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School Uniforms

An outfit—a set of standardized clothes—worn primarily for an educational institution.

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The pros and cons of school uniforms.

  • Aug 30, 2010
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Well it’s back to school time once again and in recent days a fascinating controversy has erupted here in Rhode Island that I thought I might tell you about.   Woonsocket is the sixth largest city in our state and lies directly south of the Massachusetts border.  This is a largely working class community of about 43,000 people with a very diverse population.   Last spring, the Woonsocket School Committee passed a resolution mandating that school uniforms be worn in all of the public schools in the city beginning this fall.  Just last week The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on behalf of four parents contesting the new policy claiming among other things that it “violates the right to free speech by prohibiting students from expressing their views on any topic” and goes on to say that “a mandatory uniform imposes an undue financial burden on parents.”    Before I comment on the situation I thought it might be useful to offer a summary of the arguments both for and against school uniforms.


Those who support school uniforms argue that when students are properly dressed there will be a more professional atmosphere in the school and that the students will tend to take their work more seriously.   Many go on to say that uniforms help maintain discipline, promote school spirit and effectively eliminate the wearing of gang attire.  One of the more powerful arguments is that the use of school uniforms reduces fighting and violence among students.    We all know how cruel kids can be.  Children invariably tease those who do not have trendy clothes.  Furthermore, those youngsters who cannot afford brand name clothes are often sensitive about their clothing.  Finally, supporters of school uniforms will argue vigorously that school uniforms actually are a bargain in the long run compared to the designer clothes that most students want and many parents buy.  School uniforms last longer because they are made for repeated wash and wear. 


On the flip side of this coin, suppressing individuality is the most commonly cited objection to requiring school uniforms.  Many educators maintain that an academic program encouraging students to pursue individual thought is much more important than worrying about what they wear.  Opponents of school uniforms also point out that forcing the students to wear a uniform can cause disciplinary problems. The argument goes that some students reject any rules and that forcing them to wear a uniform only aggravates their rebellious spirit.  Furthermore, this “one size fits all” approach really amounts to punishing everyone for the actions of a few.  Rather, if students arrive at school sloppily dressed school officials should have the courage to identify the bad actors and implement measures directed at them.   But then there is the so-called “free speech” issue that has been cited by the ACLU here in Rhode Island.   If this argument is taken to its logical conclusion one has to wonder if there is anything a student might wear to class that the ACLU in its infinite wisdom would find objectionable.  And finally, opponents insist that there is no credible evidence that school uniforms improve school discipline or promote higher academic achievement.


So there you have it.  There are rational arguments to be made on either side of this issue and reasonable people may disagree.  I would tend to come down with those who favor school uniforms.  I am constantly appalled by the garb that some youngsters and teens wear to school.  Some look like slobs while others resemble hookers.  I simply cannot understand why any parent would allow their child to leave the house dressed in such attire. Having said that I must admit that I am not altogether sure that school uniforms are the solution.  Perhaps more stringent dress codes are the answer.  But standards vary from town to town.  Each community is a unique entity and in my view it should be up to the elected representatives on the school committee to make these  determinations.  And that is just the point.  I am sick and tired of the ACLU, the courts and non-elected government bureaucrats injecting themselves into these local issues.  There is an election coming in November and if a majority of the people in  town are opposed to school uniforms then they can “throw the bums out” as they say.  What is the point of having democratic elections if the will of the people is constantly being thwarted?  I have found that Lunch is a great place to have an open discussion on an issue like this. So whether you are for school uniforms or against them I would very much appreciate your input on this matter.     






The pros and cons of school uniforms. The pros and cons of school uniforms. The pros and cons of school uniforms. The pros and cons of school uniforms.

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March 19, 2012
Societal norms are very much dictated by the local community you live in. Uniforms teach children that they should adhere to a minimum standard of dress code. To some extent, this requirement is an extension of the workforce. Uniforms avoid the extremes in dress code. On one hand, some parents dress their kids like Little Lord Fauntleroy. On the other hand, some students sport pants well below the backside. The uniform requirement seeks to address a reasonableness compromise which is not too ostentatious yet still proper.
April 05, 2011
I think there are two overriding considerations when it comes to school changes (including school uniforms at the middle and high school levels). First, does the change make the school a safer place for the kids? Second, does the change encourage an environment for more active learning by the kids, with demonstrations of proficiency? The current interest in uniforms has been around for at least 25 years. Like most changes in the public schools, the adoption of uniforms is proceeding but at a glacial pace. To my knowledge, a good deal of the discussion of uniforms is based on personal anecdotes, a poor way to make policy, and unproven assumptions by some as to how other people react. I'm inclined to think school uniforms, if practical and adopted with parent and student input, does more good than not. As far as the ACLU (I'm a supporter), the courts (thank God this country has an independent if not perfect judiciary) and non-elected government bureaucrats (who do we think keep the wheels of government moving? They're people just like you and me), I'll take them any day over self-appointed community library censors, wannabe social culture dictators and religious fanatics for whom ‘love thy neighbor' is a thought that doesn't occur to them until they want to bed their married neighbor. Ah well. Over the long run and amazingly, this country has shown itself to be fair, sane, resilient and friendly.
September 04, 2010
I went to a private school from 4th grade through my senior year. I wore uniforms from 4th through 7th and then had a set dress code through high school. I actually didn't mind it at all! It made dressing in the morning extremely easy - I didn't have to worry about designer brands, or if what I was wearing was "cool". I think it reduced peer criticism and judgment. Of course I never want to put a green, plaid skirt on again, but for the time and place it served it's purpose:) Great topic!
September 02, 2010
I had a cousin who was in a school uniform back in the 80's. There was still an issue with brand name clothing. All the shirts looked alike to me but the girls at her school knew the brand named from the cheaper version and there was competition with that. My son has been in a school uniform for 8 years. I have not had issues with which brand he would and would not wear. The hardest part for us was during the warmer weather months because we couldn't easily find shorts that fit the uniform code. On the positive side, it is easier to find uniform clothes in excellent used condition as they are only worn during school hours. That saves money. I also know exactly when each sale usually has it's uniform sales. Cost wise, it's been beneficial to me.
September 01, 2010
Nice review, Paul! Personally, I loved having school uniforms when I was younger. I wore them from K-8th grade. When I entered public high school, the clothing dynamics really confused me. I was surprised at how much emphasis people put on designer clothes rather than their education. Needless to say, I was teased a lot for wearing hand-me-downs. :-P
September 01, 2010
I've been on both sides and I can honestly say.... I don't really care because I could go for either :P People can make arguments all day about the pros and cons of school uniforms vs regular clothes, but I feel that both are going to have their equal sets of pros and cons. That's very interesting that a city, with what I presume have public schools, would mandate it though. In the States, I've only heard of private schools requiring uniforms. Very interesting and thought-provoking review, Paul. Thanks for sharing!
August 31, 2010
Absolutely agree - whether you're pro or con this is a local issue that should be resolved there. Brand name clothing (or the lack thereof) will always be a source of social and economic tension in school so uniforms can and do play a role in taking some of the competitive tension out of the learning environment. That being said it's hard to make the case for uniforms when an epidemic of casualness seems to have taken over every aspect of our culture. Business meetings are now conducted between competing chinos - restaurants have given up trying to enforce any dress code at all - air travel has now been taken over completely by Jed and Jethro. Formality of any type is now just an anachronism so, trying to make the case at the school level seems just hypocritical when most parents dress like the homeless.
August 31, 2010
I started school in Russia right after the switch from uniforms to regular clothing, but I honestly always wished there were uniforms! It would eliminate a lot of pressure and competition. I think that clothing and pop culture have generally made our schools into places of socialization, not academics! I think it's pretty sad. Thanks for the review and for highlighting both sides of the issue!
August 30, 2010
There a more than enough opportunities in our society to express your individuality. I wore a uniform all thru HS, and it was liberating. It took away a giant source of competition, and that left a lot more time to focus on learning. When did school become something other than the chance to learn?
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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A school uniform is an outfit—a set of standardized clothes—worn primarily for an educational institution. They are common in primary and secondary schools in many nations.[where?] When used, they form the basis of a school's dress code.

Traditionally, school uniforms have tended to be subdued and professional. Boys' uniforms often consist of dark short or long trousers and light-colored shirt, often with a tie. Girls' uniforms vary greatly between countries and schooling systems, but typically consist of a dress or a blouse worn either with a skirt or culottes or under a pinafore. In some countries, gender-specific uniforms have been a point of contention, with some schools permitting female students to choose either skirts or trousers while still requiring male students to wear trousers. The use of a blazer or suit-like jacket for either gender is also fairly common, especially in countries with relatively cold weather. In some countries, such as Japan, school uniform is essentially standard in all schools using it, but in others, such as Great Britain, each school has an individual uniform, varying in colour and often making use of badges.

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