Leslie 04 May 1998 Parents Manual: Section School Clothes I strongly believe that children should come with an instruction manual in different languages, after all, even the most complicated computer system or VCR has a manual in three to four languages, or more. Granted, sometimes we can't understand the instructions, but we have them and sometimes even a toll-free help line. Now some people would say their own parent would be the help-line but not always does that work out. Our own parents advice can be, shall I say, out-dated; for example, many would suggest to us 'new' parents to tell our child, 'what we say goes,' or 'stop that crying or I'll give you something to cry about,' or 'do it because I'm the parent and I said so,' not the desired tone for positive interaction with our children. So often parents today are left with either, no instructions at all, or, not the right kind of instructions.
The school wardrobe dilemma for parents is void of instructions. The mandatory school uniform-code would be the best instruction manual entry available; and to prove this point I'll explore the instruction manual first and continue with presenting facts about school uniforms and their positive effects on parents and children and schools. Let's take a closer look at a possible entry in the instruction manual for parents: 'School Clothes, What's Acceptable And What's Not.' First the entry would tell us how the exchange should go with your child: parent, 'Time to wake up sweetheart. Here's your freshly pressed shirt and trousers, and your brown belt, some matching socks, and your newly cleaned tennis shoes.' Child, 'Oh, swell mom, thanks. I'm so grateful you ironed my favorite shirt. I'll be down in a jiffy to have breakfast.' Okay, so now for reality.
The morning routine probably is similar to mine which sounds more like an episode from Law and Order rather than Leave it to Beaver. I wake my child cheerfully every morning and the usual response, no matter how or when I wake him, is 'groan, grunt, whine, and ugh.' This barrage of pleasant noises is followed by the sweet melody of 'I'm so sleepy' or 'I can't get up, I'm tired' or 'Not now.' Then the fun really starts picking out the day's wardrobe. We start with the usual negotiations which pants, and which shirt. Our negotiations entail which items are clean, my idea of clean is completely different from my son's, and which styles are appropriate for school, my idea of appropriateness is completely different from my sons. Mostly during our negotiations, I try to keep my cool by not screaming and yelling, while my son tries to whine and cry into winning his way. Frankly, the whole exchange of dialogue is exhausting and I have given in more times than I'd like to.
I'm sure that the lack of a Parenting Manual is not the reason for school uniform codes, but in my household uniforms certainly would make mornings easier. School uniforms have a multitude of rewards and benefits for both the parent and child and should be implemented in all elementary schools. The rewards and benefits far outweigh any negative connotations that opposing adults have. These benefits include: reduced headache and stress in the morning, reduced expense of clothing, increased focus on academics in the classroom, increased building of team spirit among classmates, and the, for lack of a better word, non-discrimination on the popularity poll. I'll begin with exploring the morning ritual and the reward a uniform has on this process. Critics opposed to uniforms would say the solution to the miserable morning is to lay the clothes out at night, hence avoiding such conflicts.
This idea sounds good at the outset; however, it just creates conflicts at bedtime so I haven't seen the advantages or solution to this nighttime-ritual. On the other hand, the uniform idea poses some great alternatives; first the choices are limited, usually to a few shirts, sweaters, or sweatshirts, and one or two pairs of pants or shorts, and for girls' jumpers or skirts are added. The best part is now mom's not 'the bad guy,' or 'the meanest mom,' or 'the worst mom,' because school has set the directive. Many schools even let the kids help choose, all or part of, the uniform. The reasoning behind letting children choose the uniform is logical because it creates a cooperative environment. The children are involved in the decision process, the anti-uniform parents can't object to their child's rights or individuality being infringed upon.
The children can put on a fashion-show-type event and vote on which uniform would display their schools' attitudes, colors, look, and the one they feel good about. The children and parents have chosen uniform clothes together; therefore, the morning ritual has transformed into a happy exchange of dialogue, ceasing the destructive negotiations. As important as the lack of fighting between mother, or father, and child is the reduced expense of the uniform. Shopping for kid's clothes today is crazy. Retailers know what kids want and that if the child has mastered the art of manipulation, or can bully well enough, or cry loudly enough parents will, eventually, cave-in and buy little Johnny or Susie what they want. Retailers have fooled parents by convincing them that those $75.
00 pants are a bargain when on sale for 25 or 30% off. But pants aren't the worst offender of price gouging -- athletic shoes have topped the list of the most insane price of the day. Shoe manufacturers have set the price of athletic shoes at $80. 00, $95. 00, even $150.
00, for a pair of shoes! Furthermore, athletic shoes have different, shall we say styles, one for running, one for tennis, one for aerobics, one for cross-training, oh yes and one for playing; however, I find it hard to believe children really need a different shoe for running and playing. Of course, the bargain hunter can find a pair of athletic shoes for about $20. 00, but are rudely reminded by their disappointed child, the bargain-shoe is not Nike, Vans, or whichever logo name happens to be 'in'. Now some children might not complain about the missing 'appropriate' logo but chances are they do feel it missing, especially when they are teased. Some clever kids try to make the bargain brand a new-trendy-appropriate-label, but this tactic only works for the very young.
After all, commercials constantly bombard kids enforcing the 'brand name logo' and defeating the bargain hunting parents. Again uniforms provide the best alternative to school clothes because they help reduce cost and save family's money. In an article by Daniel Gursky, in the Education Digest, he emphasizes this fact with the statement, 'as for expense of buying uniforms, Baltimore teacher Barbara Sneed comments: 'Hasn't it occurred to anyone that children have to wear something to school? Uniforms are considerably cheaper than other kinds of clothing.' ' (Gursky 48). The stress on a family budget is greatly reduced when uniforms are chosen, making uniforms the clear advantage. This logo-branding of our children leads to the next advantage of the school uniform, the level playing field. This doesn't mean that the playground is balanced or that wearing a uniform everyone gets the same grade; however, it does mean that every child has the chance to shine from inside, without the brand.
When every child wears the chosen school uniform every child can feel good about the way he looks because everyone is equal. The equality, at least on the outside, leads to tremendous achievements from the inside of a child. In President Bill Clinton's State of the Union Address, last January, he remarked, ' 'If it means that the school rooms will be more orderly, 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 school uniforms' ' (Atkins and Scholsberg 42). Uniforms would be a great advantage in our schools, for, not only would children 'evaluate' themselves from the inside out but teachers would be forced to evaluate from the inside also. For example, teachers can not judge a child by how nice his clothes are, or how neat his shirt is or by his trend setting style, because every child will appear in the same trend - the school trend.
Teachers then can teach and judge each child for his achievements and talents, not his outer style. Teachers never like to pre-judge children, and this is not done deliberately, but this does happen even with the best teachers. Long Beach middle school teacher, Krista Kahl, who has had students attending school in uniforms since 1994 (Atkins and Scholsberg 42), comments on this issue of pre-judging: ... uniforms give teachers another chance to see the potential in every student. Instead of limiting the individuality of students, uniforms help them stand out. 'As a teacher, I could always immediately identify my less-affluent students by what they were wearing, ...
Some of these students wore the same clothes most everyday. They were teased by their peers, and this was very difficult for these kids. After uniforms, I had a much more difficult time telling which child came from which type of environment. It really made me think -- was I treating these children differently based on their socioeconomic level? I would certainly hope not, but cannot be sure.' ' (Mancini 64) Therefore, with this 'level field' of non-discrimination, every child can build self-esteem from within and blossom from his own talents without the fear that he has on the wrong color shirt, or wrong logo-ed shoe, or wrong trendy pant.
No longer will children notice which child is 'in' and 'with-it' and which child is a 'nerd' or 'out-cast', the uniform wins again! Some parents critical of mandatory uniforms, would argue that they don't want their child to be a robot, looking the same as everyone else, because uniforms hamper their child's creativity. In addition, those opposed to uniforms believe uniforms would produce machines that look alike and think alike and eventually their individuality is crushed. Rivals of the uniform code contend that the uniform takes away the uniqueness of their child. Or they argue that no one can tell me, or force me, to put my child in some uniform in order for my child to shine from the inside-out, he already shines.
Many would defend their right to put their child in whatever dress they deem fit and if that includes $150. 00 shoes than that's their right. Many critics would also believe that competition is good for the child and builds self-esteem. They feel that competition over brand names and logos don't hurt anyone and can build up confidence by making the child toughen up and ignore teasing. Finally, critics hang closely with the American Civil Liberties Union stand that uniforms don't solve all the problems and mandatory uniforms border on infringement of free-speech (Pushkar 12). 'The American Civil Liberties Union insists that a uniform policy creates a school environment that represses individuality and induces conformity' (Atkins and Scholsberg 44).
The arguments of those opposed to uniforms are invalid because children never build self esteem from being forced to compete with their wardrobe or being ridiculed for their lack of wardrobe. Children build self-esteem through positive encouragement about their accomplishments and their hard work. The uniform only levels the field of competition so that ALL children are created equal and provided with equal opportunity to excel in academics. The uniform instills a calming effect among children because competition for popularity from in-clothes is eliminated. The labels are dropped and children can focus on what school is all about - learning. Learning: About the world and its diversity, its politics, its complexities; about science and its mysteries, its attributes, its accomplishments; about reading and its vast treasures; about arts and its beauty, its range of styles, its complexities; about math and its wonders, its riches; and about history and its fascinating people, its wondrous places; and about all the other glorious subjects the academic world offers.
In Andrea Atkins article 'Dressed to Learn', a middle school principal, Pamela Hoffer Riddick, agrees that uniforms are not the end-all of solutions to education environment problems and she states that 'when everyone is dressed the same way, distinctions are not as easily made between the haves and the have-nots. This helps put students on a more even playing field. The focus is moved from the neck down to the neck up... The kids see themselves in an image reflecting success.
Now we can focus on learning' (Atkins and Scholsberg 42). What a wonderful class room where everyone is equal in their fashion style thus equal in opportunity, creating a cohesive unit. Those opposed to uniforms can't argue that a cohesive unit is one that works and plays together in positive surroundings. Uniforms help to bridge the differences and develop a sense of team spirit among the student body similar to any sporting team, choir, police force, or fire fighters.
These units of people working and playing together wear the same outfit and most would agree they look appropriate and clean, together and cohesive. Could you imagine watching a baseball game where every player wore his favorite cords and tee-shirt? One would never know which player was on which team, and after the game you'd try to get an autograph or picture of Barry Bonds, but never find him in the mixed cord-confusion. The members of these units feel as if they " re part of a team and they show unity and togetherness, an all-for-one-one-for-all spirit. As Andrea Atkins remarks in article, ' there are dress codes for just about anything in the working world - even if it's McDonald's...
I don; t see anything wrong with kids learning that you dress a certain way at a cert ian time' (44). The children are all part of a team and their team spirit and enthusiasm soars when they look like part of a team; and that spirit and enthusiasm are catching, spreading to improved grades and happy parents. Although the uniform policy can't scientifically prove that it works in changing students' education, I agree with Sylvan Alleyne, a Howard University Professor, who has researched the uniform policy effects, when she states, 'but it can't hurt' (Pushkar 12). Alleyne points out that, 'the argument against uniforms are that you lose your identity or your individuality, but I don't believe that...
the bright will shine anyhow, the athletes will shine anyhow. Individuality will come out' (Pushkar 12). Mandatory uniforms can only have a positive affect on students, because not only are the 'shiners' continuing to shine, but the shiners-in-the-rough are given equal chance to shine. True scientific research hasn't been done but the results of wearing a uniform has been tested. Gail Mancini in her article 'School Uniforms: Dressing for Success or Conformity' confirms that, 'Dorothy Behring, retired from the Family and Consumer Sciences department... has verified the mythical impact of uniforms on student behavior' (63).
Tests were preformed and the reactions of people to various students in varying forms of dress, from casual to uniform, were recorded and 'teachers and students believe uniformed students are better behaved and more academically successful than students who do not wear uniforms. A halo effect may ensue in which everybody treats everybody better' (Mancini 63). People do judge others by their appearance, even children, uniforms will create a positive judgement. The proof that uniforms can, and do, work is in the close to 1100 school districts in 20 states that have adopted mandatory school uniform policies (Forest 40). Those schools with the uniform policy has shown dramatic increases in student achievements and according to Long Beach Unified School District spokesperson, Dick Van Der Loan, 'so much so that even violence-free schools are turning to uniforms. For example, the K-8 Newcombe Academy, already a Distinguished School with high attendance and achievement, chose to require uniforms to further improve the educational environment' (Pushkar 12).
I agree schools with a uniform-code policy do experience exemplified academic achievements; and I don't believe children's' individuality is quashed. Agreeing that individuality is not hampered is Dennis Doyle, founder of Doyle Associates, an educational consulting firm when he expresses that: How can imposing a uniform policy on school children be remotely equated with banning 'every form of individual expression'? ... The reason for introducing uniforms is not to impose conformity, but to inject a sense of purpose, and to devalue, at least for the school day, the idea that our material coverings are what makes us individuals in the first place. (Atkins and Scholsberg 44) School uniforms win again. The most positive evidence is that uniforms instill the value in the human being not the material possessions. A uniform policy works and should be mandatory in elementary schools.
Another positive effect of school uniforms is saving expenses on children's clothing and uniforms definitely are cheaper than many other brand-name clothes on the market today. Retailers are increasingly aware that schools are shifting the trends on them, by switching to mandatory school uniforms, and are following suit by creating affordable uniforms. The importance of the uniform is highlighted in the article, 'Dressed to Drill: School Uniforms are HOT - and Merchants Are Cashing In' by Stephanie Anderson Forest. Forest points out that many companies have analyzed the growing emphasis schools are taking on uniform policies and hence have incorporated uniform-style clothing into their regular back-to-school lines. Many stores including, 'J. C.
Penney, Sears, Macys, Target, Walmart carry uniforms and catalogs, such as, Lands Ends, [J. C. Penney, and Spiegel] are joining the ranks by launching uniform lines' (40). This is a great step for retailers to take, in noticing the importance of uniforms in the educational environment, and following the lead of parents and schools. Emphasizing another reward reaped by requiring uniforms is the affordability of the school uniform.
Further adding to the benefits of uniforms, for parents, is that retailers are helping reduce costs to parents by providing price-conscience school uniform options. For school uniforms to work, and we see they do, schools need a comprehensive plan that involves many aspects and should include: 1) the parents, teachers, administration, and children; 2) uniforms should be in a wide range of sizes, to accommodate ALL children comfortably; 3) be affordable; 4) mandatory, beginning at the lower grades and converting to upper grades, district wide; 5) seasonal changes in the uniform to accommodate changes in the weather, for example, sweaters or sweatshirts, rain gear, to, shorts; 6) trading or selling policy or even a school store run by the Booster/Parent Club, or school swap-meet-days, to help all children be able to purchase and / or sell uniforms. A comprehensive plan can make the transformation to a new uniform policy smooth. Implementing a Uniform Code Policy can be fun if all parties have an open mind, furthermore, kids feel empowered when involved in the modeling, and planning of the fashion-show display for choosing the desired uniform. The school uniform has advantages for parents, children, schools and even teachers, hence, everyone wins. The parent manual describing the perfect solution for 'School Clothes - What's Acceptable, What's Not' I'm sure has many philosophies listed from the one mentioned earlier, the ever so polite, obedient child; to my son, the negotiator; but, mostly the solution probably exists in a good school uniform code.
Some of the worlds' best, most respected schools require a uniform and this uniform code certainly never hurt any of their graduates. The much respected and often emulated Japanese education system has uniforms for most of their schools, according to the Japanese Consulate Office in San Francisco (Japan Consulate). Uniforms haven't hurt their children's creativity or academic achievements. The world of school uniforms has changed with the current trends, most don't require a tie and blazer anymore, accommodating most children, without hindering his creativity, at least not his creative intelligence, and offering school uniform code choices in a non-discriminatory fashion. Dr. Monroe, principal of Fredrick Douglass Academy in New York states, '...
having uniforms seems to modify behavior... [and] that uniforms are a signifier and the signified is nothing less than responsibility, possibility, maturity, the future, and hope' (Pushkar 12). Evidence favors uniforms and Gail Hinchion Mancini quotes advocates accurately, '... it's about equity and high standards of academic achievement.
Students must be in an environment that is sensitive to their developmental needs; where they are treated fairly and with respect; where they receive age-appropriate, challenging instruction; and where they are held accountable for their dress, behavior and school work' (65). The parent manual would defiantly favor children in a school uniform. I support the school uniform code philosophy, because I favor a focus on academia, and a strong sense of school spirit and unity, a positive scholastic environment, building self-esteem from achievements, cost effective clothing budget, and, of course, a head-ache free morning. Works Cited Atkins, Andrea and Jeremy Scholsberg. 'Dressed to Learn.' Better Homes and Gardens. Aug.
1996: 44+. Forest, Stephanie Anderson. 'Dressed to Drill: School Uniforms are HOT - And Merchants Are Cashing In.' Business Week. 8 Sep. 1997: 40. Gursky, Daniel.
'Uniforms Improvement.' Education Digest. 61. 7 (Mar. 1996): 46-48. Japanese Consulate of San Francisco. Personal Interview.
29 April 1998. Mancini, Gail Hinchion. 'School Uniforms: Dressing For Success or Conformity?' Education Digest. 63. 4 (Dec. 1997): 62-65.
Pushkar, Katherine. 'Dressed For Success.' Village Voice. 40. , 3 (17 Jan.
1995): 12.'s chool Uniforms? ! : New York. January 26.' National Review. 26 Feb. 1996: 71. Tachibana, Judy.
'School Clothes? All The Same To Some Uniform Policy Isn't Uniform In Region, But Trend Grows.' The Sacramento Bee. 21 Aug. 1996: B 1+.