By Chris Barts
Schools prepare a person for life. That is their stated objective; that is what they unambiguously set out to do, and that is what the state appropriates them money to do. They must, in only 13 short years, endow a person with all the knowledge and skills needed to go on and live a productive life in a society that requires more of its average member than any civilian society in history. Few would dispute that this includes social skills vitally important to become a productive member of a larger culture and society. If this is the case, why are people forcing upon them rules that are counter-productive to this extremely important goal?
These people should not be misunderstood. They have only the highest goals in mind for the generation currently attending class. They believe that uniform dress code for all students would decrease social problems within the school and foster a better learning environment. But, like so many other high-minded goals, it is philosophically inconsistent with the very basis of the system it is trying to improve.
The main point of contention between conventional educational theory and the pro-uniform crowd is one of the most important things schools teach besides the stated curriculum. That, as I have said before, is the schools place in developing social skills. Social skills are needed to overcome the problems caused by variations in what students wear. In a traditional learning environment, this can range from bullying to ostracism. However, in an adequate school, violence is never tolerated nor is it allowed to progress to dangerous levels. Assuming the school is adequate, these painful encounters serve two purposes; they give the victim a chance to grow emotionally and they allow the schools to single out and give special attention to the perpetrator. While hard for the parents and educators to watch, all children involved are the better for it if it is managed appropriately.
As any educator will tell you, managing problems is facilitated by knowing which students are having difficulty. In the traditional environment, this is helped by the fact that different students wear different clothing and social strata dress differently. Therefore, help can be offered to students who dress differently because they are not being accepted into their chosen social group. If all students dressed the same, this would be made impossible and those unable to cope would draw into themselves and erupt if the stress got too great. The safety of our schools depends upon not adopting uniforms.
Uniforms, while they appear to be a very simple and egalitarian solution to a complex problem on the surface, would actually harm the very students it is designed to help. It would hinder the development of valuable social skills, something it is designed to help. It would also further alienate troubled students, pushing them further from the group and aggravating their problems. In conclusion, I believe this illustrates quite well the fact that simple solutions to these complex social issues rarely work in real life, and should be carefully scrutinized.