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Monday, 30 August 2010

The School Uniform debate

Every now and again the issue of school uniforms crops up.
This morning the Sydney Morning Herald claims that Australian students are "growing up in a society where the dominant and long-held view is that school uniforms instil discipline, a sense of self-worth and equality." It says that strict uniform codes have been cited as a contributing factor for a growing shift to private schools in recent years. It also implies Australia might be out of step with the rest of the world. (Although perhaps the journalist has not observed students overseas, particularly those on school excursions.)
Certainly in my experience many Australian parents support the wearing of uniforms, and neat and tidy ones at that, until it comes down to a confrontation with their own rebellious offspring. Then it becomes the school's problem.
Back in the dark ages when I was in secondary school we had a basic uniform, and, in my memory at least, most wore it with good grace. Then when I left my rural high school to go to a city one for my final year, I was horrified to find that the basic uniform had been augmented with hat, gloves, and stockings. (Year 12s at XXXX don't wear socks!)  And all I could think of was that those accoutrements effectively stopped me from playing tennis at lunchtime.
Within my city school the uniform was definitely seen as a status symbol and I was constantly in trouble for forgotten gloves and hat, conveniently languishing overnight in my locker. I was paraded before Year 8s as a recalcitrant who didn't have the good name of the school at heart, and tackled by former teachers in the street about where my hat was and what a disgrace to the school I looked!
Me, who was definitely amongst the most conservative of students!
Later, as a teacher, I was expected to enforce the wearing of the school uniform too, and monitor the length of hair, and the type of shoes (no sneakers permitted), and earrings - the list went on. Whether or not I could get my class to comply was seen as a reflection on my abilities to inspire.
So, a bit of a personal rant today - but this is what the SMH article brought to the surface.

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