There aren’t any clear records to show when the wearing of school uniforms really started. But this tradition has certainly been around for hundreds of years. In the United States, it was observed that more schools started to implement uniforms after President Bill Clinton pitched for the use of school uniforms in his 1996 State of the Union. The move was met with mixed reactions as some parties saw it as a nuisance and additional problem for students while others viewed it as the solution to improve the educational system and performance of schoolchildren in the United States. What do you think about school uniforms? This list of advantages and disadvantages might help you decide on your stand on the matter.
List of Advantages of School Uniforms
1. They create uniformity.
There can be a better sense of unity because everyone will wear the same clothes and they have a single identity. Also, there will be less competition among children about who has the more expensive outfits or who looks better or is more fashionable.
2. They give a sense of belonging and pride.
A uniform is an indicator of what school you belong to. This is especially beneficial for students who study in schools that are well known or are considered to be a top school in the locality. You can proudly wear your uniform and ‘show’ other people that you attend a good school.
3. They promote school spirit.
When everyone is dressed the same and feels proud to be a part of their school, it boosts morale. The student body has a greater sense of togetherness and pride, boosting school spirit.
4. They allow parents to save on time and money spent on shopping for school clothes.
Usually, school uniforms can be worn for a whole year or two. This means there isn’t a need to spend for new clothes every semester and parents don’t have to deal with picky children who demand expensive brands or a certain style of clothing.
5. They help students spend less time and energy on choosing what to wear daily.
Getting ready for school in the morning can be easier and faster. Plus, there is less stress in figuring out the whole night what to wear the next day or in trying to keep up with peers and fashion trends. Instead, kids can focus on doing their homework or other beneficial recreational activities.
6. They take away social segregation.
The way you dress usually dictates what sort of click you belong to, such as the goths, jocks, nerds, and so on. If everyone is dressed the same, it can take away the need to put a label on each person and the tendency to just stick with your ‘crowd.’
7. They provide a safer school environment.
Since all students are dressed in uniforms, it can be easier to pinpoint who is not supposed to be in there. This also prevents students from showing their gang affiliations by wearing certain colors or articles of clothing.
8. They encourage students to express themselves in other ways.
Because kids can’t show their individuality through clothes, they will try to express themselves through other methods such as the arts, academics, sports, or extra-curricular school activities.
9. They take away the need to create so many policies related to dress codes.
Most schools that don’t have uniforms have a dress code. But figuring out what rules to include can be taxing because they need to identify what materials, lengths and types of skirts are okay, what sort of footwear are inappropriate, and so on. With uniforms, setting an acceptable standard is easier since there is just one type of outfit to base the policies on.
10. They prevent bullying.
The way children dress is one of the most common reasons for bullying. Kids who dress differently or who can’t afford branded clothes are made fun of and discriminated. School uniforms can help stop this issue.
List of Disadvantages of School Uniforms
1. They take away individuality and freedom of expression.
Learning how to express yourself is a right that most parents want their children to learn from a young age. By not allowing kids to show their individuality through the way they dress, they may feel oppressed and discouraged to develop their own personality.
2. They can be an additional cost.
If children go to school 5 or 6 days a week, they needs at least 2-3 sets of uniforms.
3. They can cause additional stress to students and parents.
In relation to the point above, if the family can’t afford several sets of uniforms, they may have to wash the uniforms when the kids get home. This can be tiresome and takes away time that could have been spent on schoolwork or rest.
4. They can cause discomfort.
Some kids may have allergies or feel uncomfortable due to tightness and rigidness. This can affect their mood and learning throughout the whole day.
5. They promote an intolerance of cultures.
Most uniforms are not designed according to the cultural dress of a population or they represent only one culture. Also, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students may become confused if they should wear a uniform that represents their inner sexual orientation or their external gender.
6. They cause resentment among students.
As children start to develop their own opinions, they won’t like being forced to do something they don’t want to. So requiring students to wear uniforms against their will can breed resentment towards the school, faculty, and even their parents.
7. They could cause outside bullying.
School pride and rivalry is something that some students take very seriously in a negative way. They can taunt or bully kids belonging to a rival school who they can easily identify through the uniforms.
8. They undermine free education.
Unless the school or government will sponsor the cost of uniforms, it will be the students’ families who need to shoulder the expense. And this contradicts the idea of free education since public schools are supposed to provide education at no cost to parents.
9. They become a band aid solution to bigger problems.
Poor academic performance, school violence, and decreasing attendance are some of the major issues schools face today. Opposing proponents question if school uniforms are really the answer to solving these problems.
10. They can hinder a child’s decision making skills.
Since you do not allow students to choose what they can wear, you are taking away their right to make a choice for themselves. This can disrupt the development of their ability to form their own opinions or make choices, and interfere with their transition into adulthood.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of public schools that implement a school uniform has significantly risen in the last 10 years. In 1999, 12 percent of public schools had a uniform. By 2008, 18 percent had adopted a uniform for students. The NCES considers school uniforms to be an “indicator of school crime and safety,” and safety is one of the top advantages of school uniforms. However, a strict uniform policy also has its disadvantages, and there have been numerous controversies generated by their use.
1. Advantage: Safety Concerns
* School uniforms restrict the ability of students to wear gang-related clothing. According to an article featured at MSNBC.com, “Dress codes are supposed to reduce violence and bullying by taking style differences out of the equation.” As noted by the National School Safety and Security Services’ article, “School Uniforms, Dress Codes, & Book Bags,” uniforms may also reduce the risk of student robbery and carrying of weapons.
* As noted at Education Bug.org, a school uniform policy is much easier to control and enforce than a more lenient dress code. Uniforms also make it easier for teachers to recognize any nonstudents and keep track of their group of students at school events and field trips.
Advantage: Equality and Community
* School uniforms reinforce the idea that all students are equal, despite a diversity of races and cultural backgrounds. Students are less likely to form cliques or bully certain member of the class for not being up to the latest fashion. Having a school uniform may also lead to a greater sense of community and unity, as noted in the article “Public School Uniform Debate” at Education Bug.org.
Disadvantage: Lack of Expression
* Many opponents of school uniforms argue that wearing a uniform suppresses a student’s right to free speech or expression. In 1969, the first court ruling regarding school uniforms was related to this issue. When two high school students in Des Moines, Iowa wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War, they were suspended and sent home until the armbands were removed. The families of the students filed a complaint, and the case, called Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, went to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled in the students’ favor and emphasized students’ rights to free speech, stating that “A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” Many parents and administrators believe that school uniforms are in conflict with this fundamental right.
Disadvantage: Economic Concerns
* School uniforms can be quite expensive, and economic concerns are another commonly noted disadvantage of their use. Of course, buying children uniforms does cut back on the amount of “normal” back-to-school clothing that parents must purchase.
* School uniforms are often criticized for being simply ineffective. A student named Grace Davis, cited in MSNBC’s article on school uniform controversy, sums up this disadvantage of uniforms: “It doesn’t fix the disease. It just covers the symptoms. I think we’re still going to have the same gang problem. We’re just going to be angry at the administration, and I don’t think that’s the way to go.”