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Re: Uniforms a small part of a whole effort

Posted By: Tim Touzel on January 8, 2009
I both agree and disagree with Tammy Steele on the effect of the decision to wear uniforms. On the surface it may appear that uniform choice is a relatively minor, perhaps insignificant, behavior in the culture of schooling, but I believe this behavior and the behaviors that support choosing, considering, wearing, responding to others in clothes is part of a Dao (Tao) of schooling; that is, the Western mind wants to analyze items in isolation, but though this can be done, and can be useful in many situations, schooling practice must always be approached in an holistic way, lest we make ill-conceived decisions. For example, in 1995 when my family prepared for an exchange in Victoria, Australia, our eldest, then a junior in high school, informed us that his freedom was being infringed upon by being forced to wear a uniform. We informed him that "when in Rome, do as the Romans." After arriving near Melbourne, he just fit in, as did the other four, but then the most unexpected event of our year in Australia occurred. Rather than spending the hour or so before leaving for school, trying on clothes, being upset, asking Mom for some unnecessary assistance, or just going through the dirty clothes because the "right" piece of self expression was not there, the children started wandering into the kitchen to talk with me and their mother. Our life changed because of uniforms! Since then I've never overlooked the importance of behaviors, no matter how insignificant they may appear. Our non-talkative children became talkative. The tone of the talkative ones became more positive and interactive, the amount of intellectual conversations increased, and our understanding of their adolescent lives became more clear. I am probably safe to say their appreciation of their parents increased also. We became privy to school stories; they were funny; they were disclosing themselves. This year was the most intellectual, idea-oriented, cognitively rich year they had ever had, though a life of ideas was definitely our family culture. Don't dismiss the insignificance of relatively trivial matters. Uniforms are part of democracy, the possibly inherent justice of a capitalistic society, a school life that focuses on scholastic matters rather than showing off or looking at an erotic body - a body optimally showcased to encourage sexual thoughts or suggestive dialogue, but rather a clothing message that says "think of school" or "keep your mind off of trivial matters and onto ideas."
The above message is not intended to suggest that our children never thought of non-school ideas, it is just to state how pleased we were that they so often thought first of us, each other, ideas, school, their classmates as people or the ideas they encouraged, and not so many of the non-school ideas that were so much more common when they were in an American system so dominated by self-pleasure, sex, sport, and what-can-I-get-into-next.
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 Uniforms a small part of a whole effort by Tammy Steele on January 3, 2009
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