Thinking beyond the morning routine and delving into why uniforms in schools should not be implemented.
The will of the majority should not take away the rights of the minority
The purpose of the points highlighted below is not to point fingers or blame but simply to highlight reasons why uniforms are not supported by members of the Halton Catholic District School Community, in Ontario Canada. To parents, within our community, please take some time to take a look at the view points of other families as you may not have considered these perspectives. We ask that you think through your decision on uniforms, to think beyond the simplicity of knowing what to wear, to think about the un-intended consequences, how children's creativity and playtime will be stifled, how many parental rights will be violated and how self expression will be hampered.
Unforms at the elementary school level are not supported by at least half the population for the following reasons:
Stifles individual expression – personalities are often expressed in clothes, God created us to all be individuals and proud of ourselves, what message is being sent when we tell our kids that they can not express themselves through one of the very few channels currently available to them as kids. Being recognized as an individual is critical to them flourishing in life.
Hampers Leadership: Is school provided to create the leaders of our future? Visionaries, creators, leaders do not wear uniforms. In fact, those who create see things differently, think differently, behaving differently – just think of Einstein. The ability to think outside of the box, identify and manage differences and unique qualities in the people and world around us are what make great leaders. Having children learn to believe that we are "all the same" and to hide their personalities behind standard clothing is a lie. We are all humans and should be treated with the same level of respect and dignity but we are not the same and children should not be manipulated to believe that we are. We need to celebrate our differences, learn from them – NOT HIDE THEM IN A UNIFORM
Purpose: If you look to society as a frame of reference, forms are used for identification purposes. It's quite clear that if a child is in the school, they are a student and belong there – they do not need identification. However, the reverse is not true – all adults are not necessarily members of the board so sometimes it should be board members who are easily identifiable through uniform?
Goal: If your goal is to make your life easier in the morning then with all do respect, that is a parenting issue and not cause for other children to be subject to uniform. Alternately, If your goal is to prevent bullying then consider that children can be cruel period – if a child is a bully, he / she will find other things to target like shoes, jackets, backpacks, hair styles etc … bullying does not ' t stop at clothes – and bullying will get more personal to things that can not be as easily controlled such as braces, hair, personalities etc .. What will be the solution then, an anti-crooked teeth policy?
Privacy: A Uniform is a public display of faith, why do parents need to share that with the world? When did it become a requirement to publicly display your faith of choice in order to participate in the school of your choice? If it is a requirement, then why is the church not pushing the issue? Will the catholic community next force parents to demonstrate their faith as well, maybe they will be asked to wear the equivalent of a turban in blue and white?
Security: One disgruntled parent sent in the following: "Last year we had someone sitting in his car on our street every morning before school, we reported him to the police and his excuse for his suspicious behavior was that he was participating in geocaching? I highly doubt his "excuse" to be true, geo caching in a school district during the busiest time of day? – I am not comfortable with my kids walking to school with a marker on their back. 7 elementary schools within walking distance and only one wears uniform as a result of the last vote. I do not need stalkers to know exactly which school my children are heading too based on their clothes, a uniform post the address of their location on my precious childs back, maybe I should also post my home address to the back of their jacket "
Belief Systems: Parents who only believe in organic clothing or do not want to support business outside of Canada are having their rights to freedom of choice hampered.
Length of Time: Did you add up the number of years your child will look like a clone, dressed as a smurf in blue and white? JK-12 that's 14 years of dressing the same every day. Nine months in maternity clothes has many moms pulling the hair out of their head as clothing choices are so limited and they hate being subjected to wearing the same thing every day, why would you subject your child to 14 years of being a clone? 14 years, 14 years – that's a lifetime to a young child. That's a lifetime to an adult.
Time & Money: Two wardrobes are required, one for school and one for after school – that's twice the laundry, twice the amount of time, twice the money. Do working parents have the time to do twice the laundry? What if you do not get your white shirts cleaned or the hole in the knee patched up in time? Imagine the chaos, the frustration, the tempers, the blame that will erupt when you wake up to learn that their are no more clean uniform shirts and you can not just reach for a t-shirt?
Special Needs Children: Many of the families who have special needs are horrific of the negative impact this will have on their children, they already have enough stress do we need to add more to their life. Just ask them and they will be happy to share with you how uniforms negatively impact them.
No literature on benefit. In the HCDSB, St. Gabriels was used as a pilot project, what are the results of those findings? Their has been quite a lot of contentious between disgruntled parents and the board yet their concerns have been and are continuing to be ignored. Again, what is the goal, what are the benefits. How can we expect to see a positive change in our children's ability to learn and grow as individuals because they have a uniform? A quick search on google only reveals opinions, their is no empirical evidence to support that uniforms create a more harmonious learning environment or anything else. It is all subjective, anecdotal, theoretical. Are rights of families being beaten away by the catholic church based on a set of subjective hopes? And what are those hopes?
Unintended consequences: impact on the child. When a child wears a uniform after school they are segregated, they are different from the other kids. They feel when playing in the park with public school kids, they are asked difficult questions that they may not be able to answer about their faith when attending after school activities / play groups. Some may say the kids can change after school but is it fair to ask a 4 year old to lug around a change of clothes and change in the school washrooms before they leave in order to protect them from the scrutiny of children not in catholic school. If you think bullying was a problem before, how do you think they will be once we are segregating them from the public, holding them up to a different set of standards than their neighborhood friends who practice a different faith?
Playtime: Children are expressing concern over playing outdoors in uniform, boys regularly come home with busted knees and holes in pants from sports on the playground. It's one thing, when a pair of hand me downs get holes, or clothes bought on clearance but some children are expressing fear over the consequences of damaging expensive clothing. How will that fear manifest itself in the playground? Do you want to limit your child's active engagement at recess?
Color breeds life & expression – quite frankly if you look at elementary schools that do have uniforms, the boys look just as unkempt and the girls look like boys in blue and white – the school looks depressed, what happened to flowers and hearts and unicorns, boats and planes and dinosaurs? what happened to color. Since when did color become a bad thing?
Finances: The board says they will have programs in effect to help out those that can not afford uniforms but because someone should have to discuss their finances with the school. Is not a personal matter that you get hand me downs. Why should the school know that you can not afford a uniform? Is not that demaning to parents who are otherwise proud?
Financial benefit to Board or School: The board claims there is no financial benefit to us to use McCarthy's, even if that is the case then why a single source vendor? If parents are mandated to have a single source vendor then why do not they get kick backs in order to supplement programs for the children that will make a long term difference in their health and success ie. physical education to combat obesity, nutrition programs, french programs, social workers, mental health illness programs etc .. If the board does not get kick backs then why McCarthy's? Why can not families choose an alternative provider?
Control: Uniforms are a form of control – a body of people dictating and controlling how other children dress? With all due respect, only parents have the right to make that decision especially when they are attending a publicly funded educational institution – not a private one. If parents wanted their rights on individual expression taken away they'd change religion, sometimes to muslim and dress in a Berka. Alternately, If parents want their children to go to school in blue and white everyday because it makes their life easy then do it, no one is stopping them but why does everyone have to? Why should a parent choose between their child's freedom of expression or their childs participation in a school of their faith?
Political Corruption: Implementation of uniforms are a board mandate being pushed down under the guise of freedom of choice and last I checked I lived in a democratic society, but I now see myself living in a community that has a school board, voted by us who is clearly forcing it's will against us by making continuous adjustments to policy until the policy gives them what they want. The boards policy states that they support uniforms and they have adjusted their policy from 75% passing vote to 66% passing vote to 51% passing vote. 3 Policy changes in the last 3 years? Also, schools never had to vote but now are they destined to host a vote? And if the vote fails they still need a uniform that is in keeping with modesty – umm when is the last time we had a problem with a 4 year old being immodest? The 51% requirement for a passing vote can be traced back to the statistics from the last vote show that most schools have 50-60% of the population in favor of uniforms. This demonstrates the policy has been created to align with the statistics of pro-uniform support while creating confrontation within the community and not being a true reflection of the major but rather an effort by the board to strong arm the community into uniform. For the history of our board, uniforms have never been supported by the vast majority which is why our children do not wear them. Even at our last vote 3 years ago (policy dictated one vote every three years) – Of 41 schools, only 33 voted and 3 passed at 66% (the fourth school in uniform was mandated by the board as test project which by the way, I'd like to see the results of that test project). The past vote shows that less than 10% of the schools have the VAST majority in support but based on the newly engineered requirements for a 51% vote the board is simply seeking a majority. Based on previous statistics, the schools all had a 50-60% yes vote for uniforms – and now the uniform has been adjusted to 51% yes required, based on this, all schools will be in uniform. I think this is called rigging a vote and it is being rigged to be in favor with the boards desire not that of vast majority of the HCDSB community. I believe what the board is doing is is referred to as engineering of consent. This is corrupt and not in keeping with catholic beliefs. For this reason alone, we should all vote no on the next uniform vote.
And on a final note: Did you know the only reason high schools are in uniform is because until the 1970's they were privately funded and therefore historically well uniforms. When the catholic high schools finally did become publicly funded, the uniform was a tradition that simply remained undisputed and stayed in effect. Elementary schools were never subject to this.