Arguments Against School Uniforms

Let's examine the arguments against school uniforms in government schools.

Despite the enthusiasm for uniforms, there are plenty of good sound reasons to avoid them. As noted in my discussion of the benefits of school uniforms in government schools, they are something that could work well for certain individuals, but the idea that "one size fits all" just isn't appealing to this Libertarian.

So let's start. Making the top of the list is the idea that this policy is a "one size" fits all, and we all know that isn't true.

This is a common and irritating approach to government. Would you like it if a retail outlet treated you like a shoplifter? Of course not, but that's exactly what a "one size fits all" approach to doing business would have your local retailers doing.

  1. We should have the courage to identify bad actors and implement measures directed at them. Instead, we punish every student with a "one size fits all" mentality. If you look closely at the overall student body, you'll likely find that there is a small percentage of students that are gang members or drug dealers or miscreants of some sort.

    Why not target these individuals for control measures instead of everyone? Why not target these individuals for expulsion instead of treating the entire student body as if they were a threat of some sort?

    Our system of laws and regulations typically punish everyone for the actions of a few. It's always the few who things for the rest of us because of our proclivity to broadly apply a rule instead of taking the time to sort out who the trouble-makers are and deal with them individually.

    Before we further this discussion, perhaps you'd care to see a presentation from a school "outfitter" named Michael Apfelberg to see what he thinks about the negatives of school uniforms. His observations, as a provider of school uniforms, ought to be enlightening.

    Wow, only three negatives from this school "outfitter." Imagine that! And, his negative number 3 was pretty lame at that. It makes me think that perhaps he isn't all that willing to look at the other side.

    So, let's look at more arguments against school uniforms, and I'll dedicate reason #2 to our friend from New Hampshire, Mr. Apfelberg, who can't seem to think of reasons why school uniforms are a bad idea.

  2. It creates yet another special interest group that wants to convince the government to do something that is in their favor. Perhaps our "outfitter," Mr. Apfelberg couldn't bring himself to create reasoning against his own special interest. After all, people like him will be petitioning the government (perhaps at multiple levels) to endorse the idea of school uniforms.

    We don't need more special interest groups, and that's reason enough for me to be against school uniforms.

  3. Implementing a school uniform program by itself reinforces the idea that simply changing what students wear will make a difference in their behavior. It's a type of "preventive law." A restriction that is supposed to stop some undesirable behavior.

    The fact that we try it in the first place gives it some level of credibility as if student dress is really the root cause of poor behavior and lower performance in school. It's not, so it's reasonable to be against school uniforms because there isn't a cause and effect relationship - something else is causing the violence, bad behavior and poor performance.

  4. It's an idea for fixing problems that allows us to conveniently avoid proper analysis that would identify causes of student violence and poor performance, and create appropriate solutions.

    First and foremost, we need to clearly identify the problems. Then, we need to identify the immediate causes of the problems. Only then can we target "fixes" that address the causes. If we effectively address the causes, then the problems will be reduced or eliminated.

    I'm against school uniforms simply because a lack of school uniforms isn't what's causing all the problems. As George Carlin once said: "We don't have time for rational solutions."

  5. If everyone wears the same clothes, that doesn't transform individual students into wonderful community members with like minds and spirit. There needs to be more at work to create such "oneness," and it takes years to build such a culture.

    This type of thinking is a typical American "drive through" and "just add water" approach that imagines such transformations could be created by quick and simple methods.

    It's very much like our foreign policies, we forget about the culture of others and how that can't be changed overnight, no matter how much we wish it to be. We apparently have the same arrogance when it comes to the culture of communities and individuals.

  6. Requiring uniforms isn't the role of government, unless that same government organization is providing uniforms for their troops, and history shows that some countries have done just that. Listen to observations from George Carlin who was also against school uniforms.

    If we allow school officials to prescribe school uniforms, then we can expect rules on hair styles, makeup, deodorant, dental hygiene, fingernail length, shoes and so on. I don't like to let the "camel's nose under the tent," so I'm against school uniforms as a broad brush approach to solving problems.

  7. Following the lead from George Carlin, I believe it's very likely that forcing kids to dress alike will only help create more followers than leaders. If you become accustomed to being told what to do, then how do you handle it when you finally graduate and you're placed in an environment where you're not told what to do?

    I think school uniforms set some students up for failure when it comes to making their own decisions about who they are and how they're going to present themselves to the world.

    If you're in favor of individual responsibility, then you're likely to be against school uniforms because such rules don't foster individuality or individual responsibility, they diminish it.

  8. Unless you're going straight from a government school into the military, the idea of a dress code isn't the way the real world works. People in a free society dress they way they would like to. Especially in America, the melting pot, we have all manner of dress that originates from our cultural differences.

    I thought we were supposed to be inclusive, accepting and tolerant.

  9. Self-image can be adversely affected by forcing someone to wear something that they dislike. Just think of all the unusual clothes that some people wear - baggy pants, jackets with arms too long, long legged pants that stack up around the ankles, hats on backwards and sideways, and blue jeans that are washed out and torn at the knees. We're talking about personal choices in dress here.

    Now, imagine that parents forced their kids to go to school with worn out, ripped and misfitting clothes that were placed on them backwards or inside out. This wouldn't be personal choice, but it could be viewed as quite uncalled for.

    I could envision a lot of conflict arising from forcing a child to wear something they dislike. The same would be true if government officials from the school system told you how to dress, and that's why I'm against school uniforms.

    If you think baggy pants allow students to bring weapons to school, then I suggest that clothes aren't the cause of weapons, it's something else. Let's focus on logical cause and effect relationships, not band-aids like school uniforms.

  10. School uniforms diminish free expression at a time when young people are trying to establish who they are among throngs of others. There is such a thing as distractions in the classroom, but that can be handled on a case-by-case basis or with a reasonable dress code.

    Punishing free expression by everyone because of the actions of a few is a bad precedence. It's not what freedom is all about.

  11. Uniforms cost money, and that's an additional financial burden placed on families. If a family would like to purchase a set of clothes for their children to wear to school - "school clothes" - then that's just fine.

    Requiring a uniform to be purchased from a supplier isn't the business of school authorities, and the additional cost isn't justified. It's just another example of government mandates that aren't funded.

You get the idea. I'm against school uniforms, and I think most freedom-minded people are too. America is strong because we are composed of individuals who are allowed to be leaders and innovators. We're strong because our government is supposed to be limited in scope and depth.

I'm against school uniforms because it's more government, less freedom, less individual decision-making, and there is no clear link between school uniforms and causes of problems in schools. I went to government schools that didn't require uniforms, and it didn't seem to affect our performance one little bit.

If you believe that a lack of school uniforms is the cause of troubles in government schools, then you'll also likely believe that disease is caused by a lack of medication. And, this begs me to repeat this important point: this Libertarian is against school uniforms because we haven't done our homework to show that trouble in school is caused by a lack of school uniforms.

Done with Against School Uniforms, take me back to American Education

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