School uniforms stifle expression
The article in Wednesday’s paper about uniforms at Carson High School was excellent. It is always a good thing when parents and students are involved and even better when the majority agrees on an issue. That is what I call progress, involvement, community decision-making, and very good communication. That is just what we aim to achieve.
The article gives support to my views about uniforms that are based on my own experience as a twin and a teacher. Though these two words are not ordinarily relative to each other, both of them define major aspects of my life.
As a twin, a fraternal rather than identical twin, we had very common twin issues. As the second and third children in a family of five children, often we were introduced as “the Twins” without names being mentioned. We were often called “One of the Twins.” We often talk about the ways that we were identified without having the uniqueness of our own names. People who knew us well viewed us as two separate personalities and knew our names.
In our senior year of high school, each of us was called in separately to the counselor’s office. My appointment was first (I am 45 minutes older than my twin, Jean); Jean was sitting in the waiting area when I left. We both were given the same message: “Go to college. Go away to college. Do not live together. If possible, go to two separate colleges. You have to become individuals. You each have to choose your own path.”
We both graduated from Ohio University but did not live together and had different interests, friends and majors.
As a teacher for 40-some years, I had the opportunity to teach in four schools that required uniforms, all of them at the junior high level. It turns out kids do a lot of growing during those years. What I found unbearable was the smell of sweat after recess and a real stench after lunch. Often it was overwhelming.
At the high school level, I think uniforms stifle individuality; they destroy creative efforts. Keep in mind that many students have jobs after school; many are exploring careers and trying to get to know themselves as the unique people they are. In addition, I know many people, including grandparents, who look forward to shopping with their children for school clothes. Several of them have shared precious moments they shared during this particular shop with their children and/or grandchildren. Often values are discussed and very often, “How the world initially judges who you are is by what you wear” is the topic. It seems seriously unfair to essentially end this tradition.
My twin wrote suggesting the high school schedule should include “dress for work/interview” days periodically. The dress code, which Carson High School already has in place, needs to be enforced. Simple rules for appropriate dress are less of a stigma for students than a uniform. Jean said she had to educate new, young people about suitable dress for an office. That is a skill that could be not only learned but practiced as part of preparing students for real-life work situations.
My biggest objection to uniforms in high school is I see it as one more thing that keeps students from thinking for themselves and making decisions. High school students are young adults; they are going out into the world to make their mark. Parents and high school teachers are the guides and role models. I believe if you give students the opportunity to choose appropriate dress for school, they will rise to the occasion. May I suggest you concentrate on their academic progress and ability to be respectful instead of wasting time on meetings, surveys and other time-consuming activities that divert attention from the purpose of schooling: to produce viable members of society.
Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.