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Now that the school year has begun in most of the United States, parents are back to the daily battle of what not to wear to school each day. Only these episodes don’t feature a sarcastic Stacey or fashionable Clinton holding a gift card for an all-expenses paid shopping spree. No- these episodes feature crying children (or teenagers), a plea for the coolest new shoes, a search for a translator for the school’s dress code, and parents throwing money down the proverbial drain. And, every year parents all over the country wonder why their local schools don’t switch to uniforms thereby ending the argument as to why your ten year old can’t have those $150 pair of shoes everyone else has or getting a call that your daughter (yes, only your daughter) is out of dress code. So educators and politicians, we are here to tell you- we want uniforms!
Most public schools in the US don’t require uniforms. But, why? Traditionally, our public school systems haven’t required them. Many people say that it takes away individual expression from a child, and that it allows children some freedom in their school day. But, any parent or educator could tell you that requiring uniforms has way more pros than cons.
- It’s Cheaper
- When most people think of a school uniform they think of rich kids going to private school. And, traditionally, that was often the case because each school had their own specific set of clothing that you could only purchase through a uniform store. But, now many schools are moving more towards open-ended uniforms where they ask, for example, for khaki pants and white polo shirts. You can purchase those items anywhere- even Wal-Mart, Target, and Old Navy sell uniform items now.
- You are only purchasing a few items for school clothes rather than a whole boat load for a full wardrobe.
- Many schools will have a consignment sale where you can sell your gently used uniform items to other families, and in return buy gently used items for the following year.
- Less Laundry
- When you have a limited number of items to wear for the week, you tend to wear them more than once before washing. Laundry is lessened greatly this way.
- No More Dress Code Violations
- Every year we see news articles of girls (less face it, it’s always the girls) who are being sent home because of ridiculous dress code violations. With uniforms, those violations will be significantly lessened as there will be no disagreement about what you can and cannot wear.
- Less Bullying
- The students who can’t afford J.Crew clothing won’t be bullied. The teenager who is trying to find their place in the world won’t be made fun of for their “weird” clothing choices. The child who would normally wear the hand-me-downs from his older brother, that may or may not have holes in it, won’t be looked at for his raggedy clothes. Uniforms help kids – and adults – look past a child’s appearance and more into what that child is made of from the inside.
- Less Gang Related Activity
- Research has found that in schools where uniforms are required, students engage in less gang related activity. Even in those schools where gangs are seemingly not an issue, there are less involvement with clique-type behavior from students.
- Makes School Easier
- Getting ready for school in the morning can be one of the most stressful parts of everyone’s day- including the parents. Uniforms help eliminate that stress and the rush to figure out what to wear each morning.
- A study by the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Reno found that the use of school uniforms increased school safety and general self-esteem.
- Children are more likely to stay focused throughout the day because they aren’t distracted by the appearance of others in the classroom, or comparing themselves to others.
Uniforms Solve Problems
Every day, educators have to deal with a host of issues from their students: Dress code violations, discipline issues, student safety, loss of focus in class, and disruptive behavior. Although a person’s clothing doesn’t seem like it would have a huge impact on a school environment, research shows that it does. Students who where a uniform each day to school have less stress, higher self- esteem, and are more confident in their school work. They tend to stay more focused in class and have less discipline issues. For parents, uniforms offer a break from the money-sucking trend of buying new school clothes each year and help to solve the disagreements in getting ready for school each morning.
Longitudinally, research has shown that adults who wear the same types of clothing each day are more successful. In fact, people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Obama are known to wear similar clothing each and every day, thereby minimizing decision fatigue, lessening stress levels, and cutting down on clothing costs and maintenance. They are able to focus more on the tasks at hand when they are not spending time worrying about their wardrobe, if clothing is trendy enough, or if they look okay in what they chose to wear that day. If these benefits can be seen by adults, could you imagine what it could do for children?
Every child would benefit from uniforms being put into placed in schools, but some of the benefits vary from boys to girls.
Girls are often the victim of dress code violations. We see it in the news every year- a girl wore leggings to middle school, a high-schoolers neckline was the wrong height, or a child’s shorts didn’t go to her finger tips. Uniforms help solve the issues between schools, parents, and students on what is or is not appropriate to wear for the school day.
In addition to dress code violations, girls are often the ones who feel the need to stick more strictly to fashion trends. Bullying for the “wrong clothes” would decrease. Girls would be able to focus more on other creative outlets like music, arts, or sports instead of what they are wearing. Getting ready for school each morning would be less stressful. Distractions about a girl’s personal style would be null, and hopefully less acts of “mean girl” would take place.
Boys are not often the topic of dress code violations, but that does not mean uniforms wouldn’t benefit them as well. For boys, less gang related activity would be prevalent with uniforms and bullying would decrease. They wouldn’t have to worry about style trends or buying the most expensive, coolest pair of sneakers. Boys could focus more on tasks at hand rather than trying to pull their jeans up. Schools would have fewer incidences of shirts with inappropriate sayings or vulgar messages. And besides stinky sports gear, parents would have less laundry to tend to.
Although uniforms are not traditionally used in schools in the United States, the benefits are extensive. Parents all around the country curse back to school season because of the issues of shopping for clothes and the impending arguments about what to wear each day. Uniforms are cost-effective, they decrease stress levels, and they allow children (and teachers) to focus more on the school day. They decrease bullying and gang activity, and increase self-esteem. And although their clothing is uniform, children are often able and encouraged to express themselves in other ways such as through performance arts and sports. In the end, uniforms are what parents want and students need.
Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk