School Uniforms Essays

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School Uniforms


Until President Clinton called attention to the issue in his State of the Union address, mandatory public school uniform policies were sporadic local occurences. A few school districts had been quietly experimenting with uniforms for years, but the issue caught President Clinton's eye after the Long Beach, California school district released some numbers suggesting that after only one year, its mandatory uniform policy had not only brought about significant decreases in vandalism and fighting, but had also led to higher test scores. Now that the President's endorsement has elevated school uniforms into the realm of federal education policy, a question needs to be answered: Are uniforms a good idea?

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The fact is that there are no empirical studies that show that uniforms consistently produce positive changes in student behavior over the long run. At best, school uniform policies are purely experimental.

The experiment presents some very practical problems. First, although President Clinton said he supported uniforms "if it means that teen-agers will stop killing each other over designer jackets," the Long Beach policy, like virtually every other uniform policy in the country, applies only to elementary and middle school students, and not to teenagers. While younger children may be amenable to uniforms -- might even like them -- teenagers are different. It's axiomatic that adolescence is a time when young people strive to express their uniqueness and individuality in many different ways, and especially through fashion. Of course as several political cartoonists have pungently observed, teens are already in uniform -- baggy pants, T-shirts and baseball caps worn backward. But these are "uniforms" of teens' own choosing, and not fashions dictated from above. School administrators and teachers know that teenagers are sure to rebel against uniforms policies; that's why so far they've been reluctant to impose them at the high school level.

Second, for a public school uniform policy to be legal, it has to have an opt out provision. Every child in this…

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