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School boards and parents have debated whether students in grades K-12 should be required to wear a school uniform. Several American schools have now introduced this requirement, while others have not. Although wearing uniforms seems a major change in the minds of students, it may be an effective change that can improve the quality of education and life at school (Sambar, 1996).
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A K-12 school uniform policy may be productive in several ways. First, a uniform that includes 1) clothing and shoes, 2) hair styles, and 3) makeup and accessories will reduce the number of morning arguments children and parents have over what to wear. It will cut the number of early-morning and late-night phone calls between classmates to decide what to wear among friends and cliques. This change would effectively reduce the power of cliques and might reduce the rivalries and bullying that result from picking on other groups’ or individuals’ appearances (Isaacson, 1998; Sambar, 1996).
Owning a set of matching outfits can level the fashion playing field and create a feeling of greater equality among students. Poorer students could stop feeling excluded by their non-name-brand outfits and there might be less stealing of clothing and shoes. Fewer youth would be shot or stabbed for their Starter jackets or Nikes (Isaacson, 1998; Sambar, 1996). Additionally, clothing, shoes, hair, or makeup would not readily reveal social status if a uniform code was in place as an equalizer. This was done in China after the fall of the last emperor and everyone wore khakis and worked, even the former emperor. More work was accomplished in China without the distraction of fashion. The Japanese also instituted uniforms in Honda plants (jumpsuits) and more work is accomplished there as well. If people look equal, then it is harder for cliques or bullies, even gangs, to find the people of a different social class or gang to abuse (Isaacson, 1998).
One of the often-heard arguments against school uniforms is that students would lose their individuality with them. Individuality should come from personality and ideas, not from a piece of cloth on the shoulders, a fancy shoe on the foot, or a gang-related bandana or Britney Spears hair ribbon on the head. Therefore, uniforms can improve students’ individuality, because students will resort to expressing themselves through personality, rather than through an expensive pair of shoes, a bare midriff, or a brand name pair of sagging jeans they might wear three times and pitch. Uniforms can improve self-esteem in conjunction with personality in those that were formerly bullied over their clothing not being fashion-hot, up to date, or sexy enough.
Secondly, uniforms should allow more time for student work and study and less time for gossip. Students in uniforms may spend less time shopping, but certainly less time gossiping about their daily clothing. This should allow students to be more focused on schoolwork, and less focused on what they will wear tomorrow and who is looking at them today. Students may even arrive at school earlier, because they will not be trying on so many different outfits each morning. Having a standard outfit is efficient and reduces stress (Isaacson, 1998; Sambar, 1996).
Thirdly, K-12 uniforms -- especially if they include something simple, like back trousers/skirt, black shoes, black or white socks, and white tops -- will save money. Parents will no longer spend much money on brand name school clothes. For weekends, students should do chores to earn money for other clothing or work a part-time job so that they can see how expensive name brand items really are. Related to this, I have a friend that is wasteful. His rich grandmother gives him $100 to go to church with her, so every two weeks, he buys a new pair of expensive shoes to show off at school. However, his feet grow so fast that he does not even get to wear most of them. He would be laughed at if he just carried these expensive shoes to school, like Show and Tell. Uniform black shoes would certainly save him wasted money.
While many students disagree with requiring uniforms for K-12, every school has the possibility of benefiting from a school uniform policy. Students need to attend school to learn, not to worry about who is looking at their clothes. Uniforms will not only create a more relaxed atmosphere and decrease bullying at school, but will also raise students’ self-esteem and save money, while increasing productivity.
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