9.07.2009

The fundamentals of a good education...study hard, and wear the right jeans!!!

It happens every year at this time. We gather our children, our credit cards and all our patience, jump in the S.U.V. and make the trek to our local mall for the annual back to school shopping spree!

As I browsed the aisles of the Monmouth Mall Justice Store (the world's tackiest and most overpriced chain for girls), I started thinking about how nice it would be to have school uniforms for my daughters.

No more worrying about cool sneakers, or the right jeans. Every morning I'd just pull out the official uniform and send the girls on their merry way.

I did a little Google search on school uniforms in the public schools and came up with this article at Public School Review.


Although uniforms have been a mainstay of private schools, public schools jumped on the bandwagon in 1994, when the California school district of Long Beach implemented school uniforms. According to the Long Beach school district, within one year after the implementation of uniforms, the fights and muggings at school decreased by 50%, while committed sexual offenses were reduced by 74%. Across the country, similar statistics abound; for example, at Ruffner Middle School in Norfolk, the number of discipline referrals decreased by 42% once uniforms were enforced.

Subsequently, fueled by these statistics, more schools across the country are implementing uniforms in public schools. Nonetheless, there are other statistics that argue that uniforms are not as beneficial as school administrators believe. Thus, the question still remains: are public school uniforms good for your child?

The benefits of public school uniforms: safer campus with renewed focus on academics
There are fundamentally two benefits associated with school uniforms: a focus on learning, as well as a reduction of violence on campus.

More conducive learning environment
Many school administrators and parents believe that uniforms create a better learning environment at school. First and foremost, students are not distracted by how they look, and therefore, spend more time learning at school. The peer pressures of stylish dressing with the “best” brands are alleviated, and students can focus more upon their schoolwork, rather than social appearances. In fact, the socioeconomic differences present among students are equalized with school uniforms, minimizing the pressure to “fit in” with the right clothing choices.


According to the School Administrator publication, along with school-reported statistics, the mandate of uniforms on campuses has reduced tardiness, skipped classes, suspensions, and discipline referrals.

In addition, with the visual uniformity present across all students, the instance of school pride has increased. Similar to athletic team uniforms, dressing cohesively increases pride, unity, and a renewed commitment to the school. With uniforms, a more professional tone is set in school, encouraging students to take their studies more seriously.

Creates a safer campus

Secondly, uniforms at school reduce the prevalence of violence, which is a major concern for many public schools. First and foremost, outsiders who do not belong on campus are easily identified, and thus, do not pose a great threat to the students.

Uniforms also reduce the “cliques” and gangs on school campuses. When it is not easy to identify members of gangs, the fights and violence decrease. According to PHS commentator Melissa Nitsch, “when everyone looks alike, there is less risk of being caught in gang fights for wearing the wrong color. With uniforms, no one is killed over a pair of Nikes or a Starter jacket.” Students can no longer be disrupted by who is wearing which gang color, and therefore, the campus is kept safer with less incidences of fighting.

The disadvantages: limitation of personal expression and comfort

Denial of self-expression

The opponents of public school uniforms, as outlined by the ACLU’s argument for the First Amendment, argue that uniforms stifle a student’s need for self expression. Students need to be encouraged to embrace their individualism, and uniforms deny that self-expression. According to opponents of uniforms, even preschoolers should have input into their wardrobe, and the need to encourage personality confidence and independence grows more important as the student becomes older. Without the outlet of expression in their clothes, students may turn to inappropriate hair styles, jewelry, or make-up.

Harms transition into adulthood

Denying students their ability to express individualism and belief in a sub-culture, whether preppy, hip-hop, punk, or jock, could stymie the students’ transition from childhood into adulthood. Controlling the socialization process could harm the student as an adult, as they are not prepared for the real world, where they will indeed by judged by their appearances.

Potential discomfort for students

In addition, others argue that uniforms may not be comfortable for all students. As it is important to ensure that the student is comfortable in order to maximize learning outcomes, uniforms may stymie academic focus.

The mixed responses

Whereas some parents believe that uniforms are more cost-effective than purchasing the latest stylish clothes, other parents argue that the cost of uniforms is steep. Typically, uniforms are more expensive up-front, as the parent must invest in all of the staples; however, as the school year progresses, there are less purchases that need to be made. On the other hand, students cannot wear their uniforms outside of school, and thus, there is the double-cost of both uniforms and a casual wardrobe.

In conclusion, the decision of school uniforms is not a black and white one. The arguments are best summed up by Dr. Alan HIlfer, a senior child and adolescent psychologist: “Uniforms do eliminate competition, pressure, and assaults perpetuated by older kids on younger kids for their sneakers and possessions. They also allow some kids to focus better, especially in the lower grades… [However], clothes are a source of expression for children, and as kids get older, they become increasingly resentful of uniforms.”

Deciding whether uniforms are right for your child depends upon the individual circumstances. If your child has a high need for self-expression, then uniforms may create unhealthy resentment. On the other hand, if you believe that your child needs to focus more on academics than physical appearances, then uniforms may help level the social pressures associated with independent dressing. Understanding what elements are most important for you and your child will help you determine if school uniforms are a right fit.


As always, I'd love to know what you think about this. I know my 5th grader would hate the idea of wearing a uniform. She loves shopping and would despise having to wear the same thing everyday.

On the other hand, wearing a uniform might take some of the focus away from fashion and put attention on academics.

Maybe it doesn't matter.

So tell me.

Do clothes make (or break) the student?



18 comments:

Frau said...

My daughter wore a uniform for the first nine years of school. She loved it, now it's optional where you goes to school and she wears it certain times but mostly not. She is in High school so it's all about the look. But I can tell you when she was younger there was a difference in the kids behavior at school and when they had free dress days, the kids were OC. I'm totally for it!Some our public schools in Utah have gone to khaki's and polo shirts and jeans on Fridays I think that is a good solution.

Poolside with the Girls said...

My girls wore uniforms for the first 5 years. They HATED it. I think the biggest problem is that they were cold in the winter and hot as the end of school approached. My youngest cried all the time over her uniform.

We moved last year and they now get to wear street clothes. They are both so much happier.

That being said. My life is now a living h*ll because of this.

It was easier for me when the kids were wearing uniforms.

Their first school was a private all girl academy and now they are attending a school that is co-e so it's hard to say what effect the clothing has on the kids if any.

Feener said...

not sure about uniforms all i know is that i just heard moms saying that their 11 year old boys will only wear SKINNY jeans ???? skinny jeans for boys ??? WTF

Mrs. K said...

I've never not sent my kid to a school were uniforms were required...our problem every morning is- not clothing but how her hair is to be styled...i'm about to shave her head off one of these days.

and ps- i've noticed that now public schools in florida wear uniforms.

Karen said...

I wore a uniform from kindergarten through high school. I think that uniforms are just easier for parents and kids. No decisions. No fights about what to wear or to what to buy.

Mrs. D said...

Looking back, I wish we'd had uniforms. I went to public school in our small town and I never had the expensive mall clothes (that I desperately wanted). Thus, I was on the fringe of the cool clique. There was a major tone of judgment on how you looked and what brands you wore. It sucked. So I would have traded the stress for uniforms for sure. I always thought the plaid skirts and knee socks were kind of cute, anyhow, like Alicia Silverstone in the "Crazy" video.

No my son is in Catholic school, but no uniforms there, either. There is talk of implementing them, but it won't happen this year if it does at all. I would be glad to have him in uniforms if they do change it. For now they have quite a strict dress code as it is.

Scarlet O'Kara said...

My daughter's school is uniform optional, but the majority of the students wear the uniform. It is not only easier (and less expensive) for the parents, but the kids really seem to like wearing matching clothes. Alot of the children even coordinate what color combinations they will wear each day.

The Chic Chauffeur said...

Our kids' schools require uniforms, and I totally love it. I am not sure if I am saving any money, because they all still need clothes for the weekend, and to wear to church, and for play clothes....

But in the mornings, there is only one choice. It is easy, modest, and there is no argument. I love it!!!! They don't mind it either, because they have never know any other way. There are plenty of free dress days that they earn for different reasons at school, and the weekends for them to express themselves!

Kate said...

I wish my public school where we send our children required uniforms. I'm all for it. The only person who should have expensive jeans is me, the mom.

Maureen said...

I wore one for six years, then experienced life in school for six more without one. I am all about the uniform. As a parent, we toured a preschool that required uniforms and I thought it odd at that age.

♥georgie♥ said...

I am all for school uniforms and wish our school system wwould make the switch, this may sound cruel BUt i really don't or wouldn't care if my child liked the uniform or not tough titty I would say...it would be cheaper on me to have the uniform...my kids like abercrombie,holister,american eagle-that stuff is exspensive...let me it this way we are into the 5th week of school and abby hasnt worn the same thing twice yet...some of the stuff she had left from last yr but still thats insane and i know it's all my fault...okay i am done rattlin on...

preppyplayer said...

I would LOVE school uniforms! Although I do feel as though my daughter does wear one.
Hmmm, let me see...
warm weather? all the girls wear short shorts and tanks, flip flops.
cold weather? hoodie, huge, baggy sweats, and uggs.

As for me, my husband feels as though I wear a uniform everyday and I told him tennis clothes do not count!

Impoverished Preppy said...

Love uniforms. Love them.

I wore them for nine years. My oldest is in her second year of them and I cannot wait for S to start kindergarten next year so my life will get even easier.

The prep school we teach at has a dress code in lieu of uniforms and I hate it. The boys generally look quite nice (can't go wrong when you have to wear a collared shirt, tie and dress pants or khakis), but the girls only have to wear a collared shirt with pants or skirt or a dress and they are all over the place - a uniform would clean things up and even the playing field. The male students hate what the girls get away with and the faculty hates trying to interpret and enforce the dress code for the girls.

Mom on the Run said...

Our public school district has uniforms in all the elementary schools, the sixth grade academy an the middle school. It's nice for our system, as we are a close in suburb of ATL, although much more urban than suburban (in other words, we're not just a bunch of subdivisions fighting over which one is the best) and there's a huge difference in income levels in our district.

I, of course, came up with this idea a long time ago and was pooh poohed, but when a bunch of people my age with younger kids all got on the school board, it happened pretty fast.

Our high school, though, is still slovenly.

Marfa said...

I like the idea of uniforms, but not the old fashioned kind. A uniform doesn't need to be boring, and most of them are. I think they should be designed by people who know about fashion. They should be fashionable, and several choices should be offered to the student. Not every uniform is flattering to every body. I also don't believe every school should have a different uniform. Public schools should all have the same uniforms, and they should be available in regular clothing stores all over the nation. The movie "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead" had the right idea. I had to wear ugly uniforms as a kid and I still shudder when I see photos.

Kate said...

I wore a uniform for 12 years...hated it much of the time, but it was easy because I didn't have to worry about what to wear. Kids find other ways to "compete" fashion-wise even when there is a uniform - purses, shoes, sweaters, etc. or we always did anyway.

My biggest pet peeve in kids' clothing is the graphic tees with obnoxious slogans -- it seems to be the worst for girls (brat, drama queen, or similar) but there are boys tees like that too. We skip those and give them to charity if we get any as gifts.

janesia said...

i think wearing uniforms is a form of identity.

kismetseo said...

Nice Post. I liked it.
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