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.
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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.