Uniforms and Conformity

From kindergarten to twelfth grade, I had to wear a uniform to school. It was a policy at Shadyside Academy that was strictly enforced. I wore the same outfit everyday for thirteen years: a white collared shirt, tucked into tan pants, and dress shoes. It sounds horrible and unfair, but I actually like it and almost preferred uniforms. From what we have discussed in class on John Stuart Mill, individuality and non-conformity is incredibly important. It promotes learning and diversity and an array of other great things that not only boost the individual, but also society as a whole. However, my thirteen years as a conformist was actually great and I believe my lack of individuality was not so bad.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Mill, the great philosopher, spent a lot of his time studying the importance of individuality. Mill claims that we can learn a lot from non-conformists and people that hold on to their individuality. They show perspective and diversity that lead to greater learning and understanding. People should be free to make their own choices and decisions because we learn from them which would not only help the individual find wisdom, but also society. It’s hard to disagree with this. The logic is sound and in many cases, I personally believe individuality is important for the human race. However in the case of uniforms, I must disagree with Mill. I think when you attend school, you should sacrifice some of you individuality, by wearing a uniform, to better the learning environment on the school.

The Shadyside Logo

The Shadyside Logo

In the article, “The Importance of School Uniforms,” Tiffany W. highlights many benefits that uniforms offer students. For starters, uniforms allow for equality among all the students. Because students all wear the same outfit, everyone is equal and bullying becomes less common. There is no longer a problem of people making fun of you for what you wear or how you dress which is very common in schools that do not require a uniform. A more strict dress code also promotes a better learning environment through less distractions. It is truly amazing what younger and younger kids are wearing in public. Everything is getting shorter, tighter, and smaller. I am sure if Mills saw how kids were “expressing themselves” and showing off their “individuality” he would be appalled. If all students wore the same thing, there would be more focus on school work and less on what so-and-so was wearing that day.

You can see the students of Shadyside wearing the same uniform (Collared Shirt Tucked into Nice Pants)

You can see the students of Shadyside wearing the same uniform (Collared Shirt Tucked into Nice Pants)

Personally, I never had a problem with uniforms. I like the idea of equality and sameness among everyone. I never thought it was that important to express myself through cloths. That is what a personality is for. I conformed to the established rule and did alright. I survived. Shadyside Academy’s dress code, may seem ridiculous, but I found that conforming and sacrificing some of my individuality actually helped me learn and better myself as a person. I was more focused which meant I was a better student.

See! Conformity isn't that bad

See! Conformity isn’t that bad

I will concede that individuality is important in some cases. It is important to make your own path and learn from other non-conforming individualists to better your own understanding. Seeing the successes and failures of people and allowing other people to see your own successes and failures as individual are great learning tools that promote growth and liberty. However, in the case of school, I believe Mill’s policies are not applicable because in this field, conforming to the dress code, allows for a better learning environment. Sacrificing a little of you individuality through uniforms, actually helps the student body by eliminating distractions and bullying. There are other ways to express individuality. Mill is correct in stating the necessity for freedom and liberty, but in some cases, I must disagree. Uniforms are beneficial which may mean conformity is good in some instances. 

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One comment

  1. noahblum · November 25, 2014

    Ethan,
    I think your perspective is interesting, and I agree that individuality is not always a good thing. However, I disagree with what Mill might think. What you wear is an expression of your individuality, and Mill would see uniforms as a limit of one’s individuality, but the benefits that uniforms bring also help promote individuality in a different way, a way that I think Mill finds more important. Without the distractions mentioned in your post, students are more focused on learning. I think internal individuality is more pertinent to Mill: different thoughts, opinions, beliefs, values etc. Mill is a strong supporter of free speech; if uniforms resulted in more stimulating thought and an increase in internal individuality, he might actually support uniforms.

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