Wednesday, 7 September 2016

School uniform...

Ah, don’t they look smart as the go off to school in their new school uniforms so proud to be part of the group. The pictures on Facebook say it all; how nice that our children, so used to T-shirts, baggy shorts and day-glow pumps have suddenly been made into little models of conformity. All lined up like ducks with the only way to distinguish them being their size, the colours of their eyes or hair or skin.

Uniforms are such a great leveler and isn’t it great that we don’t need to know the children’s names to know which tribe they’ve been signed up to?

Sorry, doting mums I might as well tell you I really don’t like uniforms for children. It so often leads to uniforms for adults in later life. I don’t care if it is school, Scouts, Guides, the Army Cadets or the Hitler Youth, none of the arguments for uniforms really stands up. Not even the bullshit ‘leveler’ one.

Kids all over the country have been sent home this week for not following the school rules on uniform. In Reading a girl was sent home for having the wrong collar on her white blouse and the wrong shade of dark blue trousers. At Hartsdown Academy fifty pupils were refused entry for offences including wearing black shoes made from suede and the wrong colour laces. All over the country this ridiculous power play is repeated as idiot headmasters demand that children conform, sometimes breaking their wills and destroying their confidence in the process.

I have previous on this. Back in the seventies I pushed the boundaries of school uniform to the acceptable limit. I wore the tie, I had a black blazer, my trousers were grey and my shoes were black. But that was where my conformity ended. My blazer was sailcloth with contrasting stitch, my trousers mid grey and flared, my white shirts had ‘penny’ collars and my shoes were platformed. It met the criteria as outlined in the school rule book which, believe this as it is true, we had to carry in our pockets at all times, but my what a terrible outrage it caused.

After threats of suspension, numerous ‘chats’ from senior boys who were apparently ‘disgusted’ that I should let the school down in this way, and a couple of beatings in the changing rooms, it all seemed to go away as stretching the boundaries of school dress became the norm with many other pupils in the school. I guess I was just trying to be an individual, which backfired as the way I dressed became the norm, but in retrospect it was more than that – far more.

Being made to tow the line and become a clone simply isn’t right. Everyone has the right to express themselves in the way they act, think and, yes, even dress within certain boundaries. Uniforms were originally about the tribe you belonged to, about going into battle as a thing not a person. In war the uniform meant you didn’t know who it was that just got blown up. In prisons and concentration camps they are used to remove your identity and dehumanise. In the forces to underline your status and rank, rather than your personality, abilities, or identity.

On the plus side – if this is a plus side – it allows you to hide. In extreme cases it can allow you to distance yourself from your actions so that what you do isn’t really you at all - it is the uniform and all it stands for. There are other times where uniforms are good, allowing you to easily see the emergency services when you need to, or watch the play on a football field. But even these uses have a negative side with crowd and group think being so much more accessible to people who all dress the same.

Yes, uniforms usually come complete with a code of behaviour. They can make you in to someone else.

I really can’t understand why we need uniforms in schools at all. Standards yes, but identical and inflexible dress codes particularly when the schools claim they want to grow unique individuals? Are the educational and political overlords trying to build a society where we fit in because of what we wear, a uniformity that is easy to control with no room for difference - the very thing they applaud and claim they want? And while we are about it, how dare Jeremy Corbyn not wear a dark suit and a tie?

There is something very wrong with a school where the material your black footwear is made from is such an issue. What a rubbish school that fails to nurture difference and is able to build acceptable and agreeable guidelines for everybody to work within. Personally I would kick the headmaster of Hartsdown Academy out of Education forever as he isn’t the type of educator I would want my children to have to endure.

On that point I once had to attend a disciplinary meeting at my daughter Holly’s snotty Grammar School where she was made to feel like a criminal because her check blouse wasn’t the acceptable check and her boots had laces.  She broke down in the meeting and I told the shit head of sixth form to stuff her stupid school up her stupid fat arse. Holly went on to a local college with no dress code and got three A’s and I got told off by my wife for being so rude to a teacher.

Maybe, instead of cooing over how smart our kids look as they go off to school dressed in the same clothes as their classmates we should think about how we allow then to become individuals and not just clones to serve an educational system that wants to manage them through tests, the colour and style of their shoes, and bullying megalomaniac teachers.

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