School Uniform: Is it really necessary?

We’ve all woken up for school with the dread of putting on that itchy shirt that strangles your neck, that ugly tie that they insist you do up properly and that skirt they keep telling you to make a respectable length. I used to HATE my school uniforms (I moved around a lot, attended a lot of schools… and never found one I didn’t mind putting on). Then I reached sixth form, we were allowed to wear what we wanted with in reason, and I thought it would be amazing, however, it came with new issues; what do I wear today? Did I wear this the same time last week? Will anybody else be wearing this? (It cost me a lot of money and weekly trips to Topshop!). Thinking back to these days got me thinking, are school uniforms really necessary? Are they there for ease or is there an actual purpose behind them?

Uniforms do in fact have a purpose, people are more likely to conform when they are wearing the same clothes, there is no competition or trying to out do each other, and therefore in educational terms, people are more likely to get on with their work rather than compare outfits. Asch (1951) (I think most of us know this study) did a study into conformity in which the findings showed that even when a person knew the answer, they went along with the majority of the decisions, 75% of participants conformed at least once, with the overall conformity level being 33%. People tend to do this in order to fit in and avoid conflict. Crutchfield (1955) found that people who conform have less ego strength and leadership ability (great news for teachers trying to have control).  Zimbardo (1971) also carried out an experiment called the ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ participants were assigned to either being a prisoner or a guard, they were given appropriate uniforms and filmed throughout the process. It was found that participants quickly started to act according to the uniforms they were given, the guards started to torture the prisoners and bully them, and some of the prisoners simply took it, as they were ‘prisoners’. The experiment had to be stopped due to the levels of violence and tactics the guards were undertaking, the prisoners were put at risk, which broke ethical guidelines. Head teachers also think that uniforms can eradicate violence in schools (http://voices.yahoo.com/school-uniforms-public-schools-more-harmful-than-6756244.html).

There is a negative to uniforms as well, in regards to racial groups such as the KKK, many of the people who carry out the atrocious race hate crimes feel as if their identities are hidden by the uniforms and therefore think they have ‘diminished responsibility’ (http://www.guidetopsychology.com/identity.htm). Students have also stated that they feel a loss of identity when told to wear uniforms, that they express themselves through their choice of clothing, and therefore taking this away from them, is in fact taking away part of their personality (http://dagostorigby.hubpages.com/hub/School-UniformsA-Loss-of-Identity-or-A-Sense-of-Unity)

Overall, I do think that uniforms are necessary, despite my absolute hatred of them when having to wear one. They unite students and stop competition between clothes brands and ‘who has the best dress sense’. It stops low socioeconomic children feeling outcast by the fact that they cannot afford the latest clothing. Also, the fact that studies have shown that when wearing uniform, people are less likely to challenge leaders (teachers) and more likely to conform, could mean that wearing those annoying, itchy and ugly clothes, could in fact be beneficial to your education and stop bad behaviour in classrooms.

References:

http://www.tonypandycollege.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Conformity.pdf

http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html

http://www.prisonexp.org

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10 thoughts on “School Uniform: Is it really necessary?

  1. I personally agree with you Becky, that uniforms are necessary for getting rid of competition between the fashionistas of the school, as well as making students focus on their work as opposed to the newest pair of shoes. Dra (2005) found that mandatory uniform in schools produced improvement in rates of attendance, graduation, and suspension, however not in academic proficiency or expulsion rates in schools with such uniform policies.
    Brunsma & Rockquemore (2010) however indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems, or attendance. They also found a negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement. Therefore uniform policies may indirectly affect school environment and student outcomes by providing a visible and public symbol of commitment to school improvement and reform.

  2. You have raised a really interesting disuccsion point here in that school uniforms are, as you state, the crux of social conformity within the school enviornment. Linking to my blog from last week, through theory I analysed how conformity is potentially killing creativity within children. Creativity is the process of having originial ideas (Robinson, 2007) and interestingly a negative correlation has been found between these two factors (Günçer and Oral, 1993). In other words, the more likely you are to conform to authority and societal rules, the less able (or perhaps the less willing) you become of thinking of novel ideas. Applying this idea to school uniform potentially results in revelational findings, as from as young as 4 years old we instill the message of conformity through unidviudalised clothing at school. So where conformity in the classroom may be benefical, as you highlight for a teacher to manage control, uniforms in themselves could be reducing the creativity levels of our children! Surely this isn’t good…

    Robinson, K. (2007). Do schools kill creativity. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

    Günçer, B., & Oral, G. (1993). Relationship between creativity and nonconformity to school discipline as perceived by teachers of Turkish elementary school children, by controlling for their grade and sex. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 20(3), 208-214. Retrieved from: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1994-15508-001

  3. This is an interesting topic, I was never really a fan of school uniforms, being forced to wear a school jumper and tie in the summer during heatwaves didnt really appeal to me. However in hindsight they do serve an important role in uniting the student population and reducing one of the most damaging aspects of school education, bullying

    Cases of bullying as a result of appearance are prominent with 37% of students surveyed reporting that at one time they have been bullied as result of their clothing (Swearer et al, 2007). Unsurprisingly children who are bullied during school tend to suffer academically as well (Fowler, 2011). So by removing the potential for clothing to become a source of bullying, the incidents of bullying in schools should decrease leading to higher academic achievement for pupils.

  4. I have a confession to make – I actually enjoyed the fact I wore school uniform. I am pretty lazy – and I have never liked wearing expensive clothes, so I never had an issue with it! But I have to say I don’t think uniform is particularly necessary. There has been research from questionnaires that’s claimed students “enjoy the sense of pride they get from wearing a smart uniform, and the smarter the better,” (Harris, 2007), but if you look a little closer, you will find that the research was sponsored by the Schoolwear Association (naughty naughty), which makes me doubt the validity. I think there is no irrefutable evidence that uniform supports better behavior, more learning, and a better atmosphere, and more importantly no reliable psychological based evidence, particularly as there are many examples of schools that get fantastic results with non-uniform, such as King Edward IV community college in Devon, who have had great results and “focus on the important issues of teaching and learning”, as before they were non-uniform they found “Too many conversations with students were about tucking shirts in”.
    References:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jan/18/school-uniform-results
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-467353/School-uniform-improves-pupils-behaviour-school.html

  5. This is a good topic to pick as I remember it was always a big debate in our school. I remember how in sixth form people would become really aware of what they were going to wear at school to the point where some of us wished we could just have a uniform back. You mention how conformity in schools caused by the wearing of school uniform will help create more focus and help teachers keep control of students. However, I think that conformity can also create a few issues within school. For one I believe that a little bit of competition between students in schools can be an incentive to work harder at the task. Gneezy and Rustichini (2004) found that when children ran a race competitively the mean time of completion decreased from the non-competitive run showing that performance increased when competition was involved. Increasing conformity and reducing competition may be great for controlling behaviour but not necessarily great for performance.
    It is also mentioned that conformity decreases leadership ability but this can have a detrimental effect on a student’s ability to work independently. If a person is unable to lead and judge for themselves what they should be doing then when working alone they are going to struggle, as they have no one to rely on to push them in the right direction. This in turn will affect the student’s ability to achieve. Individuals with an internal locus of control, and can work independently will have more academic success. (Martinez, 1994).

    References

    Gneezy,U., & Rustichini, A. (2004). Gender and Competition at a Young Age. The American Economic Review, 94(2), 377-381.

    Martinez, J. C. (1994). Perceived control and feedback in judgment and memory. Journal of Research in Personality, 28(3), 374-381.

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