The school uniform has a fairly short and somewhat chequered history. For all practical purposes, school uniforms as we know them today have their roots in the British public school system. For the sake of clarity, a British public school is equivalent to an American private school, and an American public school is equivalent to a British State school.
Up until the middle part of the 19th century, British public schools were the preserve of a wealthy elite, the later mandarins of the British Empire. Nevertheless, they were quite disorderly, with students behaving much as they wished. Uniform began to be introduced as a means of instilling a greater degree of discipline and team spirit, ...view middle of the document...
In 1996, President Clinton instructed the then Secretary for Education Richard W Riley to send a Manual on School Uniforms to every School District in the country. The manual set out the Government's position, creating guidelines for all schools on which they could model their uniform requirements. The Government view was that the adoption of school uniform would reduce violence and indiscipline in schools, but did not go as far as making uniform mandatory, the decision being left to individual school districts.
The view of the Government was clearly not shared by parents, pupils or the school districts' administrators. By 1998, only 11% of Public Elementary Schools had adopted a uniform policy, and by 2000, that figure had only increased to 15.5%.
The decisions to adopt uniform were not consistent across the country.
Suburban schools had a relatively lower rate of uptake, perhaps reflecting the efforts of a more highly politicised group of parents.
The proponents on either side of the debate about school appear to have entrenched and almost polar opposite opinions, and there is a fog of statistics and counter-statistics available to support either proposition.
Are they in fact beneficial in improving discipline and motivation_ I believe so, and the experience at South Houston suggests that I am right!
The staff reported a considerable decrease in violence and indiscipline, and an average across the board increase of two grades in academic performance by the end of the year within which a uniform policy was introduced. Could it just be co-incidence? It seems hardly likely.
There is no doubt that when a school adopts a uniform policy, it is sending a clear and unequivocal message to parents and students alike. It is saying that this is an inclusive organisation where everyone is seen to be equal, and will be treated as such. School is about learning, not about showing off or scoring fashion points.
Some people would have us believe that children hate uniforms -indeed, many children will say so themselves, but the facts belie this opinion. Children, when they join an organisation with a uniform, just can't wait to get into it.
Most of us have an innate need to belong, to feel part of a group, to feel accepted and understood by our peers, and if possible to have their admiration and respect. This does not just apply to children; it applies to the members of your local chapter of Hell's Angels aware.
Of course, one of the obvious marks of a discrete group is its uniform.
When you provide a child with a uniform, you are giving him an instant key to acceptance within a group, the chance to belong to it and feel part of it.
Those who oppose uniform will say that by putting a child into uniform, you are taking away his constitutional right to freedom of expression. Nevertheless, isn't it interesting to note that left to themselves, children will to a greater or lesser degree choose a uniform of their own. These may...