Individuality is “The aggregate of qualities and characteristics that distinguish one person or thing from others”, as in “Monotonous towns lacking in individuality.” or “She was so absorbed by the movement that she lost all sense of individuality.” This quality of being an individual is exactly what schools, as havens of self-discovery and development, should be encouraging most. The schools, however, are now attempting to limit students’ self-expression by implementing a uniform, an action based on questionable studies. The problems caused by uniforms outweigh the proposed benefits. In addition, outfitting a student body in uniforms is a very laborious administrative process, facing strong opposition and requiring much time and effort to be spent. Valuable resources should not be spent on such a trivial issue. Finally, clothing often reflects the personality of the student, but a uniform is unlikely to change someone’s behavior. If a student’s attire does not infringe on the learning or rights of another person, then there is not reason to confine freedom of dress.
Advocates of uniforms claim that when everyone is wearing outfitted uniformly, students’ focus on appearance diminishes. This is absurd, for several reasons. Primarily, students will spend much more time and effort on their appearance, attempting to distinguish or express themselves, while staying within the confines of the dress code. Furthermore, peoples’ differences should be celebrated, not disguised with uniforms.
Promoted as the ultimate solution to problems such as gangs and violence, uniforms are only a temporary resolution. If violence is such a large problem that it is necessary to take away the freedom of students, the problem should be targeted at its root. Perhaps a lower student/teacher ratio is needed, or severer penalties for transgressions. The school can change the way students look, they can implement mandatory uniforms, but this will not change the way students think. If students are in a gang, and dress and act accordingly, putting them in uniforms is not an effective solution. There are studies that claim a high reduction in violence after a dress code was implemented, however, this reduction could be just a consequence of performing the study, rather than the influence of uniforms.
Additionally, most studies were performed over only a two year period, with a uniform implemented in the second year. A controlled study is needed, where the other group is studied without a change in dress code. Finally, schools argue that uniforms eliminate the obvious discrepancies of income that children see looking at the clothes of their peers. Uniforms, unlike uniformity, do not mean equality. In life outside of the educational system, there will always be the “haves” and the “have-nots”. There is no need to shelter students in school from “the real world”. There will always be some who will have clothes that are more expensive and even more “fashionable”. Furthermore, school uniforms are generally expensive, and will not be used out of school.
With obesity increasing exponentially in the United States of America, those students’ bodies in mandatory school attire do not all conform to the clothes they are bearing. Un-uniformed, student’s options are only limited by their resources; one is able to wear what is comfortable for oneself, both physically and mentally. A school uniform would not eliminate teasing or bullying, but would instead leave many students more psychologically vulnerable by reducing available options of attire. There will never be a uniform in which everyone will feel comfortable. Forcing students to wear clothes that they are uncomfortable in, for whatever reason, hardly improves self-esteem. Additionally, instead of allowing students to concentrate themselves on their studies, uniforms will cause students to muse on their appearance more so than sans dress code.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The freedom of dress that students have is taken for granted until it is in jeopardy. In school, clothes are the primary choice of self-expression for many students, and taking away their freedom to wear what they choose will only create problems, not solutions. The majority of high-schoolers care about how they are perceived, and it is important to be able to experiment with one’s image, and to have the liberty of self-expression and personal comfort. Growing up and experimenting with how one wants to be seen is a normal, but important stage of self-development. The image created in the adolescent years forms one’s personality as an adult.
In a country of freedom, citizens should not be subjected to limitation of their freedom of expression. Were mandatory school uniforms implemented, more problems would be caused, than solved. Students would test the boundaries of the rules at every opportunity, and also endeavor to distinguish themselves by any means possible. Teachers would waste time and effort enforcing dress code, creating a substantial amount of administrative debris, and fair punishment is hard to establish. Prohibiting the experimentation that each youth goes through as they attempt to discover themselves will only have negative consequences.
While a dress code is not a violation of the First Amendment, as some claim, it is a gross violation of natural law. Expression is a natural right, and students, constituting the wide majority of the school body, should not be subjected to limitations of natural rights by administrators attempting to use school uniforms as a quick solution to an abundance of problems. Schools should think twice before taking away freedom of dress, a crucial liberty of adolescence.