After reading “Would School Uniforms Improve Our Schools?” by Tori, I noticed a few viewpoints were lacking on the opposing side of the argument. While a couple opposing viewpoints were briefly glanced over, I would like to expand on a few and add some more for you to think about.
Many people think that without uniforms girls will dress like prostitutes and boys will dress like gang members. But what happened to dress codes? Are schools just taking the easy way out by implementing uniforms because they are too lazy to create and enforce a dress code? Where I went to high school, we did not have uniforms, we had a dress code. Girls did not wear skirts that were too short, shirts that were too low, or anything provocative. If a girl did come to school wearing something inappropriate, she would be sent home to change her clothes and come back to school. Boys did not dress like gang members and get away with it. Wearing pants that showed your underwear was unacceptable, as were drug-related symbols on clothing.
Saying that uniforms prepare children and teenagers for the workforce is ridiculous. How do school officials know what professions these children are going to enter into? Should we make future biologist wear lab coats to school while those aspiring to be mechanics can wear greasy jeans? Back when my mom went to school in the 1960s, female students were told they had to wear dresses and skirts because that is what they would wear in the workforce. My mom told the teachers that she would work in a gas station and wear pants. While my mom doesn’t work in a gas station, views on what women should wear have changed, and she can now wear pants at the office. Who’s to say that views on appropriate clothing in the workplace won’t change further in the future? Maybe now many jobs require dress shirts and slacks, but in the future, some study may come out that says jeans are the way to go in keeping your employees efficient.
A huge issue with school uniforms is cost. Uniforms are often implemented in low income areas. Uniforms also cost more than other acceptable school clothes. While you can find acceptable school clothes in a thrift store, it is often much more difficult to find uniforms at any kind of discount. Many people say that uniforms make it possible for rich and poor students to blend together. However, this isn’t the case. Here’s what really happens: The rich kids have several uniforms and when a shirt starts to discolor, they toss it. The poor kids have one or two outfits to wear to school. Poorer children are often forced to wear the same uniform for several days in a row (until it is laundry day when the uniform is taken to the laundromat), are laughed at for only having two outfits, and when those two outfits fade and get holes, they are still worn.
The other huge problem with uniforms is this: we all have different body shapes and different clothes fit different people. You probably notice this at restaurants. Some poor overweight girl working at a fast food restaurant will have to wear a tight fitting spandex uniform that shows every roll and looks horrible on her. Or some small chested woman will be working as a waitress wearing an outfit that accents the breasts she does not have. But people can choose where they go to work, and if you’re in a public school, it’s pretty hard to transfer to another one. In middle school, I had a lot of problems with the fit of the uniform. I look terrible in pleated pants. I was also too tall for my size. We had a requirement that shorts came down to your fingertips, to prevent rolling. We also had a requirement that shorts were not more than one size too big. In order to buy shorts that came down to my fingertips, I had to buy shorts that were six sizes too big! As a result, I landed myself 27 detentions for dress code violations in middle school. I never received a detention for anything else in my entire life as a student. The school did not care that the shorts were not rolled, my shorts were still in violation of their code. Apparently, the school expected me to have the shorts altered, an added fee to already overpriced shorts. In addition to all of the detentions, wearing clothes that do not fit properly can easily make you a target of ridicule and lower your self esteem. So much for uniforms making all students feel equal. Instead of making students feel equal because they are dressed alike, it is much easier to notice differences in how the clothes fit other students, as students aren’t even given the opportunity to find clothes that are the most appropriate for their body type.
I never noticed students in middle school acting any more or less mature due to the uniforms. They simply became everyday clothes. I do agree however, that dressing up can have an effect on behavior. When students dressed up for choir or orchestra concerts, they were on their best behavior. Years later when taking a guitar class in college, my professor explained that you need to feel different to get up on stage, in costume so to speak. If you were going to a fancy occasion, it would be very similar. You dress up for the occasion and you act appropriately for the occasion. But if you wore dress clothes everyday and went jogging in them, wrestled in them, studying in them, etc. you would not feel any different in such clothes. Feeling ready to get up on stage because you are dressed in your concert clothes is a psychological thing. Over time, excessive stimulation will wear down that feeling. When wearing uniforms everyday, students just act like what they are: students.
I think schools are taking the easy way out when they choose to implement uniforms. Forcing students to wear clothes that may not fit them properly, preparing students for jobs that they may never hold, and saying that chaos will ensue without uniforms is just not the answer to improving our schools. Schools need to bring back the dress codes that allow students to express themselves, while not being a distraction in the classroom. Promptly deal with students who cannot follow the dress code, and give them the detentions, not the students who don’t have the right body type to wear a uniform correctly. Schools need to set guidelines for children, not try to force them all into a mold. Uniforms are not the magical solution to making our schools better places.