Free «School Uniforms» Essay Sample
The topic of discussion is implementation of uniforms at schools nowadays, which is quite a controversial issue evident in all types of educational institutions. For several decades, it has fueled debate among teachers and parents and caused the passionate opposition from students. For young people in many countries, obligatory uniforms at schools have become symbols of artificial limitations and boundaries for their individualities.
This paper presumes that schools should not introduce mandatory wearing of uniforms, because it is an outdated and unnecessary tradition that creates a false sense of community and identity for an excessively high price: personal uniqueness of students.
The first obvious reason that comes to mind when one thinks of disadvantages of school uniforms is the destructive process of making all children and adolescents look alike. By forcing students to wear a certain suit of particular tailoring patterns and colors, the school authorities deny young people’s ability to combine clothing items themselves. Psychologically, this is an expression of mistrust and disbelief, refusing to acknowledge that students are capable of creating a decent outfit from what they already have in their closets. The teachers and parents often forget that youth is a natural time for experiment, and one’s own style is a perfect field for that activity. Wearing a uniform, on the other hand, blocks the possibility for expressing oneself and suppressed creativity: something that a modern educational environment is supposed to foster. Also, prohibiting something is the surest way of making it more attractive. Private schools with strict rules on dress code and behavior have a lower general rate of misdemeanor, but individual cases of rebellious or disruptive behavior are much harsher than in liberal schools and also less expected. As they say, forbidden fruit is sweet. Moreover, the uniforms usually have two or three colors in their design, but some children may not like this particular color combination. It would be senseless to make the student spend one third of his/his time wearing things that he/she does not like; this is a real psychological pressure and discomfort.
The second reason to abstain from obligatory school uniforms is economic appropriateness. It is not a secret that different families do not have equal financial opportunities; some people from lower middle class cannot afford to buy or sew the uniform suits. As a rule, a standard school set consists of two main suits (a pair of trousers or a skirt, a waistcoat, a jacket; in general, six items divided into two sets), two pairs of shoes for colder and warmer weather, and, occasionally, a piece of decoration or an accessory such as a tie or a headband, depending on gender. When calculated, the sum to be paid for this is quite a large one. In addition to this, a child needs to have an average of five white shirts to change them during the week. On average, the parents “will have to pay USD 300 to 450 for the uniform clothing for their children” (Altbach 48). Moreover, this is an annual payment: children grow fast, and new suits are needed every year, starting from the first grade. It seems that this practice can burden poor families additionally, instead of creating an atmosphere of tolerance and equality at schools. Apart from this, a centralized system of school uniform supply is prone to development of corruption schemes. Usually, the educational institution holds a tender competition amongst the sewing companies or fashion enterprises to design and manufacture the suits for students. Quite often school officials cooperate with administrations of these companies to agree on unfair conditions. Embezzlement can easily take place, and the whole idea of unanimity can be discredited because of this. From time to time, such stories appear in the press or on TV, when the local activists care enough to spread the word.
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The next argument against uniforms is often ignored, but still, it has to be mentioned. School uniforms contribute to establishing strict gender role distribution and compel girls to wearing skirts only. In some schools, new initiatives have been implemented that allow girls to wear a pair of trousers or short trousers as a bottom item of the uniform, but these cases are merely an exception and not the rule. Mostly, unwanted gender differentiation is introduced from early age, and girls often have no choice but to wear the uniform skirts five or six days a week.
Sometimes, wearing a uniform can be a reason of being bullied not by fellow students, but by teenagers outside the school perimeter. It is an especially frequent situation for children who study at prestigious schools but live in poor neighborhoods with a high level of crime (Tajfel). The unusual appearance of a child in a uniform can provoke robbers and bullies to approach him or her. Therefore, children and teenagers are not enthusiastic about wearing uniforms at all (Wiseman 200).
School uniforms do not erase status inequality between children and barely give them a chance them to concentrate on their curriculum instead of comparing each other’s clothes and competing which outfit is better or more expensive. As experience shows, income gaps are much more definitive in today’s society than one can think. Children realize it at a very young age, and it is common to hear a teenager boast about his or her new gadget or a recent trip abroad. Therefore, even if children all wear the same clothes, they still remain representatives of their families: the income gap does not disappear; it is just blurred for a short period of time, which is hypocritical of the school administration.