Going off topic…or the one where she blathers on about school uniforms

Going off topic…or the one where she blathers on about school uniforms November 1, 2012

Some of you may know that I’m a mamma. Yep, in addition to tirelessly working to destroy America with my wanton homosexual lifestyle I live a life of minivan carpools, frustrating homework nights, teenage nail polish disasters and Halloween costume meltdowns.  Maybe you didn’t realize I am the mamma to two girls who attend  inner-city schools in Atlanta. Over 10 years ago I helped found a charter school and now have a daughter attending a traditional public (APS) school.  In case you didn’t know, rumor has it that Georgia ranks pretty low as far as public education goes and some of our city of Atlanta schools are at the bottom of that barrel. What is true is that history has shown us less than 50% of the children who begin school at  Maynard Jackson High School are likely to graduate.  It is true that gang violence is a daily issue that breaks my heart and scares the daylights out of me.  It is true that some parents, students, teachers and administrators bring the very least (and some the worst) of themselves to the community.  But for now, we stay – and we work. Oh yeah, there is work to be done.

Today we welcomed a new principal to our high school – Ms. Stephanie Johnson.  She has turned around other schools, most recently in Clayton County, so I want to believe she knows a thing or two about school improvement.  I got to meet her for the first time this morning at a parent/principal coffee meet and greet. I think I’m gonna like her ’cause I really I like smart women!

A conversation from this morning’s coffee has stayed with me and I wanted to share my rumination and see what y’all think. The topic of school uniforms came up and there was a bit of contention about going to uniforms at MJHS.

See – I really, really do not like uniforms (shocking I know) but I had to stop and think about two main things.

First – If this little change in the culture of our school will help in any way increase the self-esteem of some students, impact the safety of all our children and help turn around (in even teeny ways) the overall lack of regard for the school experience for some of our community then I am willing to set aside my own feelings to see what can happen. I’m not silly, I know school uniforms are not the magic dust to solve all our issues but maybe, just maybe, if this woman has experience confirming it to be so, uniforms could be a piece of the puzzle that contributes to an atmosphere of engaged excellence rather than begrudging mediocrity. Today I am choosing a posture of trust.

Second – Regarding to the notion of “expressing our individuality”  (about which I have often been the loudest squawker) through our clothes; I hope the greater lesson that is learned by our children (and all of us) is that individuality need not be expressed through material goods. Truly, our individuality is matter of heart and mind that is made evident by our behavior. My jeans do not define me any more than my sexuality, body mass, abilities/disabilities or skin color wholly define who I am. I seem to recall a great man once said something about the content of our character.

Sorry for this tangent, I will return you to our regularly scheduled programming of big ole Jesus-y glitter bomb.


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181 responses to “Going off topic…or the one where she blathers on about school uniforms”

  1. Gary, try decaf next time. I went to public schools back when they still had dress codes, when girls had to wear skirts or dresses, and when jeans were impermissible. And yeah, I railed against it. Today I wear a necktie, dress slacks, and button-down shirt 5 days a week, and I’m still living, still able to “express myself,” etc. If the situation in Kimberly’s child’s school is as she describes it, the respect and discipline of uniforms may indeed be a piece in restoring respect for and discipline in education. But in underprivileged neighborhoods, there does need to be some sort of option/program to help provide uniforms for those who can’t afford them (they generally aren’t available at Salvation Army/Goodwill or clothing distribution ministries).

    And Kimberly, obviously you’re younger than I am. I spoke out for “expressing one’s individuality” through clothes by ending dress codes, allowing pants on girls and jeans for all. And when it happened, we all “expressed our individuality” in exactly the same way. We might as well have been wearing uniforms – jeans, T-shirts or flannel shirts, peasant blouses, sneakers. Kids are not really expressing “individuality” in clothing (with rare exceptions); they’re attempting to conform to some group’s standard so they’ll fit in. And in a gang-influenced culture, the bland monotony of uniforms can be an effective tool. Plus, uniforms can work against the over-sexualization of our culture.

    • Absolutely Steve – well said on all accounts. See the point I think maybe Gary missed is that at my core I am anti uniform. If anyone reads more of my blog than this one post they can figure that out pretty quickly. In this case I am going to allow my own thoughts/needs/desires take a back seat, take a wait and see approach. Sometimes what I want is not the most important thing – sometimes the community’s needs outweighs my own. Of course, on the other hand sometimes my perspective can help shape the way the community lives into a better self. It is a balancing act and there are much bigger battles to be fought in this school and this city than whether or not the kids have to wear uniforms.

  2. Coming at the school uniform from the prospective of a retired teacher whose last 10 years were spent in a Catholic elementary school, I have pro and con feelings about the uniforms. Many of the parents were happy to have their children wearing them as the morning struggle of “what will I wear” didn’t occur—except for “dress down days” (which were a treat) the uniform was the answer to school clothes. The parents could buy 3-4 uniforms a year and save money on school clothes. Of course when attending a Catholic school, uniforms have always been the practice. Perhaps in public schools, having the children all looking alike clothing wise might stop problems relating to the gang situation you mentioned (colors?) , equalize the children visually regarding the financial situations they come from etc. I’m not sure any of that makes sense—but I’d say give it a try—it won’t hurt and it might help the school come together for success in all areas. No, clothes are not magic and things wouldn’t happen overnight, but what can it hurt in the long run? Also might help some families financially as the school clothes are settled.

    • Uniforms are fine IF VOLUNTARY. Parent opt–out MUST be available as in Calif, NYC and Miami. But as the website indicates, most supporters of unis believe in the following FALSE MYTHS– 1) tHAT Most kids seek to use school as a “fashion show”; 2) that you CAN judge a book by its cover; 3) that Dr. King said to judge people by the style or COLOR of their clothes rather than by the c ontent of their character; and 4) That kids need to wear formal clothes appropriate for adult office work ratherr than APPROPRIATE casual clothes worn by school kids for 100 years.
      ad nauseum. In short, uni codes DON’T JUST BAN INDECENT OR WILD CLOTHES–but all kinds of conservative, casual clothes FULLY APPROPRIATE FOR SCHOOL WEAR. Instead kids are EXPELLED unless they wear ONLY khaki slacks and plain solid-color polo shirts!!!!!!!!!