School Uniforms: Helpful or Not?
By Kristen on November 8th, 2011
During one recent OOM meeting, the topic of school uniforms came up. It was quickly apparent that we all have very differing opinions on the effectiveness of uniforms, as well as very different experiences with them in our own school years!
Some OOMers were in favor of uniforms, like Michael who said, “I am all for uniforms in schools, especially in high school. My memories of high school seem to highlight fear of my differences and I feel uniforms emphasize a clarity of purpose that somewhat relieves the pressure of those differences. I am not saying that I liked my uniform. It was a yellow shirt and navy pants that were not the height of fashion.”
On the other hand, Dante was not quite as keen on a strict uniform: “I’m not in favor of uniforms, per se, but I am all for dress codes. When I was in middle school, we had uniforms in a sense: we all had to wear navy blue blazers, dress shirts, ties, dress pants, and nice shoes… The dress code set-up in high school, I think, was just right: You looked put together and professional, but you were able to express yourself, too, in the kinds of clothes you wore that fit within the strictures of the dress code.”
Both Dante and Michael acknowledged that they were thankful to know how to tie a tie and dress professionally when they went off to college, though.
Alex agreed, adding, “A part of becoming an adult is learning to make the correct decisions, picking out a school appropriate outfit as one of those decisions. Schools should outline what is not acceptable to wear during school hours and students who don’t wear the appropriate clothing will have to face the consequences of detention or being sent home.”
Morgan weighed in from the perspective of someone who never had to wear a uniform: “I’ve always found the idea of school uniforms to be appealing, though I never had to wear them myself. But they make me think of boarding school, another concept that’s always intrigued me. Now as an adult, I’m on the fence about the idea of uniforms. I like the trend of stricter dress codes — however Puritan it may seem, there are outfits that can be distracting — but I have read instances where schools overreacted in response to student clothing. I guess overall, I’m more a proponent of common sense guidelines than anything else. Everything in moderation!”
And Jess, also from a uniform-less background, talked about her experience. “There was a dress code, but it was not the same as a uniform. I think that it did separate us in some ways. There were the kids who looked like “this” and the ones who dressed like “that”. There were judgments made based on how you dressed, but I never found it too distracting — though I could see how it could be.”
As someone who wore a uniform from 1st grade through the end of high school, I reflect back on that time and laugh at how much I complained about wearing them. If I’d only known at the time how difficult it can be just to pick out something to wear in the morning! I can definitely see how an enforced uniform kept us from worrying about the cool new “thing” that everybody had to have during elementary school. I’d even argue that my high school uniform made us all find different ways to express ourselves through our actions and our personalities, rather than relying on our clothing to communicate it for us.
Tell us — how do you feel about school uniforms? Are they helping kids stay focused or squashing creativity?