School Uniforms in the USA Essay

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I. Introduction

A. The Idea of Identity

The idea of identity is one of the most compelling concepts psychology and the humanities. It is in fact closely tied with the concept of individuality, which in turn drives the desire to be one’s own person with one’s own individuality. History shows that the youth throughout the years have struggled to break free from parental control and exert their own individuality. This has carried on even in matters of one’s clothes which have become inextricably associated on the idea of identity as well as how one represents the contradictions in everyday life. Through appearance, style, personal interpretations of, and resistance to clothes, people are able to express who they are and who they hope to become. Appearance and style visually articulates overlapping identities such as age, social class, and personal interests.

B. Clothes and the Sense of Individuality and Identity

Clothes are essential to the modern consumer’s sense of identity. There is indeed a correlation between one’s clothes and personal identity. This explains the ongoing trend towards personalization, particularly among the youth. This paper hopes to understand both sides of the argument regarding the use of school uniforms in schools in USA and takes the position that school uniforms make schools safer and secure and produce more positive effects than not wearing uniforms at all.

II. Body

There is no kind of clothing that elicits a lot of feelings and opinions as that of wearing school uniforms.

A. Arguments on Requirement of School Uniforms

The argument on whether uniforms must be a requirement in all schools has been a debate for years. Many say that when uniforms are required, there is a reduction in the rise of violent crimes. Gang warfare that spread to the schools could be minimized if the school uniform policy is implemented. However, others are worried that this policy infringes on the First Amendment Rights on freedom to express oneself. Nevertheless, it is important that students understand the school rules. Understanding rules is part of moral development in that both involve formulation of rules, rule following, cooperation, limit setting, division of roles, and territoriality; “Consciousness of rules cannot be isolated from the moral life of an individual as a whole.” (Piaget, 1965, p. 50).

B. Advantages of Wearing School Uniforms

Various arguments have been proposed by uniform advocates. For Scherer (1991), school uniforms have positive effect on students’ security by “lowering student victimization” (as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). For Kennedy (1995) and Loesch (1995), the use of school uniforms has decreased gang brawling and other gang-related activities (as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). Author Gursky (1996) posits that wearing school uniforms were attributed to the following: (1) increased rates of attendance; (2) declined suspension rates; and (3) decreased substance use among the students (as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998).

Stover (1990) expounds that school uniforms have promising effects in increasing student learning and attitudes towards school by improving the learning environment (as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). Thomas (1994), maintains that it can increase student achievement and raise their preparedness level (as cited in Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). Meanwhile, there are several advantages of wearing school uniforms. Some of these are:

1.  Students will welcome this security measure rather than risk having a stranger, or worst, a killer, to go inside the school premises. The violence of gangs in the 1990s made the development of uniforms a requirement for schools again (School Uniforms: Panacea or Band-Aid?). In fact, even private and parochial schools did not abandon their school uniform policy. (Swartz).

2. The positive effects of the uniform policy in schools in Long Beach, Chicago and Birmingham have encouraged other schools to do the same. The schools reason out that they are able to police their students easier. Much of the results of students who abide by the uniform policy arise when they had been involved in designing how their uniforms would look like. (Benefits of School Uniforms).

3.  This will make students concentrate on their studies instead of making a fashion statement in school. Besides, a school is supposed to be an institution where they can learn and not flaunt their dresses. Aside from this, school uniforms will help in removing the messages of social and economic status which are naturally carried in apparel. (Dressed for Survival, 1994 as cited in Swartz).

4. Wearing uniform results in widening of friends within the school instead of creating cliques within the school set up.  The timid and the diffident not only will gain from this policy but also the poor ones who belong to the lower strata of society. They are not required to buy too many clothes and brag to their classmates that they can afford the very expensive jackets, designer jeans and clothes. This reduces competition and unnecessary squabbles between the students, thus, fostering unity instead. (Facts against School Uniforms).

D. Disadvantages of Wearing School Uniforms

Following are the supposed disadvantages of a school uniform policy:

1) An administrator can be tempted to engage in corruption with a local uniform manufacturer in case there are uniforms that are required to be made. These corrupt school authorities can do these negotiations because he is the head of this facility for students and there is no one to check on him/her (Facts against School Uniforms).

2) The school uniform can be seen as something that will breed uniformity. Schools need independent and free-thinking individuals and the school uniforms tend to put students in a box in terms of their need to be creative with how they look and their clothes.

3) The dress that students wear does not always become a source of teasing and bullying. Most of the time, other students do not mind whatever the other student wears.  Wearing a uniform does not guarantee that the notorious student will behave when he sees his enemy wearing the same uniform as he/she is wearing. No matter what the other person is wearing, a delinquent student will always find time to bully another student he fancies on  (Facts against School Uniforms).

The author of the site Benefits of School Uniforms, cites several benefits to wearing school uniforms and foremost of this is the fact that a school uniform makes it easier for school authorities to identify their students, thereby securing discouraging those who are not part of it to influence those who are enrolled in the school. The author mentions that students will welcome this security measure rather than risk having a stranger, or worst, a killer, to go inside the school premises. The violence of gangs in the 1990s made the development of uniforms a requirement for schools again (School Uniforms: Panacea or Band-Aid?).

In fact, even private and parochial schools did not abandon their school uniform policy. (Swartz). In a study conducted on the Effects of Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance Abuse, and Academic Achievement, the only positive result for the uniforms that the study gave was a small relationship between uniforms and standardized achievement scores. It indicated a correlation coefficient of very slight possible relationship between the two variables but it also demonstrated that uniforms are poor indicators of standardized test scores and that the relationship remains much weaker than what has been indicated in the uniform debate (Brunsma, 1998).

III. Government Position in Wearing School Uniforms

It was in the time of President Bill Clinton’s administration when the policy on wearing school uniforms proliferated. In 1996 State of the Union Address, President Clinton asked school authorities to enforce uniform policy as an instrument in improving school security and discipline. Even he was convinced of the importance as he states that: “School uniforms are symbols that break this cycle of violence, truancy, and disorder…” (as cited in Starr, 2005).

IV. Conclusion

In summation, it is important to note that until today, schools, parents and students continue to clash over the issue of regulating the students’ uniforms. In the end, dress policies have to be evaluated in the light of the school’s environment and receptivity of all sectors concerned. Yet, taking all sides into consideration, it is important to note that requiring students to wear school uniforms is still a better idea for everyone concerned.

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