Dear Neil Kokemuller,
One cannot overstate the importance of education. Our children have barely learned to walk when they start their formal education career in a school. The society hopes the children will acquire the knowledge, skills, and character that will help them thrive in the real world and become productive members of the society. Thus, it is not surprising for different stakeholders including the parents to pay close attention to a school’s culture, rules, and environment to ensure the children are getting a well-rounded education. While almost everyone agrees each child is entitled to a good education, the stakeholders may have quite different opinions as to what constitutes a good education. A case in point is a school’s uniform policy which may be supported by some stakeholders while the others would see as detrimental to the overall learning process.
The critics of a school uniform argue the role of school uniforms in reducing violence in the school has been exaggerated. They point out to Dr. Alan Hilfer who suggested the reduction in violence might have more to do with school violence awareness and prevention programs than school uniforms. The critics are concerned a school uniform policy prevents a child from expressing his individuality. The students may wear clothes that best reflect their unique personalities and tastes while a school uniform encourages sameness. The school uniforms are also criticized for imposing financial burden on low and middle income groups. Even if the school provides school uniform, the financial burden doesn’t disappear but is simply transferred to the tax payers. The critics of the school uniform are concerned the school uniforms probably increase violence outside the school’s boundaries. The school uniforms make it easier to identify the students from a rival school. The students from the schools with uniform policy may be bullied by the students from the schools with no uniform policy. Last but not least, the school uniforms may promote high levels of school pride, increasing the risk of inter-school conflicts .
The supporters of school uniform argue it creates a sense of community among the students. A school uniform may promote pride in the school which, in turn, results in greater respect for the organization. The supporters also believe school uniforms promote several desirable behaviors among the students. The school uniform teaches them it is what is on the inside that counts and not what is on the outside. The President Bill Clinton supported the idea of school uniforms in a March 1996 speech by arguing school uniforms will influence the young people to evaluate themselves on the basis of inner qualities rather than outward appearance .
The school uniform eliminates certain distractions such as worrying about clothes every day or comparing yourself to the peers. It may also reduce bullying of the students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may, otherwise, be taunted by their fellow students from more prosperous socio-economic backgrounds. It is estimated roughly 160,000 students miss school in America every day due to fear of intimidation by the fellow students . The supporters of the school uniform believe it may help reduce crime among the students. In 1994, Long Beach, California school district became the first public school district to adopt school uniform policy. The school fights and muggings declined by 50 percent and sexual offences declined by 74 percent in the Long Beach, California school district in just a year .
If the supporters of the school uniform were to believe, the financial burden on the low and middle income groups goes down because they do not have to buy a whole wardrobe of dresses for their children . They may have to make initial investment in the school uniform but it will save them the need to buy other clothes later. The supporters also point out the popularity of school uniforms in many other countries including developed nations like Japan and the U.K. . The critics of the school uniforms do have valid concerns but the potential benefits of the school uniform exceed the potential shortcomings of such a policy. Thus, school uniforms should be embraced by the public schools because they encourage children to focus on more important things such as academics and personal characteristics rather than less important issues such as one’s physical appearance and socio-economic status.
It is important to take into account the desires of students, and a significant proportion of the students may welcome an opportunity to express their personal styles in school. The schools’ administrations could borrow a page from the corporate world by allowing the students to express their personal styles once a week. In other words, the students would be required to wear a school uniform four days a week while they could dress casually on the fifth day of the week. This policy will help achieve the benefits desired by both parties to the issues. The uniform policy will create a sense of community among the students, and encourage them to focus on students and co-curricular activities instead of outshining their fellow students in fashion trends. The uniform policy will also help reduce the socio-economic tensions in a school environment. The casual day will allow the students to express their personal styles, and may also help promote the goodwill towards the school. Last but not least, such a compromise will improve the working relationships between the supporters and the critics of school uniform policy.