School uniforms have implications that reached far beyond its intended results. It has been reported that it’s usage promotes learning and refocuses students’ attention on academics, creates a positive learning environment that increases student achievement and promotes compliance with educational goals and increases student self-esteem. However, school uniforms need to be banned because they contribute to institutionalized racism.
School uniforms are believed to be a practice which dates to the 16th century in the United Kingdom. It is believed that the Christ Hospital School in London in 1552 was the first school to use a school uniform. The earliest documented proof of institutionalized use of a standard academic dress dates back to 1222 when the then Archbishop of Canterbury ordered the wearing of the cappa clausa about 800 years ago. The cappa clausa, or close cope, is a cope or cape sewn up in front for common outdoor use. Wearing these types of school uniforms appear to have an association with individual belief systems.
In the United States, the movement towards using uniforms in public schools began when Bill Clinton addressed it in the 1996 State of the Union. During the state of union address he stated that “If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms.” As of 1998 approximately 25% of all U.S. public elementary, middle and junior high schools had adopted a uniform policy or were considering a policy, and two thirds were implemented between 1995 and 1997.
Recent studies reveal that wearing uniforms has mixed results. According to a study at the University of Nevada, Reno 41% of students reported that there was less gang activity at school since uniforms had been implemented. It is also notable that females students in this survey were reporting more benefits to school uniforms than male students. Ninety percent of students reported they did not like wearing uniforms feeling they reduced their individuality, free speech, and self-expression. In a similar survey, a school board in Osceola County School Board reports seeing a 46% reduction in gang activity since implementing a uniform policy.
The real question regarding the reduction of violence is this something we perceive or are there actual changes happening that are impacted by uniforms? Other schools uniform researchers from The University of Missouri-Columbia are citing that despite the hype, uniforms are not actually tackling the issues.
Nearly one in five Unite States public schools required students to wear uniforms during the 2011-2012 school year. The ideology of school uniform is that it will create a safer environment for students and help with equality. In some areas, uniforms have become essential due to student poverty levels. Mandatory uniform policies in public schools are found more commonly in high-poverty areas.
According to the US Census, Whites make up more than half of the population living in poverty areas. However, they comprised a higher proportion of those living outside such areas. This is not the case for Blacks and Hispanics. Four times as many Blacks and three times as many Hispanics lived in poverty areas than lived outside them. It appears that the wearing of school uniforms is actually teaching our youth that Black and Hispanic students wear uniforms while Whites are not required to do the same.
Here in lies the institutionalized racism. Public school institutions of predominately White students do not require wearing school uniforms while public school institutions of predominately Black and Hispanic students have made wearing uniforms a requirement. School uniforms need to be banned to ensure that there is equity amongst all students.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
The Raccelerate Phenomenon
Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
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Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
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