Equal Opportunities – Yes or No to Uniforms at School?

Equal Opportunities – Yes or No to Uniforms at School?

In my previous article, I discussed test results versus equal opportunities. The controversial No Child Left Behind Act placed too much emphasis on testing and that teachers were focusing on test scores. This means testing is not sustainable in the long run because it places too much pressure on both sides.

It stresses students because they are forced to keep focusing on obtaining high test scores rather than gaining deep and profound knowledge. But it torments teachers too because they are forced to teach to the test and not put the knowledge students gain into practice. Teaching to the test also means they are kept busy with assembling these standardized tests, correcting them, distributing them and so on. The fresh Every Student Succeeds Act focuses on equal opportunity for everyone. Standardized tests were restricted and emphasis was not placed on practice. This is where the old Prussian method gets a strike. Practice enhances creativity. What does that mean? In-depth understanding of the material in the end. This should be the target. Needless to say, providing equal opportunities also enhances compliance.

This article focuses on the ongoing debate on whether schools should have a uniform or not. My primary school has a uniform, which is a blue and white checked shirt complete with a tie, on special occasions. The shirt has an alternative, a white, blue, or yellow T-shirt with the school’s logo on it. On special occasions, the shirt is required to be worn with the tie. My primary school specializes in music. Hungary has a distinguished music education tradition (see Call to Action No. 1). At any rate, whether wearing a uniform increases equality is an ongoing debate. It is a popular argument that uniforms teach children that everyone is equal, therefore children become more open to each other and they start to build a community. Then this community should start doing a lot of research together. It helps to dismantle stereotypes and brings children closer to each other. This is what my school intended to do. Dismantling stereotypes, moreover, conceals social differences. It does not matter whether you came from an impoverished or a well-to-do family. The school is open, the community is open. What does this mean? Equal opportunities. Where does it get us to? More compliance and less disrespectful students. As I said, my primary school is blessed with a great tradition of music and singing education. We had a music class every day. Twice a week, I attended choir rehearsals. These rehearsals were compulsory, however, I never felt that I was forced to go. Of course, my choir represented the school at music festivals around Hungary and even Europe. The school built close friendships with a German school and one in the UK—once I managed to go to Germany because the choir was invited. We even sang to the Prime Minister of Bavaria, who was amazed by the fact that we learned some Bavarian folk songs (in Bavarian, of course!).

It is worth noting that my school was often considered as a privileged one, as they had an entrance test. Yes, they measured my singing skills. When I enrolled, the headmaster of the school was at the singing test. My mother was there and said I would fail because I could not sing. However, the headmaster (whom I respect a lot) thought differently and said I did not have a problem with the lower pitch, he would put emphasise on a lower tune, which solved the problem. This headmaster never humiliated a student. Rather he found true talent in everyone. However, he got annoyed if students were sneaky. Again, I would like to refer back to my article on discipline. Why did that slap fly? To sum up, having a uniform does help schools to build a community and help them dismantle stereotypes. Moreover, it teaches us that everyone is equal and encourages us to place emphasise on “effort” over “excuse”.

On the other hand, one popular argument against uniforms is that they go against freedom. Well, this has some truth to it, but consider schools in the United Kingdom where every school has one. We have never heard any complaint about British school uniform policy. Of course, a uniform can be expensive to make, and you have to clean it yourself. Well, this is a reasonable argument, again, but some uniforms are made of special material to resist sweat and dirt. Moreover, the material is durable. A third relatively common argument is that uniforms conceal the beauty of girls. Well, in my view, we do not have to parade everything we have at home at school. It will fuel jealousy among others, and subsequently, disrespect towards others. Uniforms teach one to comply and be disciplined.

All things considered, uniforms are a good idea at primary and secondary schools. This way children learn the value of teamwork to get an in-depth understanding of the material. In-depth understanding means they will have no difficulty putting it into practice.

Calls to Action:

  1. Watch Interview with Zoltán Kodály on the importance of music education, the footage of which was made in 1946.
  2. Read more about Zoltán Kodály and his famous method.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

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