Friday, January 14, 2005

School Uniforms

What do you all think are the benefits to school uniforms?

I don’t think they have much of a cost, consequentially speaking at least, and so am not passionately against them (as someone who went to a uniform school and a non uniform school in a similar time frame). But all the arguments for why we should have them seem to me trivial, and generated or exaggerated for the purposes of having the policy.

A) Less time spent worrying about what to wear. Since when is this really high on our priority list? If we really want to save kids time and worry, I’m sure there are many, many things society could do towards that end. And if kids thought the benefit wasn’t worth the worry, they can decide that for themselves (either individually, or if it’s a tragedy of the commons situation, then deciding it as a group and asking the school for said policy).

B) Cliquishness and kids judging each other on expensiveness and taste of clothes. Does this actually happen? Not that we can’t imagine scenarios where it does (or have them provided by our sitcoms), but how often have any of us seen it happen? In particular, whatever mocking that is based on clothes I feel is probably just an outlet for social ostracization that is going to happen anyway, and not the cause (saying this as someone mocked for clothes at a code-less school, and mocked anyway at a uniform code school). Even if it happens, with what frequency and how much damage? I don’t think it’s a common or lethal enough occurance that it really mandates universal change.

C) Apparently our kids are distracted from learning too much by bright shiny objects. Whatever. I’d like to see any study that confirms this first, and I’m pretty sure “clothes” fall pretty low on a list of what factors draw kids attention away in school. If distraction is really a concern, there are several rather proven solutions (same sex schools, expel/separate annoying kids, lower temperatures).

What are other arguments (well, arguments that claim to benefit the kids) available?
I personally feel that since these arguments seem to be made as rationalizations, and not “someone found this problem, and then thought of a uniform code as a way to fix it”, we should probably be aware of the more emotional root causes. People seem to like uniforms. I think a few real motivations are
-Uniting the school
-Dislike of kids choice in clothing (both style and the money they spend on it) in general, not just at school
-Trying to fix school systems which are failing, cheaply.

These authoritarian impulses concern me greatly. They seem to be dishonest, using the aforementioned silly arguments in their place, and avoiding the larger problems of schools (not enough money, what to do with disruptive kids, anti-intellectual culture). Now I did actually prefer my uniform school, but only slightly, and certainly not enough that I desire to take away the freedom of others for it (and it seems a pretty significant freedom to take).


At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well Rousseau I would like to know more on your views of school education VS The Constitution. and any one elses views. so just e-mail me at


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