School Uniforms: the Secret to Success?

Education nowadays is viewed as a vital part of one’s life in order to achieve success. Because of this, parents usually want their children to get the best educational experience possible to ensure such success. However, this is not always accessible and choosing the appropriate education for ones child is quite controversial. That being said, there is one component of education that remains a controversial topic in whether or not it is beneficial or detrimental to the educational arena. This component is the adoption and enforcement of school uniforms. What are school uniforms? School uniforms are a set of required attire, usually formal, that must be worn in unison by the student body. This includes a set of pants, socks, shoes, and top. The use of this particular set of regalia has been studied over the years and many positive and negative effects have been identified. Nevertheless, the adoption of school uniforms provides many benefits and and detriments that can be used to argue for or against its implementation.

Two major benefits of adopting a school uniform is how it affects the safety of the students and how it promotes unity by breaking down class barriers. Ensuring the safety of the students allows for an environment more conducive to learning. That being said, according to Joshua Gillin from PolitiFact.com, school uniforms can be seen increasing the safety of such eclaims that “When they implemented a school uniform policy in their schools, the climate, the culture at their schools improved […] it’s an issue of school safety, [sic] helps with school truancy.” Gillan checks the claim by reviewing a “1996 study of Long Beach, Calif.” and finds that “schools found a marked decrease in fights, sexual violence and weapons possession two years after adopting school uniforms.” This proves that an increase in safety and a decrease in violence is present in schools that have adopted school uniforms. However, it’s true effect might not be noticed immediately after the adoption of school uniforms, but an effect has been found. In another article published by crf-usa.org, we see a consistent agreement. In this article, it is revealed that a “ recent study by the U.S. Department of Education suggests that school uniforms can help reduce theft, violence, and […] prevents gang members from wearing colors and insignia that could cause trouble and helps school officials recognize intruders who do not belong on campus.” This further confirms the fact that school uniforms can increase safety. On top of this benefit is also how school uniforms can unite students and deconstruct potential class barriers. This concept is addressed by Amelia Josephson’s article published on SmartAsset.com. In this article, Josephson notes that “when kids wear uniforms [,] visible class markers between rich kids and poor kids are decreased or eliminated, which may lead to more social mixing along economic lines.” This exemplifies how school uniforms can produce a strictly professional setting with equality. A similar article published by the admin on ProsanCons.com reveals that “[h]aving a school uniform brings a sense of uniformity” and that “the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced increasing their social interactions.” This elucidates the point that school uniform instill uniformity which lessens boundaries at school that may produce contention. As a result, each of these articles suggest that there are benefits associated with school uniforms in their ability to generate a safer learning environment and create equality and unity by breaking down class barriers. This environment that has been produced can be conducive to learning by allowing students to concentrate on their work and perform better academically.

Another two major benefits that support the adoption of school uniforms are its positive relationship with increasing student focus and academic achievement. Creating a distraction free atmosphere is not always possible. However, school uniforms may aid in pursuing this atmosphere. According to Jamie N. Jones from Ocala.com, “[s]chool uniforms put focus on learning, not looks.” Jones further explains this statement: The establishment of a uniform policy would free students from the bondage of the superficial. Distractions irrelevant to the mission of the school would be lessened, and an understanding of the difference between superficiality and real worth would be fostered. Students would have an opportunity to see themselves not just on a personal mission to be popular, but toward a perfection of intellect and character shared by their comrades. If one wishes to see these ideas in practice, one only needs to visit any number of private schools which require school uniforms. This explains how distraction would be eliminated and replaced with a new focus on academics and the true purpose of school.

In addition, this would instill a “team spirit” that would allow for a common focus (Jones). This also makes apparent the issue that one’s character should determine how one is viewed, not just their clothing. This focus allows for students to achieve more academic excellence. This is backed up by Elisabetta Gentile and Scott A. Imberman from the University of Houston and their scholarly article “Dressed for Success: Do School Uniforms Improve Student Behavior, Attendance, and Achievement?” In this article, Gentile and Imberman analyze survey based research in order to determine whether or not school uniforms can positively affect academic performance. They state their findings after creating many formulas and reaching out to various school: “Overall, we find that uniforms appear to have a moderately positive impact on students in middle and high school and little impact on elementary students. Students in middle and high school grades who are required to wear uniforms show improvements in scores on language exams of between 0.02 and 0.04 standard Deviations” (Gentile and Imberman 12). This shows that the potential for test scores to increase leads to the conclusion that academic achievement and performance do as well in most situations.

Along with this comes the idea that the increase in focus that school uniforms bring about such academic achievement. Furthermore, this evidence elucidates the benefits found in school uniforms in their ability to increase focus by limiting distractions and increase academic achievement. However, although school uniforms can have a positive effect on the school in general, it could also have a negative effect on the students by repressing the development of one’s character by enforcing restrictions that limit self expression and enforce unfair social normalities. Two major detriments concerning the adoption of school uniforms are how they enforce gender stereotypes and limit individuality. Traditionally, school uniforms were used often in the past and thus have traditional values surrounding them. Because of this, these traditional values can be seen having an impact on today’s school uniform policies. According to Amanda Mergler’s article “School Uniforms: Reinforcing Harmful Gender Stereotypes” on GirlsUniformAgenda.org, this is very much so the case. Mergler analyzed Dr Sue (Susan) Bennett of Deakin University’s studies at three different schools and calculated her responses to determine how students viewed each of his or her uniform policies. When Girls were asked about trousers, “Bennett noted that while the girls clearly did not like the trousers, this was largely because they were the same as the boys trousers.

The girls commented that the trousers were: Too boyish; They’re like guys’ pants; You feel like a guy if you wear the pants and It’s a boys uniform” (Mergler). Mergler concluded that because of this, “[t]his finding highlights that responding to girls’ wanting to wear trousers by offering them the boys trousers is not appropriate.” These responses portray how school uniforms can not only make students feel uncomfortable, they can also make girls appear like boys despite how they may identify. This not only is inappropriate professionally, but it can limit or exclude certain students from wanting to participate in certain activities. On top of this, Darrell Walker’s article “Uniforms Destroy Individuality” on BulbApp.com reveals that school uniforms actually limit individuality as previously noted by Amanda Mergler. In this article, Walker discusses how school uniforms limit individuality and self-expression by citing the experience of a 17-year-old student in which the girl made known that “[e]veryone hated it. It completely killed any sense of individuality any one of us had. Everyone looked the same. It was sad to watch.” Walker concludes that from this statement, “students with experience in wearing uniforms feel that they take away a sense of individuality.”

Furthermore, Walker claims that “school uniforms do not allow students to express themselves.” He notes that during this time, “[t]eenagers are at an age where they are trying to establish their identity” and poses a question about if “it [is] fair to prevent them from exploring self-expression by making them wear uniforms” (Walker Individuality)? Walker clearly states that “[b]y taking away a student’s right to choose what to wear, we also take away the opportunity to express oneself.” These results clearly show how school uniforms can limit individuality by suppressing self-expression. This, in turn, can be seen posing a problem to teenagers’ character development by prolonging the establishment of their identities. Overall, it is very apparent that school uniforms can reinforce gender stereotypes and limit individuality with the attire that is required to be worn. Not only this, but school uniforms can cause a strain on even the student’s family by requiring certain financial measures that are hard to acquire and cause more strain on the students by leading to more policies that are focused on simply punishing the students. Another two detriments pertaining to the adoption of school uniforms are how school uniforms can oftentimes be too expensive and how the implementation of school uniforms can lead to overextending policies. The process of actually buying school uniforms may be detrimental to the family of the student.

According to the article “School Uniform Costs Force Families into Debt” on ChildrenSociety.org.uk, this is very much so the case. A new study presented in the article that was conducted in 2018 found that “[o]ne million children live in families across England who are getting into debt to meet the rising cost of school uniforms .” This results of the survey “found that 13% of parents were getting into debt to cover costs of school uniform – up from 7% when the charity conducted the same survey in 2015.” in addition, the survey revealed that “[a]ccording to responses from 1,000 parents, nearly one in six families said school uniform costs were to blame for them having to cut back on food and other basic essentials compared to one in seven in 2015.” This meant that families were becoming oppressed with financial strain when having to make up enough money for their children’s school uniforms. The results of this study show that this dilemma has increased over the years and continues to hurt families and increase debt. On top of that, students are also starting to feel more strain as school policies have increased in the same way after the adoption of school uniforms. According to Amelia Josephson from SmartAsset.com, this is due to the fact that “If a school has a uniform policy, it generally tries to enforce that policy by monitoring students’ clothing and punishing students for violating uniform requirements.” Josephson also notes that, although many schools have a dress code, “uniforms may add to the attention focused on student dress. This can make students feel that they’re being scrutinized and punished for their appearance, which could have negative effects on student self-esteem or attitudes toward the school.” Josephson further reiterates how this can harm the student in the sense that “if students are sent home for uniform violations, they will miss valuable learning time.” This illuminates how school uniforms can put strain on the students by punishing them more often. This also makes clear how this strain can have a negative impact on the student and his or her education.

As a result, this research shows that families and students can become too oppressed by the cost of school uniforms and the oversaturation of school policies pertaining to them. Altogether, this shows that students may not always be happy about the adoption of uniforms despite the possible benefits. There are multiple benefits and detriments associated with school uniforms. That being said, I believe that the benefits outweigh the impact made by the detriments. The reason for this is due to how the benefits can have a longer lasting effect than the detriments. For example, the ability to focus more and thus perform better academically can ensure a more successful future in college or any pursuit for an extended education. On the other hand, the possible cost and restricted individuality is simply for that moment in time while attending that specific school. Furthermore, i think that they can actually increase individuality by forcing people to judge someone by their character rather than their fashion sense. In addition to this, outside of school, regular clothes can be worn to further one’s so called “individuality.” Not only this, but wearing a uniform doesn’t decide what gender you identify as, it is simply put in place to ensure appropriate behavior from either gender.

Plus, this issue can simple be fixed by allowing unisex options for school uniforms. Overall, as previously stated, I think the benefits that school uniforms provide simply are worth more than the potential detriments that they may cause. In conclusion, school uniforms can have both a positive and negative effect on those that may use them. Possible benefits have identified as school uniforms breaking down class barriers, promoting a safer environment, increasing student focus, and increasing student academic achievement. On the other hand, possible detriments have been revealed as school uniforms reinforcing gender stereotypes, limiting individuality, costing too much, and leading to the overextension of school policies. As a result, these are some of the potential benefits and detriments associated with the adoption of school uniforms that can be used to argue for or against its implementation. Those in favor of school uniforms may find these benefits worthwhile; whereas, those against school uniforms may find these detriments to be present and strong. Either way, the pursuit of a better education should always accompany either side despite the various views on school uniforms.

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