Do the Clothes Make the Student?
ne of my literary heroes, the
great Samuel Clemens (a.k.a.
Mark Twain) reportedly said
of fashion: "Clothes make the
man. Naked people have little or
no influence on society/There's
a reason we don't wear jeans
and a T-shirt to a job interview
or attend a birthday party in our
It's partly that notion, the "dress
for success"axiom, which drives
the implementation of student dress codes at schools,
both public and private. Taking it further — the school uni-
form requires the wearer to dress smartly and is seen as a
proverbial leveler of the playground; no student is outfitted
snazzier than his peers.
Behind the uniform's perceived benefits exists a cottage
industry of professional and lay advisers advocating the
"pro"viewpoint: Strictly regulating what students wear at
school enhances academic performance, reduces crime
and emulsifies class struggle.
It all sounds good until you look for empirical versus
anecdotal evidence. There's no shortage of opinion on why
uniforms are great, but a proof for the theorem is lacking.
As a source for her story,"Dressing for Success" (page 21),
writer Karen Schwartz interviewed a gentleman from New
Jersey who helped establish a uniform requirement for his
town's public school system; he spoke of the policy's effec-
tiveness in establishing an environment of professionalism.
Of course, he also is a consultant for one of the nation's
largest school-uniform retailers so it may not surprise you
that he touts the myriad "benefits"a uniform delivers to
students, parents and educators.
I'm not convinced that uniforms are the elusive missing
ingredient most American public schools lack. In fact, I'd
argue that uniforms have a net-zero effect on the students.
And I'm not alone. A 2003 study published in the Journal
of Educational Research made its statistical findings quite
clear. The authors stated: "The simple fact, supported by
our research ... is that policy makers who are interested in
raising academic achievement should not count on school
uniforms to deliver an academic miracle
Dress codes are ubiquitous throughout life, whether
for school, work, visiting a house of prayer — or one of ill
repute. Most dress codes are put in place not as regulators
of expression but as tangible codes of conduct. Halter-tops
and flip-flops are de rigueur at the beach but not so much
in science class.
Uniforms, while not the panacea some claim, do provide
benefits outside the scope of quantifiable academic ef-
ficacy — mainly to the parents who would otherwise foot
the bill for a new fall wardrobe.
The gentleman from New Jersey in Ms. Schwartz's article
blew past the economic benefit of uniforms fairly quickly. If
it were me, that's the point I would hang my hat on.
Last year, my eldest daughter, Bella, was required to
wear a uniform when starting the first grade. Her school's
dress code required all elementary and middle school
students to wear them; high school students had a similar
dress code but with more flexibility.
I remember feeling slightly sad for Bella those first few
days — wearing the same blue skirts and polo shirts day-
in and day-out. I thought it stymied her expression and,
frankly, was lame. But, I "came to Jesus" pretty quickly after
my wife and I didn't have to spend a fortune on countless
As important, it made getting dressed in the morning a
breeze. No fighting about what to wear, or whether so and
so has such and such. In fact, I made such a quick 180, it's
hard to recall that I felt anything other than joy
about her school clothes.
(In the mixed emotions department, all three of
my children are attending the same school this year
to ease our overcomplicated schedules. Something
had to give and, unfortunately, we had to sacrifice the
uniform for simplicity — in carpooling at least.)
The notion that a uniform tamps creativity is, I believe,
more an "adult" issue than the child's. To parents who decry
the constraints a uniform supposedly thrusts upon their
children, let me remind you that your"Barbies and Kens"
usually get home from school around 3:30 p.m., and you
can play with them then.
STRETCH FOR HUNGER
This month, we are hosting Yoga in the Greenhouse at
the Planterra Conservatory in West Bloomfield. Starting at
10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18, instructors will be offering
three different sessions for yoga enthusiasts.
We've partnered up with Yad Ezra, and our donation to
the region's only kosher food bank will demonstrate we
practice what we preach — strive to be part of the solu-
The details and registration are available online at Yo-
gaInTheGreenhouse.com . We hope to see you there.
SHANAH TOVAH U'METUKAH
Don't think we're blowing off Rosh Hashana
just because the September edition doesn't
have holiday-related articles. Next month's
issue, which hits the street erev Rosh Hashana,
will give 5772 its appropriate due. Until then,
stay classy, Detroit!
Bryan S. Gottlieb
2o1 1 —201 2
Arie Lipsky1,1usic Director
September 17 • Michigan Theater • 8:00 pm
October 22 • Michigan Then
November 12 • Michigan Theater • 8:00 pm
'Magical Musical Tales
November 13 • Michigan Theater • 4:00 pm
'Sing Along with Santa
December 10 • Bethlehem UGC • 4:00 pm
Mozart Birthday Bash
January 21 • Michigan Theater • 8:00 pm
'once Upon a Timpani
March 10 • Michigan Theater • 4:00 pm
March 17 • Michigan Theater • 8:00 pm
April 21 • Hill Auditorium • 8:00 pm
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RID THREAD I September 2011 5