Although the first uniforms date back as far as 1552 when religious schools in London took up children from unprivileged families and London citizens provided them with clothes of the same type (Scott), the question of their appropriateness and effectiveness for a healthy school environment remains highly controversial. The supporters claim that uniforms increase school attendance, school pride and academic performance while decreasing problems with school discipline, reducing label competition and causing less peer pressure and racial tensions (Cruz, 34). However, the arguments against uniforms list as serious ones as suppressing individuality and even violating The First Amendment to the US Constitution that grants freedom of expression. This paper intends to consider both sides to this issue in order to reach some clarity on the topic.
Uniforms started to be a staple in public schools since the 1990s and the following arguments can be listed in defense of their implementation:
Uniforms eliminate the pressure for low-income families to buy expensive designer clothes as well reduce violence among students that could be injured or even killed because of their trendy jackets etc. (Gullatt).
Specific type of clothing on the campus makes it easier to identify possible trespassers or intruders (Burkemper, 32).
Uniforms help students concentrate on their study by reducing the distraction from observing what other pupils wear, thus fostering academic performance and improving general discipline.
Uniforms encourage students to express their individuality through creative activity and academic success rather than through wearing trendy clothes;
Uniforms diminish gang affiliation through color or particular type of clothing.
The most substantial of these arguments was once emphasized by Bill Clinton who said that uniforms slowly teach our young people one of life's most important lessons: that what really counts is what you are and what you become on the inside, rather than what you are wearing on the outside (Mitchel). Generally it seems that wearing uniforms helps to improve issues with discipline and crime as well as develop correct mental objectives in pupils.
However, there is still very little factual evidence if any at all that wearing school uniforms can be effective in enhancing pupils academic performance or boost their motivation for studying. Moreover, recent research conducted by Russel Edward Sowell (2012) eloquently demonstrates that there is no proved correlation between wearing uniforms and academic achievement (Sowell). Sowell conducted an experiment in two secondary schools in rural Georgia where pupils are under higher risk of not graduating from school. The experiment consisted in comparing school attendance, achievement in English Language Arts and Math in two experiment schools: school A that introduced uniforms and School B without uniforms. The experiment showed that pupils wearing uniforms did have significantly fewer absent days (Sowell, 88), but there was no statistically significant difference in academic achievement either in scores on the English Language Arts portion or the Math portion (Sowell, 89). Therefore, insisting on high school children wearing uniforms against their will is at least useless in terms of improving their achievement. At the same time this forceful imposing of dull impersonal clothing can have negative consequences. Young children in their adolescence experience all sorts of transformation and need to be provided with maximum freedom of expression in order to encourage their comprehensive development. Besides that, wearing the same clothing can lead to some kind of Orwellian depersonalization the society where all individuals not only look the same but think and behave within the same structured and predictable paradigm.
To sum up, wearing uniforms in public schools has both positive and negative sides to it. The arguments in favor of uniforms include higher attendance and discipline, lower crime rates and lower chances for letting intruders inside, cost-effectiveness for lower-income families and reducing peer pressure. One more advantage of wearing uniforms is that with their help it is easier to manage and control issues connected with gangs and gang colors. Among the disadvantages of uniforms are: limitations in teenage self-expression, and possible depersonalization. Moreover, wearing uniforms proved to be absolutely ineffective in terms of improving pupils academic achievement. Therefore, it makes sense to make a decision about introducing uniforms into every particular school after serious consideration and having examined the concrete situation and possible consequences.
Burkemper, Michelle L. The Attitudes and Perceptions of Students toward the Wearing of Uniforms in Public High Schools. N.p.: n.p., 2008. Print.
Cruz, Barbara C. School Dress Codes: A Pro/Con Issue. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Pub, 2001. Print.
Gullatt, David E. Rationales and Strategies for Amending the School Dress Code to Accommodate Student Uniforms. American Secondary Education 27.4 (1999): n. pag. Web. 3 June 2016.
Mitchell, Alison. "Clinton Will Advise Schools on Uniforms." The New York Times. The New York Times, 1996. Web. 03 June 2016.
Scott, Jenny. "School Uniforms: A History of 'rebellion and Conformity'" BBC News. BBC News Online, 5 Sept. 2014. Web. 02 June 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-29047752>
Sowell, Russell Edward. "The Relationship of School Uniforms to Student Attendance, Achievement, and Discipline." ProQuest LLC (2012). ERIC. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
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