The topic of school uniforms has been a debated issue for many years. Proponents of school uniforms argue that they are necessary because they encourage children to focus more on their education and less on what they are wearing (Brunsma, 2004). On the other hand opponents of school uniforms argue that school uniforms stifle creativity and discourage individuality (Brunsma, 2004). The purpose of this discussion is to confirm that school uniforms are an effective way to improve student discipline, increase student focus, and increase student motivation.
School Uniforms Lead to Improved Student Discipline
Student discipline is a crucial component in the development of a school environment that is conducive to learning. Uniforms create a sense of conformity and establish for students that school is a place that is designed to encourage learning.
Less fighting over controversial clothing
Non-uniform clothing often leads to students wearing offensive articles of clothing that may cause conflict among students. This issue is of special significance at schools that are located in cities that have problems with gang related violence (Randel, 2006). According to Gentile & Imberman, (2010) school uniforms may be responsible for providing significant improvements in school safety because they ensure that visitors to the school can be easily identified while also eliminating the wearing of gang colors and insignia (2). School uniforms may also be responsible for reductions in theft because students are no longer wearing expensive clothing to school (Gentile & Imberman, 2010). For example, the Los Angeles Times reports that "in gang-plagued areas where wearing a certain color is enough to set off a fight, [uniforms] create a more neutral atmosphere on campus (Los Angeles Times, 2009)."
In addition students at public schools across the country are often caught in conflict when wearing t-shirts or other clothing that may have offensive words or symbols on them. With these things understood instituting school uniforms will effectively decrease these problems associated with wearing colors that are affiliated with gangs and/or offensive to other students.
Students who wear uniforms more likely to follow rules
The institution of school uniforms is also important because they encourage students to follow rules (Gentile & Imberman, 2010) report that "uniforms may instill respect for authority in students which, in turn, could improve behavior and reduce classroom disruptions (2)." Uniforms have the effect of instilling respect for authority because teachers, administrators and school staff establish, through clothing, that there are clear distinctions between the students and those in positions of authority. In fact, Huss (2007)
"Despite the controversy, the power of the uniform as a shared social symbol to instill a sense of group membership and encourage conformity to group norms has intrigued school administrators seeking efficient strategies for minimizing student jealousies and discrimination. School uniforms are tangible; they are seen as a concrete and visible means of restoring order to the classrooms. As such, social learning theory rests on the premise human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings those things have for them, and that such meanings arise out of the interaction of the individual with others. To many, uniforms conjure up visions of private schools, which are perceived as safe, secure, and orderly learning environments (Huss 2007, 31-39)."
As such students are more apt to listen to instruction and follow the rules established by the school. The outcome of this is students will be more disciplined and therefore their ability to learn will be increased and disciplinary problems will decrease.
School Uniforms Lead to Increased Student Focus
Proponents of school uniforms also argue that they are needed because they switch the focus of school away from clothing and towards academics. In many schools students are often consumed by the type of clothing that is being worn. In some cases students are made to feel guilty or bullied because they are not wearing the latest fashions. School uniforms discourage this from occurring because everyone is wearing the same clothing. This switch in focus allows students to concentrate on learning and the various tasks tha they need to complete during the school day.
Once students are focused on academic achievement productivity increases because there are fewer distractions. As productivity increases there is a greater likelihood that students will master the information that is taught. This leads to an increase in test scores and mastery of certain subjects. Such mastery has a positive effect on the self-esteem of students and increases the likelihood that these students will be successful throughout their academic careers (Fielder, 2003).
School Uniforms Will Increase Student Motivation
As a result of having a school environment that is safe and focused on academics, students are motivated to do well in school. In many cases in school districts throughout the country motivation amongst students is a significant problem. However, school uniforms serve the purpose of developing a school environment that encourages learning and motivates students to do their best. Additionally Huss (2007) explains that teachers encouraged the wearing of uniforms to "promote student learning and to enhance relationships between teachers and students. Expectations of students by teachers also were reported to be improved as a result of the school uniform policy." When teachers expect more from students, students are generally more motivated to perform. Motivated students are more eager to learn and are more likely to grasp the concepts that are being taught which are crucial to academic development. Such motivation is particularly important for elementary school and middle school students. Being motivated during these years in school is critical because they lay the foundation for a student's academic future particularly as it pertains to going on to college.
Counterarguments and Defenses
School Uniforms decrease creativity amongst students
Although there are many proponents of school uniforms, there are also many that oppose the idea. The most common argument among opponents of school uniforms is that such policies diminish creativity and individuality. They argue that students have a need to express themselves and that school uniforms greatly reduce this ability. Although many opponents of school uniform policies make this argument, students have a plethora of ways that they can express themselves in school. For instance most schools have all types of organizations including band, drama, choir and sports teams that allow children to engage in creative outlets. There are also many non-school related activities that are designed to allow students to express their creativity. In addition in some ways the need to foster an environment of safety that focuses on academics supersedes the need for the perceived creativity and individuality that students who are forced to wear uniforms supposedly lack.
In addition students who wear school uniforms often find ways to express themselves through the way they style their hair or the type of earrings that they wear. Depending on the types of rules that have been established for what constitutes the school uniform there are many different ways that students find to express their personal creativity. In most cases these expressions are harmless and do not take away from the benefits associated with school uniform policies.
Costs are too significant
Opponents of school uniforms also argue that school uniforms are to costly and place families with lower incomes in a difficult position. However in many school districts where this is an issue, parents are given vouchers to purchase school uniforms. There are also other programs that are designed to keep the costs of school uniforms low or to eliminate such costs altogether. Additionally discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kmart often carry school uniforms and as such the uniforms are relatively inexpensive when compared to buying regular school clothes.
It can also be argued that parents need to evaluate whether or not the costs associated with purchasing school uniforms outweigh the benefits realized from such policies. The fact that school…
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