Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Local Columnist Appreciation | Another Trygve »

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The One Form

posted by on September 4 at 9:58 AM

history_boys_1121.jpg School uniforms are rational. Why? Because they greatly reduce the class stress caused by teen fashions, by flashy back-to-school items.

ELIZABETH, N.J., Aug. 30 Many public schools are supplying their students with an ever-growing list of essentials that go far beyond textbooks to include scientific calculators, personal laptops and free breakfast.

Now they are dressing them, too.

The Elizabeth school district has spent more than $2 million since January 2006 to buy navy blazers, khaki pants, polo shirts, gym shorts and even socks as part of a new policy to put all its students in uniforms.

The district, which serves mostly poor and minority families, has outfitted more than 9,000 students nearly half its enrollment so far as it phases in the uniforms a few schools at a time over five years to spread out the cost.

Another advantage to school uniforms is they weaken the illusion that individuality (or an identity) can be bought. And those most harmed by this illusion are in the class at the bottom of society.

RSS icon Comments


You should have stuck with this picture:

What, they couldn't get a kid in a wheelchair for that picture? Those prejudice bastards!

Posted by JC | September 4, 2007 10:24 AM

School uniforms only work if they include shoes. If the kids buy their own shoes then all class bets are off.

Posted by monkey | September 4, 2007 10:27 AM

the history boys!!!

Posted by infrequent | September 4, 2007 10:30 AM

There's other tells of class, besides clothes. People will still be able to tell, and still be little fuckers. Kids are cruel because not all parents are great, and any inadequacies they have are magnified in the offspring (until said offspring grow up and learn to be less openly officious). Uniforms won't change that.
Though back when I was in elementary school wearing Value Village peach corduroys and everyone else was in blue jeans, I would have appreciated a fuckin' uniform.

Posted by christopher | September 4, 2007 10:37 AM

everybody buys their identities to varying degrees. it may not turn out exactly as planned, and it's by no means an exclusive way to build your identity, but to pretend it isn't significant doesn't make any sense to me. more to the point, i believe school uniforms make things more easy for both teachers and students. In the end though, you end up just magnifying the problems elsewhere. you might as well deal with the issues where they occur. bubbles of any kind rarely make any sense.

Posted by Andreas | September 4, 2007 10:41 AM

Uniforms are a great idea! But why stop with schools? Let's just make EVERYBODY wear uniforms! No more class issues! EVERYBODY WINS!

err, wait... nevermind. Let's just stick to those second-class citizens who can't vote.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | September 4, 2007 10:46 AM

People will still find subtle ways to distinguish themselves. Designer uniforms being the most obvious choice, shoes being another good example.

Better yet, why not actually TEACH students about the inequalities in the American class system, and maybe inspire the change from within...?

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | September 4, 2007 10:50 AM

If the effect of mandatory school uniforms is to make every school kid in America look like a member of a retro 80's British electro pop band, then I'm all for it.

Posted by E. Steven | September 4, 2007 11:02 AM

Shoes, hairstyles, designer purses, prada backpacks, iPhones...

Posted by poo poo | September 4, 2007 11:02 AM

As someone who hated wearing even some slight form of uniform in school, I (mostly) agree with Charles here.

I only disagree on the hair-splitting phenomenon of people who only spend money on clothes, which slightly warps the idea that better clothes = richer. But again, hair splitting.

This still won't stop nerds/geeks from being beat up on or anything, but it does some form of neutralization. Better than none.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | September 4, 2007 11:06 AM

I think it's funny that the drive for school uniforms mostly comes from conservatives, who claim we live in a classless society. And who further claim that distinctions of wealth are not a form of oppression.

So now are they admitting that class exists, but saying they just want to paper it over so it doesn't show so much? Or do they expect to separate the classes further with 'school choice?' Maybe the power of wealth is so secure that they no longer need to worry that class consciousness is a threat.

Posted by elenchos | September 4, 2007 11:19 AM

i dont think uniforms are so great. poor people would still be poor and would still find constant reminders of that.

i propose instead that we severely reduce janitorial activity in schools and make the kids take turns engaging in the group activity of cleaning part of the school after classes are over like they do in japan. this teaches kids something essential about being human, which is the physical and hopefully the metaphorical mess we leave behind. it shows us that everyone should be involved in cleaning our acts up, no matter what our position in society.

it brings everybody down to the same level, no one is exempt.

Posted by Cale | September 4, 2007 11:22 AM

I went to schools with and without uniforms, and am in favor of them. The class issues may still exist to some degree, but I'm convinced they're more muted in a uniformed environment. Also, in the uniformed environment, I somehow spent marginally less time distractedly fantasizing about banging senseless the girl sitting next to me, which occupied entirely too much of my adolescent brainspace at other times.

Posted by tsm | September 4, 2007 11:33 AM

Let's not forgot the parents. My school uniform was made out of some indestructible polyester fabric. I'd come home all covered in shit and my mom would throw it all in the machine - pants, blazer, tie, everything - and it came out clean and pressed. You couldn't remove the crease from the front of the pants if you ironed it flat.

Posted by gavingourley | September 4, 2007 12:04 PM

elenchos- is it really coming from conservatives? Most times I hear it brought up, it's in the politically neutral topic of trying to ablate the bullying problem. But if you're following the news more closely than I, maybe you know better. Give some examples.

Posted by christopher | September 4, 2007 12:23 PM

No khaki pants! Agh, fuck. All navy is the way to go.

Posted by Gloria | September 4, 2007 1:57 PM

"Give some examples?"

Well since you asked me so nicely, I have to ask: why? Should I Google it for you because you're my friend? Is it because of how much I like you? Because I want to reciprocate all the examples you gave to support your claim that it's a politically neutral position?

Fuck off.

Posted by elenchos | September 4, 2007 2:02 PM

> School uniforms are rational. Why? Because they greatly reduce the class stress caused by teen fashions, by flashy back-to-school items.

You meant that sarcastically, right? Please, tell me you did.

I went to a high school with a dress code. I wasn't in the upper class that 95% of the rest of the student body was in.

The rich kids spotted me immediately. Uniforms reduce class stress? What a complete and utter load of festering pig shit.

Who, me? Bitter? Nah...

Posted by Jason Black | September 4, 2007 2:07 PM

I went to an American school with no uniforms and my boyfriend went to a Catholic school with uniforms. We both dyed our hair unnatural colors and made a bunch of other sartorial choices to proclaim our individuality. He's in favor of uniforms on the basis that they keep kids from looking down on poor kids for their clothes, where I've always viewed them as a way for The Man to stop students from doing their thing.

Oh, also he's poor and I'm rich.

Posted by Kiru Banzai | September 4, 2007 4:00 PM

I HATE UNIFORMS! There is nothing like being the fattest kid in the school and having NONE of the preselected uniform sizes fit and trying to squeeze into the largest size available. Meanwhile everyone else looks the same, but you look like a fat freak. Of course, fat kids don't exist in the world, so I'm sure there's no problem with it. WHATEVER! Uniforms aim to make everyone look the same, but the truth is we AREN'T all the same! If I wanted to wear a uniform I would go to Catholic school. I don't want to, so I wear my own clothes. And, as if it would keep kids from knowing whose parents are the richest and poorest. Again: whatever! UNIFORMS SUCK!!!

Posted by Kristin Bell | September 4, 2007 6:02 PM

Plus, uniforms somehow make all those cute English History boys all the hotter. Thanks for the pic, Charles.

Posted by brie | September 4, 2007 7:41 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).