A violation of civil liberties? A dress code? Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I honestly can't see the problem with teaching children and teenagers the need to conform to rules and regulations of an organisation.

In many countries outside the U.S. school uniform is compulsory for high-school students. There is a purpose to this completely beyond any question of liberty

Firstly it acts to prevent the cult of popularity that seems - both from nodes here, and from dramas set in US high schools - to be prevalent in American schools. Students cannot be categorised on the basis of the clothes they wear, social status is less apparent where everyone is dressed the same, nobody can make a 'nerd' or 'geek' or 'freak' judgement on the basis of a simple glance. Groups will form, of course, but their membership is fluid and tends to be based purely upon shared interests or approaches to life. There are few, if any pariahs. Most schools retain an 'in-group', of highly popular students but membership of it isn't sought in the same frantic way that it appears to me to be in the U.S. (from what I've heard and read), and exclusion is in no way a tragedy or a path to social ruin.

Secondly, it prompts a sense of identification with, and loyalty to, the school and a sense of pride in belonging to it. It fosters community spirit. I won't swear that it improves application and education, but my gut feeling is that it tends to.

Of course, everyone hates the uniform, but that, in its own way is unifying - the same rules apply to everyone, and dislike is directed at the clothes and not other students.

As a general rule, uniform regulations extend to jewellery, makeup and hair - at my daughter's high school for example the rules are:

  • No visible jewellery, apart from a single earring in each ear and a watch, and a medical alert bracelet/pendant if necessary.
  • No make-up of any kind.
  • No 'unnatural' coloured hair dye.
  • Hair longer than collar length to be tied back.

Perhaps this hampers her personal expression; but I don't feel so, and nor does she - it's simply a rule to follow, and certainly doesn't get in the way of her primary reason for being at school - to get an education. Of course, nor would blue hair, or multiple piercings, but the judgements and misjudgements of peers resulting from decisions of this kind might.

Finally, as a preparation for employment, these kinds of rules, which impact in such a small way on personal "rights" are invaluable - and everyone has out of school time to express their wildest inner natures, after all.