At first glance, clothes might seem to have very little to do with learning. But the saying goes, “The clothes make the man,” and this might be true for the educational environment, as well. In many communities, standardized dress or uniforms are transforming schools into places where learning is positively affected.
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A school in which students are expected to wear standardized dress or a school uniform is an environment where administrators and teachers are sending a clear message that students need to put academics before fashion. Although individual expression may take a back seat to conformity, both poor and well-off students are on an equal footing when it comes to dress. Students from schools that have uniforms also tend to view the climate of their school in a more positive way, according to the Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management.
Kids who are worried about personal safety can have difficulty concentrating. Schools that require students to tuck in shirts and wear pants that fit properly around the waist are taking steps to reduce the chance that students will use baggy clothes to cover up weapons. Schools also often implement a policy that forbids students from wearing certain colors and symbols. This prevents students from advertising gang membership. Schools that choose to have uniforms are easily able to recognize unwanted outsiders and take action to remove them. This also can curtail violence, as well as drug dealing on campus. Students who do not have to cope with street issues in the classroom can focus much better on academics.
Uniforms and dress codes put the focus on school, rather than social and illicit activities. A school that allows students to wear gang-related clothing, revealing clothes or hoods that obscure identity is setting low expectations for student behavior. Under these circumstances, it is unrealistic to expect students to behave appropriately in other ways. The end result is that the school will likely not be viewed as a serious place of learning by parents, teachers, students and other community members.
Attendance can be bolstered when schools implement school uniforms, according to a University of Houston study conducted by economics professor Scott Imberman. School attendance is directly related to achievement, as when students attend school regularly, they learn more. Clothes can affect student attendance negatively when students wear inappropriate clothing to school and are sent home for the day.
It is important that students wear clothing that is appropriate for the school building’s climate. Students who feel too warm or too cold may begin to feel drowsy or distracted, and learning may be impeded. School administrators must take this into account when creating dress codes or uniform requirements. Clothing should also be comfortable and nonrestrictive, as students must sit for much of the day.