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School Uniforms - constitutional, justified?


davehiggz

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I was watching the West Wing and the debate came up that school uniforms might violate the 1st amendment. Obviously the US is different but are there constitutional grounds for uniforms under the Irish constitution?

Also, I wanna get the ball rolling on uniforms in general. I'll be gone from school in a year so I can't change it for myself but I don't want future generations to wear the uncomfortable clothes that I've worn for the past 14 years.

I believe that students should have the freedom to wear whatever they want into school as long as it fits in with a dress code to be decided upon by the schools themselves. The US, France, Italy, Finland and many other European countries have no uniforms and there's no proof that this worsens their education. In fact, Finland has the best education system in the world.

The cost of uniforms are enormous with many schools also requiring expensive PE gear or school jackets along with the class wear. This is completely unjustified when many people can barely afford to pay for the books, even with government financial support.

I don't buy the argument that parents would have to spend more on designer clothes. Kids want these clothes anyway to wear with their friends after school. Why wear the uniform for school, only to change into casual wear the second you come home? Why not wear your casual wear all day? This saves a lot of washing for parents so there's even an environmental argument to ban uniforms.

It's an issue we don't even seem to question in Ireland, but it's time we did.
 

ibis

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When you're a parent, you might have a different view of uniforms. The impact of in-school competition is far stronger than the result of hanging around with friends - the former involves a far larger group of people, and one that includes rivals and multiple non-friends. There are other reasons - discipline, esprit de corps, but I can't see those being of interest to you. Also, your remarks are only really relevant to someone in their later teens, while schooling starts a decade before that.
 

ibis

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Extra washing, extra cost?

I can't see how my views will change. I've asked my parents about this and they'd like to see them gone too.
Hence "might". I'm pretty certain, though, that there is no constitutional argument - or even the vague beginnings of one - in Bunreacht.
 
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johnfás

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Uniforms should be encouraged in every secondary school as a means of instilling civic pride and as a training for turning oneself out respectably on a daily basis - which is very important in most adult jobs.
 

willoughby

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Uniforms are often far more expensive than other clothing, but I don't see them as an overly bad thing, and children being children have one less thing to tease each other about.
 

Didimus

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School dress/appearance codes have run into constitutional problems in the US whereas school uniforms have not been successfully challenged. A 1968 ruling on a the burning of draft cards set out a four part test of when regulations that might be seen to infinge the first amendment rights.
This "O'Brien Test" says that a regulation will be justified if: (a) it is within the government's interest, (b) it furthers an important or substantial government interest, (c) the government interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression, and (d) the incidental restriction on First Amendment rights is no greater than necessary to further that interest (United States v. O'Brien, 1968).
Bill Clinton was in favour , don't know how Bartlett felt.
 

Cato

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Uniforms should be encouraged in every secondary school as a means of instilling civic pride and as a training for turning oneself out respectably on a daily basis - which is very important in most adult jobs.
I never wore a school uniform for one day of my life and I have never had an issue with the above. There were no problems in my secondary school caused by pupils wearing their own clothes. To this day that school is uniform free.
 

slx

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Uniforms should be encouraged in every secondary school as a means of instilling civic pride and as a training for turning oneself out respectably on a daily basis - which is very important in most adult jobs.
Well, assuming that everyone's going to work in a bank, be a solicitor or join the army. There are many, many jobs, particularly in the 'knowledge economy' where casual dress is the norm.

I went to a school where the uniforms were so impractical that even the JUNIOR INFANTS had dry cleaning bills! We had dry-clean only blazers which cost over €100 and had to be cleaned about once a week in most cases.

Not only was this a total waste of money, it was also extremely environmentally unfriendly.

It was an incredibly impractical and stupid way to dress kids!

Likewise, many school uniforms have impractical items like white shirts, dry-clean only / preferably pants, ties that can be a choking hazard etc etc.

I always find that the Irish education system seems to spend most of its time worrying about ridiculous things while failing miserably to actually get on with education.

i.e. uniforms, teaching religion, teaching Irish and endless waffle about discipline.

The reality is that it churns out kids who are incapable of thinking laterally and learn everything off by heart.

While we like to self-congratulate about how wonderful our education system is. It is very evident at 3rd level that Irish students are light years behind their US and continental European counterparts when it comes to things like their ability to research, present ideas and their self-confidence.

There's a very definite tendency for Irish kids to feel that teachers should be addressed like military commanders i.e. all that "miss" "sir" nonsense.

Irish education needs to drag itself out of the 19th century. It's extremely backwards when it comes to a whole raft of things from use of technology, to access to sports, to generally producing results that are suitable for the modern world.
 

YoungLiberal

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Hence "might". I'm pretty certain, though, that there is no constitutional argument - or even the vague beginnings of one - in Bunreacht.
Definitely not, our Freedom of Expression provisions are pretty limited, your best bet would be to look to the ECHR, not that you'd find any there either.

Furthermore, there has been no ruling to the effect that school uniforms are unconstitutional in the US. Indeed, I think Philadelphia, if memory serves me correctly, requires uniforms for its public students.
 

Cato

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Six, well said on all points.
 

CookieMonster

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Uniforms should be encouraged in every secondary school as a means of instilling civic pride and as a training for turning oneself out respectably on a daily basis - which is very important in most adult jobs.
There may be justification for that if many school's uniforms didn't now consist of tracksuits and casual clothing. Also, I think teaching children how to wear and tie a tie properly might be useful.

But, I think a lesson schools may better serve society by teaching is just general manners. The lack of which in Irish society of all ages is shocking.
 

CookieMonster

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Likewise, many school uniforms have impractical items like white shirts, dry-clean only / preferably pants, ties that can be a choking hazard etc etc.
Oh come off it. Children have been wearing school uniforms for hundreds of years and none of that was ever an issue.
 

YoungLiberal

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There may be justification for that if many school's uniforms didn't now consist of tracksuits and casual clothing. Also, I think teaching children how to wear and tie a tie properly might be useful.

But, I think a lesson schools may better serve society by teaching is just general manners. The lack of which in Irish society of all ages is shocking.
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. An example that springs to mind, the amount of people who lack the ability to eat dinner in a formal setting is mind-boggling.
 

Cato

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Yeah, it's pretty amazing. An example that springs to mind, the amount of people who lack the ability to eat dinner in a formal setting is mind-boggling.
Agreed, but I think that is a failing of parents rather than the education system.
 

YoungLiberal

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Agreed, but I think that is a failing of parents rather than the education system.
Oh, yeah, sorry, should have clarified that. It's not the education or the state's fault*, it's the family's.

There's a rather annoying habit of the state looking to the education sector to solve all ills.

*If you see it as a problem, I'm sure some people reject such etiquette outright.
 

Fides

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As a parent I'm a big fan of school uniforms myself. They are certainly not as expensive as providing 5 days worth of trendy clothing (think Abercrombie, American Eagle) and footwear. In the fee paying school my children go/went to the only bespoke element was the jumper and tie (boys only) and even these you could get at second hand sales organised by the school. Otherwise the rest could be bought in M&S or Penny's. It also removes the competitive element of fashion and those kids with less money are on a par with those with more. No arguments with the children over the clothes they wear to school, the uniform is the uniform. They have a no uniform day about twice a year and pay for the privilege (goes to charity) and the day is a fashion parade.

I would though agree that the sports gear side can add up and don't see why they need a school track suit.
 

Cato

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Oh, yeah, sorry, should have clarified that. It's not the education or the state's fault, it's the family's.

There's a rather annoying habit of the state looking to the education sector to solve all ills.
Again, I agree with you. It has become a rather annoying habit that society is looking to teachers to carry out the role that parents ought to be doing. Frankly, teachers would be justified in refusing to engage in such activities.
 
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