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Author Topic: School Uniforms
Blayne Bradley
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You know when I was in my teens and I first heard of them I was "horrified" but now in my 20's and never having wore them I find myself warming to the idea "man that would be cool back then".

Maybe its anime effecting me, where do other people stand here.

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Vadon
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From a non-anime biased perspective, I hold the same position now as I did in public education. I don't mind either way. I see the merits in the arguments of both sides, but ultimately it didn't matter to me.
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Lyrhawn
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I agree with Vadon.

I see the arguments on both sides, and I think they both have some really good points. I'd be okay with either.

My only concern would be the undue burden that school uniforms might have on poor families.

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ketchupqueen
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Most SDs that require uniforms have an assistance program for families that really cannot afford them.
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Eduardo_Sauron
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Here in Brazil pretty much all schools (public or otherwise) demand uniforms, so using them always seemed one of those life's unavoidable things.
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Paul Goldner
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I'm against, because I don't think putting kids in the same clothes improves learning to the extent necessary to remove choice.

I understand that clothes can provide a distraction. But, in my experience (with 14-18 year old kids) the distraction is not substantial at all. During "spirit week," kids often wear ridiculously revealing outfits, and there's not a decline in classroom focus. At least not if you're a semi-competent teacher.

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Samprimary
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School uniforms are a great idea but I would have loathed them personally. Like, utterly.

But seriously they do a lot of things to help educational environments including but not limited to the improvement of social equity across socioeconomic lines.

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Paul Goldner
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Clothes are only a tool of expression. The same dynamics of socio-economic competition occurs with or without uniforms. I've been in schools with and without uniforms, and honestly, I can't say I saw a difference in how kids interacted with each other that I would attribute to the uniforms (how discipline was handled, yes).

If you can eliminate all expression, that you can remove socio-economic competition. Sounds great! Lets do that!

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AvidReader
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quote:
But seriously they do a lot of things to help educational environments including but not limited to the improvement of social equity across socioeconomic lines.
I guess I only see this happening if the school uniform means purchasing specific items from one distributor. When my sister went to private school (her birthday being after the September cut off for public school), we just had to get navy skirts of a certain length and white dress shirts.

Like no one's going to notice if one kid's came from Walmart and another's wearing Vera Wang? Would shoes fall under the same strict rules? How about purses in high school? Not to mention you'd have to ban jewelry, hair accessories, and make-up.

I just don't buy the argument, myself. I don't care for the basic premise that people should be uncomfortable with how much their parents make, rich or poor. And I don't care for the totalitarianism required to "fix" the problem - or believe it will work in practice.

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scholarette
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I don't care about the socioeconomic lines. What I care about is discipline. And if you are looking at a school with high gang membership, limiting expression of gang identifiers can make a difference in behavior. Yes they find a way around it (for example, shoe lace color) but at least it is not as blatant.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
My only concern would be the undue burden that school uniforms might have on poor families.
Once uniforms have been in place for a couple of years, there will always be a supply of hand me down uniforms, since kids keep out growing them.

When I was a kid, in boy scouts, almost no one bought a uniform when they first joined the troop. We had a huge closet full of hand-me-down uniforms to choose from, most of which were in almost new condition. But when Raymond was in scouts, we tried to establish the same kind of thing, and people looked at us like we were nuts. Their weren't going to allow their kids to wear hand-me-downs, and they weren't going to give up the clothes that they had paid for for free. I guess society has changed that way.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
quote:
But seriously they do a lot of things to help educational environments including but not limited to the improvement of social equity across socioeconomic lines.
I guess I only see this happening if the school uniform means purchasing specific items from one distributor. When my sister went to private school (her birthday being after the September cut off for public school), we just had to get navy skirts of a certain length and white dress shirts.
Yeap, it's a very specific school uniform. Like, not a dress code, but "you all have to wear the same thing"

the way in which this actually has been shown to effect behavior in schools, while just emerging, is ... completely fascinating.

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Samprimary
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Also, a school uniform set pretty much has to be complete. You can't go halfsies on it. Incomplete regulatory dress results in crazy things like Shoe Wars (american urban schools) and Cell Phone Holder Wars (japanese schools).
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aspectre
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Obviously the solution is mandatory shoe phones.
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Bella Bee
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quote:
I guess I only see this happening if the school uniform means purchasing specific items from one distributor...
Would shoes fall under the same strict rules? How about purses in high school? Not to mention you'd have to ban jewellery, hair accessories, and make-up.

I went to a state school where this was exactly the case.
It was a girls' school, and our uniform up to the age of 16, was school tartan skirt, regulation white shirt - if in doubt they would check the labels - green sweater with embroidered school badge, and a range of three tartan dresses in the summer. After I left, they even made a regulation school coat.
Available from exactly one local store and impossible to get anywhere else.
Shoes had to be black 'kickers', low heeled and, basically, frumpy.
And yes, there was a (very discrete) hardship fund.

Make-up, jewellery (except non-negotiable religious symbols) etc. were all against the rules - didn't always stop us wearing it, but if teachers noticed, they would make you take it off.
There were allowances made for Anabaptists and Muslims who had wear even more modest attire.

After sixteen, there was no uniform rule at all - you could wear what you liked.

The odd thing is, much as I griped about the uniform and the occasionally draconian measures the school went to the keep us in line over it - there really was very little snobbery.
No-one could tell by looking whether someone else lived in a hut or a castle because we all looked so similar most of the time.
You had to learn to stand out in other ways more related to the content of your mind and character.
By the time we were allowed to wear our own clothes, we all knew each other too well to be in competition over sartorial elegance.

So basically, I loathed uniform while I wore it, but I think (especially in a girls' school, which might otherwise be so bitchy) it made us all happier people in the long run.

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Paul Goldner
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"the way in which this actually has been shown to effect behavior in schools, while just emerging, is ... completely fascinating. "

And does any of this behavior change result in significantly improved learning in public schools?

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Lyrhawn
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I suspect this would be naturally limited regardless. If uniforms are designed to eliminate socioeconomic distinctions, then it's really only going to benefit the lower classes that couldn't compete and for whom the level playing field is designed to help.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
And does any of this behavior change result in significantly improved learning in public schools?

I'd be interested to know the answer to that question. It would seem to me to be useful information that would have an impact on my assessment of whether or not such school uniforms are a net pro or con.

---

Edited to add: Lyrhawn, maybe not. Certainly that expectation could bear out to be true, but I wouldn't be unduly surprised to find academic benefits to more than just those in the lowest SES brackets. I'd want to see where the numbers fell out.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
"the way in which this actually has been shown to effect behavior in schools, while just emerging, is ... completely fascinating. "

And does any of this behavior change result in significantly improved learning in public schools?

The answer is "probably" and it remains extremely contentious regardless since it is easy to hork up studies that show no real effect whatsoever on some types of these programs..

But here's an example of why I think the idea is fascinating: while we worm around trying to find causative factors, it's causing us to ask questions like "okay, so these comorbid factors are nuts, but my question is, do any associated improvements come more from how they alter student behavior, or from how they alter teacher behavior to students?"

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Paul Goldner
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Do you have some studies that show its uniform, and not other factors, that influence student learning, across different school districts?

As I've said, I've been in both types of schools, and I'm highly skeptical of the idea that dressing kids the same, by itself, improves the atmosphere in such a way that it improves learning.

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AvidReader
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I'm glad it works in some places for some people. But are we really doing these kids any favors if we can condition them to learn well (which most likely consits of scoring well on standardized tests) as long as we create an artificial environment for them to do it in? Does it end up doing them any good after school, and how would we even agree to a definition of "doing well" in this context?

It just seems so ... nebulous.

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Teshi
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I wore a uniform until I was nearly ten. It wasn't a straight jacket. Girls wore a grey skirt, boys grey pants, a white shirt and then the purple school sweater if it was cold. In the summer there were shorts for boys and a summer dress for the girls. This was in the far and distant past of thirteen years ago in Britain, though so imagine girls might be able to wear pants now.

It never bothered me. Not once. It was what you wore to school and everyone did it. I never felt like my individuality was being trompled on. When I moved to Canada I made the transition to wearing no uniform pretty much without issue, except I found myself not particularly interested in clothes, but I know for a fact most of this was me. I was the kid who never changed out of her uniform. It was playclothes for me as well as school clothes.

It never felt like I was "dressing the same" as everyone else. We all had different skirts and shoes and hair and hairbands and barettes etc. It felt like I was part of the school.

There were second hand sales all the time for the sweaters and you could pick up a white shirt and grey pants everywhere since they were so standard. There were actually sort of the cheapest thing to buy and every one passed their clothes around to younger friends and family. I wore my brother's sweaters, for example, and my grey skirts I inherited from older friends.

Did it change the way the school behaved or learnt? I have no idea, since I have nothing to compare it to. I don't remember anyone saying anything about my clothes or anyone else's clothes, so maybe they solved one issue at least.

It was certainly easier in the morning, though. What do I wear? Oop, I wear my uniform!

quote:
as long as we create an artificial environment for them to do it in?
School is always an artificial environment. Much of the world is an artificial environment with dress codes, rules of behavior etc. Having dress codes in school isn't all that different from the generally very artificial environment 95% of schools create.
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andi330
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Not that this has anything to do with school uniforms, we never went to that in my school district though it was discussed. But I agree that school is an artificial environment. My school even went so far as to move to block scheduling (I believe we made the transition when I was in 10th grade so it would have been the 95-96 school year). They claimed that the transition was to better prepare students for college, where they would have to spend longer periods of time in class. So, we had 90 minute classes in every subject except the period that coincided with lunch which was shorter and occurred every day.

The overwhelming majority of my undergraduate college courses were 50 minutes long. The length of all my classes in high school prior to the move to block scheduling.

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AvidReader
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quote:
School is always an artificial environment.
Maybe that was why I hated it. [Dont Know]
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anonymous
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I really don't care about wearing a uniform. I have to wear one for work, and it doesn't trouble me. But school uniforms? Every one I've ever seen calls for a knee-length or shorter pleated skirt for females and a white button-down shirt, tucked in. I am short, chubby, and I have thick legs. First, skirts have always been uncomfortable for me because my thighs rub together. Second, the whole look is unflattering for someone with my body-type. The slightly-flared skirt makes my upper legs look larger; wherever the end of the skirt falls draws the eye, and the tucked-in white shirt showcases my gut while making my waist look non-existent. In ordinary clothes or in uniforms like my work uniform, I can opt for something acceptable that's also fairly comfortable and doesn't cause me to look like a beached whale. I feel bad for the little girls who aren't rail-thin I see in school uniforms. Isn't it hard enough to be a fat kid without having to wear clothes that make it look worse? And why should girls have to wear skirts as part of the uniform anyway?
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
But are we really doing these kids any favors if we can condition them to learn well ... as long as we create an artificial environment for them to do it in?

Parallels can be made to jobs with dress codes.
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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by anonymous:
And why should girls have to wear skirts as part of the uniform anyway?

In the schools I know of with uniforms, girls have the option of wearing skirts or pants.
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AvidReader
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quote:
Parallels can be made to jobs with dress codes.
That people choose to work with for the sake of a paycheck. How many kids get to choose what school they attend or receive a tangible reward for it?

My answer is really simple. I don't like it. I don't care what the argument for it is. In the end, I just have a visceral, negative reaction to the idea.

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andi330
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I think that's a shame. Because I can see the need for teaching students how to dress properly. My organization has a dress code. It's not a uniform. As long as whatever you choose to wear falls within specific guidelines you can wear what you want. My organization still regularly sends ADULTS home (we don't employ anyone under the age of 18 in the call center) because they are not dressed properly. If adults are incapable of choosing work appropriate clothing on a regular basis, how can we expect our children to? And yes, I am aware that parents should be aware of what their children are wearing to school and enforce appropriate attire, but many are not, either because they just don't care, or they leave for work before their children leave for school, or perhaps because their child changes clothes after they leave the house.

My high school used to call parents if their children weren't dressed appropriately, most didn't care, or couldn't leave work to come get said child from school to change clothes. The child was then made to wear their gym uniform for the rest of the day. Something much less attractive than a basic school uniform, and often not seasonally appropriate since gym uniforms are usually shorts and a t-shirt and we had three different buildings in my high school. No student ever had all of their classes in only one building, which meant that in winter, in below freezing temperatures, there were students wearing flimsy shorts and t-shirts outside between classes. Many school systems have given up on parents ensuring that their children dress appropriately. It's sad, but this is the response that works best for the school system as a whole. If all students are required to wear the same basic thing, there's little chance that inappropriate dress will be a problem.

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neo-dragon
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I don't see what the big deal is either way. I can see pros and cons for either side, and frankly, having to wear a uniform doesn't seem like very much to ask. If you want to express yourself as an individual you could, I don't know, develop a personality? Explore artistic expression? School uniforms are the norm in so many other cultures and it doesn't seem to have robbed their children of anything.
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Paul Goldner
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"I think that's a shame. Because I can see the need for teaching students how to dress properly."

There is a difference between "proper dress for school," and "school uniform," and its a rather large gaping chasm of a difference.

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imogen
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My high school (all girls) had a very strict uniform. It was only available from the school, so no variation allowed. No makeup, no jewellry, very strict rules as to hairstyles (even the hair ties had to be uniform!).

I loved it.

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andi330
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
"I think that's a shame. Because I can see the need for teaching students how to dress properly."

There is a difference between "proper dress for school," and "school uniform," and its a rather large gaping chasm of a difference.

This is perhaps true, but a school of over 1000 kids can have a hard time enforcing that dress code, particularly when there is little support from the parents. My parents would never have let me leave the house (edit) dressed inappropriately, but there were regularly large numbers of students who dressed like they were advertising sex (and that's both male and female here, I don't want to be accused of being sexist). There's only so much the school can do without requiring a specific dress.

I had several friends in private school to had to wear uniforms. It didn't have any real negative impact on their lives, in fact many of them preferred it.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
My answer is really simple. I don't like it. I don't care what the argument for it is. In the end, I just have a visceral, negative reaction to the idea.

I have an even stronger, extremely visceral and negative reaction to the idea. Yet I cannot ignore the argument for it, or the analysis of it in practice, because of that. I cannot bias myself through emotion this way.

And study it I did, in response to a query fresh on the heels of an implementation of an IB program. The question was whether or not our district could benefit from a uniform program, since they seemed to create (or simply be heavily correlated with, as I stressed) very positive improvements in schools at a minimal cost. These are exactly the things schools want to look for.

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Paul Goldner
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Can you actually provide any of this evidence? Or do we have to take your word for it?
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AvidReader
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quote:
The question was whether or not our district could benefit from a uniform program, since they seemed to create (or simply be heavily correlated with, as I stressed) very positive improvements in schools at a minimal cost.
The biggest problem I have with this is that I very much doubt the school and I are using the same criteria for improvement. Doing well on standardized tests is meaningless if the students don't retain the information or understand what it means in relation to anything else. Fewer trips to the principal's office doesn't mean behavior is better; it could just be less obvious so it doesn't get far enough to be heard and corrected.

I just don't feel children can or should be quantified. They're not a product to be turned out on a giant conveyor belt. They're individuals who need to discover who they are and what drives them in life. They need to learn the skills to succeed - however they define success.

I guess I just see uniforms as a step closer to the industrialization of our schools and a step away from viewing children as unique individuals. Though my problem probably stems more from my issues with the school system than with uniforms in general.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Paul Goldner:
Can you actually provide any of this evidence? Or do we have to take your word for it?

The analysis of it in practice is already greatly present on the internet. Where its used, there are generally very very notable and worthwhile improvements. The very strong correlation should be noted. Study of the direct effects beyond correlation are a little harder to get to and a little hard for me to 'authoritatively' present unless I'm lucky and it can all be heavily cribbed off of EBSCO or if I can get access to a working scanner today.

The soft sell on it is to say that the conclusions of a 1988 longitudinal study on school uniforms (the Brunsma and Rockquemore NELS:88) were the last major studies not to come out in favor of the efficacy of school uniform programs. Their research was also extraordinarily flawed, yet to this day it is the study most often cited against school uniform programs. Studies and 'practice analysis' of uniform programs across schools both public and private in the United States since that point have consistently come up with remarkable results, with mean attendance and graduation rates rising even where they are falling (and expulsion rates rising) in the control schools. As a result, uniform mandates have been at the forefront of new attempts to massively reform underperforming or failing schools, such as in the DC area.

The correlation coefficients delineate what the uniforms do help with (school-wide attendance, school-wide graduation, decreasing confrontations between students and staff, reductions in vandalism and subordination, etc) and don't help with (test scores, drug use, etc)

Studies also showed that it is much much much better to have a straightforward uniform program (i.e., there is a specific uniform you must go purchase and it is the only kind of clothing you can wear) than to have a 'dress code' styled uniform program (i.e., limitations on styles and colors and/or a limitation on the types of garments, but not limitation to a uniform).

Certain studies from the california school system showed remarkable changes associated with the introduction of their uniform policies. Baltimore in particular is now so attached to the success of their uniform program that it is doubtful that they would cease the program even if they were to catch up to the rest of the nation in performance.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
I just don't feel children can or should be quantified. They're not a product to be turned out on a giant conveyor belt.

No, they're not. Neither does that mean, however, that we should not use the products of scientific study to determine the ways by which we can maximize their opportunities in life by providing them with an objectively better educational environment.

So, we should absolutely quantify away. We should quantify them until our fingers bleed.

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AvidReader
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quote:
school-wide attendance, school-wide graduation, decreasing confrontations between students and staff, reductions in vandalism and subordination, etc
Did the study find these results in schools without gang problems? It makes sense to me in schools with heavy gang activity, but it seems counterintuitive otherwise.
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Samprimary
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Gang activity not necessary for these factors to be influenced by something like uniforms. While uniforms are additionally helpful in disempowering gangs, they still have effects on these things when there are no gang colors to squash.

The vague overview of the concept is "uniforms create more student-body cohesion" and/or "uniforms create an environment which inspire more cooperation and professionalism on the part of the student," and stuff like that.

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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
[QUOTE]

I just don't feel children can or should be quantified. They're not a product to be turned out on a giant conveyor belt. They're individuals who need to discover who they are and what drives them in life.

Oh lord. It's just frickin' uniforms, not brainwashing. I've never met a kid who was any less a unique and creative individual just because he or she had to wear a uniform.
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Jamio
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Those of you who wore uniforms in school, couldn't you tell how affluent a person was by how their hair was done?
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Jamio:
Those of you who wore uniforms in school, couldn't you tell how affluent a person was by how their hair was done?

Not usually, no. Most of us wore ponytails.
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Jamio
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I just know that as a teenager I was very aware of the difference between my hair and that of girls who could afford professional styles, dyes, and salon-quality products. I don't know that I am very out of the ordinary,
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Belle
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Really is there all that much disparity in income levels between kids in the same school district? Most of the schools around here are pretty well segregated by socioeconomic status. A few schools might be mostly low-middle class with a few kids who live in pricey subdivisions on the edge of town...but rarely do you see the rich going to school with the poor.

My kid's school is pretty diverse, but it's unusual. It's a semi-rural area with some families who've lived out here for generations on family farm land and are land rich but cash poor and then there are people like us who moved in within the last ten years and are solid middle class.

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imogen
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by Jamio:
Those of you who wore uniforms in school, couldn't you tell how affluent a person was by how their hair was done?

Not usually, no. Most of us wore ponytails.
Yeah. Also there were rules: no hair dye, anything longer than shoulder length always tied back.

There were always ways of knowing how affluent other families were: the cars picking girls up was a big one.

But overall, I found school uniforms took the focus away from fashion at school: everyone looked the same (which was, to be honest, slightly daggy - it was not the most flattering uniform) and so there was no point commenting on/pointing out appearance.

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Teshi
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quote:
I guess I just see uniforms as a step closer to the industrialization of our schools and a step away from viewing children as unique individuals.
How do you explain countries where school uniforms are normal? Do those countries not turn out unique individuals?

My clothes do not determine who I am. If I get to that point, then I've lost my individuality anyway. Clothes do not control the individual, it is what the individual says and does that counts.

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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
quote:
I guess I just see uniforms as a step closer to the industrialization of our schools and a step away from viewing children as unique individuals.
How do you explain countries where school uniforms are normal? Do those countries not turn out unique individuals?

My clothes do not determine who I am. If I get to that point, then I've lost my individuality anyway. Clothes do not control the individual, it is what the individual says and does that counts.

That's exactly my point. The main argument against uniforms always seems to be "if you make kids dress the same they'll be robots!" Really? Do your clothes define your personality that much? Lots of countries do use uniforms in most if not all of their schools, and strangely enough their citizens aren't automatons. I don't know if they're any better off for having worn them, but I doubt that it's done any harm.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
Really is there all that much disparity in income levels between kids in the same school district?

Really unless you live in a remarkably homogenized or 'partitioned' society the answer is yes. In our district, there was a vast variety in our socioeconomic representation, because our schools were not open enrollment (which causes white flight) and were largely considered to be good (which prevents rich flight).

Now, in places like Darkest Kansas, where we see the strongest concentrations of a social order of cultural and economic patterns that drives wealth into cloistered and concentrated plateaus (think gated communities juxtaposed harshly against aging burbs) you will have this kind of partitioned society in the schools and big chunks of the student populace will all be from the same socioeconomic stratum. It's divided by distances. The schools have clear populations. In effect: This school is for the affluent kids. This school is for the lower middle class. This school is for mexicans.

The second type of region where you will have flat socioeconomic representation will be in regions where the schools are complete failures. The remote rural dakotas. Inner-city Baltimore before 2005. Inner-city District of Columbia ever. Where the other type of flattening is created by distances, this type of school has a representation created by desperation. If you can manage in any way, shape, or form to not have your children in these schools and you care even a little bit, you don't have your children in it. You pay to put them somewhere else. So the school is populated by the children of the economically desperate, nearly one hundred percent.

In these schools, there's no serious gulf in economics.

Everywhere else, you'll have at least one significant divide in students. In one school it will be the upper-uppers versus the lower-uppers (an elite school where some of the parents are practically gentrified wealth, versus the parents who are 'simply' affluent), in another school it will be upper-middle versus middle, in another it will be lower middle/working class versus working poor and immigrants.

Beyond that, even, in plenty of schools, though, like my own, you'll have a fair gamut. Rich to poor and all shades inbetween. I can imagine a fair quantity of posters here can attest to that. You will have dirt poor students in the same classes with tiers moving all the way up to profoundly affluent families. My first girlfriend in high school was the daughter of a billionaire and we hung out with my best friend, who lived life in conditions just a shade above camping in a lean-to. And it's sometimes profoundly evident and, especially in the primary school level moving up to and out of junior high, it is the source of manifest identity, segregation via affluence, and cruel primping of stature. Any parent who has had their kid horrified at the prospect of having to wear generic clothing vs. brand name clothing to school should be proximately familiar with the process.

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andi330
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
Really is there all that much disparity in income levels between kids in the same school district? Most of the schools around here are pretty well segregated by socioeconomic status. A few schools might be mostly low-middle class with a few kids who live in pricey subdivisions on the edge of town...but rarely do you see the rich going to school with the poor.

My kid's school is pretty diverse, but it's unusual. It's a semi-rural area with some families who've lived out here for generations on family farm land and are land rich but cash poor and then there are people like us who moved in within the last ten years and are solid middle class.

There can be. According to this website, the Groveton area of Northern, VA in Fairfax County had an estimated median gross income of $78,103 in 2007. Fort Hunt which is in the same school district had an estimated median income of $132,780 in 2007. Kids in these areas went to school together. In fact, I attended Groveton Elementary School, and went to Carl Sandburg Middle School (which was the former Fort Hunt High School). And keep in mind that these are the estimated median incomes for the areas. I had friends whose parents made much less than this, and some whose parents made much more.

I think the idea that you aren't going to see rich kids and poor kids going to school together is based on smaller areas. Even in major cities you do see people of the same class together, but there can also be a huge diversity. It all depends on where the boundary lines are drawn.

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