A discussion on the uniform system in American schools

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Are students in grades Kindergarten through Twelfth given too much freedom of choice? Should students in grades Kindergarten through Twelfth be required to wear uniforms in school? Many would say that because students have freedom of choice, it is a violation of students' rights for the schools to require them to wear uniforms. Because of this people just look at the negative of uniforms in schools whereas they should look at the positive of uniforms in schools. Uniforms allow students to be disciplined and motivated academically as well as teach students to express themselves through knowledge rather than expressing themselves through material possessions.

The opinion of most is that if students wear uniforms, then they will not be able to express themselves and show their individuality. Although it is important for students to express their individuality, they do not need to do so with clothing. A child's individuality goes further than what brand of clothing is on his or her back, and this is why uniforms should be adopted into all schools. The only problem is that not everyone agrees with students being required to wear uniforms in schools.

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In schools across the United States teachers are divided on the decision of whether or not uniforms should be employed into schools. According to Axia College week five reading Building an Educational Philosophy (2005)," Teacher Dave Oland does not want uniforms in school because he feels that there are bigger issues that need to be dealt with such as building relationships with parents and students (p.366). People almost make it sound as though requiring students to wear uniforms is the most tragic thing that could happen to them. According to Axia College week five reading Building an Educational Philosophy (2005)," Mr. Oland believes that students should be encouraged to have better attitudes on life, society, their future and themselves without being regulated to wear uniforms (p.366).

What is the big deal with students wearing uniforms in school, and why do people insist on comparing school uniforms to that of prison? According to the Axia College week five reading Building an Educational Philosophy (2005)," Teacher Dave Oland compares students wearing uniforms in school to boot camps, prisons, and parochial schools (p.366). The argument is that uniforms in school will only restrain the students, and that schools can have higher test scores, less fights, and better discipline problems without incorporating uniforms into the schools.

With that being said, the issue that needs to be addressed within the local and state schools is the fact that students wearing uniforms in school is not only beneficial to the students, but is also financially beneficial to parents. Children get so wrapped up in what clothes and shoes are popular among children their age that they do no want to focus on the real reason of why they are in school. Students are in school to learn, and when they wear uniforms they are more likely to focus more on their academics and less on pop culture.

Even though there are schools that require students to wear uniforms all the time, there are some schools that do not want to put pressure on the students by requiring the students to wear uniforms full time. Some schools try to strike a happy medium by only requiring their students to wear uniforms two or three days a week (Boutelle, 2008). Students do not get the full benefit of uniforms in schools unless they wear uniforms in schools full time.

According to Boutelle (2008), "Uniforms offer a variety of benefits such as uniforms promote school safety and enhance the learning environment as well as diminish the clothing competition (p.36). Because uniforms diminish the clothing competition students will not be distracted by the new designer jeans that Christina has on, or by the newest pair of designer shoes that Joe just got for his birthday. Instead students are able to focus on the real reason of why they are in school which is to get an education.

Another issue that has been eliminated with uniforms in the schools is the issue of students wearing clothing that is too revealing. According to Boutelle (2008)," With today's fashions of minimal dress, female students may show up at school wearing a micro-mini skirt rolled down to expose her belly button and a halter top that exposes her midriff (p.34). When female students wear clothing that is too revealing to school, not only is it distracting for her classmates, but it also invites inappropriate activity. A girl may wear a halter top and mini skirt to school because that is the new style, but what she does not realize is that style of clothing may bring her some unwanted attention from the boys such as perverse remarks and name calling.

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Uniforms not only eliminate issues for girls as far as girls wearing clothing that is too revealing; rather uniforms eliminate issues for all teenagers in school. According to Boutelle (2008)," Uniforms rid schools of gang colors, as well as rids schools of students fighting over designer jackets and other designer clothing (p. 36-37). Because of uniforms in school the overall behavior of students has improved so much that there have only been a few behavior incidents in schools where students are required to wear uniforms (Boutelle, 2008).

Without behavior incidents in schools due to uniforms, students are able to focus more on their studies. Students have learned that they can express their creativity both academically and artistically (Boutelle, 2008). The issue of students wearing revealing clothing and fighting over designer clothing has nearly been completely eliminated from schools due to uniforms. In other words, students express themselves with their knowledge, instead of with the clothes they wear.

Because of this there are some amazing results. Schools that require students to wear uniforms can lead to improved discipline and classroom behavior, increased school attendance, respect for teachers, better school performance, higher student self-esteem and confidence, lower clothing cost, promotion of group spirit, reduction in social stratification, and lower rates of violence and crime. (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006, p.25) With the possibility of uniforms solving all of education's problems, people may wonder why students have not already been required to wear uniforms in schools. This is a result of the people who are opposed to requiring students to wear uniforms in schools.

Those who are opposed to students wearing uniforms in schools argue that requiring school uniforms violates students' rights, that uniforms are not responsible for decreased violence, that students will find other ways to compete, and that uniforms have no direct bearing on academic achievement. (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006, p.25) Because of this it may be hard for schools to decide which side is the best for the students. For this reason people need to look at the fact, which means they need to look at the schools that have already employed uniforms for students in their schools. According to Konheim-Kalkstein (2006)," A principle from Cherry Hill School reported increased attendance, reduced suspensions, less frequent fighting, increased test scores, and improved school performance after students began wearing uniforms" (p.25).

There have also been other schools in different cities that have adopted school uniforms. One example of a city that has enforced uniforms in schools is Long Beach where uniforms are required for students in grades Kindergarten through Twelfth (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006). Since schools in Long Beach have adopted uniforms, there have been significant improvements with the behavior of students. Below is a chart that shows the statistical improvements in a school in Long Beach due to students wearing uniforms.

The chart below shows how after five years of students wearing uniforms in schools in Long Beach, California, the bad behavior of students decreased dramatically.

Improvements Due to School Uniforms

A Uniform Look, by Konheim-Kalkstein, p.25, Copyright 2006 by American School Board Journal.

Bad behavior in the Long Beach schools was increasingly bad before the adoption of uniforms. Five years after Long Beach schools adopted uniforms overall crime decreased by 91%, suspensions decreased by 90%, sex offenses decreased by 96%, and Vandalism decreased by 69% (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006). This is alone should be proof enough of what good can happen when students are required to wear uniforms in school. Along with Long Beach, other cities have also adopted uniforms in schools. These cities are New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, and Chicago, and as a result 37 state legislatures enacted legislation empowering local districts to determine their own uniform policies (Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006).

Even though all of these cities have adopted uniforms into their schools, educators and the public are still clearly divided over the implementation of such policies in public schools (Huss, 2007). This is the case even after people have seen the positive effect that uniforms have within the student body. Despite the fuss between the educators and the public students do like the idea of uniforms in schools because uniforms give them a sense of group of membership and also minimize student jealousies and discrimination (Huss, 2007).

Every school has problems with jealousy and discrimination in one way or another. If uniforms give students a sense of belonging, then why can people not agree that uniforms are a good thing? According to Huss (2007)," Extending knowledge in this area is extremely important because the overall school climate has as much to do with learning, productive work, and self-concept as does anything else in the educational program (p.32).

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When speaking of uniforms in the educational program, teachers' opinions also need to be heard. Students look up to teachers, and because of this the teachers input can have a positive effect on students concerning uniforms. After uniforms are implemented into schools, teachers have said that they noticed students are less concerned abut how they fit in wit their peers, and that students are no longer being judged for not wearing the "right" clothes or for wearing hand-me-downs. (Huss, 2007, p.36) Along with students not being judged for their clothes, other teachers have reported that students are more enthusiastic about being at school, less disruptive during class, and that there have been fewer fights since implementing uniforms in schools (Huss, 2007).

People must not forget that uniforms allow students to be disciplined and motivated academically, as well as teach students to express themselves through knowledge rather than expressing themselves through material possessions. With all the tragedy that happens in this world today, it is important for students to be taught morally correct. Meaning it is important for students to be taught about the things that truly matter in this world. Education, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, and sense of belonging are all aspects of life that students look for in one way or another, and this is why students need uniforms in their schools.