By: Isaac Lund
Throughout my many years of education, I’ve gone to schools with uniforms and to ones without them. Like me, many schools struggle to decide which option is best, with some schools completely switching policies over recent years. The Cleveland and Akron school districts in Ohio dropped uniforms for the 2021-22 school year, while schools in Hawthorne, California have recently implemented uniforms.
The majority of parents and teachers support uniforms, based on a poll taken by uniform manufacturer Land’s End. School uniforms help students stay focused on education rather than clothing, and increase timeliness in the mornings, with only one outfit to choose from. A study conducted in Texas shows that they can also increase school pride and community spirit. Furthermore, school uniforms often reduce bullying by leveling the playing field surrounding clothing, especially in schools with multiple socio-economic groups. Uniform policies also don’t completely eliminate individuality, as many policies still allow for unique accessories such as shoes, nail polish, and jewelry.
On the other hand, students tend to push for the elimination of uniforms. A study conducted at the University of Nevada at Reno found that between 80% and 90% of seventh and eighth grade public school students oppose uniforms. Uniforms restrict students’ freedom of expression, and encourage conformity instead of individuality. Uniforms can also hurt students’ self-image. Without the option of picking outfits fitted to one’s body type, many students may feel extra embarrassment at school. Of course, uniforms also create an extra expenditure for parents, which is especially noticeable in districts where school is otherwise free. Finally, many schools with uniforms tend to focus energy on enforcing uniform policies, instead of looking for more pressing problems.
So, uniforms of no? Both options have their fair share of upsides and downsides, and neither is truly superior. What it really comes down to is that different schools have different needs, and a uniform policy helps some schools meet these needs better than others.