The argument over school uniforms is a heated debate between two groups of people. On one side, we have the school administrators, including principals and teachers, who believe that school uniforms will make schools safer. We have the other side, including students and parents, who believe that uniforms are a way of preventing students from showing their true personality. Some parents believe it is an easy cash grab for companies that make school uniforms.
Of course, it is important that all sides of the argument actually explain why they believe school uniforms are either right or wrong. This tends to become a passionate discussion rather than a real debate. In the end, the school either overrides the opinions of the parents and institutes a school uniform or the school backs down and no uniform rule is made.
Let's begin by discussing exactly what a school uniform really is. Every single school has a dress code. A dress code is a description of both appropriate and inappropriate clothing that can be worn on school property during school hours. Some schools have vague dress codes that basically state that school is a work environment and that students are to dress as if they are at work. This is a very sensible statement since one of the purposes of school is to teach students how to act and behave in society, including appropriate clothing.
Other schools are more specific, outlining that clothing such as halter-tops, cut off jeans, short shorts, and thigh-high boots are not allowed. These dress codes are specific enough; yet still allow students some ability to show their personality through their outfits.
An actual school uniform is certain pieces of clothing that students must wear. They include shorts, pants, and skirt for the girls, as well as polo shirts, dress shirts, and sweaters or sweatshirts. Students must wear a combination of these clothing items to school along with white or colored socks (usually the school colors) and neutral colored shoes. School uniforms are commonly linked with Catholic or private schools; however, some public schools are gravitating for the reasons listed below.
So, what is the real purpose of school uniforms? Well, looking at the amount of violence in schools both in Canada and the U.S., school administrators would say its purpose is to keep students safe. Their arguments are strong since the number of students bringing weapons into schools has increased. School uniforms are form fitting and therefore there is no room to conceal weapons. For those that argue that it is students from other schools that are entering schools with weapons, school uniforms clearly identify those registered at the school.
When schools are located between different socioeconomic groups there is a constant tension between the "haves" and the "have-nots". Students that are in the "have not" group are often bullied by those in the "have" group simply because it is easy to make fun of someone for what they are wearing, or in this case, not wearing. School uniforms remove this insult and we could assume the chance of bullying would be reduced as well.
Some students and parents do not want school uniforms, but for two very different reasons. Some parents are worried about the cost. The cost is high considering that you don't buy just one piece of clothing, but a full wardrobe to suit a student's needs from Monday through Friday, September through June. Students do not wear the uniforms out of school so the cost is doubled when parents must also purchase a wardrobe for out of school activities. Students also grow at different rates and clothing purchased in one year may be too small by the next year. Worse, the student may outgrow the clothing before the end of the current year.
Students argue that it reduces their ability to show their true colors, to be unique, and not just another number. We want our students to know that they are unique and special. Some students take their wardrobe very seriously and feel that the only way to show their personality is through their clothing.
So the real argument is whether we want our students, our future, to be able to be unique or safe. It is an over simplification of the argument, but really there is so much emotion in the discussion that neither side will ever be truly happy. If we are to keep our students safe then schools at least need to implement a proper dress code and at most a rigid school uniform policy. We should be teaching our students that clothing isn't everything and that their morals and actions are more important in revealing their true character. Students need to understand that there are rules to be followed and that school uniforms are there to make their education a safe and respectful experience.