There are many pros and cons of school uniforms, and sometimes things vary depending on who is doing the arguing; in most cases, though, the discussion centers on whether uniforms can create a serious learning environment, whether they can promote equality and possibly reduce bullying, and whether they impact children’s ideas about self expression and conformation. Critics are well spoken on both sides of the uniform conversation, and something that is a “pro” for one person may be a “con” for another.
Creating a Serious Academic Environment
A lot of the research in support of school uniforms says that requiring children to wear the same thing will actually help boost test scores and improve learning. When children don’t have to think about what they’re wearing they may be less distracted, which can help them focus more on the tasks at hand. When everyone is dressed neatly and professionally the classroom takes on a more serious feel, too. Young people who approach learning as more of an honor than a burden tend to perform better, and some people argue that uniforms can achieve this.
Potential to Reduce Bullying
School uniforms may reduce bullying and teasing as well. When everyone is wearing the same thing it is not as easy to pick people out for being different, at least not on the surface. A certain amount of teasing and bullying is bound to happen with young people, but uniforms can sometimes act as a deterrent. This, in turn, promotes a healthier, safer learning space where students aren’t afraid to be themselves and take risks. Kids may also feel less peer pressure to wear certain types or brands of clothing.
One of the most commonly talked about “pros” of school uniforms is their ability to create a level playing field. This is particularly important in schools where students come from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Poor children dress the same as their wealthy counterparts in these situations, which reduces stigma and can help kids focus on what they have in common rather than the things about their lives that are different.
Risks to Self Expression
Uniform opponents frequently argue that forcing children to dress in the same manner can limit their self expression, and possibly stunt their creativity. According to some scholars, students in these settings may look for other, often less acceptable ways of establishing their identity. Girls may be more likely to use makeup early, for example, or shorten their skirts to look provocative; boys may resort to extreme accessories or sometimes alter their uniforms to differentiate themselves from others. Drug use, smoking, and other forms of rebellion have been seen in both genders.
Messages About Conformation
According to some, standardized clothing might also send the message that is it acceptable to conform to standards imposed by others. This isn’t always a “con,” but certainly could be in certain circumstances. Children who grow up feeling subjugated to authority might have trouble later on asserting themselves or standing up for values different from those imposed from the top. Free societies typically put a lot of value on individualism and self-governance, and young people who are overly willing to comply may find it difficult to succeed in these environments.
Longevity and Garment Quality
Arguments about actual uniform quality can be both a pro or a con, depending on the circumstances. When the garments are made well, of sturdy material and with quality workmanship, they will often last for years and will withstand multiple washings. This is generally a positive thing, since it means that children can get a lot of wear out of them and parents don’t have to spend so much on clothing. When the material is shoddy, however, or when it doesn’t wash well, it can pose problems.