And parents have already proclaimed the new...

SOME STUDENTS

April 05, 1996

SOME STUDENTS and parents have already proclaimed the new voluntary uniform policy at Shipley's Choice Elementary School a success. On the first day, nearly 100 students came in uniforms -- khaki or navy slacks with white or blue polo shirts for boys and a white blouse and plaid jumper or skirt for girls. But the majority of the Millersville school's 440 students gave the uniforms a thumbs down. It just might be too early to claim victory.

While uniforms can reduce some students' misguided efforts to outdo each other with expensive designer-label clothes, they don't eliminate the problem. Even in private schools that require uniforms for daily attire, children still find ways to differentiate themselves from their peers. The rules usually don't cover jackets and shoes, which are typically the focus of the fashion one-upmanship in any case. Kids compete over the number of "bubbles" in their Michael Jordan Nikes or whose athletic warm-up jacket is the most "authentic."

When schools adopt uniforms, parents are the real beneficiaries. They can better budget their clothing purchases because the price of uniforms is usually nominal. In addition, an active secondary market of used uniforms reduces the cost. There are logistical benefits, too. Gone are the mornings where children spend an eternity mixing and matching to achieve the proper fashion statement.

It's ironic that Shipley's Choice, an upscale community, has gone this route for its elementary school, because the problems of dress at that grade-level are typically benign. There have, however, been instances locally where secondary students have been threatened with physical harm for not giving up their coats or shoes to jealous peers. Thus, it's surprising none of the county's middle or high schools has felt compelled to adopt uniforms.

The importance that society places on appearance is at the root of this problem. When children are bombarded with messages that their self-worth is measured by what they wear, it is inevitable kids will place unwarranted importance on it. In fact, given the pervasive emphasis on materialism in the media, especially on television, it would be astounding if they ignored the message when they pass through the schoolhouse doors.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

Addressing the problems of dress; Oddly, an upscale school is among the first to adopt uniforms.

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