School Uniforms: A Cheap Educational Reform Or Purely Effective? Essay, Research Paper
Throughout the history of dress codes in school, many districts have toyed with the issue or whether school uniforms would create a more unified educational environment or perhaps only cause chaos and complaint. As a graduating senior, I do not believe school uniforms will have any effect on the unity or safety of our school, they would only cause problems. I feel that there are several alternatives to achieving the so-called benefits of wearing school uniforms without wearing them at all.
It is understandable that in school districts without uniforms, it is the duty of school authorities to enforce a dress code within schools. Courts have generally upheld the attempts of school authorities to regulate the dress of public school students and rule that dress codes have been continually enforced because they are viewed as necessary to promote discipline, maintain order, and secure the safety of the students (Ritter 24). Therefore, it is reasonable to accept rules designed to maintain modesty by regulating dress length or banning revealing styles due to the fact that it is essential to the orderly functioning of the school. However, it is a completely different issue when schools begin their arguments in favor of requiring students to wear uniforms in order to discourage rivalries and promote concentration on academic studies. As a student, I speak for other in saying that wearing a uniform will not make one a better student or not have rivalries. Issues such as these are left up to the student himself and will not change his educational drive or academic needs.
There are many different reasons presented in the argument for school uniforms. One such reason is that it is an answer to solving the problem of school violence and theft. Four years ago in Long Beach, California, the public schools drew attention as the first in the nation to require students to wear uniforms (?Personal Appearance? 180). In President Clinton?s speech in 1996, he urged uniforms as a way to keep teenagers ?from killing each other over designer jackets?. Long Beach schools report a 91% drop in assault, thefts, vandalism and weapon and drug violations since 1991. A Long Beach juvenile officer, Sgt. Joe Battle said, ?Uniforms take away the number one reason kids treat each other differently; how they look? (Arnest 65) However, it should not be assumed that just because uniforms require certain colors, children would abandon all interest in designer labels. These designer labels purchased to fit the uniform code create the distinction between groups and becomes the basis of cliques that persist throughout high school. Also, the very issue referred to in President Clinton?s quote about designer jackets would be impossible to prevent unless schools require jackets to be purchased only from specific school uniform outlets, which would be costly, ridiculous, and unenforceable.
Some people also believe that having school uniforms would prevent gang members form wearing gang colors at school. However, if the uniforms were enforced for this reason, it is inevitable that teachers would still be involved in constant battles to ban certain d?cor that is seen as gang-affiliated. Upon such an occurrence, a student accused of wearing something gang-affiliated would not admit to it and nothing could be done about the situation anyway (Arnest 68). Therefore, regardless of whether or not students are banned from wearing their gang-affiliated d?cor, their gangs would still exist, recognizable or not, and uniforms will do nothing to solve the problem of gang violence.
Another ?advantage? of enforcing school uniforms is that it instills discipline within the student body. Discipline procedures designed to uphold teachers? authority are likely to disrupt the teacher-student relationship and create hostility toward authority figures (?Personal Appearance? 181). If this ?discipline? being referred to is the discipline created from fear of authority rules and figures, but understand that rules are created to give everyone equal rights and ensure the safely and well-being of society. A better way to instill this discipline is to teach students right from wrong, the purpose of rules, and the consequences if they choose to break those rules.
It is an arguable issue in the belief that school uniforms help students concentrate on their school work. This issue is that students will be able to focus on learning if they don?t have to worry about what they are wearing or what others are wearing (Ritter 25). As a teenager, I feel that there are so many daily occurrences in our lives, ranging from work, to friends, to relationships, to peer pressure, to college, that clothing is the least of our concerns. I also feel that if students are put in uniforms in high school and then enter the real world in a work environment without uniforms, their employers are not going to accept the idea that their work cannot be done because they are distracted by other employees? clothing. Without uniforms, students have the ability to develop this skill of overcoming distractions to get their work done and also practice a skill of decision making that they will have to face every day for the rest of their lives.
?School uniforms help school officials recognize intruders who come into the building.? Obviously the author of this quote has never been in Monroe-Woodbury High School. Having a reception desk in the main entrance with a visitor sign-in sheet, an on-patrol police officer roaming the halls, hall monitors at every corner of the building, and the heavily enforced rule of always carrying a student i.d card everywhere you are, it is hardly possible at all for an intruder to enter the building and thus school uniforms would not be needed for such a purpose.
Some people in society feel that an enforcement of school uniforms will decrease bullying. Yet, whether a person is dressed the same as another or not, the roots of bullying go further than outside appearance. In fact, wearing school uniforms may only create a future problem for those who are so used to the uniforms as the norm, they may become less tolerant of diversity, resulting in more bullying thereafter (Wilkins 20).
It is difficult to understand how some authority figures can argue that wearing uniforms will increase self-esteem. To me, this is incomprehensible in that it is important for teenagers to be unique and individualistic to prepare them for life in the real world and the idea of uniforms would only restrict them from doing so in a time when personal identity is important. Also, if the youth of today is restricted from being given the opportunity to show their own form of self-expression in the way they dress, then it is probable that they will choose to express their individuality in other ways such as tattoos and piercings.
In addition to these concerns, there are other issues that need to be considered. One issue concerns the fact that if public schools decide to have uniforms, then the girls will be forced to wear skirts which would be a regression to traditions of six decades ago and will result in the forced diminutizing of female students (Ritter 27). Another concern is that the policy of school uniforms infringe upon all students? First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.
Another concern is that every child has the right to a free, public-school education, and that right cannot be conditioned upon revising with a uniform policy. That precedent was set in 1969 in the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case, in which the Tinker children sued after being sent home for wearing black armbands in the protest of the Vietnam War. The U.S Supreme Court sided with the children in ruling that, ?It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate? (Arnest 182). Unless they are expressing themselves in an unthreatening way that does not disrupt the school environment, then students have the legal right to choose how to dress.
In a private school district such as Sacred Heart in Monroe, the idea of school uniforms is sufficient due to the fact that it is a private sector in which students are unified under the belief and education of God. However in a public school such as Monroe-Woodbury, the diversity of the beliefs of the student body and the fact that it is not unified under less than one religion clarifies the reasoning of the fact that there are no school uniforms.
In conclusion, it is apparent that mandated uniforms are clearly a miniscule solution to a much larger problem that has its roots in a wider society and the environments in which young people are growing up. Uniforms are nothing but a cheap educational reform that will do nothing in the long run to change the lives of students.
Arnest, Lauren Crohn. ?Children, Young Adults, and the Law? ABC- CILO, Inc. Santa Barbara.1998.
?Personal Appearance and Dress Codes? Deskbook Encyclpedia of American Schools Law. Oakstone Legal and Business Publishing, Inc. Minnesota. 2000.
Ritter, John. ?Uniforms Changing Culture of Nation?s Classroom? USA Today. October 14, 1998. Social Issues Resource Series, April 1999.
Wilkins, Julia. ?School Uniforms?. Humanists. April 1999. SIRS Reasearcher. CD-Rom. Social Issues Resources Theories. April 1999.