The Dom Post Saturday magazine had an angsty article about school uniforms last week (not on-line), with the usual pros and cons. Easier for parents vs reducing individuality, cost vs cost, fewer playground comparisons vs colours that do not suit my child. My children have attended both uniformed and non-uniformed schools, and as a parent, I can see advantages either way. On balance, as a parent, in some ways I really don’t care.
But as a citizen, I care deeply. Here’s what one principal said in favour of school uniforms.
“There is no doubt in my mind that a uniform does two things: it creates a sense of belonging and equality in the playground, and creates low-level compliance that says they are part of something bigger than themselves. There is a sense of being part of a community and there are rules.”
Great! Let’s force all those kids into a mould, tell them what they should look like and how they should behave, and turn them into yet more foot soldiers for compliance and obedience and fitting in and doing exactly what everyone else is doing, and subordinating yourself to some great society in the sky.
I have long known that schools are sites for reproducing conformity, but it’s rare to have it stated so explicitly. Yes, I do find school uniforms terribly convenient, and yes, I think that there may well be a reduction in some of the issues around peer pressure if the kids are all wearing the same clothes. But these advantages are as nothing compared to the huge harm of deliberately shaping children into rule-following units.
And as a parent, I care very much about my children being forced to fit into particular patterns of behaviour. No matter how much I encourage my daughters to explore new ideas and new ways of thinking, their schools shout back at them that they must conform, and must fit in, and must be like everyone else. Heaven help the child who is in the least bit different from the norm.
It’s almost enough to make me want to home school.