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Do School Uniforms Cause More Harm Than Good?

by James Musoba
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The argument over whether students should wear uniforms is never exhausted. The advocates of the school dress code claim that it can reduce socio-economic disparities, instill a sense of community and pride in young learners, and enhance their discipline, attendance, and academic performance. The opponents of this idea call attention to the breaching of the right to free education, limitations of self-expression, and the damaging effect of uniforms on young people’s mental health.

Let’s explore how both parties view some of the hottest issues related to the mandatory uniform policy.

Freedom of Self-Expression

Pro. Though it may sound like a feeble argument, when all students are dressed alike, they can focus more on their educational goals. As learners don’t have to waste time on creating an appropriate outfit for the school day, they can channel their mental energy to other activities. 

Young people can prove themselves through arts, sports, and extracurricular pursuits. The freed-up time can be allocated to leisure, hobbies, or research sessions for school assignments. If there are still too many things on the table, students can use the do my essay for me services to get some help with their writing tasks.

Con. Opponents of school uniforms argue that enforcing standard outfits is restraining individual right to free expression. The school system already obliges students to go by the rules, and appearance is one of the few areas where they can exercise some control. 

They can use dress as the means to voice their support for significant social causes. Clothing, hairstyles, and accessories can also indicate their tastes in music, fashion, and art. In this regard, they are visual markers that help teens to spot like-minded people and encourage them to form personal connections.

If the school administration favors a gender-specific clothing approach (pants for boys and skirts for girls), it can meet resentment from both parents and the student community. Traditional division into masculine and feminine apparel is deemed sexist and can negatively affect young adult’s self-esteem. It is especially true for transgender and gender-fluid youths for whom clothing is a primary medium to manifest their identity.

Socio-Economic Segregation

Pro. Introducing school uniforms is usually seen as a way to break class barriers between students. Indeed, for centuries clothing was used as a means to display wealth and enforce social stratification. The way a person dresses is still perceived as an indicator of their cultural level, degree of competence, financial position, and social power. So when students wear the same clothes, all those categories are blurred, creating a level playing field. 

Con. In the 21st century, fashion preferences can no longer serve as a reliable telltale sign of a person’s social status. It’s because everyone, from the guy next door to Mark Zuckerberg, is wearing jeans and a plain T-shirt. When most people fancy simple, casual outfits, the boundaries between the classes are not that visible anymore. Thus, there is no need for some special style of school clothing.

Financial Benefit

Pro. The pressure to conform to the latest fashion trends is not a light issue. Children often have to enter the competition over clothing to avoid being teased for wearing less expensive or trendy outfits. It creates an additional financial burden for parents who have to spend larger sums on kids’ shopping. Thus, buying one standard piece of clothing seems to be a more economical solution than purchasing regular apparel.

Con. This approach holds true when comparing the price of one set of uniforms to the cost of the entire out-of-school wardrobe. However, if parents have to acquire four or five mix-and-match outfits, there is nothing to gain from it. 

Some families can simply not be able to afford to buy more than one school garment per child. And keeping it neat and tidy might cause extra effort, as clothes are more likely to get torn, abraded, or faded from regular wear and repeated washing. So in a few months, the contrast between children who are limited to wearing the same outfit every day and their more privileged peers will be striking. This will further emphasize the differences uniforms are supposed to conceal.

Safety Issues

Pro. The introduction of school uniforms can be an aid in deterring crime and violence. Statistics show that such a decision can cause a decrease in property damage, graffiti, gang activity, student fights, and battery. To some extent, it’s because a specific style of clothing is a clue that can help local authorities to track down the alleged offender. Another reason is that when everyone is dressed alike, it can reduce pervasive tension between different youth groups, which results in fewer disciplinary issues.

Con. Though uniform policy may be a good solution to cease physical violence, it doesn’t really eradicate clashes between students. Most people assume that if everyone wears the same thing, no one can be discriminated against or made fun of. 

However, when it comes to bullying, clothing is only a small piece of the puzzle. Students might look alike, but uniforms can’t hide one’s personality, facial features, or ethnic origin. Thus, any peculiarity can become an object of bullying, be it the shape of a lunch box or the brand of shoes.

Bottom Line

The merit of school uniforms is a debatable topic. However, the school dress-code policy may gain greater support, following some amendments, including:

  • designing more casual and practical outfits, so students feel comfortable wearing them on a daily basis;
  • offering financial aid for families who can’t afford to buy school uniforms for their kids;
  • allowing students to inject their personal style into their school look with expressive items like bags, scarves, or colorful socks;
  • enforcing efficient anti-bullying programs and school safety arrangements.

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