There are many reasons why school uniforms are common in countries outside of the United States, and are becoming more important in the United States. In other countries, it is believed that wearing a school uniform creates a "uniform" learning environment, meaning that the students are focused on the same things and there is order in the classroom. When the students do not think about what they look like or what they wear, they are thinking more about what is going on in the classroom. Another reason for using school uniforms in other countries is that it is believed that they reduce the differences between the poor and rich students. The importance of this aspect is that poor students could get bullied or their teachers might be prejudiced against them. The uniform makes everyone equal because the uniform disguises the person's socio-economic class background. Similarly, the wearing of school uniforms may be cheaper for low-income families in most places because the family only has to purchase one uniform instead of many outfits. Finally, reasons for school uniforms also include general conformity. Students are more likely to attend school and less likely to misbehave, according to some researchers. Therefore, school uniforms should be required in American public schools in order to create a safer, equal, and more studious learning environment.
One of the reasons to make school uniforms mandatory in the public schools is discipline. Discipline is an important aspect of the learning environment. Park, for example, notes that discipline is the main reason why Korean school teachers prefer the use of uniforms in their classrooms. Discipline is related to the concept of the educational "climate," which means the atmosphere and energy of the classroom and the school. The educational climate is important to the students, and to the teachers. It has been shown in the research that school uniforms are better to the school climate. "Students in the uniform school rated climate as more positive in 9 out of 10 subscales," according to an experimental study by Murray. Discipline in the classroom is linked to student behavior. Classroom discipline is the way teachers control the students and prevent misbehaviors. It can be said that uniforms prevent problems because they minimize distractions and create a learning environment in which the teacher has a position of authority over the class. Research shows this to be true: "uniforms had a positive influence on school behavior" (Stanley 424). It is important to have discipline in the classroom for students to learn. Classroom misbehaviors create distractions to learning, and can even cause lower test scores. This has also been shown to be true in the research in many countries including England. For example, Walmsley states that school uniforms in England "seem to help promote students' respect for the teachers, the school, and themselves," (63). Other researchers come to the same conclusion about the importance of wearing school uniforms for the discipline and learning environment. "Uniforms can make schools safer and also improve school attendance and increase student achievement," (Yeung 847). Thus, school uniforms create a more disciplined educational environment, causing more students to attend classes and do better in school.
School achievement is another reason to support school uniforms. It is linked to discipline, that school achievement depends on a good learning environment. Research shows "improvements in language scores and attendance rates in middle and high school grades" especially for girls (Gentile and Imberman 1). The reason why school uniforms might be more important for girls, especially as the girls grow older, is that girls can be fashion conscious and competitive related to what they wear vs. other girls. The girls in middle and high school who wear uniforms cannot compete with one another and are less distracted about clothing in class and even outside of class. As Yeung and Park both show in their respective researches, school uniforms are linked to better grades in many schools.
The school uniforms also eliminate the differences between students that is due to poverty or social class. This is one of the most important reasons to support school uniforms in the diverse social environment of the United States. In the United States, people can judge others based on their appearance alone, just like in other countries. It is important that people wear uniforms in school because the teachers will be less likely to label the poor students as being behind or backwards, and give favoritism to the students who appear dressed well. The teacher might have the impression that the poor students do not care about learning or that their parents also don't care, which is not true. A uniform makes it so that teachers do not know who is rich or poor. The same is true for students. When students are bullied because they are wearing ugly or poor clothes, they will suffer. It is important to give each student the same clothing to prevent such things from happening.
Conformity is not a good thing in America, where it is believed that people should express themselves with creativity and individualism. Many Americans oppose school uniforms because they are afraid of conformity. Some Americans also claim that uniforms are an "infringement on the freedom of speech of young people," (Yeung). However, conformity should be a more important value in American schools. Students in Japan, for example, wear the school uniforms because it enhances conformity and control in the classroom, and makes it less likely for children to be truant (Tanioka and Glaser). The concept of conformity is important but it does not prevent the students from being creative in other ways. Americans are afraid that uniforms will make their students like robots. Some researchers even suggest that students in Korea are less creative than American students only because they wear uniforms, but this reasoning is false (Park). There are cultural reasons why Korean students might not seem as creative, but it cannot be the school uniforms only. School uniforms are unpopular in the United States, which does not like conformity and prefers individuality. It is important to understand the difference between creativity and discipline. A student who is creative due to wearing whatever they want is not necessarily using their creativity to the best way possible. If a creative student can discipline that creativity with a good strong teacher and strict educational system, that student's creativity is going to be more useful in the future. This is why no one can accuse students in countries like England of not being creative, when they have to wear uniforms there too.
The other side of the argument claims that uniforms are bad for creativity, and also that uniforms are problems for low-income families. The opposite is really true. For example, White claims that "tightened dress codes may be just as effective" as school uniforms (36). This assessment does not take into account the fact that many students and their families cannot afford enough clothes to fit a strict dress code at school. Uniforms solve the problem because the parent only has to buy one or two uniforms. In fact, cost savings is a primary reason to support school uniforms. Another argument being used against school uniforms in America is that they may be leading to violence in America (Walmsley). However, this statement is ridiculous because school violence occurs often in schools that do not require uniforms, such as Columbine. The school violence is more likely in the schools without uniforms because poor or poorly dressed students can get bullied by their peers. Bullying is a serious problem in the United States, but it can be minimized with uniforms.
In fact, many people do believe that uniforms make schools in America safer (Yeung). The argument that school uniforms do not permit freedom of speech does not make sense, given the fact that the purpose of school is not so students can wear whatever they want. Students need to learn about the world before they can have any meaningful speech to say, which is not influenced just by their parents at home. A uniform actually helps the student create a persona identity that is based on what they are learning in school rather than on what they see on television advertisements, what they think is fashionable, or what their parents or peers tell them is a just cause.
There are, in conclusion, few reasons against school uniforms that make any sense. It is important that schools create a healthy learning environment in which all students are equal and able to thrive in school. Good grades and high academic achievements do not depend on a student being able to "express" their individuality with clothing. Because American schools are not doing very well, it is a good idea to explore the opportunity to introduce uniforms. Uniforms reduce the differences between poor and rich students, making it more likely that poor students will feel like part of the class rather than as an outcast. The uniforms create more discipline in the classroom, by…