School UniformsShould public school students in Hawaii wear uniforms?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The argument outlined for uniforms is a powerful one.  Since the question asked for the argument aspect, I hope I am able to shed some light on the other side of the issue in terms of why students should not have to wear uniforms.  One particular reason is that it does limit student self expression.  Developing autonomy and decision making skills is a critical element of adolescence and maturation.  Clothes are one such domain where kids can learn to make choices and understand issues of identity as well as self perception as they begin to develop the process of moving from youth to adulthood.  When students are compelled to wear uniforms, this forum where choice can be demonstrated is taken away.  Additionally, an argument against school uniforms is that it greatly empowers the school over parents.  Certainly, the problems with differing notions of fashion are challenging.  Yet, there is a line of thought that suggests that such problems represent "teachable moments" for parents to discuss with their kids aspects of what constitutes professionalism and what defines inappropriate behavior through fashion.  When parents and children engage in this dialogue, constructive discussion emerges.  The imposition of uniforms take away from this discussion, replacing the discourse between parents and children with silent adherence.  Along these lines would be the last argument I would suggest in advocating against school uniforms.  Through homogeneity and a sense of "sameness", schools end up teaching students that all problems are solved when everyone is the same.  While this might not be the intent behind school uniforms, the reality is that the challenges and problems of diversity, in this case fashion differences, are resolved when everyone becomes assimilated into one normative and dominant value.  This is a dangerous ethical and political solution to complex problems.

Being an advocate of uniforms myself, these are the arguments I would outline against my own position.

melissamd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think this particular question only pertains to Hawaiian public school students.  Our school district just went through this--we had a vote by parents and educators and the decision was largely in favor of school uniforms. The argument was made that uniforms are beneficial in many ways: Parents save money by only buying the school approved uniforms, rather than having to go out and by the clothes which are 'in style' or popular, i.e. more expensive.  Having students all wearing basically the same thing cuts down on violence--no one is perpetrating violence on another student for their expensive shoes or jacket if it is a school uniform item.  The school board also argued that students would better concentrate on their school work if the distraction of trendy new clothing was removed. 

These arguments obviously worked in our district, since it was a very near landslide in favor of school uniforms.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have no problem with a school uniforms policy. In many ways it makes good sense.  You avoid the gang colors problem, at least more so, as well as the social pressure to wear expensive fashions and the social distinctions placed on those who cannot afford to.

I would like to teach in a school with uniforms sometime.

xlaurenbx | Student

i don't think that people should have to wear school uniforms...for me I am more comfortable in my own clothes and so therefor more alert and able to concentrate and learn more, it is the same for many peole in my class...when you are in uniform yiou are uncomfortable and in your own clothes it gives you a chance to express yourself and show that you are different to everyone else and it makes you able to participate more in lessons.

mya101012 | Student

Honestly, I think this school uniform thing is ridiculous! Really? Why would anyone want to look a like? How would one express ones personality thru the same garb everyone else is wearing? There are more fights with some girl wearing your t-shirt(maybe strutting it better than you are yours.) so why would the school board want to escalate this by demanding(not require) that we all wear the same uniform?

Sure we'd all probably get along since we are wearing the same thing, but that gets boring for those artistic people who feel they must express themselves thru their clothes than personality. Some people are shy and modest and some of these uniforms would make a tomato blush from indecency. Sure we could decide how short to wear skirts if required, but no one wants to be copied for their personal style by a wanna be, no matter the circumstances and how proud the person may be.

Think of it his way: no personal expression of style or of ones' inner self, boring and lifeless society.

Society demands that we follow their rules, but by dressing our own personal way, we defy what we are told and express ourselves publicaly and loudly. Now if people chose to follow the fashions of today that's thier decision. Plus not all uniforms compliment us very well. One size fits all? Really? Oh how chic!;p

krishna-agrawala | Student

Disparity of any kind between students tend to promote friction and tension between them. Younger people have limited ability to cope up with such tensions. Provision of uniform helps to reduce disparity between students at least in some respect, and in this way help control tension between students to some extent. According to me this is the most compelling argument in favour of school uniforms, and is enough by itself to justify use of school uniforms. Points made in earlier posts supporting school uniforms are also valid and further strengthen the case for school uniforms.

amykal | Student

Having been both a teacher and a parent in a Charter school wear uniform dress code was mandatory, I can argue both sides of the matter. While a uniform dress code does lower the pressure on parents to purchase alot of expensive clothing, children will still express themselves via socks, shoes, hair attire, bookbags, outdoor clothing, makeup, hairstyle, etc., thus allowing for self expression and a sense of autonomy and decision making. It also does lower the peer pressure of what's 'cool' and what's 'dorky'; however, students will still get a sense of the 'cool' crowd by the above mentioned items, so that point becomes moot overall.

We also found as a school that parents who agreed to the uniform dress code when enrolling their child were some of the same parents who fought to allow ear piercings in their sons, large jewelry in their daughters, different items of clothing than what was on the list, and then did not want to come to the school to either supply the correct clothing, or remove the jewelry.

So, sound good on paper, in actuality, was not as successful as one might imagine. Enforcement then became another behvior issue to manage-how to enforce, who enforces (some teachers would and others would let slide), what are the consequences, etc.