Warning: this article may cause students everywhere to groan in despair and loathe this writer.
When I mention that I survived nine years of school uniforms and four more years of dress code to my peers, I'm frequently met with expressions of pity. These looks are usually followed by ones of astonishment when I then say that I actually benefitted from and enjoyed this. I proudly support that some public schools are now choosing to move to dress codes or, better (yes I said better), uniforms.
I will not attempt to argue uniforms/dress codes promote higher achievement levels for students. In fact, the studies for this, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, are wildly inconclusive.
However, acknowledging that education exists not only as an academic, but also as a social and socializing experience for children, I will argue that a uniform or dress code remains exponentially beneficial.
To put on a uniform is to make a visible, conscious choice to learn and to submit the rules and culture of school. In my own experience, the generally perceived compliance with the mission of learning provided for more focused and friendly learning environments. With American crime rates remaining steady, one can also hope that the increased compliance with rules may continue into adulthood.
Uniforms and dress codes also prepare students for the real world and the job market. When children go home they can wear whatever they please, but students learn to respect school as a different environment with different expectations, just like they would treat a job.
I do not believe that the primary purpose of dress code should be to prevent young adults from being sexually distracted or for limiting sexual attention. As a student in this system, I can safely assure you that those things either occur or not occur regardless of what students are wearing. Those matters stem from a problematic combination of emerging hormones and diminishing respect for others, which I will not even attempt to address in this piece.
There are those who say that defining how one dresses infringes on his or her individuality and personal style. While I acknowledge this as a valid argument, I also once again draw on my own experience to say that kids will always find a way to express their individuality. Hairstyles, backpacks, school supplies, as well as behavior, all provide opportunities for personal expression that kids will not neglect.
In fact, many children who struggle socially may find the reduced opportunity for potential bullying less stressful. Even I, who did not suffer first hand from bullying, can remember being comforted by the fact that all of my peers would be wearing the same thing, regardless of how popular, fashionable, beautiful, or wealthy they may be.
Speaking of money, there are some who argue that the expense of a uniform delivers unnecessary burden on a family's financial situation. However, to buy a uniform in general reduces the amount of money that many parents spend on "back to school" shopping for multiple new outfits. Dress code clothes can frequently be found for about the same price as these outfits as well.
Personally, I believe the uniforms and dress codes of my past allowed me to develop an appreciation for education and structure that I still carry today. In no way do I feel that these policies damaged my creative expression. In fact, I value my personal expression (and shopping trips) more now because of it.