Mandatory School Uniforms
For many years, one of the main differences between public schools and private schools was held that students in private schools had an obligatory school uniform and students in public schools could wear what they wanted in school. Several public schools have begun to adopt mandatory school uniforms. The issue of school uniforms has brought discussion across thecountry. Students are reluctant to be told they cannot use their clothing to express themselves during the school day, but other people think that it removes many of the competition and social economic barriers that students can have at school. Considering both sides, wearing the uniform seems to have more opportunities.
“President Clinton, in his State of the Union Address and several subsequentspeeches and addresses…announced that all 16,000 U.S public school districts ‘should consider the issue of mandatory school uniforms.’” In front of high schools, we are used to see girls and boys showing the new brand cloth that they got, the Nike shoes bought by their parents, girls showing their piercings and their strings. It seems like they do not go to school for the important purpose whichis to learn. At this point, uniform seems to the perfect tool to make things change. The uniform helps to focus the student’s attention on studies instead of spending one hour every morning in the bathroom because they are looking for what they will wear, or which make up they should put. When there is no uniform, student’s discussions keep focus on fashion clothes. They are always talking aboutwhen they will buy the last version of a cloth, when they will go shop with their parents. Some of them laugh at other who cannot afford expensive and brand clothes.
Public schools are places where all social strata are represented: rich, less rich, and wealthy or needy. In fact, these differences make that there are regular problems between those who can have what they desire and those wishingto own the brand clothing of their classmates. The uniform will not remove all differences but at least helps to reduce them considerably. Children come at school wearing same pants, same jackets or blouse. There is no longer discussion on where we someone bought his shirt, or his jean. In some schools, especially in Cameroon, administrators create some rules to make children really look alike.They prohibit special hairstyles, no extensions for girls. They require a maximum number of braid and how it should be. Boys should have their hair cut, if not they can be dismissed from the school. Polish nail, exuberant jewelry, slippers, make-up are most of the time prohibited.
For young, the cloth is an element of recognition and a building identity very powerful. It is the perfect way toexpress themselves and to stand out. From this point of view, the uniform removes the dressing heterogeneity of the education system. It erases any affiliation to any religion or any social class to impose a model based on the uniqueness of the identity.
Every week, there is always the recurrent problem of “insecurity” on television and newspaper. As Stafford said, after a study of gang presencein public schools, “…Teachers from schools with uniform policies perceived lower level of gang presence.” Usually, the uniform has an escutcheon on which the school’s name, student’s name and the level at which he is, are written. It helps to recognize him at any time. This makes it easier for school’s administrators to recognize students who belong to their school. Brunsma in one of his bookrelated to the use of uniforms in public school, highlights results of studies done by Yunhee Kim and Marilyn Delong. Those studies have been done by using questionnaires for teachers, parents and students in United States. The results reveal that “Parents and teachers may believe that gangs would not be allowed to get into school buildings without wearing uniforms. Because most of the gang members...
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