The school uniform idea has been around for a long time and in all those years, there are plenty of kids who hate it and plenty who couldn’t care less. For parents, there are plenty of pros and cons to consider when asked the question about whether kids should have to wear school uniforms and here we look at both sides of the argument.
Uniforms are good
One of the oldest arguments in favour of uniforms is also an argument against them for some people – the fact that all the kids look the same. But for parents who can’t afford to buy their kids a wardrobe full of designer clothes or wouldn’t even if they could, the uniform is a useful equaliser. Kids can be mean and if there are kids with expensive, designer clothes and those who don’t this can create conflict between the groups in various ways and lead to bullying. Then there are the problems when kids get older and their choice in clothes becomes a little less suitable for school wear. By wearing a uniform, it is set in stone what they wear and there is no different between one child and another.
That’s not to say that a uniform can’t be personalised because it can. Everyone doesn’t have to look exactly the same, they just have to conform to a set standard. The way they wear the clothes can be different and they can add little personalised finishes. Even elements such as footwear can be slightly different to others, allowing them to express their individuality when they find it.
In the US, a series of studies were carried out in the mid-90s when schools who previously didn’t have a uniform policy implemented one. One school in Long Beach found that the overall crime rate of its students dropped by 91% when they were all made to wear uniforms. There are 69% less vandalism incidents and 85% less assaults. Similarly, in Norfolk, Virginia, the same policy led to a decrease in children leaving class without permission by 47% and throwing objects in class fell by 68%. Now while this won’t apply to all areas of the world, it raises an interest question – does uniformity lead to better behaviour?
Expensive clothes and jewellery can even leave kids more liable to be attacked for these items. There are stories from around the world of children being attacked or even killed by other kids or older teenagers because they were wearing an expensive item that could be sold for a good profit. While those expensive trainers may seem a good idea, they could even make your child a target whereas generic school shoes are of interest to no-one.
Wearing a uniform and instilling a sense of pride in their school has been shown to help children learn about being a part of something. Yes, the family is the most important unit and the first one they learn about but being part of something due to attending the school, working with others and having pride in it is an important part of understanding their place in society.
The lack of choice involved in picking out a uniform can save a lot of time on a morning and relieve some of the stress of a hectic household. Teenagers can spend serious time deciding what to wear and making sure they are happy with their outfits but by wearing a uniform, this choice is greatly removed. Yes they will want to do hair, and makeup with girls, add accessories and such but this takes less time than the whole wardrobe decisions.
Uniforms are bad
Some people are against uniforms on the principle that it makes everyone the same and robs them of their individuality. By making every child in a school wear the same clothes, it deprives them of the right to be their own person and dress in the way they see fit. Some believe it even steals their rights of individuality when they reach their teen years.
Others believe that children build their sense of self through their clothes and accessories as well as learning about colours. There are sometimes signs in what children choose to wear and how they dress themselves that can indicate to underlying problems and sometimes a uniform can mask these signs. They also learn about good and bad choices through what they wear among other elements and this learning is take away through the conformity of a uniform.
Some parents raise the issue that in an emergency, it is harder to find your child when they are dressed the same as everyone else. At least if you know what they went to school wearing, you can look for that outfit and find them if something bad happens. Likewise if a child goes missing, their clothes are more memorable when they are varied from their school mates and there is a better chance that someone will remember seeing them. Similarly, when a student is mis-behaving or causing trouble, it can be more difficult for teachers to correctly identify which child is behind the problems when everyone is wearing the same thing.
While having a wardrobe full of designer clothes is expensive, some parents find the restrictions of a uniform also costly. While many supermarkets provide discount ranges of basic uniform clothes there are often elements that must be purchased from the school such as blazers or jumpers with the school badge on. These can be far more expensive than a generic piece of clothing from a shop and when money is tight, this extra cost can be difficult.
One of the most convincing reasons for uniforms is that they help to stop bullying. While this is true in some respects, it can also sometimes be used as a plaster over the wound – not really dealing with the problem but appearing to. By attributing a lack of uniform as being the cause of bullying, it can risk oversimplifying the problem and not dealing with all of the matters.