It’s my first official day in my new role as a Bible Teacher and Chaplain at Winston Salem Christian School, so I figured I would talk about the question I have gotten far more than any other question this summer: “Why do we have to wear uniforms?”
Let me be very clear that I neither had, nor currently have, any authority over the dress code at WSCS. This decision was made by those in the Administration that the school has entrusted with making decisions like this. I had never spent a single second trying to figure out if school uniforms are good or bad when I heard about the decision to move our school in that direction. Here is how I processed that information, some things I have learned since then, and some conclusions that I think will help people understand why uniforms are going to be the norm going forward for WSCS.
My first reaction was disappointment, mainly because I really don’t like being told what to do in situations where I think freedom is better. While I was disappointed, I also trusted that the decision was made for a reason and that those in charge had made this decision because it represents the best path forward for our students. My experience with WSCS leadership has been that decisions are rarely made reactionarily. Change is made based on an intimate knowledge of our culture, and context, along with an investigation of possible solutions. I would encourage all of us who are part of the WSCS community to start with trust, in this situation and every other situation. That doesn’t mean that mistakes are never made, but let’s start with trusting that those who made the decision took the decision seriously and had information that we may not have.
My disappointment lead me to do a little research. I was not researching in order to prove that uniforms are not necessary. I was simply researching to educate myself, so that I could have an intelligent discussion when the inevitable questions would come up. Here is what I discovered. Really smart people disagree on this issue. Most experts agree that there is no definitive data that says uniforms produce better grades or less behavior problems. If you are looking for proof that we don’t need uniforms you can find it. There are some studies that say uniforms make a difference. Some studies show they don’t. The conclusion seems to be that uniforms don’t do any damage, and may or may not have a positive impact on grades and behavior. But that is not the entire story of the impact that uniforms have on a school.
When teachers talk about the impact that uniforms make similar results are mentioned. Teachers consistently talk about not having to spend any time determining if a student is in or out of dress code. The negative interactions between students and teachers regarding dress are greatly reduced. Instead of focusing on managing the dress code, the teachers have more energy to focus on teaching and supporting their students in learning.
In regards to students, uniforms do seem to create a sense of community and connectedness with fellow students and a sense of school spirit. Uniforms do not erase problems with school culture, but they seem to help enhance the best parts of school culture when there are good things already happening. Thankfully there is already a lot of good stuff happening at WSCS so that we will not be dependent upon uniforms to create a good culture, but instead allow uniforms to be one piece of enhancing the best parts of WSCS.
WSCS is blessed to have a staff that loves Jesus and loves our students. Last year, our teachers expended a lot of emotions and a lot of energy trying to enforce the dress code and having to deal with student reactions to enforcement of the dress code. If you didn’t already know this, most of our teachers teach multiple subjects and are involved in some type of extra curricular program. They don’t have a ton of extra energy, so helping them be able to focus on teaching is a high priority for the administration.
So, many articles later, I understand why we have uniforms. I am confident that it isn’t a punishment for our students. It isn’t because we don’t trust our students. Our movement to uniforms is all about supporting our teachers, and helping to elevate our students feeling of community.