Saturday, 28 January 2012

out of uniform

a school that forces kids to wear roman sandals is a school that hates children. seriously? these are the ugliest and most uncomfortable footwear ever designed. what torturer designed them i don't know or care, but i don't see why our kids should be lumped with. for goodness sake, i had to wear these monstrosities when i went to school. have there been no acceptable innovations in footwear design in 30 years that would be acceptable to persons in charge of deciding on school uniform?

i've never been a supporter of uniforms. hated them when i had to wear them, hate that my own kids have to wear them. i hate the loss of individuality, the conformity of it all. to me, it teaches kids that they have to lose anything which makes them different, individual and their own person. they lose their personal identity to the identity of the institution forcing the uniform on them.

i understand the arguments for them, especially for school age children, around the peer pressure to dress in fashionable and expensive clothes. uniforms are apparently the cheaper option. but given that kids need clothes for after school and socialising anyway, i don't know that there is that much saving. maybe uniforms are the better option for some people, but no, i still hate them.

our uniforms were so uncomfortable. disgusting drab brown tunics. and for PE, we had to wear rompers. rompers are truly worse than roman sandals, if that's at all possible. thank goodness sports uniforms have evolved to something more decent. i think the only way to ensure our kids have decent uniforms (if they must have uniforms at all) is to force all the adults in the institution to wear it as well. let's watch the principals and teachers being forced to push their feet into roman sandals, and i bet that rule would be gone in a day.

to add insult to injury, our teachers are being forced to spend their time policing these uniforms, when they really should be spending that energy on teaching our kids. ok, with the basic uniform, i can accept that they have to enforce it otherwise there would be no point. but to police the roman sandals, and to punish kids if they aren't wearing them? that is just a total waste of time. it's certainly not how i want my tax dollars being spent.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely ADORED my Roman sandals (just to throw a different perspective out there!). I love routine, so being able to wear the same thing every day for four years without being thought of as weird - well it was very awesome indeed.


Lara said...

When I was teaching I had problems with uniforms too. I absolutely hated having to police them, it seemed stupid and a waste of my time. I would rather be focussed on kids learning and policing the horrible things they say and do to each other than what they're wearing.

After a couple of years I picked up that in policing uniform and focussing on the small things teachers could enforce behaviour standards and many other disruptive behaviours would not show themselves.

Still, it always felt like we were stamping out kids individuality and self expression.

The only way to be able to impart understanding of a new concept to a group of about 30 teenagers at one time is to have control of their behaviour. To do this the teacher must be dominant, and to be dominant you have to control every little diversion from your expectation of their behaviour. It's a horrible system and it will always be this way as long as we insist on having large class sizes.

Class sizes of 15 or less would, I think, be ideal. But this would involve a doubling of teaching staff, a significant investment. And we all know teachers have it too easy already, only those who can't do teach, and they're already overpaid with too long holidays.

Anyway, suffice to say I'm not teaching anymore.

Brooke No-Nonsense said...

Leather shoes? So unnecessary. I feel sorry for the cattle.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

My 13 year-old starts at a non-uniform high school next week. As a teenager I also loathed my uniform and entirely undertsand her desire to not have to wear one. It wasn't the uniform items so much as the loss of individuality and choice.

In conversation with a neighbour, when she learned the school was non-uniform, she disapprovingly said, "But uniforms are great levellers."

Is that what school is for? To level people?

(In fact some schools have uniforms to express their elitism.)

Additionally, with the welcome advent of large-scale clothes recycling there is no ecomomic argument for uniforms either.

Anonymous said...

I loved having a uniform at high school. It meant that no-one judged me on what I wore. I didn't have to jump through ridiculous hoops to try and figure out what the right clothes were. I didn't have to stress about figuring out the secret fashion code that cool kids seemed to just know. The uniform was comfortable and practical. I wore the same clothes every day without thought to what I looked like. At intermediate, I had been ridiculed for wearing tracksuit pants when most girls were wearing mini-skirts. To go to high school and not have to think about clothes at all was a great relief.

There's also the money element. I remember one student on mufti day turning up in clothes that were clearly hand me downs of hand me downs. Her clothes weren't a personal expression of anything, they were just what little she had. She told me later that she hated mufti days and wished we didn't have to have them.

If some kids prefer to go to schools without uniforms, that's great, but some kids really enjoy them. Some kids find that uniforms mean you are able to express your personal identity, because people get to know you without judging you on the basis of appearance.

- Elley

stargazer said...

thanx everyone for the comments. i know everyone has a different experience of uniforms, and i really appreciate you sharing your experiences. i have to say that i did really struggle with mufti days when i was wearing a uniform, but once we moved out of uniform in 6th & 7th form, i didn't really struggle at all. because i was never even close to being in the "in-group", i didn't feel the pressure of having to be fashionable or cool. i couldn't do skirts as a muslim. i think i just lived in jeans and tops. but i can imagine that other people do feel that pressure and it's difficult for them.

thing is, even within a uniform, there's variation in terms of length of skirts, tightness/fitting etc. and who gets a new set of uniform clothing every year, vs those who are trying to make the clothes last for more than that. so, in third having to wear uniforms that are 3 sizes too big in the hope that it'll last.

@lindsay: yes, i agree with you. i don't want my kids to be "levelled". i want them to learn to critical thinking, to question authority and challenge injustice. to break down stereotypes and unhealthy cultural traditions because they know they don't have to conform. but also really appreciate what you're saying lara, about trying to control the class. what you've said about class sizes is about the healthiest suggestion to deal with all of this that i've seen.

and LL, adoring roman sandals? are you sure you're not one of the people who's deciding on uniforms for our kids :)

Alice said...

I just wanted to add a vote to the love Roman sandals camp too - not only because I truly like the way the way they look, but also because the original ones are still made in NZ, and how many pairs of NZ-made shoes cost less than $50?

(And once I got them to make me some custom made ones, and they did, in only three days, and they were the same price as all their other ones...)

E.Volving said...

As both a single parent and someone who works in social services I think uniforms are unjustifiably expensive and can become barriers to families with multiple children and on low incomes keeping kids in education.

To kit my son out in a new uniform for a public high school was in the region of $600, the second hand options were really badly worn and so buying new was the only alternative, there is no way it costs me less to have him in uniform than his personal clothes (obviously this is due to the terrible conditions most of our cheap fashionable clothes are manufactured in, but I doubt his uniform is a fairtrade option which would justify the price). In addition to this kids grow rapidly at this age there is no guarantee you wont be buying it all again in 18 months and our local high school changed it's uniform 3 times over 8 years meaning much of it couldnt be passed down to younger kids in the family. Even the rules that kids cant wear non uniform jackets so families have to pay $150 for a jacket they cant use anywhere else or requiring leather/leather look shoes again quite big expense for something they get no use of outside school.
When we lived overseas each school had school colours and the supermarkets sold quite a big range of school uniform items for a few dollars each and kids could pick whatever clothing from their school colours they wanted, it gave them a lot more range, some choice and was way more affordable for parents.
It is really sad the unnecessary stress we put on families to purchase uniforms personally I think it is money that could be much better spent elsewhere by families.

Hugh said...

"I loved having a uniform at high school. It meant that no-one judged me on what I wore."

If that was truly the case you were lucky enough to go to a non-judgemental high school. If everybody is forced to wear the same thing the judgement just moves to other aspects of appearance - hair, bags, jewelry (for girls).

Marc said...
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Marc said...
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anthea said...

The thing that bothers me about people saying that school uniforms remove obvious income inequalities is how often the fact that uniforms are designed for a particular body size/shape, with particular ability levels in mind and often dividing children along normative gender lines.

I missed the introduction of blazers by one year at high school, and thank god because they were designed for flat chests, and I was at least a couple of cup sizes larger than most of my peers and I'd have ended up wearing it open with folds of fabric bunched under my arms. The kid for whom it is a perfect fit may not enjoy wearing a uniform - which is an opinion I have sympathy with, but their experience is going to be quite different to that of a kid for whom the uniform sets of sensory issues, or is not comfortable wearing clothes clearly associated with [assigned gender].

Of course, doing away with uniform doesn't solve this anyway - it means that kids with a sufficient level of family income and either sympathetic parents or control over their own budget are going to be better off, and the rest may well not be. I don't think we can solve this issue without eliminating poverty/substantially reducing income inequality. But I think this whole discussion is suffering from a severe case of assuming that making very different people do the same thing is equality.

anthea said...

(Sorry, by discussion I meant discussion on school uniform in general, not the comments to this blog post in particular...)

Katherine said...

Kids need seperate clothes for after school? I used to leave my uniform on til it was time to shower and go to bed. Granted, I didn't do much socialising after school, but I don't remember anyone else getting changed after, unless they had a job to go to.

My main peeve with the uniform was always the skirt that blew up in the wind, necessitating having ALL your books and things fit in your bag so that you had one hand free to open doors and such, and the other hand free to hold down your skirt. I agree teachers should abide by uniform regulations as well. But apart from that one (huge) issue you can count me as another who wasn't hugely bothered by the uniform.