Editorial: School uniforms — Now there’s an idea

Posted 10/18/19

Students in Westport, Mass., were asked recently whether they like the idea of school uniforms.

The answer from 82 percent— a resounding No Thank You!

No surprise there, nor was it …

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Editorial: School uniforms — Now there’s an idea

Posted

Students in Westport, Mass., were asked recently whether they like the idea of school uniforms.

The answer from 82 percent— a resounding No Thank You!

No surprise there, nor was it startling that parents were more evenly divided.

But the timeless appeal of button-down and plaid ought not be so easily dismissed. It may be stretching things just a bit to suggest that there’s little wrong with our schools these days that a few bolts of khaki couldn’t cure.

If half the battle is getting young people to concentrate on the task at hand, then there are few greater distractions than clothes. Students lavish scant resources on clothes, they agonize before school that they’ve nothing to wear, and they worry in class that their look, their brand, is all wrong.

But clothes are a means of individual expression, goes the argument. Uniforms offer only mindless conformity.

On the contrary, uniforms enable the real individual to shine through.

With uniforms, everyone sets off to school on equal footing. Rich or poor, fashion savvy or clueless, all greet the day able to focus on something beyond clothes.

Forced to look beyond the cloth, students might find real individuals concealed beneath. Rather than judge classmates by T-shirt logo or sneaker brand, they might find themselves considering the characters within. What does this person have to say, what is she good at, what bothers him, what makes her laugh?

Clothes offer clues of the most superficial sort but, since first impressions linger, these are the ones that stick. Uniforms require a closer look before passing judgement by students and teachers alike.

Anyone who doubts the extent to which clothes dominate school life needs only look back at what has happened in some local schools over the years.

In Bristol, students carpeted the hallways with shredded student handbooks when administrators had the temerity to ban long overcoats and hats in class. Some students were disciplined and, predictably, some parents voiced indignation that anyone might tell their children what not to wear.

And in Portsmouth, students stormed out of school after being told they could no longer wear ball caps in the hallways. It was the only cause deemed worthy of full-scale protest that year.

By itself, a change of clothes won’t cure sagging test scores. But if uniforms can relieve young people of one daily source of high anxiety, one colossal distraction, they may just be worth a try.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.