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.