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What are the Pros and Cons of Requiring School Uniforms?

Schools often insist on uniforms to foster a sense of community among students.
A certain amount of teasing and bullying is bound to happen with young people, but uniforms can sometimes act as a deterrent.
Uniform cleaning needs might be hard on a family with limited means.
Many school uniforms feature plaid or tartan patterns.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2014
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While school uniforms have been successfully implemented by private and parochial schools for decades, public school systems have had notoriously variable results implementing uniform programs on a large scale. Sometimes, school administrators are successful in their quest for a restrictive but workable dress code, but at other times, they are faced with a vocal opposition consisting of parents and students who do not support such institutional restrictions. There are a number of pros and cons of requiring school uniforms, although the ultimate decision to implement such a program is generally left to higher level school system administrators.

One advantage of uniforms is the instillation of a sense of purpose. When an individual student dons a school uniform, he or she often feels a stronger sense of unity with other classmates. The clothes provide a sense of identity with something greater than the individual. The wearing of school uniforms offers students the opportunity to develop a stronger work ethic, since they are more aware of the roles they are expected to play while in uniform.

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A disadvantage of this purposeful uniformity is the fear of a meaningless conformity. Students, particularly adolescents, are often keenly aware of the power of uniforms in the "real world." While they may create a positive sense of unity, they can also imply the sacrifice of individuality to a group mentality. The uniform requirement can make some students feel repressed or less respected as individuals. Some very sensitive students may feel more of a temptation to drop out of school entirely rather than acquiesce to a seemingly senseless conformity.

Another positive aspect of school uniforms is social equalization. When the social playing field becomes more even, the educational environment often benefits as well. If everyone is required to wear the same outfit, the wealthiest student and the poorest student in a classroom is on a equal fashion footing. Standardized uniforms discourage social ostracism based on a student's mode of dress. Students from lower economic backgrounds would conceivably face far less teasing from more affluent students if everyone dressed the same.

Unfortunately, even when everyone dresses the same, it's unlikely that all students in a school will treat each other equally. Students, particularly adolescents, are often acutely aware of the social status of others, and school uniform policies are not often a panacea for all social challenges a student may face. Students could still form cliques and social groups based on other factors besides uniforms. The incidence of bullying and social ostracism would not necessarily be reduced significantly by the implementation of uniforms alone.

School uniforms could be a financial advantage for parents, since they would not be obligated to purchase fashionable or expensive clothing for their child's educational needs. Schools that implement school uniform policies often provide vouchers for the purchase of at least two complete outfits. The time-consuming decision over what a child should wear to school every morning would also be virtually eliminated. The individual elements of a typical school uniform may be much cheaper to purchase or replace than the upscale fashions favored by many school-age children.

For certain families, however, a required school uniform may create some hardships. Two uniforms must be worn five days a week, which means they must be laundered more often than regular clothes worn outside of school. Some families without laundry facilities in their homes may not have the means to make additional trips to a commercial laundromat, or the financial ability to repair or replace damaged or ill-fitting uniform components. Some students may find themselves with no other option but to wear a less-than-pristine school uniform, which could prompt the very social ostracism those uniforms were ostensibly designed to prevent.

On paper, the uniform requirement often sounds very promising, but in reality, the results have been decidedly mixed. Some public school systems have noticed significant improvements since implementing a school uniform program, while others have discovered that enforcement of the policy can be very challenging in the long-term. Instead of requiring school uniforms, some school systems are considering other alternatives, such as same-sex classrooms and "grade-less" classes where students are encouraged to learn at their own pace in lieu of automatic promotion to higher grades.

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Discuss this Article

anon318668
Post 19

I think school uniforms can be good or bad. It just depends on the school and its uniform.

anon318222
Post 18

I don't think that schools should wear uniforms. It doesn't show off their personality and everyone looks the same and you can get confused on who each other is.

anon273401
Post 10

You would still have to pay for clothing that's not related to school. Not exactly the best for cost.

anon165371
Post 8

i don't think that uniforms work because wearing the same thing as everyone else doesn't improve reading or math. kids should be able to wear what they want to wear because it builds character.

anon97126
Post 7

I agree with school uniforms. It is sad that there are dress codes in place at all schools, yet only a majority of the student bodies are made to comply. Dress codes are for everyone, not just those who lack the ideal bodies. There are too many definitions of "what is too short" or inappropriate. School uniforms may eliminate these things.

As a mother of five daughters, my children do not wear uniforms, but I wish they did. It would be cheaper, less stressful for me and the my girls, and i feel that their grades would be better.

anon78047
Post 6

I hate school uniforms. I want to learn about sewing just so I can make them fit right. School uniforms are no fair. I think the studies on the cons are right. I have already gotten my ears gauged. I want to get a tattoo. I'm in eighth grade. What does that say to you?

anon77274
Post 5

School uniforms are a big slap in the face to the people that served our country for our freedom of choice.

anon69104
Post 4

my school had school uniforms and it didn't work out.

anon66532
Post 3

i figure out that school uniforms don't work at all because many students will find a way to tease and bully other students. also the behavior will not reduce because students are bad anyway and learning will not improve at all because students just day dream all day.

anon29037
Post 2

I think school uniforms are stupid. They don't even work to do what they are supposed to do, and they are therefore a bad idea.

somerset
Post 1

I think it is a good idea to have a school uniform. I remember one school having just a lightweight dress coat for girls. They could still wear regular cloth underneath, just have the dress over it.

The reason it worked well was because there was less focus on what to wear, and in particular it was helpful for those whose families did not have money to splurge on the latest fashion. There is still plenty of time to wear fun cloth after school and on weekends. I think wearing uniforms balances life better.

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