School Uniforms

ExcelsiorMom's picture

What are folks thoughts in school uniforms in SF public schools.  My niece in San Rafael has to wear a school uniform to her public elementary school.  Uniforms are the norm in public schools in Europe and Latin America.  Why not here? 

CJC's picture

This is an interesting debate

This is an interesting debate and as you say one that has recently taken hold of Europe. Having been to a school in the united kingdom that adopted uniform while I was there, I have seen the transition of a school from non-uniform to uniform. 

I'll start by saying that it is no wonder cure for any problems that the school might be having. It does not give students a sense of belonging to the school as is often argued. There are many other things which attach students to their school. It also does not prevent bullying on the grounds of some students having brand names and poorer kids wearing basics. Students still find ways to decorate themselves and degrade students who do not. Furthermore, it can lead to ridiculous enforcement such as sending students home if they forget their tie.

Having said that, there can be some value in giving people a uniform which gives them a sense that they are going to school. It separates their study life from leisure life and arguably helps them to focus while as school.

At the end of the day, uniform is a reasonable enough policy if people want it. But it is not the most pressing issue in education and investment in teachers, extra-curricular activities and classroom standards are more pressing.

Ben Shore's picture

Agree completely

I attended a middle school that required uniforms. I was a tad annoyed at first (I was 12 years old, mind you) but quickly got over it. I agree completely that uniforms aren't a wonder cure for any school issues. The uniform absolutely did help me draw a clear distinction between leisure and school time though. However, it didn't reduce bullying or eliminate cliques or anything like that. I honestly think I walked away from the uniform experience thinking it was really 50/50 in terms of benefits. As I look back now, I might be swayed to think uniforms are 60/40 beneficial if for no other reason than it's one less thing for students to have to worry about.

Alyssa Sittig's picture

A Regressive Requirement?

The fact remains that school uniforms are expensive, inconvenient to buy and hard to replace. I was in 4th grade when my elementary school decided to mandate school uniforms. I already had years of clothes aggregated from shopping trips, and now my school was forcing my parents to buy me more clothes -- clothes I did not want to wear and clothes I did not need. 

My mother and I had to drive a half hour outside my hometown to a specialty uniform store approved by my school district. We spent all day trying to find the correct shirt style and pant deisgn that my school would allow, and in my size. My tired mother spent her entire Saturday forcing her child to try on clothes which we both found ugly and unneccessary. And expensive. $40 for a skirt my 4th grade self despised. 

And on a more simple but equally important note - I have always loved selecting my outfits. As a child, it gave me a sense of pride and a sense of identity to choose my own clothes and style.  I wonder how I would have grown and developed without the freedom to express myself. In America we encourage individuality - and having the courage to be different can bring success in careers and change the world.

Why would we teach our children how to be the same?

fearless's picture

School Uniforms

AlyssaKathryn says "As a child, it gave me a sense of pride and a sense of identity to choose my own clothes and style."

I think one point of uniforms is to allow children to develop a sense of pride and identity that is not dependent on their clothing.  While there is an upfront cost of unifroms, families are subsequently spared entreaties to spend on every fad that comes along. The children can develop a sense of identity that is not tied to their family's willingness or ability to purchase them an identity at the mall.

gcotter's picture

Uniforms Yes

Some good arguments presented but I think the pros outweigh the cons.  School uniforms do not need to be expensive.  There is no need to have an approved uniform vendor.  The "uniform" can be as simple as black or navy blue slacks/skirts (no denim) and white shirts or white tees, and plain shoes.  No printing or decoration on the clothing.  Here in the Mission where I live they sell navy pants and white shirts in a local cheapo store and they are, well, cheap but functional and appropriate.

Uniforms mean that kids don't compete for brand name clothing because designer labels aren't allowed.  You can't judge each others' financial status when everyone is dressed the same.  And, with specific dress codes, gang colors can't be displayed.

Individuality is good, but there is plenty of opportunity for creative clothing after school, weekends, summer, after graduation, etc.  But school needs a more structured environment where the focus in on academics and for making friends based on their individual personalities and skills, not what their parents can afford in the way of a clothing allowance.  Uniforms level the playing field for students and let them compete based on their abilities in the classroom, not the dressing room.

I think that uniforms speak to "inclusion" not "exclusion."  Wearing them can reduce incidents of bullying, violence and truancy.  And, even if I didn't think it was a good idea, I think that it has been successful in so many other countries and states that we would be fooling not to take advantage of the benefits seen elsewhere.

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