Since the second half of the 20th century, a vast majority of schools and educational institutions have preferred the implementation of strict uniform policies that require students to a wear an identical set of clothing. The uniformity often extends to a standard permitted hair style; what shoes, backpack and in some rare instances, inner garment to wear. Most recently, this age-old norm has been challenged by critics who view it as an obsolete notion that is retrogressive to say the least; this essay seeks to explain why students should not be compelled to wear uniforms to school.
School uniform policies offer a blanket approach that runs the risk of repressing the cultural diversity of students. A majority of schools that exist are set up in settings that are microcosms of diversity in race, ethnicity and culture (Maxwell & Aggleton, 2016, p.54). The inner-city schools found in the United States for example, consist of students from a wide array of diversity in races and ethnicity (Caucasian, Hispanic, African American and even Asian, just to name a few). A recent case of the blatant repression of culture and diversity occurred in Victoria, Australia when two schoolgirls of Sudanese descent were banned from wearing the cornrow hairstyle as it did not comply with the institution’s uniform policy. A huge public backlash followed from individuals who simply viewed these policies as discriminatory since they did not allow the students to embrace their diversity and identity.
Secondly, wearing school uniform in high school represses the desire by students to express their individual personalities and identity. Traditionally, uniforms served the sole purpose of homogenizing the entire student body to create a feeling of school membership. Contrary to this intended goal, the uniform has come to be seen by many students as a symbol of oppression and suppression of the right to self expression (Cha et al., 2017, p. 110). Adolescent students yearn to express themselves through their dressing, hair and facial decoration. The self-expression is evident in the dyeing of hair into different colors, wearing of tight ripped jeans and the liberal application of make-up. During adolescence, children mark the onset of the making of independent assessments and choices about their identity, the person they will be and how they intend to present themselves to the world. All this is directly stifled by a uniform policy.
While the restrictions in choice of a dressing may be justifiable (such as the wearing of leather shoes in a home economics module), discrimination and inequality have no place in high schools during this day and age. Schools should thus make an effort to cooperate and work with their student body to update and amend the present uniform policies, and strive to also seek feedback from the general public.