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Ask any school child what the pros of a school uniform are and they'll likely greet you with blank stares. If you think back to when you were a child you'll remember that most of us hated wearing a school uniform. However while it might not be entirely popular among the children, it can nevertheless have many positive benefits and if you think back to your time in school objectively now, then you can probably appreciate that fact.
For parents, teachers or governors trying to decide on their viewpoint of school uniforms it can be hard to think of it objectively and to think of all the different strengths and weaknesses they poise. Read on then and learn some of the plus and minus points about the controversial school uniform.
It helps you to find children: If a school is on a trip, or if a child runs away, a school uniform can help teachers to quickly identify children from their school and so prevent them from getting lost. This is a very useful ability for teachers and if it means fewer children going missing it's of course a good thing.
It prevents competition and teasing: When children wear their own clothes into school, this then becomes a time for them to judge each other. Some children will be more mature than others, some will have better dress sense, and some will have more money at their disposal. What you don't want is some children turning up in fashionable new clothes and bullying the ones in their hand-me-downs who will inevitably feel embarrassed as a result. With a school uniform everyone is the same, thus no one can argue this point. Likewise wearing home clothes can show affiliation � to sports teams, to TV series, or to bands � and this can then cause arguments between the 'rival' teams.
It can enforce a positive attitude: In a work place we dress smartly even though there's normally no uniform in office jobs, and even the self employed are advised to dress as though they were going into an office. The reason for this is that it can make you feel professional, and that that in turn can make you produce a better quality of work. The same is true of school children and if they are in shirts they will feel more like little workers and less like football fans.
It can teach discipline: Though many jobs do not require a uniform, others do. If you children are going to grow up to become nurses or checkout assistants then they may as well get used now to putting on the same uniform day in and out.
It shows their age: At the end of the day you want people to know that your children are children. This prevents people from chatting them up or serving them alcohol. By putting them in school uniforms the older looking children then can't pretend to be older than they are.
It can be used as an excuse: If a child is misbehaving and needs to be put in line, it can sometimes be difficult for a teacher to find a reason. By telling them off for having their shirt un-tucked though you have a legitimate reason. This is often why there are dress codes in clubs (though some parents would undoubtedly argue this was a bad reason to wear a uniform).
They're expensive for parents: Those parents who would have sent their children to school in old hand-me-downs and knitted jumpers may not be as relieved about the uniform as you may think, as it will mean they have to fork out for expensive school uniforms time and again in order to pay for their children's education. They will also need several versions of the same outfit as their children will have to wear them five days a week. This is on top of the clothes they already had to wear. They may well end up still wearing hand-me-downs from older siblings, or faded clothes from the charity shop too.
They can give the school a bad name: If the children of a school are out causing trouble wearing the uniform from a school, it can reflect badly on that school and result in fewer parents wanting to send their children there.
It can cause controversy: Someone has to design the uniform and someone has to choose what it consists of. Rules like 'girls wear skirts' can be perceived as pervy or sexist, while girls not being allowed to wear skirts can upset a lot of the girls. Likewise ties will be seen as a point of controversy (again is there gender equality here?) and every time there' a redesign parents and pupils alike will likely be angry. By letting children wear their own clothes you can avoid all of the politics involved here.
They can stifle individuality: Some people say that school uniforms are good for creating a sense of authority and discipline in children, whereas other parents would argue this is undesirable and they would rather their children were more creative and more liberal. At the same time they might feel that it takes away a way for children to express themselves and be more creative. It could be seen as stifling their creativity and independence to get them more willing to work for the 'man' in later life. Whether or not this is a good thing is entirely a matter of perspective.
Children don't like them: At the end of the day children would all love to wear their own uniforms. It would make children want to come to that school and it would make them a lot more likely to tow the line in other ways. Other schools would think that the children from yours were the 'cool' ones and it would generally be a great gift to the children. They're the ones who have to wear the things day in day out... so this has got to be worth something.
They look bad: School uniforms by and large are ugly to look at and usually involve black and yellow stripes, mucus green jumpers and uncomfortable materials. It's no wonder the children don't like wearing them... And this fact can make them teased by other children.
So there is no easy answer about whether children should or shouldn't wear uniforms and really it comes down to your own philosophies. At the end of the day though it's possible to make school uniforms a lot more pleasant than they are currently and there's no reason for them to be quite so bad to look at. Meanwhile it's also possible to find a compromise � such as making children wear a certain hat, or wear a tie and shirt but letting them choose them. Even just saying they have to wear a red jumper. If you are in charge of uniforms at your school then, maybe try thinking outside the box and ending the age old debate? Perhaps if you are little creative then you can satisfy both camps to at least some degree.
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- Comment #1 (Posted by Kailey)
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This article was absolutely terrible I mean seriously. "They look Bad" "Children Don't Like them" really utter disgrace is all I have to say :(
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- Comment #10 (Posted by an unknown user)
Not all school uniforms are expensive. Also, how can students tease other students wearing ugly uniforms if they're all wearing the same uniforms? And also, when you mention that it causes controversy, why not have gender neutral uniforms? Or maybe give girls optional skirts, and boys optional ties.
- Comment #11 (Posted by an unknown user)
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"They look bad"
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These are very good reasons!
- Comment #24 (Posted by an unknown user)
- Comment #25 (Posted by an unknown user)
The description of the uniforms seems rather silly. As if they all are alike. And where are you getting the black and yellow stripes? Most uniforms I have seen are navy.
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Great pros. Helped my researching a lot!!!
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Not all uniforms are expensive and they are all different but kids should have their opinion on things.
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Very good source of information for my research paper, thank you very much for going into detail about every pros and cons you picked.
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Good article. We are writing an argumentative essay in in class about school uniforms and this was good research.
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I liked this article...
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I like the cons, they are really helping me on my speech/debate thing that I have. Thanks. :)
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Why is it that I've seen the reason "Children Don't Like Them" on every article I have read so far? That's the most idi*tic reason I've ever heard.
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I am doing a one on one debate in school about uniforms and this article not only helped me with my reasoning, but gave me some great insight on what my opponent will say!
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For the past decade, schools, parents and students have clashed over the issue of regulating student attire. In 2007, cases involving an anti-Bush T-shirt in Vermont, an anti-gay T-shirt in San Diego, and Tigger socks in Napa, California, made their way through the courts, causing many to wonder whether this debate will ever be resolved.
Meanwhile, researchers are divided over how much of an impact — if any — dress policies have upon student learning. A 2004 book makes the case that uniforms do not improve school safety or academic discipline. A 2005 study, on the other hand, indicates that in some Ohio high schools uniforms may have improved graduation and attendance rates, although no improvements were observed in academic performance.
Why do some public schools have uniforms?
In the 1980s, public schools were often compared unfavorably to Catholic schools. Noting the perceived benefit that uniforms conferred upon Catholic schools, some public schools decided to adopt a school uniform policy.
President Clinton provided momentum to the school uniform movement when he said in his 1996 State of the Union speech, “If it means teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms.”
The pros and cons of school uniforms
According to proponents, school uniforms:
• Help prevent gangs from forming on campus
• Encourage discipline
• Help students resist peer pressure to buy trendy clothes
• Help identify intruders in the school
• Diminish economic and social barriers between students
• Increase a sense of belonging and school pride
• Improve attendance
Opponents contend that school uniforms:
• Violate a student’s right to freedom of expression
• Are simply a Band-Aid on the issue of school violence
• Make students a target for bullies from other schools
• Are a financial burden for poor families
• Are an unfair additional expense for parents who pay taxes for a free public education
• Are difficult to enforce in public schools
Uniforms vs. dress codes
Schools and districts vary widely in how closely they adhere to the concept of uniformity.
What’s a dress code?
Generally, dress codes are much less restrictive than uniform policies. Sometimes, however, dress codes are nearly as strict, as in the case of a middle school in Napa, California. This particular school’s dress code required students to wear solid colors and banned images or logos on clothes. When a student was sent to detention for wearing socks adorned with the image of Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Tigger, the girl’s family sued the school district for violating her freedom of speech. In August of 2007, the district announced it would relax its dress code – for the time being – to allow images and fabrics other than solid colors. The district superintendent, while admitting that banning images on clothes raises concerns about the restriction of political and religious speech, announced his intention to move soon toward implementing uniforms in the district.
Uniforms are certainly easier for administrators to enforce than dress codes. Consider two recent examples of students challenging dress codes through the courts.
In June of 2007, the United States Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision affirming a Vermont student’s right to wear a T-shirt depicting President Bush surrounded by drug and alcohol images. The school had suspended the student, not for the anti-Bush political statement, but for violating a dress code that prohibits drug and alcohol images. The courts, however, disagreed with the school and found that, because the images referred to Bush’s alleged past use of cocaine and alcohol, they were protected as free political expression.
In March of 2007, the Supreme Court “vacated” or set aside the decision of a lower court upholding a San Diego high school’s suspension of a student for wearing an anti-gay T-shirt. The school argued that the T-shirt was hateful and inflammatory. The Supreme Court’s action essentially struck down the school’s argument and upheld the student’s right to free speech.
In both of these cases, the schools’ attempts to protect students from drug and alcohol images or hateful speech were reversed in favor of free speech. To clarify the matter somewhat, the Supreme Court ruled in June of 2007 in favor of a school in Alaska that had suspended a student for displaying a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The court ruled that the reference to drugs in this case had no political message and could indeed be seen as advocating drug use.
Check with your school to see what the dress code is, as they can be fairly specific. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, the dress code prohibits:
• Decorations (including tattoos) that are symbols, mottoes, words or acronyms that convey crude, vulgar, profane, violent, gang-related, sexually explicit or suggestive messages
• Large or baggy clothes (this prohibition can be used to keep students from excessive “sagging”)
• Holes in clothes
• Scarves, curlers, bandanas or sweatbands inside of school buildings (exceptions are made for religious attire)
• Visible undergarments
• Strapless garments
• Bare midriffs, immodestly low-cut necklines or bare backs
• Tights, leggings, bike shorts, swim suits or pajamas as outerwear
• Visible piercings, except in the ear
• Dog collars, tongue rings and studs, wallet chains, large hair picks, or chains that connect one part of the body to another
What’s a uniform?
One school might require white button-down shirts and ties for boys, pleated skirts for girls and blazers adorned with the school logo for all. Another school may simply require that all shirts have collars.
In Toledo, Ohio, elementary school students have a limited palette of colors that they can wear: white, light blue, dark blue or yellow on the top half and dark blue, navy, khaki or tan on the bottom half.
Toledo girls are allowed a fairly wide range of dress items, however: blouses, polo shirts with collars, turtlenecks, skirts, jumpers, slacks, and knee-length shorts and skirts. Boys have almost as many choices: dress shirts, turtlenecks, polo or button-down shirts, pants or knee-length shorts.
When Toledo students reach junior high, they are treated to one more color choice: maroon.
What research says about school uniforms
Virginia Draa, assistant professor at Youngstown State University, reviewed attendance, graduation and proficiency pass rates at 64 public high schools in Ohio. Her final analysis surprised her: “I really went into this thinking uniforms don’t make a difference, but I came away seeing that they do. At least at these schools, they do. I was absolutely floored.”
Draa’s study concluded that those schools with uniform policies improved in attendance, graduation and suspension rates. She was unable to connect uniforms with academic improvement because of such complicating factors as changing instructional methods and curriculum.
University of Missouri assistant professor, David Brunsma reached a different conclusion. In his 2004 book, The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade, Brunsma reviewed past studies on the effect of uniforms on academic performance. He also conducted his own analysis of two enormous databases, the 1988 National Educational Longitudinal Study and the 1998 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Brunsma concluded that there is no positive correlation between uniforms and school safety or academic achievement.
Meanwhile, the movement toward uniforms in public schools has spread to about a quarter of all elementary schools. Experts say that the number of middle and high schools with uniforms is about half the number of elementary schools. If uniforms are intended to curb school violence and improve academics, why are they not more prevalent in middle and high schools, where these goals are just as important as in elementary schools? Because, says Brunsma, “It’s desperately much more difficult to implement uniforms in high schools, and even middle schools, for student resistance is much, much higher. In fact, most of the litigation resulting from uniforms has been located at levels of K-12 that are higher than elementary schools. Of course, this uniform debate is also one regarding whether children have rights, too!”
What do students think about uniforms?
A student discussion: pros and cons of uniforms
Editor’s note: This video is part of our high school milestones series about communication skills. The students in this video discuss the pros and cons of school uniforms.
After a school uniform policy was implemented in three Nevada middle schools in 2008 and 2009, researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, set out to find out what 1,350 seventh and eighth graders thought about the change. The vast majority — 90 percent of students — reported that they disliked wearing uniforms. However, other data showed more nuanced results. For instance, 54 percent of students agreed that they still had their identity while wearing a uniform, and 50 percent agreed that uniforms saved their families money. But only 41 percent of students agreed that there was less gang activity at their school after uniforms were required. However, when the researchers looked into school discipline and local police records and compared them to the prior year’s data, discipline referrals were down 10 percent, there were 63 percent fewer police log reports, and graffiti, fights, and gang-related activity were all down.
It’s a big issue
A new trend is the mounting pressure to establish dress codes for teachers. Apparently the same casual mind-set toward revealing outfits is cropping up in the ranks of our teachers.
The debate over uniforms in public schools encompasses many larger issues than simply what children should wear to school. It touches on issues of school improvement, freedom of expression and the “culture wars.” It’s no wonder the debate rages on.
The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade, David Brunsma. Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2004.
School Dress Codes: A Pro/Con Issue, Barbara C. Cruz. Enslow Publishers, 2001.
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