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School Uniforms – Scourge or Saviour?

By Dan Hutton on March 2, 2012 in

Dear Pearl,

I have temporarily moved from Toronto to the lovely Bronte area and I love every minute of the lifestyle on offer. I do have one issue that is dividing the family. The children are refusing to wear their school uniforms. They feel that it is stripping them of their individuality and I am concerned that their grades will suffer as a result. Therefore, I seek advice on how to maintain the need for my children’s ideals, as they don’t want to look like Mormons, and the requirement to send them to school properly attired.

P Burton

What a relief to read that you are Canadian and not American. At first I thought you might be the mighty Ajax’s mother – Ajax being a Texan child whose desire at the age of four to dress like an ‘Emo’ resulted in his mother writing a letter of complaint to The Beast via her husband’s secretary. Stylish little Ajax would probably be starting school this year and I imagine he would be objecting most strongly to the concept of a uniform. That said, Ajax is probably also profoundly gifted and would be writing a letter himself or dictating it to his daddy’s secretary.

However, since you are not Ajax’s mother and your children are most likely teenagers I feel safe in answering your letter. I sympathise with your children but, more importantly, I empathise with them when it comes to school uniforms.

For Pearl, Mormon is the key word here, but more specifically Mormon underwear. During my own rebellious school days it was the school’s obsession with navy blue underwear that turned me off the concept of any uniform for life. As a result I’ve turned down jobs that have involved the wearing of uniforms and I have never had a fetish for ‘men in uniform’, with the exception of Harries in his Bondi Rescue blues and my husband in his Bronte surf lifesaving uniform. The Mistress of Girls at my former alma mater was a horrid woman who was obsessed with her students’ virginity. As well as being the poster girl for the sexually pristine, she was also far more concerned with whether or not her students were wearing regulation navy blue underwear than our actual behaviour. One was more likely to be expelled for multiple incidents of pink knicker wearing than for having perpetrated acts of bullying or locker theft. And for me, this is the ridiculousness of the school uniform.

But let’s put my own experiences aside and focus on the reality of your situation. You are obviously a recent resident of Bronte otherwise you would be well acquainted with the highly competitive world of Eastern Suburbs parenting, where school ‘pyjama days’ have become designer nightwear events and Easter hat parades have been reduced to nasty parent-dominated affairs – so imagine the awful consequences if schools were uniform-free! Schools would be turned over to the fashionista set and it is bad enough that these affectatious people already dominate the East without their children pushing the fashion agenda during school hours. The SMH, which already devotes far too much print space to these shallow people, would turn the Education Supplement into an advertisement for designer school clothing and every shop on Clovelly Road would accommodate a trendy kiddies’ store. And let’s not forget our school teachers, who would have to deal with a new form of bullying – designer label rage!

So darling, my solution to your problem: bribe your children with the latest iPod. Like all Eastern Suburbs children, materialism will turn them into conservative uniform-wearers for life.