School Learning and Dress Codes

So many today are concerned with the notions of freedom and liberty. Voices are raised vigorously sounding the alarm to rescue civil rights and free speech. Consequently, the umbrella of free speech has been enlarged to include the disrespectful, the immoral, and the perverse. Simultaneously, the spiritual fiber of America continues to be unraveled such that it is hard to tell where we stand morally and ethically. One area in which this is clearly evident is the manner in which we dress.

The attitudes of rebellion that were spawned in the ‘60s and ‘70s offered a license for some to challenge the barriers of cultural norms. There were dramatic shifts in hair styles and clothing choices as popular culture embraced rebellion and disdained social standards. This movement, carried on the shoulders of free speech, was lent credence from two powerful forces, Rock and Roll and Hollywood. In the wake of this wave of change, social institutions in turn responded with relaxed dress standards. The result is a growing population of young people who mock order and discipline with excesses in dress, appearance, body piercing, and body art.

In schools, shorts, t-shirts, baggy and sagging pants, short dresses, and tight clothing have replaced the modest and the neat. Extreme hair styles and bizarre clothing are permitted in the name of free speech and self-expression engendering a circus-like throng of children who look little prepared to behave and dress for success in the world. One cannot help but wonder what effect this phenomena has had on overall student learning.

Perhaps what we need is a revival of standards. One simple solution is the uniform dress codes. In such schools, students and teachers reflect attitudes of consistency and stability in their attire while minimizing the need for monitoring of students to adjust clothing or fix a dress code violation. Administration no longer has to be called on to rule whether or not a student’s clothing choice for the day falls within the district guidelines allowing teachers and administration to focus more on the business of learning. Students are less likely to be sent home or written up for dress code violations when a predetermined and uniform standard of dress is set. Such systems when put in place and appropriately enforced provide structure and stability which are conducive to an effective learning environment.

Studies support the notion that educational performance and behavior improves in more structured environments. Special education practices have repeatedly demonstrated the positive effects of structure and discipline on learning. It is safe to say that this science can be extended to the ideas of clothing and overall appearance. Few would disagree with the argument that excessive liberties in dress and appearance are at best a distraction to learning and achievement. I sincerely pray that the pendulum of cultural and social standards soon begins to swing back in the other direction for the sake of our children and our integrity.

In the meantime, I challenge parents and children, especially those who name the name of Christ to present an image that demonstrates conviction and consistency. Look to a higher standard of excellence that sets you apart from the world and its devices, better preparing you to face the challenge of the world beyond high school.