David Russell

Uniforms would end the sleazy clothing in schools
Home | Last Dance | Deadly Lessons | blog | Articles | Press & Comments | Novel Excerpt | Emcee & Public Speaking | Contacts & Links

Coquitlam Now, June 18, 2003 pg. 12

I never thought I'd see the day I advocated educational policy so conformist, so establishment, so, frankly, un-cool: the school uniform.

Walk into most urban high schools today and the experience is apt to be akin more to a stroll around Hugh Hefner's pad than wandering the halls of academe.

With summer weather it only gets worse as pants give way to short skirts and just plain short shorts.

Not that weather generally plays a factor anymore. Throughout the entire school year, students are wearing less than many of us wore to beach parties. A few examples?

- Low-rider jeans barely covering what our grandmothers would have called the naughty bits.

- G-strings and thongs clearly visible. (See fashion note above.)

- Shirts lacking fabric both at the top and bottom, exposing midriff and cleavage.

- Jeans with the waist worn below the buttocks. (Boys are not immune from inappropriate attire.)

It's convenient to lay the blame for this growing trend at Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But we're looking too far afield when we point at pop persona persuasion in our schools' hallways: look no further than mom and dad.

It's difficult to imagine any parents wanting their 14-year-old daughters dressing for school in a manner befitting the dance floor at the nearest nightclub. But these increasingly revealing clothes - - despite their decreasing volume of fabric -- don't come with skimpy price tags. In short: kids too young to hold part-time jobs are having these clothes purchased by their parents.

This is easily confirmed by the number of middle and even elementary schools where growing numbers of students have joined the scantily clad.

Of course, a simpler solution would have the school enact a dress code prohibiting overly revealing fashion. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Schools that have attempted to regulate a standard of dress have often experienced challenges not only from students but also inexplicably from parents, many who claim the school has no business regulating what students wear.

Too many schools ignore the issue hoping to avoid further conflict.

Uniforms could largely eradicate this problem. Determination of clothing that causes offence would no longer be required: students are in the school's uniform while on campus. Period.

Critics of school uniforms, including authors of a recent academic study, often lament that private school uniforms have had the unintended effect of objectifying schoolgirls. Spears herself used the school uniform as a sexually charged costume in a provocative video.

But uniforms need not include kilted skirts hiked up as minis or even formal wear. Dispense with the blazer, blouse and tie and opt for a comfortable pair of pants and polo shirt for boys and girls.

For hotter days, students could wear uniform shorts and T-shirt that schools tailor to appropriate length and fit.

Students -- and their parents -- need to be reminded that schools are neither nightclubs nor beaches. They are the place of business for students and dress ought to reflect that expectation.

Uniforms are not a panacea for the myriad problems schools and young people face. They could, however, help schools to keep kids stay kids while they learn.

And that may be an assignment worthy of high marks in our schools.

David Russell is a Coquitlam writer who recently had his first novel accepted for publication. He is also a part-time educator.