Advantages of School Uniforms Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Uniforms in Public Schools

School uniforms in public schools is becoming more and more of a popular topic, particularly as students head back to class in the coming month or so. The popularity of this topic is in part because more public schools appear to be adopting this policy. "Nearly one in five public schools required uniforms in 2010, up from just one in eight a decade earlier, according to the most recent findings from the U.S. Department of Education. The 60% growth in uniform requirements at school comes despite the fact that research on their effectiveness for safety and school climate is inconclusive" (Loehrke & Murphy, 2013). School uniforms were first envisioned in the 1980s by Marion Barry who felt that a more standardized code of dress in public schools would help these students succeed as adequately as private school students along with minimizing clothing costs and pressures on children (Loehrke & Murphy, 2013).David Brunsa, a sociologist who wrote the book The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education documents all the hopes and objectives that school uniforms were meant to achieve in America, such as better grades, scores, better behavior and higher levels of self-esteem and school spirit (2004). Even so, this book documents how much of the studies done on school uniforms found consequences which were either difficult to determine or insignificant. In spite of the fact that much of the research done in this regard demonstrates lukewarm findings about the benefits of school uniforms, this paper will assert the positive aspects of school uniforms in an educational setting, treating them as essential.

While the research might not support the importance or influence of school uniforms, the anecdotal evidence and lived experiences of most educators generally does beg to differ. If educators notice a definitive and prolonged change in the behavior and climate of their schools when kids wear uniforms that are largely positive, then the research which asserts otherwise should be treated as inconsequential. This is also true if educators observe that behavior, self-esteem and grades start to drop the less that students wear uniforms. "Longtime school safety consultant Ken Trump said educators like uniforms because they simplify their jobs, saving them from having to punish kids for too-short skirts or shorts, for instance. 'Kids are trying so hard to one-up each other on everything from hair styles to shoes," he says. 'It takes away the daily fashion show and helps level the playing field a little bit with the haves and have-nots'" (Loehrke & Murphy, 2013).

This last statement points to a reality that many parents are simply unaware of. School environments are often tense places where the pressure to be considered cool and to be accepted by one's peers can be incredibly daunting. Adults often forget that children associate coolness with legitimacy and acceptance and that a way for that to be expressed is commonly through fashion. The way children dress can be a way of separating themselves from others, along with establishing alliances as well as ostracizing other students. This is problematic, as educators have found that children from low-income families often worry more about fitting in and being accepted by their peer-group -- which is no surprise. Children from low-income families can't afford to purchase the latest clothes, shoes and gadgets that are often readily supplied by the parents of children from more financially secure families. Furthermore, allowing uniforms means that educators can use uniforms as an occasional reward for good behavior. Parents readily get on the bandwagon of school uniforms: educators have first reported that parents tend to side with their children, seeing uniforms as deterrents to their children's individuality. However, as time passes, parents tend to love them as the uniforms mean that they can spend less time fighting with kids about what they can and cannot wear (Loehrke & Murphy, 2013). Even though the research might suggest otherwise, educators remain united on the front in support of uniforms: "I've never heard a school administrator whose school went in the direction of uniforms say, 'This has created more problems for us.' On the contrary, it's been a blessing" (Loehrke & Murphy, 2013).

In impoverished nations like Kenya, the distribution of school uniforms has marked impacts and benefits. In an experiment entitled "The Impact of Distributing School Uniforms on Education in Kenya" by Evans and colleagues, the influence of school uniforms had a marked and positive effect. While school uniforms were costly for Kenya, the benefits could not be denied, as researchers found that the uniforms caused a 44% reduction in absenteeism of students and that an overall positive outcome was reaped on student performance (Evans et al., 2009). While one could say that this is largely because school absenteeism in such an impoverished nation might be because of the fact that many students don't have the proper shoes and clothes to wear to school, and school uniforms merely correct that, such a point doesn't negate the overall benefit of school uniforms as a whole. If school uniforms could correct student absenteeism in an impoverished nation, then in a wealthier nation, it is likely that they will also have a beneficial effect, just one which is less profound but still felt. For instance, in this study the change that was manifested was profound: more actual students showed up at school when uniforms were available. In a nation like America it seems as though school uniforms will have less of an impact on absenteeism but more of an impact on the things which are harder to track and to document -- like perceptions and feelings.

Other studies conducted primarily on an American educational setting have found that school uniforms are beneficial in that they improve the school climate -- along with the feelings and perceptions that can strongly impact the school climate. The study Public School Uniforms: Effect on Perceptions of Gang Presence, School Climate and Student Self-Perceptions" by Stafford and Wade (2003) attempted to determine the connection between public school uniforms and whether one could safely conclude that they were achieving any of their intended benefits. Thus, the researchers used questionnaires on gang presence and identity along with a participant body of 415 middle school students and just over 80 teachers. "Findings indicate that, although perceptions did not vary for students across uniform policy, teachers from schools with uniform policies perceived lower levels of gang presence. Although the effect size was small, students from schools without uniforms reported higher self-perception scores than students from schools with uniform policies" (Stafford & wade, 2003). One thing that neither the students nor the teachers noted was an improvement nor even a perceived improvement of school climate as a result of the uniform policy. However, what this does indicate is that school uniforms are capable of having a noticeable impact on the hard to influence aspects of the educational experience -- the thoughts, feelings and perceptions of students.

Jafeth Sanchez, research assistant professor, and George "Gus" Hill, associate professor were two educational experts who were interested on the impact that student uniforms would have on the student body of a nearby middle school. The two scholars created a survey with just under 50 questions that was designed to determine the response of 1350 students in middle school in Nevada (Wharton, 2013). Aside from using the surveys as the means for gathering data, the scholars also looked at the data that was available on discipline referrals and school police reports. Some of the trends found in the data were fascinating: while all students reported feeling a marked benefit, females reported more benefit than males, more seventh graders reported a benefit than eighth graders and Latino students reported a greater benefit than Caucasian students. "Students' top-rated statements with responses of 'Agree' and 'Strongly Agree' were: I still have my identity when I wear a uniform (54%); My family likes that I wear a uniform to school (53%); I think uniforms save money on clothes (50%); I worry less about how others look (42%); and, There is less gang activity at school (41%)" (Wharton, 2013). One of the strong aspects of the study was that discipline reports were also closely examined, and it was found that once uniforms were implemented, the discipline referrals were minimized by 10% (Wharton, 2013). The data that was examined as it was compiled by the school police demonstrated a 63% minimization in police log reports during the first 12 months that school uniforms were used. Other minimizations were noted in reports of gang-activity and student fights, in conjunction with graffiti, property damage, battery and needs for administrative interventions (Wharton, 2013). Thus, this study differs from so much of the other previous research that was conducted in this regard because the study was so comprehensive and because the study was drawn out for such a long period of time. Furthermore, unlike other studies which were conducted regarding this subject, this particular study relied on multiple streams of data…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Evans, D., Kremer, M., & Ngatia, M. (2009). The Impact of Distributing School

Uniforms in Kenya. Retrieved from poverty-action.org: http://www.poverty-

action.org/sites/default/files/169_new_paper_november_2009.pdf

Kraft, J. (2003). Society's Attitudes and Perceptions Towards School Uniforms. Retrieved from uw.edu: [HIDDEN]

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