Uniform requirements have been the center of heated debates for years. In 2005–06, about 14% of school principals reported to the U.S. Department of Education that their school required students to wear a uniform. That is an increase from 1999–2000, when the percentage of principals who reported that their school required students to wear uniforms was 12%.
“If wearing an uniform means that the school rooms will be more orderly and more disciplined, and that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside, instead of what they’re wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms,” said former President Bill Clinton in 1996.
YES teens, too, have their own uniforms. “I don’t want teens to be more focused on how they’re dressed than what they’re learning,” says Diane Miller, Senior Vice President of School and Community Programs and Partnerships at the Saint Louis Science Center.
Clinton, Miller and other proponents of uniforms say that the practice helps suppress gang violence by keeping teens from wearing gang clothing, establishes school spirit, and saves time in the morning. “Many parents feel students in uniforms look nicer and the requirement keeps families with financial troubles from worrying about their child being bullied [because they can’t buy trendy clothing]. Schools can easily become competitive runways and uniforms halt scholastic fashion shows,” according to Isaac Grauke, Manager of Sales and Marketing for Hall Closet Uniforms & Apparel. As a result, students in uniforms are better able to focus more on their studies rather than trendy clothing.
However, skeptics say uniforms stifle creativity, add to the cost of school, and can make teens uncomfortable.
These skeptics say that public education already attempts to strip children of their individuality and that self-expression is an important part of child development. Squeezing children into molds is detrimental. To cope, students find other means of expression that are less appropriate, they say. For example, sagging khaki pants for males and excessive make-up for females.
Maybe, there could be a compromise if students could design their own uniform? Miller tells SciJourner that is her responsibility to support leadership, so she is open to new design ideas.
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