“What you wearing?”
Growing up in New York City was a terrific experience! When I think back to my days as a child, there are a few memories that I easily and frequently recall that bring a precious smile to my face. Of the many, was the notable “Field Fun Day” in June at my middle school in Hollis. See, as a child in New York City, I attended two private schools in Queens before my parents eventually felt the cost of my education was becoming a burden and relocated us to Long Island for the free public school system. So like many private schools, there was a strict school uniform policy that kept us students in line. But, all year long my friends and I would wait for that one day a year where the glee in our voices would blurt out, “So what you wearing tomorrow?” At which we would run home and dash all of our clothes on the bed including the Christmas gifts, birthday presents and any other donations we may have collected at some point during the year that could only be seen on weekends by family and neighborhood friends, not the school friends.
At a young age, it never dawned on me the impact of wearing a school uniform would have on my education and the difficult transition to the public school system for middle and high school. What this caused was anxiety, fear, angst and many other feelings that hindered how I learned in the public school setting. So as we enter a new regime in the Board of Education, it’s time that New York City instituted a mandatory school uniform policy for all of its public schools. Similar to the many West Indian/Caribbean countries that mandate every school to wear a uniform.
Instituting a mandatory school uniform policy will have several positive effects on the educational experience of many of NYC’s youth. A uniform policy levels the playing field. Kids are no longer concerned with the “haves and the have nots”. The economic and social status of each child does not exist because each child will be similarly attired with little to no variation. The financial strain of purchasing new sets of clothing will also be extensively lessened if school uniforms become the norm. In a 1997 NY Times article byTamar Lewin, it was found that many parents rather opt for school uniforms because they are a cheaper and viable option.
There is no room for the feelings of inferiority that come with not having the latest style of clothing and brand name sneaker within the classroom. These material objects have often led to violence and crime in schools. According to Daniel Gursky’s article in Education Digest, there was a 36% drop in school crime in a California school district.
Once kids are able to separate material items from the educational process, the focus will then shift to actual learning environment. According to Seunghee Han of the International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, Elementary and middle schools have a lower incidence of problematic behaviors by their students when a mandatory uniform policy is in place.
Let us begin to unify our students in public schools where we can eliminate any fear, anxiety or doubt by establishing a mandatory uniform policy for all New York City Public schools. The positive atmosphere amongst students that no longer focuses on clothing, will carry New York City children to the necessary level to compete with other states that have seen the positive results of a mandatory uniform policy.