« Drug money | Main | Super thanks! »

Sunday, February 01, 2004

School uniforms

It's odd, what one finds oneself blogging about.   I had no intention of writing today about school uniforms.  But Will Baude at Crescat Sententia has a pair of posts up about school uniforms, in the later of which he says:

The argument for school uniforms rests on two logical steps, both of which I think are incorrect. The first step is believing that more discipline, uniformity, order, or whatnot are a good thing in our public schools. The second step is believing that school uniforms will supply that.

Will, a good libertarian (whom, despite his protests to the contrary, I quite often agree with — I just don't post my "ditto, Will!" observations), argues persuasively that neither reason justifies school uniforms.  Beldar's daughter Sarah at school in her uniformAnd Will's co-blogger Amanda Butler has also weighed in on the issue, arguing that uniforms are not crucial to "producing 'intelligent, well mannered, critically thinking citizens.'"  The contrary view is argued eloquently by Steve at Southern Appeal in his own pair of posts

I'm not sure about discipline; I leave that debate to Will, Amanda, and Steve.  But as the father of an about-to-be 13-year-old daughter who attends a public middle school that requires school uniforms, I'm in favor of them for an altogether different reason than discipline per se. 

Without uniforms, teens and pre-teens — especially, but not only, the girls — obsess about fashion.  Sarah strikes a fashion pose in preparation for HalloweenAnd on a net basis, it's just not a productive obsession.  For all but the coolest richest cutting-edge kids, in fact, it's a source not only of distraction from schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but also of jealousy, embarrassment, insecurity, resentment, and yes, tears. 

The degree to which young teens and pre-teens fall prey to this obsession may seem wildly disproportionate to a well-balanced adult, but that's the point — we're not dealing with well-balanced adults. 

Growing up — dealing with all the other hurdles of adolescence, including fashion outside of school — is hard enough.  Deciding whether her chosen outfit for the day is going to ruin her popularity, fortunately, is something neither my daughter nor any other young teen at her school has to deal with. 

Will argues that "fashion and politics are two things that add to students' education rather than subtracting from them."  But there are plenty enough other decisions that confront her every day for me to be quite comfortable that she and her fellow students are in no danger of becoming "happy little calculus drones" despite their school uniforms.

Stereotypes aside, boys also can feel fashion pressures.  I've got two sons as well, by the way — the older of which is at a public high school that doesn't require uniforms.  He's fortunately somewhat better able to deal with making fashion decisions as a tenth grader than my daughter is as a seventh grader. 

And especially for boys, but also for girls, demure school uniforms frankly dampen (although they certainly can't, and shouldn't, stop) the degree of distraction that comes with the opposite sex transforming from "yucky" to "dreamy." 

I admit to being overprotective of my daughters, like most daddies.  Watching a daughter become a woman is a complicated subject for us dads.  I've blogged about that subject; interestingly enough, and also frighteningly to me, Adam and his little sister Molly leaving for school that post included a G-rated but fairly sexy .jpg reproduction of the recent Rolling Stone cover featuring the Olsen Twins that Google's image search function has mysteriously promoted to about page 4 in its search listings for them, and that image is now driving about 500 additional hits a day to my site from all over the world.

For my two youngest kids who are still in elementary school, uniforms aren't a big deal either way.  But as someone who was scared to death by the promos for the movie "Thirteen," I'm frankly glad my daughter's middle school requires uniforms.  Surely even a libertarian can grant some grace to a dad who doesn't want to see his daughters (or his sons) pressed into premature sexuality by fashion-driven peer pressure!


Posted by Beldar at 05:10 PM in Current Affairs, Family | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to School uniforms and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


The comments to this entry are closed.