School Uniform: Is a Compromise Possible?
The history of school uniform in the United States goes back several centuries; but not until the 1980’s, it was the subject of fierce public debates. There exist two opposing points of view on the problem. Proponents of school dress code note that, “it means that the school rooms will be more orderly and more disciplined, and…young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside, instead of what they are wearing on the outside” (as cited in Public Broadcasting Service, 2015).
In turn, opponents insist that school uniforms make “look and feel like we were in prison” (as cited in Public Broadcasting Service, 2015). The author of this paper is inclined to agree with the latter opinion, although with some restrictions. It is suggested that school uniform is a costly undertaking that restricts students’ freedom of expression, and should be replaced with a more acceptable way to demonstrate affiliation to school community.
Advocates of school uniform believe there are many good reasons for strict dress code. One of the most frequently cited reasons is that school uniform contributes to better discipline among school students: “When all students are wearing the same outfit, they are less concerned about how they look like and how they fit in with their peers; thus they can concentrate on their schoolwork” (Caruso 83-88). Upon closer consideration, it is assumed that this statement is only partly true. Wearing school uniform may be a good way to discipline junior school students, whose attention is very scattered, and who have trouble concentrating on subject matter. Senior school students tend to be more disciplined. The proponents of school uniform lose sight of the fact that school clothes are not the only distraction. Gadgets, jewelry, and even school supplies are able to divert students’ attention.Wearing school uniform helps to address the problem of school bullying.
This conclusion was made by experts at the National Association of Elementary School Principals (2013), and is based on the statistics, according to which 86% of surveyed school leaders report “a significant, positive impact” of school uniform on peer pressure, and 64% admit that school uniforms reduce bullying. The statistics is convincing, however, its authors lose sight of a very important detail. School bullying is triggered by multiple factors, not necessarily one’s style of clothing.
The victims of school bullying have specific psychological traits, for example insecurity and dependence on other people’s opinions that make them a target for bullies (Juvonen et al., 2003). It is thus would be shortsighted to believe that wearing school uniform could eliminate school bullying.Another common belief is that school uniforms are able to blur socioeconomic distinctions between students. This opinion mainly comes from two assumptions. Firstly, school uniform can ease the burden on parents (Walmsley, 2011), as it is considered to be cheaper when compared to regular apparel. According to the National Association of Elementary Education (2013), the average price of school uniform is $150.