Dear Carolyn: I have three kids in public school, one is a high school freshman and twins are in seventh grade. When they returned to school after winter break, it was announced that public schools would now require uniforms.
The uniforms are fairly basic, khaki or black pants or skirts, with a few solid colored shirts as options. My kids and their friends are shockingly okay with this shift and don’t seem to care at all.
I think this is really boring. The clothes we wear say a lot about individuality and personality. Imposing uniforms on public school students seems to be limiting them for no clear or good reason.
I am outraged about this, but what surprises me more is that my kids don’t really seem to care. When I asked them why they didn’t care, they all just said that they will wear the uniform and don’t want me to make a big deal about it. There is a meeting on Tuesday to discuss this, and I very much want to bring up my opposition, but my kids asked me not to go to the meeting or speak up. I strongly feel these uniforms are a bad idea, but I want to respect my kids’ wishes as well.
I’m also a little concerned I’m raising kids who will go along with authority perhaps a little too well.
— Uniform Disgust
Uniform Disgust: Why does it have to be that they’re “go[ing] along with authority”? Maybe they’re relieved at having the fashion pressure removed. Maybe their school environment was label-competitive or trend-snarky, or some kids push hard against the boundaries of taste. Especially at these ages, kids can be vicious about clothing choices, and the ones who lack the money or body conformity or social conformity to fit in can pay a heavy social price.
Whatever the case, “outraged” strikes me as an outsize reaction for someone not actually wearing the clothes.
Respect your kids’ autonomy enough to stay out of it, please, and in the free time this gives you on Tuesday, give some thought to why you care so much.
And, not for nothing — wouldn’t agreeing with you mean they’re just deferring to your authority? Their standing up to you on this should fill you with hope on your kids’ ability to know their own minds and choose their battles accordingly.
Re: School uniforms: I went to a school that required uniforms and loved it at the time — I never had to think about what to wear and never had the pressure of “expressing my individuality” via my clothing choices. Some of us HATE that.
I grew up to be as anti-authoritarian as can be, due to my parents’ influence.
Re: Uniforms: It’s a school, not a creativity contest. If the kids don’t care, then what is she making such a fuss about? A uniform dress code is a good idea because it helps to keep young people focused on what school is actually about — learning.
— I Really Have to Wonder
I Really Have to Wonder: There’s also an implied message of respect. Dressing for business says you take the work — and yourself — seriously.