Thursday, September 06, 2007

Non Sequitors

Today's post is going to be horribly boring, sorry about that;-)

This story was on the front page of the Boston Globe yesterday...about school uniforms. There was probably a time when I felt like the idea of uniforms at a public school was moderately offensive. Shouldn't we encourage kids to be individuals? To express themselves how they see fit? Why force everyone into the same small box?

Well, I have come around...I am a strong believer in the value of school uniforms. Now, I don't mean shirts and ties for boys and those (incredibly sexy in a really dirty kinda way) plaid skirts and knee socks for girls. I mean khakis and button down shirts. Or polo shirts if the weather is nice. And khaki shorts or skirts in nice weather, too...feel free to set length rules... I dropped Munchkin for her first day of school yesterday in her mandated school uniform: a crisp new maroon polo shirt and a knee-length tan skirt.

There are several advantages. First of all, it is cheaper. I know people complain about having to buy uniforms, but you can buy a whole year's worth of those clothes at Old Navy for a couple hundred bucks (and by that I mean several pairs of pants and a bunch of shirts), and a district could probably get a better deal in bulk. But there is no need for a kid to have nearly as many clothes as they do now...I can't imagine that you couldn't cut twice that out of the clothing budget somewhere else.

Second, it makes teacher's jobs much easier. I know I have some teachers who read, so I hope there is someone who can chime in on the difficulties of dealing with the dress of teenage girls. There are a lot of girls who either want to look like sluts, or just don't understand their bodies enough yet to know how to dress. How do teachers deal with a kid who is dressed totally inappropriately for school? And who decides what is over the edge? Should you see a girls bra straps? Underwear? How much leg should she show? This is especially hard for a male teacher...he can't even tell the girl that her ass is hanging out, he has to go and find a female staffer to do it. Sometimes parents think their kids are dressed well, only to have them change or remove something when they get to school.

Third, it equalizes the kids in the "fashion game". There is enormous pressure in a lot of places to dress right, wear the right labels and have the coolest new stuff. That gets really expensive for parents and can be really humiliating for kids. Put everyone in the same clothes and it takes that part out of going to school. Let the kids make fashion statements when they are out socially, not when they should feel comfortable.

Finally, in some places, clothing is literally dangerous. My High School banned all sports-team gear during my Freshman year because it is so often used as a gang identifier. There are schools in some places where certain colors are banned for the same reason. This is a limited number of places, but in these places, uniforms can be a matter of life and death.

OK, so that is my boring post for the day. This is not exactly a "world peace" kinda issue, but the soapbox seemed a little dusty, so I figured I would break it out for a day.


Anonymous said...

I agree completely. I think that dressing nice makes you behave (that goes for kids and adults) and it really does cut out the "is this appropriate" question.

Plus I wish I could have worn a uniform to school - they're so cute.

Ally said...

This debate is raging in Nashville right now too. I think First Amendment issues are being mentioned.

I definitely agree that uniforms take a lot of stress out of schooling for low income children. At least this way, their clothing cannot set them apart as much, and they don't have to worry about never having the "right" brands, styles, etc. Plus in the long run, it would definitely save money for everyone....but maroon....yuck!:)

Azrael said...

I'm from Sri Lanka and over here School uniforms are mandatory, and it's all white. White shirts and trouser for the guys, (blue shorts for small kids) and white dresses for the girls. No matter which school, government run or private, the uniform is the same. The only differences are from the ties and the blazers. These are usually in the school colors, but they are not worn all the time, only during functions. Some schools also only allow black shoes to be worn.

However new private schools coming up have gone for more colorful uniforms, mostly in two-tones.

I personally think that uniforms are great because it creates equality among the students. It doesn't matter if your rich or poor, or from what race, during school hours you are all equal. It creates discipline within the schools. (The stuff you get up to after school is an entirely different matter he he :D). It is a less of a burden on the parents as well.

A school is a place that should be respected and I feel that the way you dress should reflect that.

Anyhoo that's my two cents about that he he :D

Ys said...

I think all schools in the UK have school uniforms. It definitely cuts down on the peer-pressure stuff. Mine was quite a laid-back uniform: black trousers or skirt, white polo t-shirt and a blue jumper with the school logo on it. Not very flattering but, hey, it's school right? ;)

I hope things are okay for you. I hope you found your lost something.

Airam said...

I always loved wearing a uniform in HS because it meant I didn't have to think about what to wear! And our civies day brought out our individualness when we got to wear our own clothes.

nicole d. said...

This is not a boring post. This post makes many good points and should appear in a national newspaper and be widely distributed. Uniforms would solve an awful lot of problems in schools. Why hasn't it caught on more? Someone should have a real-life story about it somewhere they can turn into a best-selling novel and then a movie with Hilary Swank (à la Freedom Writers).... Kids would watch it as would adults and maybe then the trend would get started... popular culture being what it is.

Accidentally Me said...

Claire - Oh, the traditional plaid schoolgirl uniform clearly has its place...:-D

Ally - They are actually kinda cute. Maroon shirts with a white school logo, and then they have white button-downs with a maroon logo. They look nice with khakis.

Azrael - Thanks for checking in...I love readers in far away places! All white actually sounds kinda neat!

Ys - I don't want it to be too flattering...this is my sister we are talking about, and I already don't like how boys look at her:-P

Airam - That is not a bad idea either...make Fridays the school equivalent of "casual Fridays".

Nicole - I love that comment:-) Best idea ever!!! A movie about how a plucky white lady goes to a tough inner city school with a crasy idea that everyone where khakis. At first she is ridiculed and her car is broken into. Then she slowly wins the kids over with her impassioned please for khakis...until finally the kids save her job from the hearless principal with a touching display where they all show up outside the school board wearing khakis! that has Oscar written all over it!

Natural Southern Charm said...

I agree! I think uniforms are a great idea and at first I was COMPLETELY against them (taking away identity and individualism), but I like the fact that it creates more equalism. Notice I said "More" though. Students will still be judged by their peers, though. Not having the most expensive jewelry, purses, glasses, shoes, etc... will still divide the "upper class" kids with the "not as wealthy" kids in public schools (possibly even in some private schools).

Overall, though, I think the benefits of wearing uniforms WAY trumps the negatives.

Great post AM!!