The repeal of school uniforms in the US and other European countries such as Sweden has led to a heated debate. At the same time, proponents for the removal argue that every avenue of expression has been curtailed given the prevailing conditions among students. As such, they are only left with the option of choosing what to wear as a way of expressing themselves. Therefore, to deny them the freedom to decide on their dressing impedes their fundamental right. On the contrary, those advocating for mandatory implementation of dress codes and outfits in institutions assert that scanty clothing by girls distracts boys in class. Therefore, to balance between the two countering opinions, there is a need to involve parents, learners, teachers, and public administrators to come up with concerted efforts in holistically addressing the issue.
Rogerian Argument Essay
Debate on removing school uniforms has become a significant topic for discussion and has elucidated mixed feelings among parents, teachers, and learners. This has led to divided opinions from these groups, expressing dissatisfaction with the mandatory requirements while the opponents see it as part of school etiquette. Similarly, many proponents argue that the requirement for students to be in a mandatory prescribed dressing denies them their freedom of expression. Conversely, their counterparts say that it is for homogeneity and discipline since all students are supposed to look alike in their attires. In addition, in the US, research has shown that 21 percent of public schools require uniforms. Also, 25%, 20 percent, and 12% in primary, middle, and high schools have made them mandatory (ProCon.org, 2020).
Similarly, data from the American Retail Federation has revealed that parents use billions of dollars on back-to-school shopping. For instance, in 2019, families with school-going kids spend $697, where $ 240 million was for clothing (Bhattarai, 2019). This paper explores the arguments for the removal of uniforms and those opposing as well as giving possible solutions for the ensuring debate.
The Background Information
We live in a society that has become so diverse from how people express themselves and how they dress. While the dictates of conformity to specific set rules, especially in institutions, require learners to follow without questioning, the personal freedoms of such groups have been impaired. The proponents for repealing requirements of uniforms from schools argue that it is within one’s ability to choose and decide what to wear without outside interference. Also, the opposing argument presupposes that school uniforms bring equality and give students humble time for studies. However, the origin can be traced to England in the 16th century when the Canterbury Archbishop required the “cappa clausa” outfit to be worn by students.
Furthermore, dress code standardization was recorded as early as 1222 in the same country (ProCon.org, 2020). Again, in the US, Washington and Maryland are the first states to implement policies in public schools requiring learners to be in prescribed attires. Although these implementations were voluntary, a 1986 Baltimore incident involving a student shooting because of $95 sunglasses made uniforms mandatory (ProCon.org, 2020). On the contrary, there are various reasons why they should not be required.
Side A: Uniforms Should Be Repealed
The school environment has been known to be a setting governed by rules throughout, with little room for individual activities that are not in the institution curriculum. Allowing kids to choose attires fosters their creativity and individualism, which creates diversity in the learning environment. In addition, Hofverberg (2018) highlights that all avenues for the kids to express themselves have been curtailed thereby, they are left with the only option of clothes selection. Further, the dressing should be left for individual decision and seen as a personal expression. Also, these give them the ability to practice decision-making at an early age. Therefore, when uniforms are imposed on them, they suffer from embarrassment as their images are not portrayed as preferred.
Furthermore, this is a crucial age for character building as they feel confident about themselves (Hofverberg, 2018). Therefore, as schools continue nurturing expressions, mutual respect develops from the learners. Similarly, professor David Brunsma of Missouri University asserts that enforcing attire regulations do not impact learning, unity, or safety (Park, 2018). This shows how such efforts inhibit the freedom of learners in the long run.
Although there is a common argument on equality in schools among students, it is a fallacy. In retrospect, uniforms reflect the socio-economic classes prevalent in the current society. For instance, wealthy families buy their children more school attires while the poor parents can only afford one, and when it is torn, it becomes the source of embarrassment for their kid. Furthermore, the costs incurred by guardians in the process of purchasing school attires are very high.
Research has revealed that uniforms are costly and unnecessary since the kids are continuously growing. Since most of them are provided by the institutions, they are ill-fitting and uncomfortable on the children. While reiterating the monetary value, Bhattarai (2019) highlights that in the year 2019, parents for new kids joining school spent $ 240 million on uniforms. Furthermore, they promote racial divisions among school populations across the US. Studies have shown that learning institutions with many minority populations require uniforms at a high rate compared to their counterparts, who have very few cases (ProCon.org, 2020). This creates inequality and injustice among the various groups residing in America.
Although many people argue that official school attires promote conformity, they trample on students’ freedoms. Giving an example of one student from Chicago Junior, ProCon.org (2020) shows double standards in learning institutions. It explains that while schools teach about prominent crusaders in America such as Booker Washington, Rosa Parks, and Susan Antony; the mandatory requirements for uniforms curtails the same spirit of self-expression.
Therefore, it does not make sense to teach students one thing and practice the opposite. Besides, they act as suppression to individual freedom as they institutionalize a student to discomfort since they have been suppressed to a routine (Bunyawanich et al., 2018). This curtails the freedom to choose and dress as per the occasion and time due to the rules that require one to be in a particular attire regularly.
Similarly, some feel that a strict dress code in schools helps in curtailing distractions to boys. Unlike the intended purpose of modesty, the restrictions shame the bodies of the young ladies. The emphasis by the school for the girls to dress “appropriately” if they don’t want to be punished highlights discrimination. It portrays the entitlement of the male while a female body becomes an object in public space to be discussed and directed (Zhou, 2015).
Furthermore, strict dressing codes are in bad faith for girls and the transgender group affected during the implementation of such rules. Writing about “Sexism of Dress Codes” in school on The Atlantic, Zhou (2015) asserts that the group mentioned above has been suspended from schools for dressing outside the expected and required legal sex dictates. Also, in some cases, such students have not been included in the school yearbooks. Mandal (2017) asserts that there are some cases where school girls had been suspended for shaving their hair which they did in support of their friend who had cancer. Therefore, policies with neutral dress codes should be implemented.
Side B: School Uniforms to be Upheld
While freedom of choice is among the fundamental rights of human beings, there is a need to have rules, especially in schools. As such, dressing codes in learning institutions make studies easy for students as they are not distracted from the attires of their colleagues. While highlighting the importance of rules, Gale.com (2019) asserts that it is essential to set regulations and ensure that they are followed the latter. For example, a student wore a shirt during a school trip with a “hate flag” symbol. This made the others anxious, unsafe, and uncomfortable, thus creating a dress code to avoid such occurrences (Gale.com, 2019). Besides, it is not plausible if the victim knew it was wrong but the underlying fact is having an elaborate discussion.
Further, wearing uniforms curtails bullying among students as they make everyone equal. For instance, a 1986 Baltimore incident highlights how not having uniforms and strict rules may lead to unforeseen calamities. In this case, a student shot another over $95 sunglass that had been worn to school (ProCon.org, 2020). Therefore, this highlights the importance of adhering to regulations on dressing codes.
There are those of the school of thought that the young people need to be directed and as such, without strict enforcement of formal attires in learning, they will dress immodestly. Conversely, a young lady recounts her feelings on dress codes by saying that freedom to wear whatever one likes gives that individual the freedom of expression. However, it is unfair to dress less modestly since it distracts the boys (Gale.com, 2019). Further, secondary school principals in the US had stated that when students wear the same outfit, they become unconcerned about their looks, and in turn, they concentrate on their studies.
Furthermore, a survey by Houston University revealed improvement by 3% in language scores among girls in an elementary school which introduced uniforms (ProCon.org, 2020). Also, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in the United States advocated for the same and saw it to enhance students learning. Further, Woodland Middle School’s headteacher expounded on the importance of school attires as they provide less drama and distractions, thereby providing more time for studies (ProCon.org, 2020). This shows the importance of wearing the required clothing as it helps one to learn unobstructed.
Some scholars have weighed on the matter by looking at the arguments and the reasons given by those who support uniforms in schools. Consequently, many have asserted that letting school-going children choose their attires will expose them to rape since they dress indecently. Cole (2015) observes that a girl’s dressing will be viewed as either too provocative and one is labeled as a “whore” or, too modest and referred to as a virgin. As a result, girls should not be cowed by boys to wear what conforms to them. Further, he gives an example of a police officer who publicly addresses a group of students, informing them that women should dress less provocatively to avoid being raped.
Also, the headscarf has become a target, and it is being associated with crime in the US. Guterman (2016) highlights the incidence where a female student in a hijab was forced to leave the school while in another episode, one was bullied by a racist boy who inquired if she was a terrorist. The author expresses his disdain for harassment and discrimination based on an individual’s religious attire as unfair.
Looking at both sides of the arguments, there is an agreement on what the concerned parties want for the kids; safety and prosperous life. Besides, it has become commonplace to read and watch news of mass shootings in schools across the US. The transgressors have been students, gang members, and other trespassers in the institutions. This has made parents be worried about their children wherever they are.
Bullying is another vice in learning centers that has led to students absconding from classes due to insecurity. However, both sides of the coin do not agree on the impact of uniforms on bullying. While highlighting this, Brock University’s Associate Professor Tony Volk, asserts that there is no tangible evidence that supports the connotation that uniforms reduce the oppression of students (ProCon.org, 2020). Conversely, it has been argued that dressing in the same outfit eliminates competition on fashion and the expensiveness of clothes. As such, the counter propositions originate from the same site, but they aim to eliminate bullying and the safety of children. Therefore, it is imperative to get a solution by mending the divide and keeping everyone happy.
As aforementioned, there are various agreements and disagreements on what should be done about school uniforms. However, there is a need for a resolution where those who disagree come together to answer the inherent issue. Furthermore, proponents for the repealing dress code and outfits by schools should come together with teachers to encourage the young learners to be disciplined. In addition, collaborating with the school administration to make uniforms voluntary and motivate them to work hard by letting them choose their clothes, thus boosting young people’s confidence.
Both parties should establish a counseling body for the girls, especially when they are body-shamed by the boys (Zhou, 2015). Further, at the forefront, freedom of expression should be encouraged among the students as it forms the background from which they build their confidence and learn to accept the way they are made. This will make LGBTQI feel free in choosing the way they dress and identify themselves as a unique group. Besides, repealing of uniforms will reduce the cost for them among parents, while making them voluntary will give the guardians an alternative.
Two major common objectives run across the two fronts; the safety and well-being of the school-going children. To achieve this, there is a need to teach the kids the importance of tolerance and accommodating each other, bearing in mind that people come from diverse backgrounds. Similarly, the boys to be taught the need to respect the girls and not to judge others based on their gender, color, origin, and dressing (Gale.com, 2019).
Further, molesting another student may lead to discontinuation of studies, suicide, or psychological breakdown of the victim. Therefore, there is a need to instill kindness and be “your sister’s keeper” attitude among the young men. Besides, girls should not be viewed as objects but rather, the boys to be taught how to deal with the distractions they perceive from them by understanding that their counterparts express themselves. Similarly, they should be taught to be careful on their choice of clothes lest they wear attires that make others uncomfortable or anxious. Although female bodies are construed with different meanings, young men should be encouraged not to label the girls but remain neutral in their observations.
Consequently, dressing codes or the implementation of uniforms has not been a straightforward issue as the two antagonists would believe. In making decisions on what ought to be done and which would be fair to both parties, all stakeholders should balance the conflict.
On the one hand, the students have a fundamental right to expression, while on the other hand, there is a need for a focused learning environment. Therefore, administrators and teachers should introduce uniforms to the children in grade 1 and below while those in high school should be left to decide on their dressing. Also, there should be clear rules, regulations, and procedures to be followed in case of a problem by a student. Further, the formation of parents, teachers, and district administration associations to hold seminars where participants such as students, teachers, local organizations participate. In addition, retail store management should be involved as they are the main suppliers of the outfits to school. This will include coming up with a five-year work plan to be monitored annually by a special committee consisting of guardians, teachers, local administration, and a representative from the community.
In conclusion, we live in a world where the application of human freedom is at a crossroads. Following the research carried out, there is a tremendous increase in school uniforms with little concern over social issues. While everyone is entitled to this fundamental right, students are unable to express themselves through their clothes. Just figure this: a long t-shirt meant to cover my rear if I was in tight leggings. My skirts, dresses, and shorts have to be of a specific length. The cleavage not to be shown, and I couldn’t wear a spaghetti top. These made me feel ashamed of being feminine, and I wonder, if uniformity is more important to individuality.
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Cole, S. G. (2015). Undressing the dress code debate. Herizons, 29(2), 31. Web.
Gale. (2019). Are school dress codes fair? Dress code controversies are in the headlines–violations, protests, even arrests! Are our bodies distracting others? Or maybe clothing standards are just part of growing up? Choices/Current Health, 35(5), 2. Web.
Guterman, R. (2016). When a headscarf becomes a target. American Civil Liberties Union. Web.
Hofverberg, E. (2018). Sweden: School Inspectorate Says School Uniforms Are Human Rights Violation. Library of Congress. Web.
Mandal, S. (2017). Dress codes and uniforms. National Youth Rights Association. Web.
Park, M. (2018). School uniforms poll bares generation gap. baltimoresun. Web.
ProCon.org. (2020). School Uniforms. ProCon. Web.
Zhou, L. (2015). Why school dress codes are sexist. The Atlantic. Web.