Over the last few weeks my Facebook news feed has been filled with my friends from the UK, the US and Canada sharing photos of their children starting school or heading back to school. Here in Australia our schools use the calendar year as our schooling timetable with our school year commencing after our summer holidays but our distant northern neighbours finish their summer holidays mid-August through to mid-September.
Earlier this year my first born son started school. On his first day we took the customary “first day of school” photos and like many parents these days we also showed them off on our Facebook wall for friends and family to see. And just like us, our friends and family around the country did the same with their children dressed up in the clean, shiny and new school uniforms to start the school year. That’s the kids starting Public School, Catholic School or Private School, and also from kindergarten through to high school students.
And that’s where I noticed the difference between the photos being shared back in late January, early February by my Australian connections, and those overseas connections that have just shared their photos. No school uniforms, or very few. My friends and family in the UK have uniforms in all types of schools but only those in the States and Canada who send their children to Catholic or Private School have their kids dressed up as so. So it got me thinking; is school uniform necessary in public schools?
I turned to my friend Eleanor Harrison who is a mother of three (with one in school) and who runs the popular Facebook page Fun For Kids – Western Sydney to see if I could get some feedback from the followers of that page. Of the 64 respondents when I last looked at the replies, all 64 were in favour of the school uniform, some even wished that the school their child attended had a stricter policy for the uniforms. Add to the 64 respondents the 30+ people who liked the question (implying they agree with uniform) or who liked the comments of those who responded to the question in favour without making a comment themselves, it would seem that in Western Sydney at the very least, uniform is by far more welcome than the non-uniform alternative.
One of the responders was mother of two (with one in school) Tracy Cauchi who replied this detailed response;
I like a uniform.
*Firstly it cost less
*saves their clothes for good
*no need to keep up with fashion
*no fuss deciding what to wear
*no teasing for choice of clothing
*easy to see that the children belong to the school
*teaches children a set of standards to follow (like we do as an adult).
Many of those points that she mentioned were echoed in many of the other responses where there was a detailed comment left on the page. Not having to keep up with the latest fashion, no fuss deciding what to wear, no class war divisions between those who wear popular brand name clothes versus cheaper non-branded clothes, and developing a sense of pride were amongst the top comments made.
As most of my overseas friends sharing these recent back to school photos, especially with the non-uniformed children are the guys in my Dad Bloggers group, I raised the topic with them. The results were mixed between those who liked the idea of having them even if the school their children attend doesn’t have them, and those who were opposed to school uniforms.
Freelance writer Aaron Gouveia from The Daddy Files wrote;
“I would never be in favor of school uniforms in a public school. I don’t like the uniformity and I just think it’s unnecessary. A dress code (no tube tops, daisy dukes, shirts with drugs/alcohol) I get. No problem. But otherwise, let kids dress how they want. Everyone being forced to look the same seems creepy to me.”
Later in the conversation in response to a comment about the class wars of those who wear the expensive brand name clothes versus those who don’t he added;
“Kids will also always know who the haves and have not are, even with uniforms.”
And in response to clothes being a distraction;
“That’s where we differ. I think wardrobe has very little effect on classroom learning.”
Children’s author and artist Chris Routly of The Daddy Doctrines wrote;
“My kid is going to public school (tomorrow!), and part of me would love for there to be uniforms. But another part of me likes being able to dress him how I want. I’m already mourning that the “no hats” rule is going to mean he won’t get to wear his adorable cap all the time any more.”
I had to quiz him on the “no hats” rule which to many Australians would be the complete opposite to what we know in this country with the schools having a “no hat, no play” or “no hat, play in the shade” policy to protect our children from the harsh sun. It seems that in the US, the “no hats” policy is based on gang affiliation plus the notion of hats being worn inside the classroom as being disrespectful. Of course, even in Australia where we have the “no hat, no play” policy, all children take their hats off before entering the classroom so maybe the US school system could learn from the respect taught in our schools. I’m being flippant there, but it does seem crazy to me that hats would be banned.
Joining Chris in being a fan of uniforms was Mike Crider of Twin Dad Talks who is a school principal who use to teach at a school that had uniforms and he likes that better. Of those dads from the US and Canada who do have children in public schools that wear school uniforms, most were in favour and the main reason was taking away the decision of what to wear each day.
For me, there’s a bias that I have towards the accepted practice of wearing school uniform because I grew up wearing one throughout my school years. And for all those positive reasons given, that is why I am also in favour of the school uniform. Of course where I draw the line is with those schools that extend the school uniform policy to include hair. From the boy over in New Zealand who had to take his school to court to allow him to have long hair (neatly tied back at school), to the girl in the Christian School who was removed from her Year 10 class for dying her hair a natural colour, schools are taking the uniformity to a level that I don’t agree with.
And like many of the mothers who responded to the question raised on my friend’s Facebook page, I would like to see a stricter policy for the public school uniforms, but only in relation to the shirts, shorts, pants, dresses, jackets, jumpers (sweaters), blazers (where worn), socks and shoes leaving boys to be able to have long hair or no hair if they wish, and girls being able to dye their hair whatever colour they wish. Actually, I was just reminded as I wrote “or no hair” for the boys that a young girl in the US was suspended earlier this year for shaving her head. My no hair policy (if the child wants to shave their head) extends to the young ladies just as my long hair policy would be granted for the boys.
So what do you think? Do your kids wear school uniforms? If so, do you like them wearing it? If not, would you like them to have a school uniform? Give me your thoughts…