The Iconoclast and the School Pageant

Last Friday, I went to see a Christmas pageant at my kids' school. It was less a pageant and more the kids singing some Christmas carols. They were divided into grades 1&2, 3&4, and 5&6 with two groups of each.

My kids go to a private school and wear a uniform. I hate the uniform. Sofia likes it, so does my dad. They both feel that it gives the kids more order and discipline. Makes them more uniform and less prone class and fashion discrimination. I simply view it as a symbol of conformity and it really makes my skin crawl. Children need to learn tolerance and respect for others not because they all dress the same and behave the same way, but because it is the right thing to do, despite their differences.

I like the education they are getting. Tania has remarked that she prefers this school to the public because she gets more work. It also seems to provide adequate challenge for Jason as well. But I still can't stand the uniforms.

Anyway, back to the pageant. As I watched the children come up to the stage and arrange themselves into their proper places, then to sing and act out in one uniform assembly, I could feel the bile boiling within me.

I don't mind if adults choose to give up their identity and individuality - that is their choice. But I hate seeing children being coerced into conformity. I am sure the kids enjoyed it, but I wish they could have been more individual.

Children must be lead and guided, not molded and formed.

I felt like running around screaming at people, slapping them; turning over and smashing things.

As usual, I had a big discussion with my dad and Sofia over this.

Image nabbed from here.


Barbara said…
Is this a parochial school? It does sound like a very conformist atmosphere.

My kids also went to a private school, but one on a farm. There was no such thing as competition or conformity and there was certainly not a uniform. They were totally ungraded until the 6th grade. They learned to love learning for learning's sake. It was the first integrated school in the state of Virginia in 1946 when it was founded.

The important thing is whether you children are happy.
b said…
I had to wear a uniform up until high school and the kids I volunteer with now wear a uniform. For them, it makes more sense to me because they are all kids from very impoverished families/school districts. But regardless, I heavily lean toward your thought regarding this. It by no means teaches the children tolerance. It might remove a distraction but somehow and someway those kids will encounter differences and the uniforms are not going to really teach them how to deal with tolerance/intolerance. And it obviously does not help celebrate differences.
Richard said…
barbara: no, the school is non-confessional. The Quebec school system moved away from the confessional school system back in 2000 (which has caused me grief with the kids religious education). I could send them to a private confessional school, but tuition would be higher (3-4x higher). The Quebec government subsidizes private schools if they conform to the guidelines of the Ministry of Education.

Yes, they do enjoy the school.

breal: I agree that is can be less of a distraction, but we should be aiming to teach children diversity, not uniformity. After all, were does this stop?

I think it is the wrong solution to the problem. It is simply covering up rather than addressing the issue.

Sofia had to wear a uniform in school. I did not. Granted, I have horrible memories of high school and Sofia does not (actually, most people have warm memories of high school, me and my friends have none. As my friend's wife said, "You guys all need therapy").
Sofia said…
Coming from both a private school and public school background I am in total support of school uniforms. I remember in middle school taking hours to find the "perfect" something to wear to school. I NEVER wore the same thing twice. I was afraid to. I wished I had uniforms back then because it would have taken so much of the peer pressure off of me. I could have certainly used the time to find more useful things to do with my time and "creativity". I actually think uniforms may even foster the ideas of more freedom of expression. As paradoxical as it may sound. Kids do not have to worry about class issues and being cool so much. Kids fear less the social issues and can express themselves more freely and in more unique ways that just clothing choices. Also, I have an 11 year old now and when I go to buy clothes for her all that is out there to buy are "belly" shirts and items that only Brittany Spears would wear or put on her children. he he. As for the Hitlerish chorus performance. Sounds like the teacher needs a little more imagination. Being an ex-drama teacher myself- I would certainly had a little more flare to the performance. I bet you will notice more individuality and creativity among your children. And be glad you are giving them one less thing to worry about in their teen years.
b said…
I appreciate Sofia's comment here and it does resonate with me somewhat. I too wasn't as distracted about clothing when I had to wear a uniform. And that can be a definite benefit, including the issues surrounding appropriate clothing, etc. But if it comes down to difference of wealth, those kids always find a way to make it known. In my private school, those kids always had nice bags, jewelry, accessories, etc. It was no secret who had money and the "coolest" things. (I guess I'm contradicting my above comment somewhat)

Uniforms or not, kids will always find differences amongst each other and need to learn how to manage those differences. I don't have children but highly doubt (as you indicate in your post, Richard) that anything substantial is being taught about the importance of differences in shcool. I know here in the States, that would be very unAmerican (despite freedom of speech, blah, blah, blah)... the celebrating of differences.
RennyBA said…
I so much agree with you here Richard - children should be encourage to developed individually and not uniformed. Its the uniqueness that should be developed, not the opposite.

I think you would have liked Norway in this matter. No private school (well at least very, very few and special) and no school uniformed. So whatever background or regardless your parents status, you get the same educational opportunity.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Btw: Thanks for the Xmas Card!
Richard said…
sofia: I never experienced peer pressure (I was pretty oblivious to it). I did once in grade 1 (or was it 2?) when I bought hockey cards to trade with the other boys, but, since I was not into hockey, it didn't last long. Since then, I have always resisted with greatest of ease "peer pressure". It has nothing to do with fortitude of character, it has everything to do with my having absolutely no desire nor inclination to become like others in order to be accepted or fit in. Either I was accepted for who I was or not. Extrinsic factors and behavioural modes were completely foreign to me. I used to smile inwardly whenever my friends got a trendy haircut or wore "stylish" clothes, but I had no such desire.

I did desire to belong, however this was not conditional on being the same. I wanted to be me. Period.

My mother did try to buy me clothes "like the other kids" wore, but I resisted. I did not want to be associated with anything. Even today, I buy clothes without visible or at least prominent labels. And if there are labels, I either hide them or remove them.

I also have a dislike for tattoos and piercings because I think they are a way of being branded as the property of something or someone. Kind of like prisoner 12345657. Mind you, I did like temporary tattoos when I was younger.

breal: you are right, people always have a way of distinguishing themselves, whether it is in accessories, the car they get dropped off in, whether they have only one uniform of a uniform for each day. The way they wear the hair or sweater or skirt, etc. As far as I know, accessories (aside from earrings or hairclips) are not permitted. But you can always have a fancier schoolbag or something.

renny: in theory, everyone has the same educational opportunity. We send them to a private school because the level of education is a bit higher and (most importantly) the public school system didn't accept Jason because his birthday is 2 days after the cutoff mark. The private school had no such qualm (as long as he passed a psychological assessment for maturity).

We need to work more on unifying and celebrating our differences (as long as not harmful) rather than trying to render everyone the same.
carra said…
I always wanted to go to a school where uniform was required. Having received so much bullying about my skirts/trousers/shirts and so on I gladly accepted the uniform when I changed school. Unfortunately my skirt choice was TOO LONG and I was told of by the headmistress herself, she wouldn't take "my legs are too fat" for an answer. There are always benefits and downfalls with uniforms, but one should be able to choose. I.E. girls wearing a tie at British schools is just not right for me...
Richard said…
carra: sorry to hear about your poor experiences in school - one day we should trade horror stories about school. I mostly didn't fit in, but was spared any real bullying.

I still think the right lesson to teach is that of tolerance, justice and fairness - just general goodness towards others. Unfortunately, the real world doesn't work that way.

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