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Disguising Potential

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There's your first word, there's your first job, there's marriage, there's retirement, and then there's high school. High school is a strong defining point in a person's life, and is the time where one develops himself and discovers his inner talents that are what make him an individual. As the future doctor enjoys himself mixing chemicals in Biology class, the aspiring lawyer turns in her first persuasive argument to her English teacher, and the hopeful physicist passes his Calculus test with flying colors. This huge spectrum of personal talents, endless opportunity, and self-development are the strong morals and ideologies that define high school, and make it such an important phase in one's life. However, along with these benefits come a plethora of difficulties. The level of social acceptance in High School is significantly low, and many students associate themselves with a rigorous hierarchical social structure based on perfection, outward appearance, popularity, and in some cases drugs and alcohol. One solution that addresses these problems is school uniforms. However, in attempt to solve the permanent social problems of high school, uniforms aim to destroy the strong, definable forces of individualism and natural inequality that make the educational environment what it is supposed to be. To preserve these essential aspects of education and adolescence, school uniforms should not be implemented at school. Instead, our attention should be focused more on the individual wellbeing and success of each and every student and less on everlasting social issues.

Individualism, a strong defining factor in a student's developmental growth and success, would be significantly hindered by the implementation of school uniforms and should be preserved at all costs. Although proponents of uniforms argue that individualism is detrimental to the school environment, it is actually one of the greatest benefits a school can have. The Union Mission Statement clearly states “We educate every student to excel and contribute in a global society”. However, the world is not filled with uniformed people that all do everything synonymously and without question. Global society is run on innovation, and innovation thrives on unorthodoxy. Individuals like Galileo and George Washington have repeatedly proven this, by making priceless contributions to the world that were considered crazy at the time, such as the telescope and the creation of the United States. Uniforms instill a sense of uncomfortable conformity that robs students of this kind of creativity and individuality, thus suppressing new ideas and discouraging originality. This is very antagonistic to today's opportunistic world, as it restricts teenagers from developing critical skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and comprehensive understanding. These abilities are crucial to the success of one's adulthood, and should be developed as much as possible in order to succeed. To strip away such strong parts of self-development as creativity and imagination would harm students' abilities to reach their full potential and make effective contributions to the world, thus going against the Mission Statement that the school district is based upon.

In addition to the strong force of individualism, uniforms also violate self-expression, an inalienable right that is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Preventing students from expressing their personal beliefs and implementing thoughts and ideas into their daily lives is wrong and unjustified, as it impedes growth and denies rights that every human being should have. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a strong opponent of uniforms, none of the arguments for school uniforms, including the claim that they can reduce violence in schools, justifies trampling the rights of students to express themselves. Freedom of speech is not only literal verbal speech, but expression in symbols and clothing as well. In fact, in 1999, although 66% of parents living in Lafayette County, Mississippi agreed with the use of uniforms, the majority also believed that uniforms eliminated clothing as a means of cultural and symbolic expression. As demonstrated by these results, the reality that uniforms constrict free expression is clear to both proponents and opponents of uniforms. The fact that symbolic expression is considered freedom of speech is very significant, as it makes uniforms a clear violation to the Bill of Rights, which states there should be no law “abridging freedom of speech”. To treat individuals with such unconstitutional injustice bridges on defacing them as human beings, and no child should grow up in an environment of censorship and suppression. To self-expression from happening would be to blatantly constrict a person's personal growth and development as an individual, while going against the moral guidelines of the Constitution that every citizen should have the right to live under.

Many backers of uniforms believe that uniforms promote equality, which in turn creates a better learning environment by making students feel comfortable. Although it is true that uniforms enforce sameness, equality actually harms a school's environment by inducing monotony and approaching socialism. Every student is different, so should be considered an individual that is set apart in natural ability and talent from everyone else at their school. To succeed and live up to their maximum potential, students need to find and adapt to their individual strengths and weaknesses. The first step to doing this is denouncing the type of social equality that comes along with uniforms. It may be true that students' clothes do not determine their natural talents, but the ease in discovering these skills can be strongly altered by how a student views himself in comparison to others around him. When one can barely distinguish two classmates apart, the ideological aspect of being different from everyone else on the inside becomes much more difficult to grasp. To be successful one first needs to know what makes them special, and complete visual equality within a school acts as a very large barrier for students in search of this golden knowledge.

The only real justification of equality is that it will decrease school crime and gang violence. However, instead of decreasing suspicious activity, uniforms would actually function as a shield for students with drugs and alcohol. It would no longer be possible to spot out who is a threat, as many problem-causing individuals are easy to spot out because of their clothing. With uniforms, it would be significantly easier to use and deal drugs and weapons while looking like everyone else. This would tempt many teenagers to secretly go against school policies, and stir up a wide variety of problems while impervious from detection. Thus, with a decrease of detected activity there would be a dramatic increase of undetected suspicion, which would only add to the school's problems. The vision of peace is tempting, but the false veil of contentment uniforms would set up would only conceal the problematic turmoil going on beneath it.

Sacrificing aspects of school such as individualism, freedom of expression, and self-development outweigh the ideas uniforms supports, like visual equality and apparent reduction of drugs and violence. The impartiality that uniforms is suggesting is different from the equality it would create, as uniforms would eradicate not only student social groups but also individual expression and self-development. One example of something the school could do to make students more socially equal is to host more events that invite a variety of students, and appeal to as many people as possible. These outings would allow students to go and meet new people from their school, thus broadening the social spectrum and reducing small, tightly-wound groups of students who separate themselves from everyone else. This, in turn, would decrease bullying between students and help to lower the small amount of violence there is at Campo, without harming individual importance and free expression. Simple efforts like encouragement of sports games and dances could accomplish this, as well as an increase in widespread lunch activities organized by groups like Leadership. Students can also be encouraged to find more people to eat lunch and spend time with, and assemblies can be held that stress social acceptance instead of the many drug-related assemblies held each year. In an attempt to solve simple social problems, uniforms are violating moral freedoms and impeding individual student development that is vital to success. With a few simple social reforms the interests of both the opponents and proponents of uniforms can be satisfied, and school can be a better place for us all.

Because high school is such an important phase in one's life, defining characteristics such as self-expression, individualism, and personal development end up changing people forever. This is why it is so important to preserve these natural aspects, and guarantee every child's right to their maximum potential. The numerous social problems in high school are nearly impossible to resolve, as they are as much of a part of adolescence as school itself. There will always be a high and a low, and people will always try to make themselves seem higher than others. Because of this, Uniforms are only a superficial solution to an unsolvable problem, and only function as a distraction to the real problems that need to be addressed, like the importance of individual student welfare and the encouragement of self-development and growth. After all, at forty years old, what's important is not the name of the ninth grade bully, but what a talented and unique person you've grown up to be.

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anonymous said...
Feb. 2, 2010 at 5:46 am
I completely agree with this, but at the end, the 9th grade bully part just seemed a little ironic since you used to be so mean to people...
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