wearuniforms. Can uniforms really make a difference in a child’s academic performance?
Wouldn’t uniforms infringe the child’s creativity and self expression? The clothes don’t
make the child right (Hempill A15)? Wrong. School uniforms can drastically reduce
school violence and help a student to focus on school work.
In 1996, President Clinton endorsed public school uniforms in his State of the
Union Address(Atkins 42). This created a rage among some education critics across the
country. Critics complain that uniforms will lessen children’s individualism and creativity,
infringing students’ rights and hint of racism. While proponents believe, uniforms will put
the students emphasis on schoolwork instead of dressing coolly, and they will help to
lower school violence.
The idea comes from a Californian elementary school in Long Beach. In 1994,
Long Beach became the country’s first public school district to institute a mandatory
uniform policy”(Atkins 42). The results were so promising that they lead to the
President’s endorsement. The school saw a fifty-one percent drop in physical fights, a
thirty-four percent drop in assaults and batteries, a fifty percent drop in weapons offenses,
and a thirty-two percent drop in school suspensions(Mancini 65). All this in a time span of
only one year. Proving that a child’s clothes does make a difference in school violence.
In a time when school children are getting killed for designer jackets and shoes,
uniforms are exactly what our children need(Mancini 63). Critics say that school uniform
inhibit self expression. If you take away a child’s self expression through clothing, you
force that child to express his or herself in other ways. This might even force a child to
resort to even more violent forms of expression, like through writing and art.
In today’s society, students are fighting each other in schools, because of other
students that wear rival gangs colors and clothing. I went to school in a town with a
population of about only ten-thousand residents. In our relatively small school, classes
were disrupted several times, because one student was wearing another student’s rival
gang’s colors causing outbursts and fights. This problem is one that occurrences daily in
big city schools, but a problem uniforms can help remedy. Uniforms eliminate gang
clothing like baggy pants, belts with initials on the buckles, halter tops, or certain gang
colored clothing items. The uniforms can also help to identify outsiders within a school.
Drug dealers would have wear uniforms in order to be able to roam the school yard
without being spotted.
The uniforms can also help parents save money. A parent can pay anywhere from
sixty to a hundred dollars for a pair of pants, forty to sixty dollars on a single shirt, and
eighty to one hundred-fifty dollars for a pair of shoes. A student would need to have at
least five to six different outfits to wear to school. Where as a child wearing a uniform
only would need two sets of clothes for class. The uniforms may vary, but most uniforms
consist of basic colored slacks and a basic colored collared shirt. They can be purchased
for as little as forty dollars at discount stores and the most expensive being around a
hundred dollar. Besides saving parents hundreds of dollars, school uniforms also help to
erase lines between the social classes. Since all students will be dressed alike, it will be
impossible to tell the difference from a students from low income family and one from a
high income family.
I went to a public school for nine years, before transferring to a private school. At
the public school my enthusiasm was minimal at best. My parent are not rich, and I had to
wear clothes that were not consider cool. This automatically put me out of the cool
group. I felt unhappy and left out. I did not go to school functions, because I felt I was
not cool enough and would not fit in. Going to a private school and having to wear
uniforms remedied that. I longer was not cool, just because I did not wear the right
clothes. Students did not judge me by my apparel, instead I was judged by my personality.
My grades improved and I graduated as student body president. When I talk to old
friends from the public school, they are amazed at how much I have changed . I don’t
credit all of this to uniforms, but they sure allowed a side of me to be seen that most of the
students at the public school never bothered to look for.
Can uniforms make a difference? If they save one life or allow one child to be fit
in, they can. No one claims that uniforms are the fix all for the public school system, but
they are a start. Uniforms will give all students a chance to fit in regardless of their social
standing. They will also take the student’s focus off of having the right clothes and put it
back on having the right attitude.
Atkins, Andrea. “School Dress.” Better Homes and Gardens Aug. 1996. 42-43.
Hemphill, Clara. “Clothes Don’t Make the Child.” New York Times 21 Mar 1998:
Mancini, Gail Hinchion. “School Uniforms: Dressing for Success or Conformity?”
Education Digest Dec. 1997. 62-65.