Hayden Leach Ms. Layton American Literature February 25, 2010 School Uniforms Many students in America are forced to wear a uniform to school every day, and it violates some of their basic rights. School uniforms should not be mandatory in public schools, as they cause more problems than they solve, are expensive for students and schools, and suppress individuality. School uniforms are in some cases, extremely expensive and quite pointless, seeing as how they do not accomplish what they say they can.
Furthermore, they are suppressive, unproductive, and in some cases can have exactly the opposite effect on the students of a school, creating a gang mentality or further dividing the student body (“Dress Codes”). School uniforms have a rather long history, dating back to the 16th century in England, and have continued until the present day. These are only a few of the negative side effects uniforms can have, and there are several others. Uniforms were first introduced in 16th century England at the charity schools offered for poor and in many cases homeless children.
It was not until the 19th century that the many of the more esteemed English public schools began establishing uniforms and in the years to follow they were widely accepted at most all state schools, this was especially true at state elementary schools. In 1993, Will Rogers Middle School, located in California’s Long Beach County School District, began contemplating the idea of a school-wide uniform policy. That year, Will Rogers became the very first school in Long Beach County to have a mandatory school uniform policy (Dress Codes).
Other schools in that district soon followed, which drew national attention, as well as a personal visit from then President Clinton. President Clinton encouraged other school districts to make the transition to uniforms in his 1996 State of the Union Address, primarily owing to the rising amount of school shootings (Dress Codes). In some countries, such as China, school uniforms are a commonplace item in most schools. They feel that the uniform gives the students the sense that they are part of a bigger organization, and because of that they are compelled to do better in school.
Many private schools in the United States also require that their students wear a uniform, for the same reason that the Chinese students wear them. I believe that uniforms should not be allowed in schools because there are few benefits, and many drawbacks to being forced to have to wear them on a daily basis. Uniforms suppress a student’s sense of individuality, and also their freedom of expression which is the cornerstone of their democratic rights and freedoms as Americans (Grauke).
They promote the idea of punishing everyone for the actions of a few, because most of the students in a school are not badly behaved and therefore do not need the uniform to correct their behavior. In addition, many people are not able to afford school uniforms, some of which can cost upwards of $100 for boys, and $80 for girls (Grauke). They are then either forced to transfer schools or come up with the money some other way, which by itself presents a whole other host of problems.
If a student is forced to change schools, they may learn to resent authority or even their parents, because they might blame their situation on their parent’s choice of a school that then instituted a uniform policy (Larkin). All of this would be a major stress factor on the family. There is no direct evidence to support the claim that school uniforms make students get better grades, which is a common reason given for introducing them in the first place. The idea that students will focus on schoolwork rather than socializing is purely idealistic, however regardless of this fact administrators implement uniforms hoping this will be the case.
Many of the students at any given school that are already rebellious by nature (like most teens), are then forced into wearing a uniform, which in some cases can simply compound their rebellious nature, actually increasing behavior problems in school, as opposed to the desired effect of making behavior problems vanish. Furthermore, many school administrators feel that uniforms are an “overnight fix” for behavior and grades, and do not understand that they are not any of those things (Facts Against School Uniforms). There still needs to be a strong set of rules enforced at the school to keep students in line.
In Great Britain, there have been several cases of district heads stealing money from schools, by accepting bribes from uniform manufacturers to use their particular brand of clothing, and that is also something to consider when contemplating a uniform policy. Some people say that uniforms in schools are helpful and also healthy for students, for a few reasons. Many argue that when a student puts on the uniform, they are more focused on school because they recognize that the uniform means that it is time to get to work (Facts Against School Uniforms).
However, when a student graduates and goes into the work force or college, there may not be a uniform, and many question whether or not they will realize that they still have to perform even though they are not wearing a uniform (Larkin). Many public schools have instituted a uniform policy because their students simply will not comply with the dress code. This is particularly true in inner-city schools where dress code violations come as a by-product of the gang activity that some of the students are involved in.
Some think that this will be a quick-fix to the gang problem, but these students can still show support for gangs through unregulated clothing such as jewelry or hair styles. Principals say that after instituting a uniform policy, they have noticed an increase in school spirit, and student activity in after school clubs and sports has increased. What they may not realize is that imposing a uniform is not the only way to get kids to support their school, and if the uniforms are rejected, they can have the opposite effect, making students turn away from their schools (Facts Against School Uniforms).
Another opinion is that uniforms reduce the amount of distractions that are present in a school. When students have the freedom to wear whatever they please within the dress code, they argue that a uniform improves their students performance in the classroom. What they should focus on, is that a child should not have to be forced to get good grades or pay attention, they should do it for the simple fact that they want to succeed in life and get good grades by themselves (The School Uniform).
Uniforms in schools should not be mandatory, because students should want to do well in school of their own accord, not because the head of their school forces them into wearing a uniform. School uniforms are pointless, expensive, counterproductive, and can also damage a student’s self image by forcing them to wear unflattering clothing, especially in the society of today, where it is thought to be necessary to have the best looking, and most appealing clothes. In many inner-city schools, it is thought that not aving a uniform policy invites some students to show their gang affiliations through their clothing. Uniforms do not prevent the students from showing their gang affiliations, because they will find ways to get around the uniform policy through unregulated clothing and other means (The School Uniform). In addition to this, school uniforms have been shown to limit productivity, individualism, and the student’s right to self expression, which is the cornerstone of any democratic nation and should not be denied to anybody.