Question: Do you agree that school uniforms are good for all students in all schools?
Answer: I can agree that student uniforms are a good thing but it would be very difficult to add “for all students in all schools.” As a parenting professional, I love that uniforms may be an added convenience to parents and may decrease parent-child struggles over wardrobe choices. But I also support parent and school choice to determine what works best in individual circumstances. For better or for worse, I even support parent choice when those choices are less than ideal.
In the public schools in my area, current practice allows each school to vote on the uniform policy of the school. Parents may apply for exemptions if they choose not to comply with a majority vote for uniforms. Success usually requires full cooperation from school administration and active parent advocates. While not perfect, I prefer this over district mandated policies because I have strong philosophical biases for school-based management and parent participation. I also believe that public schools must strongly consider individual rights, and therefore, must include exemption options.
As a former public school teacher and university-level teacher trainer, I also believe that we must not overstate the benefits of school uniforms. The problems of our public schools deserve thoughtful, complex solutions. School uniforms alone will not decrease substance abuse, eradicate behavior problems, end school violence, raise test scores or increase attendance. The “cool” kids will remain “cool.” (Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston probably stood out in high school with or without a uniform dress code.) Children, however, should not be distracted by designer labels and status clothing. And the uniform issue should not distract anyone from searching for viable, long term solutions to our educational dilemmas.
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.