Blazers, slacks and skirts, and ties and ribbons, yes, we get it - school uniforms can really be uncomfortable. This has been a topic for debates and many argumentative essays for so long, in fact, Anne Hathaway’s Princess Diaries touched this topic, and that movie was released in 2001. It has been 18 years, and yet we are still trying to figure if the advantages of school uniforms defeat its disadvantages. For some, school uniforms might be just a control issue, while others believe in the idea that uniforms are equalizers. Although both claims are justifiable, the questions regarding this issue still remain. Does wearing a school uniform improve a student’s academic performance? What are the advantages and disadvantages of school uniforms? Do students really need school uniforms?
Disadvantages of School Uniforms
Let us first tackle what is the alleged problem of disadvantages of school uniforms. The disadvantages of school uniforms are closely linked to one’s preferences, mainly, uniforms can inhibit movements especially skirts. Furthermore:
Disadvantage 1: "School uniforms restrict freedom of expression"
School uniforms restrict not just actual physical movements, it also confines the students’ freedom of expression and sense of individuality. This is perhaps the strongest point when discussing the disadvantages of school uniforms in debates, speeches, or any argumentative piece because this is a significant pillar of human rights and an essential statement to self-actualization. On these grounds, some may argue that implementing the need to wear school uniforms is somehow authoritarian. Some universities strictly implement wearing of school uniforms, to the point that a student cannot enter the university premises if he or she is not wearing the uniform, or at least lacks an element of the uniform. Making students wear their uniforms promote conformity, instead of aiding the universal notice to promote and embrace diversity.
Disadvantage 2: "School uniforms do not improve learning"
There is no evidence that can justify that wearing school uniforms improves a student’s academic performance. In fact, there is only a faint connection between a student’s academic performance and the implementation of school uniforms. This may not be a valid point when discussing the disadvantages of school uniforms because of the ambiguity of its effects and relevance in the learning system, however, the question still impacts the need for uniforms – if it does not affect the academic performance of the students in any way, then why stop it?
Disadvantage 3: "School uniforms contradict the concept of free education"
Wearing uniforms has long been a global norm and for a very long time now, until some universities debunked the idea of wearing a uniform by tagging it as an additional cost. This is true in many ways especially because there is no proof that wearing a school uniform improves the student’s learning. Even if a uniform is made to be so simple, this will still be an additional expense for the student, which could have been more productive if it was added to extracurricular activities. Additionally, school uniforms do not usually fit the student for all the years he or she needs to attend school, thereby multiplying the expenses. Of course, in discussing the concept of free education, paying for school uniforms is quite a problem.
Disadvantage 4: "School uniforms may overstep religious boundaries and straddle on sexism"
In highly diversified countries, it is no surprise that one university may have students whose religious beliefs are also diverse, and these beliefs include the rule of wearing conservative clothing for women, regardless of age. This becomes problematic since most universities impose skirts to be worn by female students, and pants for male students only. Furthermore, the idea of enforcing skirts as the standard uniform for female students can be quite problematic nowadays, because aside from obvious reasons, not all biological females want to wear a feminine garment – the same way goes for male students. With prolific issues on LGBTQ rights, severe cases of sexism, and other modern world concerns, strictly enforcing a skirt-blouse uniform to a female student (in particular) whose beliefs contradict the school rules may qualify as a case of discrimination.
Disadvantage 5: "School uniforms may affect a student’s self-image negatively"
Outside the topic of additional expense, implementing school uniforms can actually affect a student’s self-esteem. Since uniforms are not custom-made, it may be unflattering considering a student’s physical form or body type, despite the variations in sizes. As a result, it may cause them to be embarrassed in wearing a uniform, most especially if that uniform fits most of the students really well. Wearing the same outfit allows a lot of comparison among how the students look even though they do not have any control over it. This is a crucial phase, particularly for high school students who are developing consciousness with how they look and appear to their peers, and can incite bullying, thereby incurring lasting trauma on the individual.
Advantages of School Uniforms
The argument on the need for and advantages of school uniforms weighs heavier on its advantages than disadvantages at the moment. There are two sides in every coin, and in this case, the disadvantages also have corresponding counterarguments. Some of the strong justifications of implementing school uniforms are:
Advantage 1: "School uniforms promote discipline and nurtures sense of belonging"
Uniforms acclimate the students to identifying themselves as a part of the university which allows the university to move in unison along with its students, teachers, parents, and staff. As a result, the students are also practiced in taking care of their uniforms to ensure that they follow regulations at school. This includes the prohibition of displaying any unrelated insignia and wearing of inappropriate clothes, creating the school premises an area for discipline and propriety. School uniforms also eliminate economic divisions by simply making all students wear the same clothing, hence, decreasing the variable for comparison. In fact, a student who may see someone wearing the same uniform, even though they do not know who the other person is, can almost immediately feel a sense of safety, and of course, the feeling of being around someone who's a "fellow."
Advantage 2: "School uniforms can aid focus on learning"
Wearing a school uniform can condition a student that he or she is set to go to school to learn. Uniforms can work like a tool for cognitive conditioning allowing the student to focus heavily on anything that is related to education. It is like Spiderman wearing his suit, and once he does, he is off to save the neighborhood. This is a subject for debate, but of course, the loophole on the counterargument is quite substantial since school uniforms and casual clothing in relation to learning is a study that still needs to be finalized. Bottom line is irrespective of what the student is wearing, the learning still depends on the student’s learning curve and psychosocial needs.
Advantage 3: "School uniforms cost less"
Clothing allowance can easily melt down especially for high school students who are trying to fit in. Adolescence imposes personality challenges on everyone because this is the time where one is forming his or her potential adult personality, hence, making and keeping friends is crucial, and the easiest way to approach or be approached by someone is to look presentable – in teenage language, to be cool. School uniforms then allow the students to skip this stage, and of course, allow the students’ parents to save some cash instead of buying trendy clothes.
Advantage 4: "School uniforms can strengthen diverse cultures"
The logic is simple – school uniforms are the same, therefore eliminating all the differences among everyone. Uniforms allow students to embrace the fact that whatever they believe in should not overstep anyone else’s, creating the university an equal stage for everyone. This also helps students to approach each other without being prejudicial with one another and increases the chances of peer groups to be as diverse as possible. For instance, in bigger universities, Chinese students can mingle with American or English students, and it would not mean a thing because of a simple concept: they are all the same. In fact, they are wearing the same thing.
Advantage 5: "School uniforms eliminate the chances of isolation"
Truthfully speaking, a student’s sense of belonging does not really depend on whether he or she is wearing a uniform or not. Being comfortable in your surroundings is a challenge that everyone has to conquer and clothing does not really have anything to do with it, however, wearing the same clothes allow the students to overlook any differences by setting a disguise that they already have a common ground. School uniforms do not prevent the students from adding accessories onto them to express themselves, nor do they stop the student to practice his or her beliefs. It only sets everyone on the same line to develop camaraderie.
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