School Uniforms: Unproven and Unnecessary When Long Term Paper

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School Uniforms: Unproven and Unnecessary

When Long Beach, California public schools began mandating uniforms in 1994, other schools and districts took notice (Schachter 46). Could uniforms improve academic achievement and reduce behavioral problems, as the Long Beach schools purported? By 2002 more than 23% of America's public elementary schools had followed suit, hoping to see the amazing results that were suggested (Schachter 46). Yet, the evidence is still unclear. Supporters continue to claim that violence and behavioral problems are reduced while discipline and concentration are higher in uniformed schools (Wilkins 20). What's missing is any credible research to back the claims of individual schools and educators. Some critics find that other changes instituted at the same time as uniforms should get the credit for improvements (Wilkins 19). Others consider uniforms a non-issue, calling for the resources to be used in other under funded areas (Rockney 16; "Student Uniforms" 16). Until research can show that uniforms alone can make the difference, the criticisms are more compelling. Uniforms simply are not a proven method of school improvement.

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Wilkins outlines the major arguments for instituting a dress code: decreasing violence and improving behavioral problems; reducing gang colors and insignia in schools; instilling discipline in students; helping children to learn about resisting peer pressure; aiding student concentration; making social class differences less noticeable; lessen bullying; increase student self-esteem; and increase students' sense of belonging (19-22). Additional claims include increased academic performance and aided teacher concentration (Schachter 48).

Term Paper on School Uniforms: Unproven and Unnecessary When Long Assignment

Opposing views still exist. Schools, administrators, parents, and teachers have all come forward with claims of the many improvements (Rockney 8; Schachter 46-48; "Students Uniforms" 16; Wilkins 19). Criticism can be broken into two main areas. First, each of the individual claims made by proponents of uniforms is flawed (Wilkins). Second, uniforms are rarely instituted alone, instead being part of a revised academic and behavioral change program (Schachter 48-49). As such, uniforms seem to be only partially related to any positive changes seen in the schools.

Still, it is necessary to review the suggested benefits and criticisms to gain a full view of the subject.

Long Beach schools implemented their changes, including uniforms, in response to the growing threat of safety and behavioral problems in the schools (Schachter 46). Both politicians and parents are the impetus behind such changes, as safe children and teachers are of great social concern in nearly all communities. In Long Beach, the reduction of K-8 school crime by 22% inspired other schools (Schacter 48). One North Carolina middle school reported a 50% reduction in arrest reports and suspension referrals after instituting a uniform policy (Schachter 48). This has led to overwhelming support of uniforms by school administrators, based greatly on the idea that uniforms make schools safer ("Student Uniforms" 16).

Uniform policies are credited for reducing violence in many ways. Wilkins cites that there are concerns over killings and assaults due to intended theft of designer clothing (19). Those in favor of uniforms insist that uniforms eliminate this risk if they are purchased from schools (Rockney 16). Wilkins, however, points out that designer clothing will continue to cause rifts if schools only institute policies requiring certain colors (20). Wilkins additionally cites that designer jackets and shoes will continue to be worn since schools cannot suitably control these areas (20). The idea that uniforms reduce gang colors and activity also seems questionable; Wilkins suggests that gangs will not dissolve based on the disallowing of bandanas or certain colors in schools (20). Instead, gang members will find new ways to identify themselves, leaving the burden of identification to teachers (Wilkins 20).

Another cited benefit from uniform proponents is that it is easier to recognize outsiders when a school has a uniform policy ("Student Uniforms" 16). In high crime areas, outsiders are a safety risk as they can dress like students to gain access to schools for drug sales or to cause problems dealing with gang violence (Rockney 16). Rockney also points out that the usual baggy clothing that some children and teenagers wear makes it easy to conceal drugs and weapons (16). This is only partially true. To be effective, school uniforms would need to be specific in allowing fitted clothing and eliminate brands that have excess pockets and space ("Student Uniforms" 16). Wilkins finally points to the fact that drug dealers or other intruders on school grounds will likely begin to emulate uniforms if it allows them to continue their chosen activities (20).

Uniforms may make it harder for outsiders and concealed weapon / drug carriers, but the changes in crime and behavior are more likely the product of other school changes. Schachter finds that most uniform programs reviewed were combined with teacher development, character education, and increased academic achievement standards (49). Wilkins offers that the dramatic increase in attendance and decrease in violence in Long Beach schools was much more likely related to other improvements. such as more teachers patrolling the halls during breaks (19). Further, Wilkins points to the need to prove that uniforms do change schools, not the other way around. Schachter agrees, citing that any school that makes many changes at once cannot say that it was the uniforms alone that made the difference (48).

Beyond safety, academics are the next area that uniforms are credited with improving. It is unclear if the academic improvements seen at Long Beach and elsewhere were expected or were just benefits of the changes the schools made. The results, however, have created a direct association between uniforms and increased academic performance (Schachter 46-48).

Uniforms supposedly create a better quality of learning environment, improve attendance rates, and eliminate distractions for students (Rockney 8; Schachter 46, 48; "Student Uniforms" 16; Wilkins 20-22). In Long Beach, for example, attendance reached a high of 95% within a year of instituting uniforms, with reading and math scores steadily improving over in the district since uniform inception (Schachter 48). Wilkins points out that schools credit uniforms with "[the ability to] restore order" (19). The discipline of uniforms, absence of peer pressure, and lessened concern for bullying and class distinction are the primary reasons cited for uniforms' success (Wilkins 19-22).

When examined closely, the academic improvement factors attributed to uniforms are misplaced or partially accurate. For one thing, teachers suggest that students feel safer in a uniform school with reduced crime. This, expectedly, increases attendance and reduces stress and worry that might compromise academic function (Rockney 16). It is probably true that students who feel safer will attend school more often and perform better. However, as was previously point out, the increase of safety and reduction of behavioral and crime problems is not linked to uniforms by themselves (Rockney 16; Wilkins 20).

The relationship between uniforms and a higher quality of learning environment is also flawed. Wilkins finds that the discipline instilled through uniforms stifles individuality and makes it less likely that student will be able to think effectively when they reach adulthood (20). Students who achieve higher scores on tests may have achieved higher discipline through uniforms without really gaining a better education. Obviously, additional studies on discipline and test scores related to uniform schools are necessary to fully defend this point (Rockney 8).

The final points that uniforms reduce classroom distraction and promote equality are also easily dismissed. Anyone who has ever experienced children together will find that different clothing is unnecessary if they are eager to find distraction from an activity; children and youth will continue to be distracted if school programs are not engaging them (Wilkins 21-22). Additionally, the idea that uniforms diminish social class issues, lessen bullying and peer pressure, is also somewhat laughable. Students will continue to find ways to individualize themselves and distinguish cliques ("Student Uniforms 16). Students will also be aware of social class -- including who is "poor" -- based on numerous other factors, like free lunches, language, and even childhood / neighborhood gossip (Wilkins 21). Any fraction of distraction aided by uniforms is subsequently destroyed by some schools policies of "opting out." Schools that allow some students or families to opt out of uniforms additionally complicate matters of distraction, since the point of uniforms is to have everyone -- regardless of reasoning -- dressed the same (Schachter 48-49). The only area where distraction may be lessened to a great degree is in teachers. Schachter finds that some teachers were previously unable to teach effectively due to the distracting or personally offensive manner in which children were dressed (48). If uniforms do reduce distraction, it seems to be in the area of teachers being better able to focus on teaching rather than students being able to improve test scores.

Beyond behavior and academics, there are also many minor factors that are considered both for and against school uniforms. Schools report that uniforms increase school pride, maintain community, and help new children fit in (Rockney 8; "Student Uniforms" 16; Wilkins 20-22). In younger children, uniforms are additionally purported to encourage the ability of students to dress themselves (supposedly since uniforms are the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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