Students wearing uniforms is a longstanding tradition in school environments. Nonetheless, controversy over the significance and even desirability of this requirement is rife. Proponents argue that the requirement for students to wear uniforms enhances their self-confidence, behavior (reduces disruptive behavior among students), and concentration, and hence academic performance. On the other hand, critics argue that it stifles students’ individuality, imposes an unnecessary means of control, and infringes on students’ First Amendment rights, particularly those concerning expression. This paper considers two opposing stances in two articles on the mentioned issue and proposes a middle-ground solution. Indeed, schools should enforce a reasonable and manageable dress code among students without restricting students to a specific uniform.
Two articles with opposing stances on the issue of school uniforms are Deane (2015) and Wendell (2002). Deane argues in her article that the policy of school uniforms undermines students’ abilities to experience, confront, and learn from the diversity in others and others' humanity. The author perceives the policy of school uniforms in terms of the process of teaching students to deal with human differences. The key point in the article is that school uniform policies teach children unjustly to disregard differences and diversity in an attempt to promote their abilities to participate reasonably in school and then public life. Deane (2015) does not oppose the objective of using school uniform policies to reduce socioeconomic differences or promote academic performance. Nonetheless, she argues that these policies do not eliminate socioeconomic differences or cure disruptive behavior. Rather, they only succeed in dressing differences rather than addressing them. Schools should offer opportunities for students to experience, confront, and learn from the humanity and diversity of others. Deane proposes that the removal of school uniform policies should be part of broader efforts to reposition schools as learning environments and rethink school life to reflect the heterogeneity, plurality, and liveliness of city life. These efforts should reflect the nature of a city as a place where people witness and appreciate a broad diversity of cultural expressions that they do not share or understand fully. Removing school uniform policies promotes students’ perceptions of, and learning about, differences among them, and hence learning to cope positively with gender, racial, emotional, socioeconomic, and other diversity for effective intellectual, cognitive, and social growth and maturity.
Wendell (2002) argues that school uniform policies are essential to enforce to improve the safety, quality, and effectiveness of the school environment, especially in terms of supporting students’ academic efforts and performances. While students do not like wearing uniforms, surveys have yielded significant evidence about the role of the policy in improving the quality of the learning environment. It promotes a stronger emphasis on academic performance, promotes students' self-esteem, reduces peer pressure, reduces absenteeism, promotes an atmosphere of teamwork and pride in personal appearance, and decreases participation in violent activity among students, among other benefits (Wendell, 2002). A key advantage of school uniform policies concerns the removal of unnecessary distractions, such as comparisons of attire and the costs of clothes (and related associations with social class and gang activities), from students’ efforts and performances. Nonetheless, school uniform policies should mind the preferences, values, and freedoms of students and their communities, such as religious values and freedoms of expression.
The solution of enforcing a dress code for students is a suitable compromise because it considers and incorporates the arguments of both sides as presented in the two articles. A dress code differs from a school uniform policy because it involves recommendations of what students must not wear, rather than what they must wear (Wendell, 2002). A dress code features a level of prohibition that is adequate to present the benefits/advantages of a school uniform without the adverse effects of restricting students’ freedoms or disregarding their differences and diversity. It offers adequate room for students to express themselves and experience their own and their communities’ diversity without undermining their self-esteem and academic performances or promoting negative peer pressure. In essence, a dress code balances between the advantages and disadvantages of both the enforcement and non-enforcement of school uniform policies. On the one hand, a dress code allows students the freedom to make their own choices about what to wear, thereby promoting and fostering a culture of self-expression through choices of clothes and aligning with the need to allow students to experience each other’s diversity and humanity. On the other hand, it features a significant level of limits on individual students’ choices of clothes to prevent behavioral, attitudinal, and cognitive influences with a disruptive effect on the quality of the learning environment.
Enforcing a dress code is a suitable compromise policy in the debate of whether or not to enforce school uniform policies. This solution offers an opportunity to achieve a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of enforcing and eliminating school uniform policies. It offers students adequate room to express themselves and experience their individual differences and cultural diversity while limiting the scope and scale of their freedoms to avoid potential adverse effects on the quality of the learning environment and their commitment to academic performance.
The Rogerian model of argument has promoted my ability to consider and evaluate the merits of both sides of the argument about school uniform policies critically. This focus is essential to help me understand the evidence supporting either side of the argument and the criticism for each. Based on this understanding, I have acquired the capacity to develop an informed and creative compromise solution to address the central issue of conflict between the two sides. Acknowledging both sides of the argument is essential to ensure that the proposed solution is persuasive and acceptable among stakeholders, and hence sustainable.
I shall utilize the Rogerian approach in my own argumentative essays. I have realized that this approach is suitable to yield creative and effective solutions that take into deep consideration the concerns of each side of an argument. This approach is a productive way to ensure the practical effectiveness of arguments and the final solutions.
Deane, S. (2015). Dressing diversity: Politics of difference and the case of school uniforms. Philosophical Studies in Education 46: 111-120.
Wendell, A. (2002). School dress codes and uniform policies. Policy Report 4:3-22.
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