Uniforms limit number of outlets for creativity and self-expression

Across the nation, schools both public and private have been debating implementing school uniforms. Administrators and parents believe that school uniforms will eliminate discrimination and bullying in the school environment. This and other perks that are said to come with school uniforms are false, and other problems arise from the idea.

First of all, the most obvious point against uniforms is that they restrict self-expression. We live in a dynamic society, full of unique characters that make our world a spontaneous one. Cutting that off at a young age only stifles creativity and encourages conformity. We want to encourage our children to be expressive and to think outside the box. Forcing them to wear ugly gray sweater vests and starched white shirts is not the way to do that.

The gender-specific uniform guidelines often reinforce the gender binary in the school environment. The separation between females and males will only increase. If uniforms were all-encompassing and non-gender specific, this problem would not exist. However, uniforms are not all-encompassing. There are limited choices for males and limited choices for females. Though females can wear uniform pants, men are not allowed to wear uniform jumpers. Conflict would arise if a male attempted to wear the specified “female” attire. This poses problems to LGBT progress in school environments.

Another strike against this trend is that uniforms are unnecessarily costly and useless. No kid wants to wear a uniform on the weekend, to the movies or out with friends, which leaves parents no choice but to purchase clothing besides uniforms for their kids to wear outside of school. Uniform clothing is also expensive. Monogrammed school-specific polos, jumpers and ties all must be custom-ordered to fit the uniform code. These are often expensive and, considering the fact that they cannot be used all year, a strict uniform code would be wasteful.

What is the message we are trying to send children? I’ll tell you; we’re proposing that everyone can only get along if everyone conforms to the same standards. It’s not a healthy lesson. The message should be conflict resolution no matter the physical appearance. In the real world, people do not all look the same.

That brings us to one of the most troubling points; does teaching children that everyone should look the same harm their outside social life?

Uniforms restrict a vital part of social interaction: communicating by outer appearance. Though people often say that being judged on your appearance is a negative thing, I would argue that it can be a positive thing. Clothing is an important part of culture; removing that from developing children and teenageers will effectively create a generation of unsatisfied drones.

Lastly, where did we get the idea that bullying and stereotypes would magically disappear if we implemented a strict uniform? People will not stop bullying each other based on appearance, which manifests itself in ways besides clothing. If we convince ourselves that placing limits on clothing choices will eliminate school bullying, we are kidding ourselves.

Statistics collected by David L. Brunsma from the University of Alabama and Kerry A. Rockquemore of Notre Dame for The Journal of Education Research show that there’s nearly no change in student behavior after the implementation of school uniforms. The conclusion of the study reads, “Based upon this analysis, the authors were forced to reject the ideas that uniforms improved attendance rates, decreased behavioral problems, decreased drug use or improved academic achievement.”

The only real solution to bullying and other problems in the elementary and high school environment is encouraging and teaching open-mindedness in students. Messages that circulate throughout the high school that exacerbate stereotypes and bullying are often ignored. Want to end bullying? Address the root of the problem, cutting off a few of the branches will not do any real good.

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