Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that there are a few things that brand me, which include my affinities for great teaching and learning, good food, fashion and travel. In fact, my emphatic conviction that fashion is a channel for individuality and a very common form of self expression would lead one to question why I would vie for high school students in the local public school system to wear uniforms.
The answer can be explained by a social theory called “control and choice theory” and simply results from the correlation or dependent relationship that two of my interests (fashion and education) share in a particular present-day situation. As it appears, the fashion choices of the public high school population in my district, and likely many others, have become an obvious, but easily rectifiable, inhibitor of their education. The extreme influence that media, via rap artists, reality stars and other celebrities, has on the everyday decisions of teenagers and other young adults has created a culture of ill-advised young people who make poor decisions in the attempt to imitate those they look up to.
Lacking parental involvement and over-obsession with pop culture are evident in the clothing, hairstyle choices, as well language, attitude and values that reflect disrespect and dishonor for themselves, elders and authority. As a result of this, public educators continue to daily observe callous use of extreme and frequent profanity, nonchalant views, disrespect for authority and, for the purpose of this article, distasteful and totally inappropriate clothing.
Students incessantly and flagrantly violate the dress code, causing the need for disciplinary actions throughout the school day, which translates into constant disruptions of valuable instruction time and loss of morale. I’ve said it once and I will gladly say it again, that until young adults have parents or adults in their family who are themselves or will direct them to positive role models of what men and women should look and behave like, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and reality show drama queens will continue to father and mother them. With this reality of young people taking their cues and directives from mass media who are only concerned about money, we will continue to see young men with sagging pants and young women revealing too much.
It is painfully obvious that these young people, and even their parents, do not possess or care to use discretion as it relates to the manner in which they present themselves. The fact that they have abused their privilege of being free to choose their own attire, and to the detriment of the learning environment, is proof that a controlled setting is in order and perhaps would prove to be more efficient.
It is such an elation for many scholars when a theory takes life from the pages of a textbook and becomes yet alive and well in practice or everyday life. In this instance, the classic control/choice theory used by sociologists is appropriate to address this issue we now face. Because we, as educators and other influential stakeholders in education, must act en locos parentis ( in the stead of parents) for much of our livelihoods, it is our charge to step in and enforce “control” and make wise decisions that will benefit our pupils, when they cannot or will not use their power of “choice” to do so themselves. When we allow the habitual violation of school and societal rules or ineffectively attempt to discipline violators at the expense of academic structure, we not only compromise academic curriculum obligations, but also ill prepare them for what is expected in the professional world.
I know I speak for many educators when I say that I have seen from experience that students conduct themselves better when they are “dressed for success” or wearing more conservative clothing. The many other distractions associated with the obsession of materialism, such as some forms of bullying and confrontational arrogance, amongst so many others, stand to be alleviated as a result of such an initiative. In our constant struggle to provide quality education that will adequately prepare our students for life, amidst all of the odds that are against us, it is wise and necessary that we control those variables that we can, especially in a world of so many uncontrollable factors.
The students we now serve have evolved and if we expect to strive for success, we must evolve in many aspects of our vocations, even those areas considered totally unheard of in times past. If you are an educator or stakeholder in education who understands the great responsibility we have, as well as the population of students we serve, join me advocating for the mandatory school uniforms in all schools in all Dougherty County schools.
Victoria Green is an Economics teacher at Albany High School of eight years. She is a spiritual teacher, published author, speaker, mentor and entrepreneur educated in the Dougherty County School System, Spelman College and Troy University. Her next title, “Where is Her Mama?...” , dedicated to African American women is slated for release Summer 2013.