In 1996 President Bill Clinton addressed the topic of school uniforms. He said "If it means that the school rooms will be more orderly and more disciplined, and that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside, instead of what they're wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms." (White, 2000). I am inclined to agree with Mr. Clinton.
School uniforms also take the pressure off students to pay top dollar for clothes, according to Reginald Wilson, a senior scholar at the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. "I think it does lower the cost of clothes, and kids don't emphasize clothes as much when they're all wearing the same thing," Wilson said. "Certainly the competition to wear the best shoes or the best sweaters and so forth has been prevalent in school ever since I was in school, and the poor kids felt inferior." (White, 2000) How many of you can relate to what Mr. Wilson said about feeling inferior because of wardrobe based teasing? I certainly know that I can.
There are several benefits to adopting a school uniform policy. School uniforms have the potential to promote solid discipline, reduce violence and fighting, promote a professional atmosphere; encourage students to develop a stronger sense of personal value, and even save parents money.
First of all uniforms are a good bargain. Proponents say that uniforms are economical. Compared to buying designer clothes this is undoubtedly true. Some children pressure their parents to buy very expensive clothes--even in elementary school. Some parents report that uniforms appeared to be more durable since they are made for repeated wash and wear. Often schools have used uniform shops, further reducing costs. (Dress Codes, 2006)
Many feel that school uniforms help a school maintain discipline. Some schools report dramatic declines, take for example the case of six Ohio schools who adopted a uniform policy in 1994. From the policy's introduction to 2002 when an observational study closed the mean expulsion rate amongst these six schools dropped to
less than 1% for every 100 students. In these same schools attendance rose by 3.5% in four of the six school, and graduation rates increased 11% from pre-uniform days. For comparison the non-uniform schools in the district experienced a 4.6% graduation rate drop. (Bifulco et al, 2005)
School uniforms reduce violence by eliminating fights and disruptions over fashionable clothes. Children invariably tease those who do not have trendy clothes. Poor children are often very sensitive about their clothes. American inner-city schools facing serious gang violence believe that uniforms help to ease the problem. (Bifulco et al, 2005) Some say that a child in a uniform is more likely to take school seriously. Putting on the uniform signals that he is going to school just as dad dresses up for work. When students were dressed in "learning clothes" rather than "play clothes" some schools report that students took a more serious, scholarly attitude towards their studies. (Brunsma et al, 1998)
Proponents say that uniforms allow students to concentrate on their studies instead of the latest fashion trends. The idea is to promote a better atmosphere for learning and help children concentrate on the academic program. Peer pressure appeared to take a back seat to learning. School uniforms help to eliminates social distinctions. Children from low-income families need not be embarrassed by not being able to afford the latest fashions or designer clothes. Many schools report that school uniforms do help to reduce socio-economic differences. (Brunsma et al, 1998)
All though detractors would imply that uniforms take away a child's right to express themselves school uniforms actually stress that individuality and self-expression are not determined by designer clothing or fashion fads. Instituting a school uniform policy actually puts the focus back on learning, back on gaining knowledge and on helping students develop positive self-image and professional habits that will prepare them for their future careers.