Thursday, November 20, 2008

School uniforms - long post

A few years ago, we started the process of adding school uniforms at El Dorado. It comes down to a parent vote, and they voted against uniforms. The conversation started again this week. Personally, I'm against it. Yes, I see some of the benefits. But overall, it just doesn't vibe with me. At the faculty meeting yesterday, the staff seems to be very much in favor of uniforms. Again, it's the parents who vote, not the staff or students. But I want to show the staff that there really are two sides to the debate, so I composed the following. I'm not done with it - I'm still planning to add more. But what are your thoughts? In general, I'm looking to see what else to add. But I also welcome the opposition.

1. The Constitution. Yes, it applies to middle school kids. These kids have the right to express themselves. For some of these kids, this is their method of expression. Should they be exploring other methods to express themselves? YES. But should we limit this form? NO.

2. Our current dress code already forbids items of clothing that are deemed offensive. If you are offended by any items of clothing, you should be taking action as described by the dress code procedures. If you feel these procedures aren’t working, perhaps THAT is the discussion we need to have.

3. Parents can opt out of the uniform. The same parents who will opt out of their child wearing a uniform are the same ones who already opt their child out of doing homework, wearing clothes that fit the dress code, and behaving in class. The law states that we cannot discriminate in any way towards those who wear uniforms and those who opt out. We cannot reward those who wear uniforms. We cannot punish those who do not.

4. If I were a student, I would see this as a punishment. Do we need to punish all of our kids? Let’s be honest. MOST of our kids are great kids. Why will we require all of those kids to wear a uniform as well as the rest?

5. Uniforms aren’t a magic pill. They aren’t going to solve all of your problems. If your classroom isn’t managed well, that’s probably the adult standing in front of the room, not the clothes on the kids’ backs. How about we enforce the rules we have now? How about we develop CONSEQUENCES for the kids who are behaving poorly?

6. How does this address academics? In the 10+ years I have been at El Dorado, we have never seriously discussed academics. Yes, we mention test scores and that we need to improve them. Yes, we have put some programs in place to lift the bottom, such as interventions and Language! But do uniforms address academics? I don’t believe that uniforms at school will increase the brain matter of students. I don’t believe it will increase homework time at home. I don’t believe it will increase study habits.

7. A discussion of uniforms is a distraction. A discussion of uniforms isn’t just a quick talk then final decision by leadership or administration. It’s a commitment to developing a whole new plan and direction for school behavior. It’s a long conversation with parents. Couldn’t we better use that time talking about how to be a California Distinguished School? Developing a community? Talking about how parents can be more involved in their children’s education?

8. It’s a lazy solution. Enforcement of current dress code is difficult. Developing and following through with consequences is difficult. However, they develop our students in positive ways. Uniforms hide problems, both with the students and with the school.

9. Our community doesn’t have uniforms. It isn’t the norm in this area – we aren’t used to it. If I were to walk on to a public school campus where the kids have uniforms, I would wonder what was wrong with the school, and possibly wouldn’t want to be a part of that community. I would know that freedom of expression is stifled and frowned upon on at least one level.

10. Uniforms lower expectations. We are telling kids that they can’t be trusted to make decisions. They can’t express themselves properly. It’s telling kids that they are so dumb that we, almost literally, have to dress them in the morning! Why aren’t we RAISING our expectations?

11. What kinds of schools wear uniforms? Private schools and school that are in trouble. Clearly, we aren’t a private school. Do we really have such a low opinion of our school? The move to uniforms is a HUGE step, and one that should be taken when the adults are losing their school. Have we lost? And why do we keep copying the lower level of schools? This is just another example of El Dorado turning to lower performing schools. How about we start emulating the schools that are doing BETTER than us? Clearly they aren’t doing better because of uniforms.
And there’s more to this discussion. Are the school that are higher doing better because of parent income? I can’t believe that. And since we continue to teach and have high expectations for all kids, you don’t believe it either. Is it parent involvement? Maybe so. But school uniforms won’t make parents more involved. So how about we try to find ways to get them so? Is it higher expectations for their students at those schools? Maybe so. But school uniforms, as I mentioned earlier, lowers expectations. How about some rewards for positive academic performance? How about consequences for poor behavior and especially poor academic performance?

12. People are different. Why is that such a bad thing? I don’t want to sound like a hippie or anything here, but how about we embrace what’s different about each other?

13. Our PE department has uniforms. Our students are already in uniforms for one period per day. So how’s that working? I know we have a good PE program, but it’s the teachers and curriculum, not the PE uniforms.

14. It was mentioned at the faculty meeting that the community would know which kids are El Dorado kids. Wait – do we necessarily want that? Is that the billboard we want out in public? Yes, they will also see the good kids. But which will they remember? The kids in the El Dorado uniforms loitering, running across the street, and whatever else.

15. I do want to see the research surrounding uniforms. I don’t want to hear people repeating what they have heard. In addition, I want credible sources. Since 73% of all statistics are made up, I want to know where the research comes from.

It's still a work in progress. If you see anything, including typos that you would change, feel free to comment. Your challenges can also help me to revise my own argument, so I welcome them.

No comments: