There’s always been controversy over school uniforms
While currently, it’s only in catholic schools in Canada that have to wear uniforms; it’s an ongoing heated debate. Should all schools have students wear uniforms?
Most jobs these days have some sort of uniform you have to wear. If you work in the services industry, from fast food restaurants to hotel chains- more than likely they have given you a uniform that you have to wear at work. Even some factories and delivery companies make you wear some sort of uniform, like a shirt with the company logo on it. So we as adults wear uniforms without even a second thought, as it’s our job and well were getting paid to wear these uniforms. But for our children, unless they go to a private school or one that does have these, we send them wearing the ones they already own.
I grew up going to school in my own clothes. But I do admit that I would see the other kids going to school in their freshly ironed shirts and matching jackets and feel somewhat envious that they didn’t have to wake up and pick out clothes everyday. It would have made my life more simple.
As a parent, I have often wondered if my son went to school in a uniform, would my life be easier? Would I have less laundry? After all, he’d be wearing the same uniform 5 days a week during the school year. Would it save me money on buying clothes? I have a son so you can imagine the rips he gets in his jeans and how dirty he gets on a day to day basis when he comes home from school. Are school uniform’s more cost effective? So I thought I’d do the pro’s and cons of school uniforms.
- Uniformed schools have a direct effect on the students’ sense of belonging and school identity. This creates a positive social environment as every student is “on the same team”.
- There is a feeling of unity when wearing a uniform and that your friends are wearing the same outfit. Example of this is how athletic clubs bond as a team while wearing the sport’s uniform.
- It is a display that there is a collective consciousness and that team members work collectively towards a common goal or purpose. Also school expectations are easier to enforce when students are in uniform as it is a physical display of readiness for learning by being properly dressed.
- Outside distractions of fashion and inappropriate dress is excluded from the environment as every student in uniform displays their academic intentions of the day and leaves the consumer driven world on the outside for the duration of the school day.
- School uniforms are economical as they eliminate the need for parents to buy their children clothes for school that keep up with the ever changing trends. Not only are school uniforms classic and can be worn for as long as they last, they also give parents a way out of not having to buy their children certain apparel to show that they “fit in”.
- School uniforms create equality as they remove competition between students of higher and lower socioeconomic groups. My son is only 4 but I can imagine when he hits his teenage years, he’ll want whatever is in style, this would eliminate some of the arguments I may have with him in the future.
- Now I know some parents are probably thinking “But what about the parents that can’t afford the school uniform’s?” There is no school board on this planet that will deny any student access to a school based on the family not being able to afford a uniform for the child. Every school board has uniform assistance for those families in need. This assistance is easily accessible through the schools vice-principal and/or guidance counsellor and covers the full cost of the school uniform. Similarly when uniforms get very worn and a family cannot afford to replace the item, uniform assistance program is there to help out with a new item at no cost to the family.
- School uniforms keep school communities safe. It is an automatic way to identify who is part of the school community and who is not. Intruders are immediately identified. Out of all the arguments for school uniforms I believe this is the greatest one since its motive is to keep our children safe. School uniforms are also a great safety feature on class trips; students from a particular school are quickly recognized. This helps the teachers not only count students quickly it also helps students stay together as a group and identify as one.
So there’s the pro’s but what about cons?
- Cost of paying for school uniform’s and regular clothes. School uniforms are costly and therefore contradict the reasoning that school uniforms even the playing field for families in low socioeconomic brackets. In fact it is of determent to the exact people they are trying to support. Parents must buy their children regular clothes regardless of whether the school their children attend is uniformed or not. The uniform is then an added expense and therefore not a way to help financially struggling families but actually adding burden. In the situation that a family has several children attending the same uniformed school it creates a very large cost for the family at the beginning of every school year. Uniformed schools could represent a massive obstacle to new comer families whose financial means may be very limited due to their recent immigration.
- School uniforms do not evade cliques from forming, nor do they create a homogeneous community. Uniforms therefore lack effectiveness and do not live up to the promise that they create a positive social environment. Furthermore there is no proven correlation between uniforms and achievement or uniforms and behavior. The argument that uniforms contribute to students performing better academically and behaving properly simply are not true. Moreover school uniforms can serve to stigmatize a school especially in urban areas. This can happen when students from a “bad” school are easily identified by the uniform they wear and then are marked within the community. This can lead to ghettoized schools and neighborhoods and cause an awful divide, exactly what the uniform was trying to prevent. If “imagination is more important than knowledge” as Einstein said then school uniform policies undermine the importance of self-expression and attack the very foundation of what we should be teaching our children, to think critically and grow to become their own people.
What we wear and how we dress are true reflections of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Our wardrobe is an expression of our personalities, on certain days it can reflect our moods, on other days our ethnicity and at times our attitudes. To not be able to express one’s self through clothing is like not allowing an athlete to run or a singer to sing. Enforcing a uniform at school is also not reflective of the real world. It does not teach individuality and how to celebrate our differences but in turn shuns them and teaches conformity. Schools should be a place of exploration, support and growth and imposing a mandatory dress code does not do this, but quite the opposite.
The debate of whether schools should enforce a dress code policy and assume a school uniform for the students is contentious and the reasons for and against are equally strong. People’s opinions will lie depending on what their priorities are. A parent that highly values safety will likely side with yes to uniforms. Other parents who view self-expression most important will want an environment for their children that is not conformed by a uniform. As with many issues in life our opinion will lay with our values.
I myself, am torn.
While I think uniforms would possibly help our school’s with there dress code problem, I believe our children should be able to dress as they like. I want my son to grow up and be able to make his own decisions, even if it is his clothing. While I try to teach my son how our clothes are made and how to shop ethically and sustainable instead of buying fast fashion, I still in the end believe he has a choice on what he wears and buy’s, after all I’m not gonna be dressing him and buying his clothes forever. I want him to make his own choices, regardless of what I say.