This house Would Ban School Uniforms - Junior

In some countries, like the U.K., Japan, Hong Kong, and several African countries, school uniforms are worn in almost every school. In other countries, like France and Germany, school uniforms are only worn in a few schools, or even none. However, in some of these countries opinions are changing. For example, both France1 and Germany2 have recently considered bringing school uniforms back, and in the U.S.A. the percentage of public schools in which children wear a uniform has increased from 11.8 in 1999-2000 to 17.5 in 2007-20083. On the other hand, some schools in the U.K. have gotten rid of school uniforms4. With such different rules in these different countries, it is important to think about whether or not school uniforms are really necessary, and why.

1 The Independent, 2006. France considers return of school uniforms to banish fashion wars [online] 21 June. 

2 BBC News, 2006. School uniform row grips Germany [online]

3 National Center for Education Statistics, 2010. Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010 [online] 

4 Guardian, 2011. School uniform does not improve results

Title 
Students should be allowed to wear religious dress
Point 

If children are religious, they should be allowed to wear the clothes that express their religion, but school a uniform can often restrict this. Religious beliefs can be extremely valuable and important to many children, giving their lives a great deal of meaning and structure and inspiring them to work hard and behave compassionately in a school environment. Some religions place a great deal of value upon worn symbols of faith, such as turbans, headdresses and bracelets. When a school demands that a child remove these symbols, it inadvertently attacks something central to that child’s life. This may cause the child to see her school and her faith as mutually exclusive institutions[1]. Vulnerable young people should not be forced into an adversarial relationship with their school, as close, collaborative involvement with teaching and learning techniques will greatly effect a child’s ability to adapt, learn and acquire new skills in the future.

For example, school skirts are often not long enough for Muslim girls, who believe that they should cover most of their bodies. To allow children to express their religions, we should get rid of school uniforms.

Counterpoint 

Some schools do have different rules for religious students, so that those students can express their beliefs. For example, a school might let Muslim girls wear some of their religious items of clothing mixed with the school uniform (e.g., Reading Girls' School)[2].

 

Title 
Dress Codes instead of school uniform
Point 

Rather than having school uniform, why not have a dress code instead? This has all the benefits of uniform without the many disadvantages. While uniforms force all children to wear the same clothes, dress codes give students a lot of choice what to wear. Only a few unsuitable things are banned - for example, gang colors, very short skirts, crop tops, bare shoulders, etc

Counterpoint 

Dress codes are a half-way house that does not work. It does not make students look at all uniform and it does not show what school they are from. In the United States there has been a move away from allowing either no uniform or dress codes towards having school uniforms.[6]

Title 
School uniforms are often impractical or uncomfortable
Point 

School uniforms are often not very comfortable or practical. In state schools (schools for which parents don't have to pay fees) in the U.K., for example, girls often have to wear dresses or skirts, when they might feel more comfortable in trousers, and boys often have to wear button-up shirts and ties, which can also be uncomfortable for active children[7]. In independent schools, uniforms are often even more impractical and uncomfortable, with blazers or even tailcoats for the children to wear[8].

Counterpoint 

A lot of schools have a choice of uniform so that children can wear what they feel most comfortable in. For example, in Australia, which is a very hot country, schools often have a summer uniform of clothes that are more comfortable in the hot weather [9]. This means that in summer, children might be allowed to wear shorts instead of trousers and short-sleeved instead of long-sleeved shirts.

If children were allowed to choose their own clothes to wear to school, instead of a uniform, they might choose impractical clothes themselves, like baggy tee shirts or long skirts, or jeans with chains hanging from them. To make sure that children are all wearing sensible clothes in which they will be able to take part in all their school activities, there needs to be one uniform that all children at the school wear.

 

Title 
School uniforms are often expensive
Point 

If a school has a uniform, parents are expected to buy it, and then buy a new one every time their child outgrows the last. This can be expensive. It has been reported that parents in South Africa[10], Australia[11], and the U.K[12]. have to pay a lot of money for their children's school uniforms, and it is probably the same in other countries too.

 

Counterpoint 

In many countries, parents can apply for help with the cost of school uniform. For example, in the U.K., parents who don't earn a lot of money can get money from the government to help pay for their child's school uniform[13] . In Australia, the Australian Scholarships Group, which specialises in helping parents save money when it comes to their children's education, has tips for parents to get their child's uniform cheaper.[14]

Also, parents would probably have to spend a lot more money if their children didn't wear a uniform to school, because they would have to buy them more casual clothes. Since children don't like to wear the same thing too often (in case they get bullied), parents would have to spend a lot of money making sure their children have lots of different outfits.

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Title 
Individuality and creativity should be encouraged
Point 

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression"[18]. Children's freedom of expression is restricted by school uniforms, because children who have to wear the same clothing as every other child in their school are not able to express their individuality and creativity. We should get rid of school uniform so that all children can express themselves freely.

Counterpoint 

Schools can foster creativity and individuality without getting rid of school uniform. There are many schools with a uniform which still support creativity and individuality with "Child Initiated Independent Learning", and other schemes which encourage children to think for themselves [19, 20]. Also, if children are participating in creative activities like art, it is surely better for them to wear sensible clothes, and it's easier to make sure all children are wearing sensible clothes if they all have to wear the same uniform.

 

Title 
School uniforms create a sense of equality
Point 

School catchment areas are diverse and in private schools, some children are there on a scholarship. So, without uniforms there are clear indicators of wealth between what children wear. This makes poorer children stand out, (or even possibly the reverse). Children can then be bullied for being different, which diminishes a child's enjoyment of school.
A study in New York has shown that 84% of parents think uniforms promote equality, and 89% of guidance counselors think uniforms help teach children to be more accepting of others who are less fortunate[3]. This perception among parents will help create the same perception among their children. This is also likely to translate to the teachers who will therefore treat their pupils more equally.

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Counterpoint 

There will always be teasing between children. If it's not based on what clothes the kids are wearing, it'll be because of their hair colour[4], or the fact that they wear glasses [5]. Children need to learn from an early age that everyone is different, or how can they learn to accept that? The differences between people should be embraced; in making students wear a uniform, schools are wrongly teaching children that everyone should look the same.

When it comes to the opposition's evidence it should be remembered that opinion polls themselves are slippery, depending on the question asked, as is something like a belief in the benefits of school uniforms. There is also no evidence to link parent's belief that it promotes equality to whether it really does.

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Title 
School uniforms contribute to the sense of school unity
Point 

Schools that have a uniform often say that they do so because wearing a uniform helps their students feel a sense of unity and pride in their school (e.g., Sacred Heart Catholic School, 2010)[15]. The headmistress of Fulham Cross School in London, England, has been quoted as saying that introducing a uniform at her school gave students "an incredible sense of pride"; after the introduction of a school uniform, GCSE passes at her school rose from 42 to 53 per cent[16].

This sense of unity is especially important on school trips, where teachers need to be able to tell which children belong to their school, so that no one gets lost.

 

Counterpoint 

School uniforms might help improve the feeling of unity within schools, but pride in one's school is dependent on being distinct and different from another school. This can lead increase rivalry between schools (already present from school sports matches). There are many examples of school rivalry (often made worse by the fact that children from different schools are made to wear different uniforms) leading to children being beaten up or worse. For example, in New Zealand, a boy was beaten up by boys from a rival school; he said that the boys told him he should be shot because he went to a different school, which they could see from his uniform[17].
Because of this rivalry, it might be better for students not to wear school uniforms on outings, where they might encounter children from other schools. Schools can use other things to make sure children don't get lost on school trips, like buddy schemes where each child has a buddy, and having plenty of teachers or assistant teachers.
TVNZ, 2007. Boy beaten as school rivalry heats up [online] 21 October.

Title 
School uniforms encourage discipline
Point 

Having to wear smart clothes encourages children to respect their school and their teachers and behave themselves. This is because of the association between smart clothes and work. Casual wear at school can also make students feel over-relaxed and 'at home,' meaning they don't focus as much on work. A lot of schools are bringing back school uniform because they want to improve discipline[21].

Moreover, school uniform can actively encourage students to enter into an adversarial relationship with the curriculum and their teachers. Exercising arbitrary control over children in the interests of “discipline” is likely to convince them that the very sensible, rational principles of learning and critical thought that they acquire during the school day are equally arbitrary and meaningless. By refusing to allow children to participate in enjoyable, beguiling processes of discovery and understanding unless they comply with unjustified and meaningless rules about dress, schools risk being seen as oppressive and capricious by their students.

The Telegraph, 2009. School uniforms return in drive to improve school discipline [online] 1 October.

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Counterpoint 

Researchers have actually found that having to wear a school uniform does not make children better behaved. For example, Brunsma and Rockquemore[22] looked at data for more than 4,500 students and found that those who wore a school uniform did not have fewer behavioural problems or better attendance. School uniform does not encourage discipline, so there is no need to make children wear one.

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Bibliography 

 

[1] The Islamic News, 2011. Dress code for women in Islam [online] 4 May.

[2] Reading Girls’ School, 2011. School Uniform [Accessed 17 July 2011].

[3] BlueSuitMom, 2000. Public School Dress Codes Growing More Popular [online]

[4] CBS News, 2009. Three Arrested for Alleged South Park-Inspired "Kick a Ginger" Beatings [online]

[5] Horwood, J., Waylen, A., Herrick, D., Williams, C., & Wolke, D., 2005. Common Visual Defects and Peer Victimization in Children. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 46(4), pp.1177-1181

[6]. Fox, Tracy Gordon. In Hartford Schools, Uniforms for All [online] 3 October 2008Lewin, Tamar, Dress for Success: Public School Uniforms [online]

[7] Marks and Spencer, 2011. School Uniform [online]

[8] Billings & Edmonds, 2011. Eton College - Schoolwear [online]

[9] St. Kevin’s College, 2011. 2011 Uniform Information.  [Accessed 16 July 2011].

[10] BBC BBC News, 2003. Are school uniforms outdated? [online]

[11] The Sydney Morning Herald, 2005. Parents hit by mounting education bills [online] 30 January.

[12] BBC News, 2006. School uniform trade investigated [online] The Independent, 2008. Cost of school uniforms is pricing the poorest out of state education [online] 29 August. BBC News, 2008. The school uniform price war [online]

[13] Directgov, 2011. School uniform  [Accessed 17 July 2011].

[14] Scoop, 2006. How to save on back-to-school costs. [Accessed 17 July 2011].

[15]  Sacred Heart Catholic School, 2010. Uniform Policy [online] Available at: <http://shcsgoom.wa.edu.au/uniformpolicy.pdf> [Accessed 17 July 2011].

[16] Daily Mail, 2007. Smart school uniforms linked to academic success of UK's schools [online] 27 December.

[17]  TVNZ, 2007. Boy beaten as school rivalry heats up [online] 21 October.

[18] United Nations, 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

[19] Armathwaite Community School, 2011. Child Initiated Independent Learning . [Accessed 16 July 2011].

[20] Mayfield Primary School, 2011. Ethos and Aims [Accessed 16 July 2011].

[21]  The Telegraph, 2009. School uniforms return in drive to improve school discipline [online] 1 October.

 

[22] Brunsma, D. L., & Rockquemore, K. A., 1998. Effects of Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance Use, and Academic Achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 92(1), pp.53-62.

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