So Springfield public schools may adopt uniforms for students. I’ve long thought the there is nothing particularly wrong with school uniforms even if their impact is minimal. They certainly save money for parents and remove one layer (but only one layer) of social competition among the kids. Opponents, on the other hand, decry the loss of individuality. I think both sides overstate their case, however.
There is nothing magical about uniforms that tears down social class or instills any significant amount of greater discipline in students. Social groups and cliques and, yes, gangs, will continue exist even if everyone is forced to wear similar clothing. Discipline problems will continue and the clothes don’t help you learn. Still, it does probably save teachers and administrators time they would otherwise use to be judge and jury in dress code enforcement duty.
As for the loss of individuality, I actually have the radical notion that, in a small way, uniforms can increase individuality. Kids –well, maybe all of us- use close not to stand out as different, but to identify with a group. That’s hardly being “individual”.
When I was in high school, every student, I mean EVERYONE, wore blue jeans. It was a cultural uniform. I remember being struck by this in a vivid way once when I was walking to the end of the line in front of the Armory to see a concert in the late 70s. As I walked past the other concertgoers, it really seemed odd that all of us free thinkers were in jeans and wouldn’t dare be seen in such a setting in anything else.
So kids already have “uniforms” that associate them with this or that group. Once that group uniform is removed and replaced with the clothes all the other kids are wearing in the school, you have no choice but to look beyond the clothes to see who this person is. That, to me, makes someone more of an individual because they now need to rely on things like personality and achievement (good or bad) to express their individuality.
I wouldn’t look for great things to happen if District 186 does go uniform. But it’s not the end of the world either.