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Are Uniforms a Good Way to Improve Student Discipline and Motivation?

  • Date Submitted: 01/16/2011 07:21 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 49.8 
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The school uniform has a fairly short and somewhat chequered history. For all practical purposes, school uniforms as we know them today have their roots in the British public school system. For the sake of clarity, a British public school is equivalent to an American private school, and an American public school is equivalent to a British State school.

Up until the middle part of the 19th century, British public schools were the preserve of a wealthy elite, the later mandarins of the British Empire. Nevertheless, they were quite disorderly, with students behaving much as they wished. Uniform began to be introduced as a means of instilling a greater degree of discipline and team spirit, and rapidly gained acceptance within the public school system. Quite remarkably some of these uniforms still remain relatively unchanged today.

As is often the case, the middle classes - who would by tradition have sent their children to smaller, less exclusive, but still privately funded schools began to take up the fashion for school uniforms which had been adopted by their erstwhile social betters. In 1870, the Education Act made schooling for all compulsory for all in Britain, and many of the new state schools naturally adopted the sort of uniform policies which had been so eagerly embraced in the private system.

From that time, right through until the 1960's school uniform was practically universal in the United Kingdom.

The American experience is something of a contrast. School uniform (except in Catholic or parochial schools) was virtually unknown. Many schools had dress codes, which were exclusive rather than prescriptive. Blue jeans and high heels, for example might be banned, but pupils were not told what they must wear.

This is exactly the system that our proponent of school uniforms described as being started in her school at South Houston in the late 1950's, and to which she ascribes a subsequent significant improvement in discipline and grades.

In...

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