At Genesis Classical Academy, students wear uniforms. Uniforms have traditionally been required in private and parochial schools, but in recent years there has been an increase in required uniforms even in the public schools.1 What is the rationale for uniforms?
Dress for Success
The “Dress for Success” mantra is the idea that success in a career can be enhanced by appropriate attire. Is this because the expectation of others around us changes when we are dressed professionally, or because our own expectation (and actual performance) improves? The answer is most likely that both of these influences play a role.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to study under a very wise choral director who required his students to “dress up” for concert performances – even though we wore choral robes over our street clothing. His explanation was, “When you dress up, you sing better.” Dressing the part changed our focus and our expectations, and did indeed help us to “sing better”.
We expect to see a surgeon in scrubs, a farmer in jeans, and a stockbroker in a suit. When students attend school in uniform, the uniforms become their “work clothes”, and they are more focused on their job – which is education.
Part of the Team
You expect to see your favorite professional sports team take the field or court in uniform – not a ragtag assortment of random clothing. School uniforms can help students identify as “part of the team”, and give them a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. Uniforms can instill a sense of pride in the school, and influence students to behave in accordance with the school’s culture and expectations.
Having a limited choice of clothing items can simplify the morning routine for busy young families. Just getting out the door with homework, signed permission slips, and lunches packed can be a daunting task. Uniforms can remove one distraction from the morning schedule, and can reduce disagreements over whether or not clothing is appropriate for school. Uniforms can also empower even the youngest children to select clothing and dress themselves, fostering independence.
What about Individuality?
One argument often raised against school uniforms is that we inhibit students’ creativity and individuality when we require them to dress alike. But others argue that uniforms take the focus off of external things that do not really matter (clothing), and put our focus on characteristics that DO matter. When the distraction of what the child is wearing is removed, we are encouraged to focus instead on that child’s God-given personality, creativity, talents, inherent worth and beauty.
Uniforms can also build discipline and appropriate respect for authority, which are traits needed for successful daily life in society. As adults we must obey traffic laws, pay our taxes, and adhere to company policies if we want to hold down a job and stay out of jail. Training the will (without breaking the spirit) is one of the goals of education – and uniforms can play a role in that process.
Interested in knowing more about how a Christian classical education can best prepare your child for the future? Explore our website or contact headmaster Renee Doyle at 507-893-3600.
1The National Center for Education Statistics publication (May 2016), Indicators of School Crime and Safety, reports that 20.4% of public schools in the United States required uniforms in the 2013 – 2014 school year, up from 11.8% of schools in 1999 – 2000.
the Case for Uniforms