Will Okun is a Chicago school teacher who traveled with Nick Kristof in June to central Africa, on the win-a-trip contest. He blogged and vlogged as he went, and you can see his reports at www.nytimes.com/twofortheroad. He teaches English and photography in a Chicago school with many students from low-income and minority homes.
Can a small change make a big difference?
In a recent speech to Iowa teachers, Hillary Clinton voiced her support for school uniforms. According to the A.P. article, Clinton believes uniforms will allow students, particularly girls, “to focus on schools, not on what you’re wearing.”
Bill Clinton also promoted school uniforms during his 1996 re-election campaign as a way to put “discipline and learning back in our schools.” At a rally in Long Beach, Clinton told his audience, “The only person who ever talked to me about school uniforms was the First Lady. [After visiting a school] Mrs. Clinton would say, ‘You know, if we had a uniform policy, it would make things better in this school.'”
I wonder if the Clintons support uniforms in every American public school or just for the under-funded, underscoring, ineffective schools in our cities’ lowest-income communities. At least in the Chicagoland area, it appears that only private schools and the “at-risk” public schools with low-income, minority student bodies require school uniforms. Why is there no need for school uniforms at the high-performing or affluent public schools within Chicago or in the suburbs? These “successful” public schools recognize that uniforms and clothing are largely irrelevant to academic achievement. For instance, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Stevenson High in suburban Lincolnshire allows students to wear short skirts, hoodies, body piercing, etc. and yet Stevenson High “consistently outperforms most public high schools in Illinois.” With regards to standardized testing, the three highest scoring schools in the state are all Chicago Public Schools and none of these three schools require uniforms.
The students at these public schools succeed because their families and communities still believe in the value and promise of education. These students are self-motivated with hopes of attending a prestigious college. Their “helicopter” parents demand academic achievement from their children and their schools. Their teachers have the resources and the knowledge to allow the students to flourish. At these schools in these communities, education is still the top priority.
Will school uniforms help re-establish education as the top priority in our American cities? Will uniforms cause parents to become vested in their children’s education? Will uniforms provide for stable and loving households? Will uniforms motivate the students to care about their own education? Will uniforms abolish social promotion? Will uniforms integrate the schools? Will uniforms prevent gang membership and teen pregnancy? Will uniforms provide financial security? Will uniforms prevent drug dealing and drug addiction? Will uniforms bring better teachers and facilities? Will uniforms combat teacher disillusionment? Will uniforms finance more technology-based education? Will uniforms save the music and arts programs? Will uniforms increase attendance and decrease tardiness?
These are the obstacles that the failing students at my school in Chicago are unable to overcome. I cannot envision how school uniforms begin to address any of these issues. In fact, the most comprehensive study on the impact of school uniforms, published in The Journal of Educational Research, concluded that “uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance.” In fact, “a negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement was found.”
As with school prayer, I think proponents of school uniforms are relying on a simple, popular and very superficial “solution” to remedy the complex societal and educational issues that currently plague the schools and students in our cities’ low-income communities. Small changes produce small results. We as a nation need to reassess our priorities and practices if we truly believe that all children, regardless of race or income, should have equal access to a first-rate public education. Or do we as a nation implicitly accept the current two-tier educational system that guarantees a superior education only to those who can afford it?
To see more photos from our school, please visit my website.
Dress Codes In the School System Essays
1399 Words6 Pages
Dress codes have long been the subject of debate in our educational institutions for many years. Administrators have struggled to find effective ways to deal with discipline problems. The introduction of dress codes has been a common intervention in our educational system to help decrease the number of disciplinary issues that are dealt with on a daily basis. Topics such as gang activity, bullying, increasing violence and Freedom of Expression have been thrown into the discussion, causing controversy in our communities. The dress code policy is considered to be a "fix all" solution in our schools, but has failed to curb the big issues. Dress codes should not be instituted to fix a particular problem, but should be looked at to help overall…show more content…
Having a uniform policy can help give the school an identity and also supports professionalism. Kay Hymowitz stated in the New York Times (2009), “self expression will always have to be at least partially limited, just as it in the workplace.” Students do not want to be told what they can and cannot wear. Not only are schools a place to learn, they are also a social outlet, where the fads of the current times are formed. Taking away their right of self-expression can cause self-esteem issues and affect the way students interact with one another. It is not surprising that children would be against this type of policy. With each grade level that is completed, there comes a sense of maturing. When kids cannot choose what they want to wear for themselves, it takes away from that feeling of independence and can cause rebellion. The ultimate goal of enforcing a dress code policy was to decrease the possibility of violence and bullying among students. This allows for better learning opportunities, as the children will have less social issues to deal with. The topic of gang related issues was paramount, because gangs establish their dominance through the color of their clothing, but if you take away their freedom to display their colors, will this actually change the mentality of these individuals? It has yet to be proven that changing the clothes we wear can prevent feelings of hatred or violence. Outward appearances may make a tough guy look less