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Kids in uniform

Summary:
I’ve never been a fan of uniforms in general and school uniforms in particular. Recently, I was unimpressed by the insistence of numerous state schools in Queensland that girls should be forced to wear dresses even if they would rather wear shorts or pants. The Minister eventually overrode them, but the episode was a pretty clear indication that uniform rules are about the arbitrary exercise of authority, not making kids more comfortable at school. I was reminded of this by a report in the New Daily quoting “experts” who support school uniforms, though the text of the report suggests that there’s not much research to back this view, and what evidence there is goes both ways. I was more surprised to read that “the jury is still out on what is more affordable, free dress or

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I’ve never been a fan of uniforms in general and school uniforms in particular. Recently, I was unimpressed by the insistence of numerous state schools in Queensland that girls should be forced to wear dresses even if they would rather wear shorts or pants. The Minister eventually overrode them, but the episode was a pretty clear indication that uniform rules are about the arbitrary exercise of authority, not making kids more comfortable at school.

I was reminded of this by a report in the New Daily quoting “experts” who support school uniforms, though the text of the report suggests that there’s not much research to back this view, and what evidence there is goes both ways.

I was more surprised to read that “the jury is still out on what is more affordable, free dress or school-designed uniforms.” The report links to a school supplier who charges between $240 and $340 for a single (state school) uniform outfit. That’s far more than similar generic items would cost at Target or other stores.

Of course, lots of parents will find ways to save a bit, buying generics for the less obviously school-specific items, or finding hand-me-downs. But that undermines the supposedly equalizing effects of uniforms. At least when I was at school, it was always obvious who’d paid full price and who had patched their uniform together.

More importantly the kids aren’t going to wear their uniforms at weekends or during the holidays. So, having paid for a uniform (or more, assuming you need to wash) , parents still need to buy ordinary clothes anyway. That can’t possibly be more affordable.

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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