I spent my first nine years of schooling at an establishment that strictly enforced uniforms.
We’ve all heard the reasons for implementing school uniforms. They hide a student’s social class. They help students stay focused. They create a sense of community.
Coming from firsthand experience, I can tell you that none of these rationalizations are true.
To start, social class can always be identified. Some students are wearing items from high-end department stores while others purchased theirs at secondhand shops or inherited their sibling’s dingy hand-me-downs.
Although both adhere to the institution’s rules, there is still an obvious appearance difference between the students that can lead to bullying or judgment. Middle school students in particular begin to recognize brands and scrutinize others based on their apparel alone.
Uniforms don’t make social class unrecognizable, it just requires parents to purchase a second set of attire that would be judged just as much as their child’s everyday closet.
Parents spend an abundance of money on school uniforms. Only select suppliers sell uniforms that comply to your institution’s rules, which leads to high prices.
On top of that, children are constantly growing out of clothes, so not only are you trying to keep up with an everyday closet that fits your child, you must now maintain a well-fitting collection of school clothes as well.
Those who support uniforms believe that they contribute to students’ ability to focus, but what about the missed class time spent in the office due to uniform violations? At my grade school, an untucked shirt, missing belt or shoelaces that don’t quite match your shoe color can land you a trip to the office.
You may just get scolded about your violation, or you might have to wait in the office until your parent can bring a change of clothes.
Children are being removed from the classroom and taken away from their education because of a miniscule component to their outfit. That is a much larger distraction than anything a child’s everyday clothing could cause.
Uniform advocates believe that school uniforms foster a sense of community, which is true, but it’s not always what students are looking for during a period of self-discovery. These years are a crucial time for children to understand who, exactly, they are, and this criterion can really put a damper on self-expression.
Uniforms may also feed into sexist ideas regarding the amount of skin girls can show compared to their fellow male students. Girls are required to follow these prudish rules so that they do not risk distracting their male counterparts in the classroom. Some schools require girls to wear skirts and boys to wear pants.
This idea is completely outdated and can cause a real dilemma for children who are unsure of their gender or simply don’t follow traditional gender norms.
For some students, college is the first time that they have ever been able to wear whatever they like to class. This may sound insignificant to students who have always had the freedom to dress as they please, but those who have been monitored within their previous institutions go through a pretty big adjustment.
Although this transition can be a lot for students, I like to believe that college campuses are judgment-free zones. Universities are filled with diversity and acceptance, so those who are now experiencing this new-found freedom should embrace it and use this time to finally express themselves through their clothing.
As someone who is certainly familiar with school uniforms, it is obvious this regulation is not benefiting a parent’s wallet nor their child’s education, or personal development.
It’s about time we put an end to this rigid way of dressing within the realm of education and focus our attention toward the purpose of school: learning.
Riley Clifton is a third-year communication major.