I’m sure if I listened hard enough, I could hear my 15-year-old self yelling at me right now. When I was 15, I wore black skirts, combat boots and about 900 black rubber bracelets to school; let’s not even discuss what I’d wear to alternative clubs to watch Suicidal Tendencies and slam dance.
I valued personal freedom and expression above all, and I’m still in touch with that rebellious and angry young girl.
But I’ve grown up.
I taught high school for eight years, and I’ve been raising two boys for a decade and a half. I still value personal freedom and expression, but I know those virtues have little to do with how students dress during the school day.
My children attended a private school for elementary and a magnet program for middle. Both schools required uniforms.
Now they are in a traditional public high school where girls wear shorts that barely cover their lady bits and boys wake up and stumble into school, often without changing a thing.
Plus they all wear flip flops.
Sometimes I think I’m the only mom requiring her kids to wear clean, wrinkle-free clothing and closed-toe shoes. Although all three schools are among our town’s and state’s best, the high school would benefit from uniforms.
During this year’s special session, the Florida Legislature is considering a bill that will encourage schools to develop a standard attire policy. Here’s why that’s a good idea.
- Are simple. They don’t require pre-dawn arguments. It’s hard enough to get everyone on board with balanced breakfasts and eye-contact before the sun comes up, let’s finally do away with daily debates about why “Dees Nuts” on a shirt is inappropriate.
- Give kids one less thing to rip into each other about. Peer-pressure and bullying should center on alcohol, drugs and sex – instead of clothes – like God intended.
- Put less importance on appearance. I mean, we say “looks don’t matter” but when kids are forced to wear teal-colored shirts with oversized khaki pants, they know we mean it.
- Allow for fewer distractions. Goodbye to the hallway insults over NFL or college football teams. Goodbye midriffs and cleavage. So long nasty toenails and confederate flag belt buckles. Save that nonsense for your weekend tailgating parties and family reunions.
- Make it harder to tell the rich kids from the poor kids. Jerks don’t stand out as much, but Sperry’s and Bieber haircuts still give them away.
- Cost less. It’d be nice not to have to sell plasma in order to afford Abercrombie & Fitch four times a year for teenagers who won’t stop growing. Then there’s guilt for supporting child labor in Third World countries. Uniforms help on both fronts.
- Make school safer. Pedophiles in Tommy Bahama shirts really stand out when all the kids look alike. Uniforms also free up administrators and teachers, who’d rather be doing something productive with their time, like teach, rather than policing the clothing choices of children whose parents should know better.
- Enhance school spirit. Don’t worry, non-conformists! You can still put an anarchist button on your backpack or draw something subversive on your book cover. Uniforms force you to be clever when you hate.
- Lower the risk of something getting stolen. No one – I repeat, no one – wants your school-sanctioned Spirit Shirts.
- Make for less hassle when washing, drying and ironing clothes. Seriously. Your kids are old enough to do this on their own anyway. And uniforms are perfect for practice – because a burn mark or bleach stain might actually improve their appearance.
It’d be nice for our lawmakers to actually get something done this year. Vote yes for uniforms.
Catherine Durkin Robinson co-parents twin sons, organizes parents for political purposes, writes syndicated columns, mentors kids, runs a few races, and investigates missing socks. Follow her on Twitter: @cdurkinrobinson. Column courtesy of Context Florida.