Public school readers: did you ever have to wear uniforms?
I did at my public middle school. Open toed shoes? Forget about it. Khaki or navy pants above the knee? No way. At my school, sixth graders were required to wear powder blue polos, seventh graders wore yellow polos, and eighth graders wore navy polos. If it was particularly chilly on any given day, we were allowed to wear either my school’s official navy sweatshirt or a white undershirt. I would insert photos of me throughout the years wearing my different uniforms here to elucidate the point, but I do not want to subject you to middle school me (you’re welcome).
I wasn’t crazy about having to wear uniforms, but I did not detest them. To be honest, I was almost excited at first to have to wear a uniform coming out of fifth grade- because that meant I was finally one of the “older kids.” I do not recall really having a personal style back in my middle school years (unless you count gaucho pants and ugly t-shirts as personal style), so that argument against uniforms did not really resonate with me. I was still able to wear Silly Bandz up to my elbows and plaid Rocket Dogs on my feet, so I did not complain much. My public school’s uniform policy wasn’t incredibly strict and I knew that I would be able to wear pretty much whatever I wanted once I got to high school, so I just waited until our no-uniform days to unleash the gaucho pants/camouflage shirt combo.
I remember questioning a teacher one day about the purpose behind having school uniforms during class. To sum up the conversation, she pretty much said that uniforms relieve the pressure some students may feel to wear branded clothing and the bullying that some students may experience for not having said clothing. Considering that well over half of the students in my county receive free and reduced lunch, the argument that uniforms essentially level the playing field across students should not be totally discredited. The rationale that my teacher explained is not just specific to my school: many educators and parents who are proponents of school uniforms also feel this way and can make many more compelling arguments towards their benefits. On the flip side, there are also many educators and parents who are opponents of having uniform policies implemented in public schools.
ProCon.org does a great job in laying out the pros and cons surrounding school uniforms (which you can read in their entirety here). To save you a little reading time, here are a couple of the arguments both for and against them that I found the most compelling:
- School uniforms keep students focused on their education, not their clothes.
- Wearing uniforms enhances school pride, unity, and community spirit.
- Uniform policies save valuable class time because they are easier to enforce than a standard dress code.
- School uniforms make getting ready for school easier, which can improve punctuality.
- School uniforms can save parents money.
- Students can express their individuality in school uniforms by introducing variations and adding accessories.
- School uniforms restrict students’ freedom of expression.
- Uniforms may have a detrimental effect on students’ self-image.
- Focusing on uniforms takes attention away from finding genuine solutions to problems in education.
- The push for school uniforms is driven by commercial interests rather than educational ones.
- Parents should be free to choose their children’s clothes without government interference.
- School uniforms in public schools undermine the promise of a free education by imposing an extra expense on families.
Even after reading through the main points raised by each side, I think one could make the argument that each point could easily be refuted. For example, the argument that uniforms enhance school pride can be refused with another argument that students who are forced to wear uniforms may actually feel resentment towards their school and its administrators.
So, what side are you on? Are you for or against having school uniforms in public schools? Which argument do you find the most compelling?