhere was brutally assaulted for a pair of expensive Nike shoes.
This notion is directly correlated to competition in fashion instead of academics in the school system. In recent history public schools have considered uniforms to be an ancient and somewhat draconian trend, though recently the provincial government has attempted to implement and enforce a uniform policy in our public school system. The implementation of a school uniform policy is important and necessary to improve the students. The arguments against school uniforms are fading while proponents of uniforms are beginning to gain ground. Some of the key benefits are safety, cost, and uniformity. There are several fundamental issues that school board officials and lawmakers should look at before implementing new policies and laws concerning school uniforms.
Firstly, these new laws and policies must have a positive effect on the student populations overall moral and thus their performance. This would not be limited to academic performances only but should also include other socially learned behavior including the students ability to be consistent with preset social norms, a skill necessary to be successful in the world today. Proponents of uniforms say that the academic performance has been increasing, and will increase further by having the students wear them. A lessened degree of attention and concern with fashion will enable a better condition for more thorough study, as well as lessen the economic burden placed on students and parents. Any situation that does not promote the improvement of students in school should be looked at and studied to find ways to change the situation.
There are no benefits to worrying about not having the money to buy the most fashionable attire. Would it not be better to be worrying about achieving the best grade, creating the best science project, or handing in an English assignment on time? The whole concept and appeal of brand name clothing is so ingrained into our simplistic minds, that it is uncommon to see any student not wearing or carrying at least one piece of such merchandise. There is no straight path through this problem, but it is possible to flank it. Issuing a school backpack, shoes and a hat would eliminate the students need to wear brand name clothing or accessories of any kind. However, by doing this, we come across the problem of individuality, which is just as important to a students success in life as their study habits. By offering a broader selection of school colors and styles, it is possible to feed the need for individuality while at the same time affording them the opportunity to conform to the rules of the school.
The cost of implementing a uniform policy must also be looked at closely. The social norm that all families have different degrees of economic status requires us to address this matter. A student lacking in funds should not be forced to spend all their money on uniforms so they could go to school, leaving them unable to afford after school sports or social events. It would certainly be atrocious if a student should have to money on uniforms in place of nutritious food.
There is a simple solution to this financial problem. Giving out uniforms for free or at a subsidized rate would alleviate the financial burden from the homes of the less fortunate, giving them the chance to succeed in life. In doing so, the doors will be open to those who could not afford to buy a school uniform, and thus not attend school. It is possible to educate a whole new social class who can theoretically, thanks to the efforts of the school system, become successful in life, become part of the middle or upper class, and in return through their taxation help some other underprivileged family put their children through school. The legal aspect of requiring students to wear uniforms is a small matter if the majority of parents back the policy. However, as is the nature of controversy, there will most certainly be those opposed to the notion.
The chief legal concern is the right to free expression. It can be said that the school has violated the students right to control his or her personal appearance. The benefits of having the public schools improve the learning environment for the students outweigh the need for fashion expression. Surgeons, for instance, must wear surgical scrubs when operating on a patient in order to protect against infection. Similarly, it can be argued that school uniforms will retain a positive and nurturing environment for not only the individual student, but also for his or her peers.
It is completely unnecessary for students to be fashionably expressive while inside the school, since students will of course maintain the right to express themselves outside the institution. When looking at an average high school, specialized groups, or cliques are discernable from one another at a glance. Jock, preppie, skater, or goodie-goodie are all words used to describe these groups. Unfortunately, some of these groups evolve into gangs, and conflicts inside a school occur. Clothing is not always the cause of these confrontations, but it can be a major factor in the aggression and competition between these groups.
By offering a school-wide or perhaps even a district-wide dress code, it is possible to create an intermediate buffer zone between some of these groups and prevent violence for occurring in the learning environment. What about the individuals that teach us the skills of life: the teachers, the bearers of wisdom who manage to transmit educational material from their minds or notebooks to the minds of students. A teacher must create an affirmative learning environment for the student, and this includes a necessity for teachers to conform to a dress code. This uniform could simply be black dress pants, dress shoes, and an appropriate top to pass along that a sense that teachers are role models, a concept that may have faded by the time most students reach their teenage years.
The development of a better system for basic education holds the utmost importance to every individual. A student receiving a better education will have a greater chance to be a contributing member of society. The responsibility of the schools and lawmakers is to improve conditions present in a school environment to make it as nurturing to mental growth as possible. It is irrefutable that if changes are not made to our current system, a system that oppresses the financially challenged, one that forces competitiveness in fashion rather than intellect, one that can even promote violence between cliques, then the repercussions could be very perturbing and irreversible.