Sunday, 23 March 2014

Uniform: identity vs. belonging

Photo: Lois Mitchell

 

A different kind of post...

Seeing as my current English project is on uniform, I deemed it a possible blog post. Although it is slightly different to usual, it focuses on a similar topic to my truth about Disney post, which focused on women rights and their identity. This time, I am posting about how uniform prevents a person from presenting their creative personality.

 

Nowadays uniform is a continual debate. All schools in the UK enforce a dress code and the majority have adopted a school uniform. Even at a very young age, children have to wear it. But why do schools persist on students wearing uniform?

Most schools will explain that uniform is what makes the school a community. Undoubtedly it allows a student to have a sense of belonging, pride and dignity within their school. Additionally it makes the school look smart and professional which therefore in turn encourages discipline and promotes teamwork in the school.

Yet despite this, one of the main issues with uniform is the obliteration of a student’s personal identity because they are unable to express their personality. Especially at 16 years old, teenagers go through the stage where they need to express themselves and part of that is in what they wear in order for them to find out ‘who they truly are’. Uniform means students have a lack of freedom and it doesn’t allow them to make their own choices - specifically in high school as uniform is a burden to students because they are supposed to finally be treated as young adults. Surely that is not fair?

On the other hand, the main advantage of uniform is to prepare children for the huge ‘world of work’; teaching them to take pride in their appearance. But what type of world are schools talking about? In fact, it seems that uniform is encouraging students to work in an environment where a uniform is obligatory such as clothes shops and even McDonald’s. Whereas successful businessmen actually choose what they wear each day, and they just have a dress code. Doesn’t a smart dress code make more sense than wearing a uniform?

Obviously uniform allows students to stay safe because there is no opportunity to get lost on school trips with their recognisable blazer, tie and school logo. It also means students can concentrate more on school, in that there are fewer distractions. Clearly, student attire also helps to identify any intruders who may enter the school and any student who may be skipping a day off school to go shopping for example.

Moreover uniform means no one would be bullied as a result of their clothing choice such as a lack of designer labels which therefore means it diminishes the economic barriers. Uniform also eliminates social grouping which may be due to individual dress code such as ‘chavs’ (who would typically wear fake designer gear) and ‘Goths’ (who stereotypically wear all black). Many parents would also agree school ‘is to learn’; it is not a ‘fashion parade’…

However it is a well known fact that students do not actually benefit from school uniforms. They do not encourage attendance, they do not make students better behaved and they certainly do not improve student’s grades. For example, 75% of schools without a uniform actually receive better or the same grades as schools which require uniform. In addition to this, as well as most uniforms being uncomfortable, there is also the difficulty of finding a size that actually fits, and nearly 90% of school uniforms are of bad quality material.

Although you may be thinking uniform is still the better option, I disagree. You may say that it is cheaper to buy a uniform than buying a whole wardrobe for a child; saving time and money. However the truth is uniform prices are continuously increasing, the average cost of uniforms for one child approximately £160 and in retrospect that is a lot of money to pay particularly on top of equipment costs. Furthermore, is it really fair that parents should pay the extra expenses for a school uniform, when they are already paying taxes for free public education? No, it isn’t right.

On the contrary, do you not think that schools should be focusing on their teaching rather than insisting on a student’s uniform? I do.

Of course, if you want your child to lack freedom, personality and creativity; which would be required for their future, then uniform is clearly the best option. Personally I believe there should not be uniform as it simply does not allow children to be who they really are. A local school child explains; “We all deserve to be unique and original. Who wants to look the same as every person in the same school? Not me. I only want to express myself – being like everyone else is just boring, boring, boring!”