Are School Uniforms the Right Fit?
The idea of forcing someone to wear a mandatory uniform seems to be very authoritarian, and is normally a practice only used by things like the military or in your job. However the last place you would expect to find such autocratic and seemingly tyrannical ideas is in the schools of young children. Such an idea is rapidly gaining support all across the world. Nevertheless, my own view is that although in principle uniforms may seem like a good idea, they ultimately lead to an increase in bullying, take away one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of school; individuality and take an unnecessary path to an easy solution.
First, uniforms will lead to an increase in bullying. This thought is often seen in the complete opposite by proponents of school uniforms, stating that school uniforms would stop students from making fun of another student for what they wear, since everyone is wearing the same thing. However while you may do away with one negative aspect of bullying one more arises; now students will be made fun of for how they fill out the uniforms. Students who are overweight or have other deformities such as acne, or shortened height will now stand out in the crowd and be seen as easy targets. “While uniforms do assuage the best-clothes competition, they create a new and more painful contest: the best-body competition” says Alicia Thomas a writer for http://www.pennlive.com. I can speak to this fact through personal experience as I have a brother who is very obese. Although he has since graduated high school, I saw him go through years and years of torment from his fellow classmates due to his weight issues. My brother attended a public school without a uniform requirement. If he had attended a school where uniforms are required I have no doubt that the bullying would have been much worse. The focus of a bully is more concentrated when there is a uniform policy. Instead of being able to pick on a person for multiple things his focus is now shifted to their most obvious traits. As well as being picked on for their physical disparages, school uniforms also lead to more bullying based on where they got their clothes. Some students may purchase their clothes from higher end retailers, and may be able to purchase “name-brand” labels, while other students may be forced to purchase their clothes from less recognizable labels such as Wal-Mart or Target. This once again allows a bully to target yet another facet of a students uniform. Bullying is nearly impossible to do away with all together, and school uniforms do little to change that, although they may decrease one aspect of the bully’s arsenal, it still opens up other avenues to aggravate.
Secondly, mandatory school uniforms take away one of the most exciting and interesting aspects of school; individuality. In a society where most schools are built in a insignificant and boring fashion, with plain white walls and drab floors, the vibrance and excitement of the students is the last line of defense to what seems to be an attack on the freedom of expression of schoolchildren all across the world. School is a time where we both gain an education, as well as develop our own unique personality. What you wear and how you dress is a key element in the development of your identity. It is easy to say that your outfit should not determined by how you dress, which is partially true, however to state that it plays no role is completely ignorant. In a time where students barely know themselves it is imperative that they have all the necessary tools at hand to help them grow and develop their inner as well as their outer personality. Uniforms not only take away your individuality as a student but your rights as a citizen as well. Upon entering a school campus you are immediately stripped of a majority of your god-given rights, now administrators want to take away one of the few rights that we have left, it hardly seems fair. This practice of stripping entire communities of simple rights and values is most commonly seen and practiced in corrupt, and malevolent dictatorships as well as in communist countries such as South Korea or even modern day China. To see the same principle being used on school campuses seems not only absurd but completely against what we pride ourselves on as Americans; our freedom of speech. As stated in the United States constitution, our first amendment confirms that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This amendment proves that taking away the students freedom of choice directly contradicts what is being taught to them in school. How can we tell students one thing, then demand an entirely different and conflicting set of rules? It is an unfair and seemingly illegal process. In an article on Cornell University Law School’s website they describe the role of this amendment as “the most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government.” In this case it is the school government that is interfering with, and constraining the students freedom. Evidently it is decidedly clear that even the idea of school designated attire is a blatant violation of a students first amendment right. School uniforms take away a students natural born rights, as well as taking away one of the most necessary and important traits to growth and development; a students individuality.
Finally, school uniforms take an unnecessary path to an easy solution. Proponents of a school uniform argue that they will cut down on gang activity by preventing them from displaying their gang colors, prevent students from wearing scandalous outfits to school, and even cut down on the amount of clothing that includes politically offensive, racially sensitive, or just outright insulting slogans or phrases. However what these uniform advocates fail to realize is the fact all of the problems mentioned above can just as easily be solved with a simple, yet strict school dress code. Dress codes attack all these problems, yet still allow students to maintain their individuality as well as their freedom of speech. At some schools they even “require students to have the belt line exposed at all times for fear of guns concealed under clothing” says Larry Wilder in his letter written for www.fresno.edu.com. Even such simple changes as raising the belt line can lead to safer schools, as well as making the job of the administrators much easier without asking too much of students and parents. It is the best of both worlds, giving students not only their god-given rights, but also maintaining a professional yet safe and educational environment. “Ruby Luke, the extracurricular secretary-treasurer at Lincoln (Middle School in Indianapolis), said the looser policy had resulted in fewer interruptions during class, because teachers rarely have to eject students from class to change into regulation clothing. “The kids are much happier, and there are not nearly as many dress code violations.” ” writes blogger Stephanie Clifford in an article she researched for the New York Times. This proves that not only does a dress code keep the children happy but can also lend a significant hand in cutting down on bad behavior. After all, a happy student is a well behaved student. The use of a school dress code can satisfy both sides by providing safety and professionalism as well as allowing students to keep their rights and individuality.
In conclusion, it is clear that school uniforms do little to positively affect the school atmosphere as well as the feelings and motivation of students. It is an over thought and overdone idea that in the end leads to more loose ends than it does actual solutions. At a time where we are fighting for freedom and democracy across the world the best we can do is continue to represent it here at home. Louis D. Brandeis a former Associate Justice to the Supreme Court once said “America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief, it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.” Let us continue to prosper, and never rely upon uniformity to shape who we are today.