This morning my daughter dressed herself up in a full matching outfit, boots and all, looking like a little superstar. She stuffed a dollar in her backpack and headed out to wait for the bus. “Free dress” day is something she looks forward to at her school, except it isn’t free.
As a teenager, the thought of uniforms was awful. I hated the idea of going to school everyday wearing the same thing I wore the day before…the same thing everyone else in my school was wearing. As someone who avoids conformity, it never sat well with me. My individuality was stripped away, and suddenly I was only a small part of a collective.
The reasoning behind the uniforms never quite jived with me either. They claimed it would stop bullying (it didn’t), it would be less distracting, and that it would encourage discipline.
First of all, bullying is going to happen regardless of the clothes kids are wearing. If someone wants to make someone else’s life miserable, they’re going to do it. It doesn’t matter what excuse they come up with. Bullying has less to do with designer clothes and more to do with personality and parenting. How about instead of allowing kids to slip into a pattern of hateful actions, we look for smarter ways to deal with it. There should be counseling, not only for the victims of bullying, but for the bullies themselves.
Less distracting…perhaps uniforms aren’t distracting because they are so very boring. However, kids don’t need clothes to be distracted. Again it’s not really about the clothes. It’s about boredom…and also being a kid. Hell, I was just as distracted by the ramblings in my own mind as I was by another student’s flashy jacket, and when uniforms came along I found something else to be distracted by.
And discipline? Don’t make me laugh. Discipline is requiring kids to be at school on time, get their homework and projects completed on time, and studying for the constant bombardment of tests. What more do you need? So now they have to reach into the closet for a blue shirt that looks like all the rest of their blue shirts. How exactly is that discipline? That’s something else entirely.
I call it forced uniformity. Children are being taught that conforming to the norm is best for them, and that individuality is something to be afraid of. They no longer have the right to choose. Now they must do as the crowd does. Instead of teaching them that everyone is different and has their own sense of style, schools are telling them that being different is a bad thing and leads to unsavory consequences…like bullying.
To make matters worse they offer “free dress” days where children are permitted to wear what they like, except they have to pay a dollar if they want to participate. I call that extortion. Now kids are learning that you have to pay to be an individual, to think for yourself, to be who you are. If you don’t pay up, you don’t have the same rights as the rest of your class. That’s when those whose parents don’t have a dollar to send with them are singled out and picked on.
Regardless of the reasons schools have for requiring uniforms, I find that even as a parent with a child in school, it is a hard pill to swallow. I want my daughter to find herself, to be who she is…not who someone tells her to be. I want her to go against the grain when she doesn’t agree with the majority and to stand up for her rights as an individual. I might be the only parent in the world who feels this way, but when I was a kid, I was taught to be myself.
Individuality leads to creativity and free thought. Kids who are raised to think for themselves grow to be stronger minded adults with the ability to weigh their decisions based on their own thoughts and not those of others. It breeds a sense of self-worth and self-acknowledgement. You are who you are and not who they are. You are a human being with the freedom to choose. That’s what we should teach our children.