Ahh … September. The leaves begin to change, the temperature begins to fall, and across the country millions of children and young adults resume their long, hard trek through our nation’s educational system.
Right here in Philadelphia, that educational system has a new wrinkle, with the policy of mandatory school uniforms finally taking effect in the city’s public schools.
Many of our own brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and nieces and nephews are being forced to wear uniforms to school for the first time in their lives. And many of these children are extremely upset at being told what they can and can’t wear. Many adults, and especially children, love to cry foul over school uniforms, citing loss of individuality and personal freedom as reasons against school uniforms.
Here’s a news flash for all those against school uniforms: children have very little personal freedom to begin with, and the good done by forcing students to wear uniforms far outweighs any trauma caused by the loss of wearing halter tops to freshman English.
For example, elementary and middle school students in Long Beach, Calif. have been required to wear uniforms since 1994. According to the Department of Education, in the year after the program took effect, the school district found overall school crime down 36 percent, with a 51 percent decrease in fights.
According to Maria Raia, whose son attends school in Philadelphia, uniforms are a good idea.
“Personally, I have always liked the idea of uniforms in schools. Even when I had to wear one,” said Raia. “Uniforms take away the anxiety one would normally feel when getting dressed for school.”
Though no one would suggest that uniforms are a cure-all for the ills of modern schools, it is certainly a step in the right direction. School uniforms help quell the jealousy and violence sparked when one student has a more expensive pair of shoes than another or the distraction caused from a pair of too-short shorts or profanity-laced T-shirt.
School uniforms are a way to teach discipline. Anyone who doubts this need only look at one of the most disciplined organizations in the country today: the U.S. Military. These men and women find a sense of structure and discipline in uniform, and also find a sense of pride and camaraderie with others who wear it.
Violence has become an epidemic in American schools, and has received national attention over the past few years with incidents at Santee, Calif., Williamsport, Pa. and especially Littleton, Colo., forcing us to take a long, hard look at this problem.
While school uniforms might not be the final piece of the puzzle in stopping school violence, it is still some part of the solution. Only when uniforms, in conjunction with other anti-violence efforts, take root across the nation will our school children truly be safe.