I used to hate school uniforms. I hated them so much that I refused to send my children to a school which had a uniform policy.
Why? Well, I had this thing about kids being square pegs and schools being round holes and there being a lack of fit, so to speak. I saw uniforms as symbols of a regimented and authoritarian system. Probably came from my own less than superlative school days.
Suffice to say, I carried some baggage…
The problem I faced was that most schools insist on uniforms. Undaunted, I found a school at the other side of town which ticked all the boxes. No uniform; non denominational; co-ed, small. Perfect! It did involve driving across town at rush hour, but what the heck. The smallies were worth it.
All that changed when we moved to the country. There was only one school in our locality. Thankfully, it was a very nice school and it didn’t require a uniform. No problem there.
As the children grew, something strange happened. I stopped caring so much about uniforms and a whole host of other things too. i.e. Barbies and Action Men and whether or not they reinforced stereotypical gender roles.
You know the sort of thing.
Then my children got much bigger and moved on to Secondary school. Everything changed. There was a strict uniform policy. Grey pants, blue jumper, white polo shirt, black shoes. Very generic, very synthetic…. everything I hated.
Did I care? A little. I still believed that uniforms suppress individuality.
But, much of the fervour and passion had waned.
I DIDN’T CARE THAT MUCH.
So what about all that unique individuality? Those square pegs and round holes??
Well, the kids have their own take on that.
I’ve watched with interest as my kids symbolically deconstruct their uniforms. The new jumper I bought my daughter last September remains in her drawer, unworn. The jumper she chooses to wear is so ragged and tattered at the cuffs, that it is only fit for the bin. Strange, you might say, until you start looking at the jumpers other kids are wearing. All battered, ragged and threadbare. It’s the same with the shoe laces, which are left undone. It’s the same with the school jackets, which are never worn.
Then you realise, this is a collective statement. This is transgression en masse. It’s an, ‘us against them’ statement. The kids know the deal. The school knows the deal. The parents know the deal. And it’s completely OK.
And with my new-found insights into the teenage psyche, I now believe that school uniforms rock. YES, ACTUALLY ROCK! Bad enough for teens to cope with hair and makeup! The choice of finding something of their own to wear every day would completely overwhelm them. I don’t think my two oldest would even make it out of their bedrooms, never mind onto the school bus.
Being a teen is a complex and difficult thing. That’s why I believe that the generic, grey uniforms is a blessing in disguise. It’s bog standard, simple and reliable. Everybody else is wearing the same. And that is a good thing, because most teens don’t want to stand out too much. Even better, with a few choice rips here and there, it is very transgressible.
So there you have it. I have performed a complete U Turn on uniforms. Ta dah!!
See you next week