GUEST COLUMN: Make uniforms mandatory in schools

Once thought of as a bad idea, the writer now thinks differently about school uniforms

Derek Lewers

Contributed

When I was younger, my parents wanted me to attend private school. It was something that I didn’t have a problem with, until I learned about the dreaded “school uniform.”

I would sooner have cut off my right arm than wear a uniform. The year was 1986, and that’ was how I thought. There was no way I was going to be stuffed into a uniform and have my peers mock me.

Fast forward some 30 plus years, and I now find myself realizing that the 14 year old me didn’t have a clue, and the uniform would have been a great idea.

This stood out for me recently, as on a recent trip to the Caribbean, I was in a country where all the school children were in uniform.

The first thing I recognized was that I could easily identify students as students, and secondly, how good they all looked.

I knew what I thought of the uniforms when I saw them, but appreciated that the nearly 50-year-old me is just that, nearly 50, and that my views on the subject are most likely not in line with the youth of the day.

So, since I found myself riding a lot of public transit during my stay, I decided to engage with the local youth while on the buses and at the bus stops, and ask them what they thought of their uniforms.

To my surprise, the response from these children ages from about 9-17, were unanimous. They all loved their uniforms. When I asked why that was, the answers were again, nearly unanimous, with the 2two top factors being, they didn’t have to shop for clothes, and secondly, they were all the same and not judged on appearance.

It was with the second reason that I really understood how school uniforms are the great equalizer. There is a long standing saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and being that the clothes we wear every day cover more than 90 per cent of our bodies, we are judged by the clothes we wear.

Moving our schools to a uniform would be the great equalizer. It would not matter rich or poor, all children would, for the most part, look the same. The children would then have the opportunity to be judged by both teachers and peers, for what is on the inside. They would not face criticism from their peers if they didn’t have the latest fashion, or if someone had worn out shoes, and bullying based on appearance would almost disappear.

There is also the great opportunity to create healthy rivalries between schools and renew school pride.

Now some of you are going to argue about freedom of expression and individuality. I can assure you, I thought of this too, and I asked these kids about that.

Not one of them expressed any concern about that, and they said that after school they have their own expression of dress and individuality. I can also say first hand, that the adult population of this island nation certainly did not lack individuality or seemed oppressed in their freedom of expression.

I also take a look around me, and see where uniforms come into play in the adult world, from Walmart, to pest-control, to UPS and our emergency services and beyond. Our adult world is full of uniforms and in many cases, we admire and respect those wearing them.

So, you see, it appears the 14-year-old me was wrong (shocker), and I should have embraced the change.

For those that are wondering, no, I never did go to private school, because I dug in on this issue. Only time will tell if I am better or worse off for that decision back then, but looking back then and looking forward now, I can say with all certainty, that uniforms should be mandatory in schools, for everyone’s benefit.

•••

Derek Lewers is a long-time political commentator, activist, and the father of two boys. He lives in Sooke.

Column

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘We need to do better:’ VicPD responds to more parties, gatherings

Chief pleads with public to ‘think of the greater good’

What Victoria residents are looking to buy while social distancing

New search terms pop up on the Used.ca the top 100 list

Stats Canada expects COVID-19 to impact inflation

Inflation trajectory already pointing downards because of COVID-19

Saanich community kitchen continues food distribution amid COVID-19 pandemic

New food delivery system launches March 27 for members stuck at home

COVID-19: Coping with isolation, stress and anxiety

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health shares useful information on coping with pandemic

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy program to all COVID-19 affected companies: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected today

The government has rolled out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands as you would after touching any surface or object

Most Read