Instigator / Pro
4
1555
rating
8
debates
75.0%
won
Topic

GAUNTLET (R2) RESOLVED: Public School Students should be Required to Wear Uniforms in the US

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Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

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3
Sources points
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2
Spelling and grammar points
1
1
Conduct points
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1

With 1 vote and 3 points ahead, the winner is ...

Ayyantu
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Politics
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Three days
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7
1500
rating
3
debates
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~ 152 / 5,000

BOP is shared.
Please No Solipsism.
Please No Kritiks.

I look forward to a lively debate.

I'm sure I'm forgetting to put something in this description

Round 1
Pro
A CHALLENGER APPROACHES!

--------------------

  Thank you Ayyantu for accepting this debate as your second challenge in the TOWER OF DEATH. 

Definitions

  • Public School -  a school supported by public funds [1].
  • Uniform - The distinctive clothing worn by members of the same organization or body or by children attending certain schools [2].
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  There are many reasons why public school students should be required to wear uniforms. Here we will focus on three:

1.) That uniforms increase student safety.
2.) That uniforms correlate to increase of school attendance.
3.) That uniforms lead to an increase of academic performance.

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A SAFER ALTERNATIVE

  To begin, uniforms foster a safer environment for the students. For one, uniforms make it much easier to identify people who are not supposed to be on school grounds [3]. Additionally, teachers in schools that instituted uniform policies noted decreased gang presence [4]. These are both excellent examples of uniforms providing a safer environment for the students.

INCREASED ATTENDANCE

  Secondly, uniforms aid school attendance rates. Study has shown a positive impact of uniforms on school attendance [5]. Also, uniforms seem to consistently increase attendance rates [6]. The benefits of increased attendance are obvious . Therefore, uniforms should be required as they correlate to increases of attendance rates.

ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

  Finally, uniforms contribute to overall discipline in school functionality. This helps to foster an environment where students are more apt to listen to the teachers, thus increasing academic performance [7]. An increase of academic performance is desirable, and therefore, uniforms should be required.

CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, there are overwhelmingly powerful reasons that uniforms should be required in US public schools. Note that here are listed only three of many good reasons. I look forward to my opponent's response.

 




Con
Thanks for the debate, Sum1hugme. Before I get to my argument, let me address a few background issues. 

First, the resolution doesn't say who will require students to wear uniforms. I suggested that Pro include that in the resolution, but he chose not to. Is it the United States government? Individual school districts? Parents? Each comes with its own set of issues. I'll assume Pro means the national government since it’s a nationwide uniform requirement.

Second, the context for this debate is the United States, so let's keep our arguments focused there. Students in Africa, for example, face fundamentally different baseline conditions of existence -- many of them don't even have clothes or shoes to begin with -- so evidence from these countries just isn't comparable. Let's keep our focus on the US.

My Case

Pro argues that all public school students be required to wear uniforms. I propose instead that students have the option of going without a uniform. In practice, school districts may implement my proposal in one of two ways: (1) let schools recommend a uniform but allow students to wear clothing of their choice, or (2) let some schools require uniforms but provide all students with the option to attend a public school without uniforms.

On its face, my plan offers students, parents, and educators more flexibility to weigh the pros & cons of uniforms for themselves. This flexibility aligns with the vision of the US Constitution -- allowing parents to choose how they parent their children, and allowing local institutions to decide what's right for a particular student body in a particular place at a particular time with its own particular set of issues. Pro's case, in contrast, is rigid, harsh, and unresponsive to the unique needs of particular students. 

I offer four core objections to a nationwide uniform requirement: (1) uniforms erode democracy by limiting basic human rights & creating an expectation of sameness; (2) uniforms punish people on the axes of religion, ethnicity, gender, culture, class, and politics; (3) uniforms pose a risk of arbitrary enforcement; and (4) uniforms pose significant constitutional issues. Each objection stands alone, and together they form an overwhelming case against a nationwide uniform requirement. 

1. As a modern liberal democracy, the US was designed to allow individuals to make autonomous choices about their values, priorities, and affiliations. This autonomy right has value in and of itself, and limits shouldn't be imposed without a very compelling reason to do so. Uniforms severely interfere with this right, thus gradually eroding our democracy. 

The protection of an autonomy right is nowhere more vital than in a marketplace of ideas, and public schools function like such a marketplace, educating the nation's future leaders through wide exposure to a robust exchange of ideas. Even our school textbooks measure our progress as a nation by charting our respect for individual autonomy & a robust marketplace of ideas -- and they christen other nations as "totalitarian" for their failures on this front. Thus, we want students to discover for themselves the ideas they ultimately hope to convey to the world, without any sort of authoritarian selection. We also want students to learn the vocabulary for making themselves heard, again without any sort of authoritarian selection. Schooling isn't just about academic achievement but how & what it means to live in a pluralistic democracy. 

Fashion or dress plays a central role in the development of a young person's autonomy & expressive interests. Historically, young people have had significant freedom to work through complicated questions about who they are, what they value, and how they'd like to present themselves to the world -- through the canvas of their attire & appearance. We learn at a young age that fashion choices articulate a message & facilitate the formation of relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. How we dress often signals political affiliation, religious belief, sexual orientation, or some other core aspect of identity. And even when it doesn’t, it still encodes a complex set of ideas & attitudes about standards of beauty, commercial culture, gender, or social norms. The very density of our ideas & emotions prevents us from reducing our personal issues to a slogan on a t-shirt, so we instead deploy the rich metaphor of appearance & clothing to present a personalized manifesto to the world.

Uniforms interfere with the basic human right to define oneself & to develop one’s own identity at the moment in human development where the need to create & assert self-identity is most acute and developmentally important. [1] Uniforms also create an expectation of sameness that eventually morphs into a broader demand for sameness, which gradually weakens our democratic polity until there's nothing left but totalitarianism. After all, democracy depends on the ability to come together with strangers who look & think differently to work out the problems of living together. If we require sameness, we can't help but limit others' autonomy through statist interventions that enforce this sameness. Public schools must therefore teach children how to live & work together with strangers who look different, not to require sameness via authoritarian selection.

Thus, my proposal protects our fragile democracy, while a nationwide uniform requirement erodes it. Consider the recent rise of cancel culture, censorship, & totalitarianism within the US, only about thirty years after the rise of school uniforms, for example. [2] If there's any connection between these recent threats to democracy & school uniforms, however remote, then even the precautionary principle might be at play: To avoid catastrophic harm to our society, we must protect students' basic human rights.

2. Pro doesn’t say what his school uniforms look like. This matters because choice of clothing communicates a set of values & ideas -- it's impossible to be entirely neutral in relation to ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, politics, and class -- and thus Pro can't design a uniform to please everyone. By definition, a uniform includes items that some people find objectionable & excludes items that some people value. And so, uniforms harm students’ equality interests by conditioning receipt of governmental benefits on adherence to a state-imposed orthodoxy of taste & aesthetic values, without respecting the fact that norms of dress reflect different values. In effect, uniforms impose a majoritarian mandate on a pluralistic society, which excludes & punishes people on the axes of religion, ethnicity, gender, culture, class, and politics. Consider, for example, a uniform that imposes substantial burdens on a student’s ability to practice their religion, or a uniform that polices the female body by requiring the wearing of a bra.

3. Uniforms pose a risk of arbitrary enforcement. When educators must apply a uniform code to large numbers of students moving quickly through the hallways of public buildings, they are set up to apply discipline unfairly. Teachers will make different judgments as to what battles are worth fighting. Administrators will focus limited enforcement resources on students who are already on their radar. Students who are perceived as more sexualized (perhaps because of age, race, or other factors) may draw more attention from disciplinary forces for attire that might be ignored when worn by other students. Uniforms thus create an insurmountable risk of arbitrary enforcements.

4. Uniforms pose significant constitutional issues. I’ve already discussed how uniforms interfere with our basic human rights, and in particular our constitutional rights to substantive due process and equal protection of the laws. But uniforms also interfere with our system of federalism & separation of powers. In particular, a nationwide uniform requirement would violate states’ rights as protected by the Tenth Amendment, and thus would amount to a form of tyranny that imposes a majoritarian mandate on local governments. The idea behind our federalist system was to allow states to operate as labs for different policies, as the founding fathers recognized that policy should be uniquely tailored to different circumstances. The Constitution thus requires that we recognize the uniqueness of each county, each school, and each student body, and thus provide local governments & institutions with the freedom to choose whether to require uniforms. When we violate the Constitution's basic protections as well as its structural provisions, we erode respect for the rule of law & thus weaken our system of government.

Rebuttals

1. Pro says uniforms increase safety because they make it easier to identify non-students. But distinguishing adults from students doesn't require uniforms. And identifying dangerous students isn't easier if every student dresses the same. To the contrary, uniforms hide potential dangers like gangs when they replace identification labels with uniforms. See, e.g. [3] (quoting a sophomore high school student who stated that uniforms don’t “fix the disease” of gang violence but instead “just cover the symptoms”). How will educators deter violence if they can't identify dangerous students via dress?

Pro says that some teachers saw a decrease in gangs. But perceptions aren’t reality. Teachers know uniforms are imposed with an iron-fist from the top down, and they know the desired outcome, so it’s like putting on rose-colored glasses. You see what you want to see. This is very flimsy evidence for Pro’s argument, and remember, gang members don't stop being gang members just because they don uniforms.

Pro’s safety claim also conflicts with numerous studies, including for example a 2007 study in which the introduction of uniforms led to an increase in the number of assaults in a specific school district. [4]

2. Pro says uniforms increase attendance and/or academic performance. But professor David Brunsma argues in detail & with empirical precision that uniforms don’t increase school attendance or academic performance, and he highlights numerous problems with studies that show otherwise. [5] So the empirical evidence appears to be mixed.

Pro’s sources, however, aren’t about students in the US, they’re about students in Kenya and East Asia. [Pro’s 5 & 7] These sources aren’t relevant to our discussion. Moreover, Pro’s remaining source doesn’t support an improvement in academic achievement, but rather says that uniforms didn’t improve academic performance or grade retention despite a slight increase in overall attendance. [Pro’s 6] As Pro's source explains, students spent slightly more time at school but had outcomes no better than when they spent less time at school. 

This happens in part because uniform enforcement siphons resources from core education and creates unnecessary tension between students & educators. When teachers waste time measuring hem lengths, or evaluating cleavage exposure, it leaves less time for teaching or monitoring actual behavioral problems. And then, when students are disciplined for noncompliance with the uniform code, they miss school to change clothes or serve a suspension, which ends up decreasing educational time. 

As Pro’s own source suggests, even if uniforms somehow increase attendance, it doesn’t mean they increase educational time or attention for the students who most need it. This must be why Pro doesn’t specify any specific benefit to increased attendance: his source shows that there isn’t any when uniforms are involved. 

In fact, I'd argue that less attendance is a benefit if it leads to equal academic performance & grade retention, because it means students are learning faster and thus have more free time to pursue extracurricular activities. 

With that said, I look forward to Pro's response. 

---

Sources: 

[1] See any core psychological text to learn more about the importance fo this process for childhood development (e.g. Erik H. Erikson’s “Identity: Youth and Crisis”).
[5] See David L. Brunsma’s book, “The School Uniform Movement And What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade” (2004). Or look at an academic review of the book here: https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1593&context=ce

Round 2
Pro
  Thank you for your response Ayyantu. Funnily enough, I did specify what uniform in particular I would be referring to in my rough draft, but I edited it out. So for clarity, a tucked in collared shirt, dress pants, a belt, and shoes that are dress colours (gray, tan, etc.) are what I envision when discussing school uniforms. Hope that clears up the accusations of discrimination. Also, my mistake on not using the revised resolve you sent me, I realized I mixed them up too late. Now for my rebuttals:

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REBUTTALS

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  • R1
"Second, the context for this debate is the United States, so let's keep our arguments focused there. Students in Africa, for example, face fundamentally different baseline conditions of existence -- many of them don't even have clothes or shoes to begin with -- so evidence from these countries just isn't comparable. Let's keep our focus on the US."
  The evidence is indeed comparable. If they have a positive effect on students in Langata Sub County, where the only study I cited from Africa was conducted, my opponent must demonstrate how that effect will not occur in the US. A cursory google earth search [1] of the area my opponent paints like a dirt village of naked children reveals that the area is actually a small city, and everyone is clothed. Honestly, the city is better developed than where I live. So I would say that the results of uniform policies in that study are very comparable.

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  • R2
"On its face, my plan offers students, parents, and educators more flexibility to weigh the pros & cons of uniforms for themselves... Pro's case, in contrast, is rigid, harsh, and unresponsive to the unique needs of particular students. "
  Flexibility is less important than the benefits of uniform policy. In addition to all the benefits outlined in my opening, I have personally known impoverished children in the US that would rather have standardized uniforms than face the bullying and torment they recieve for wearing the same clothes for years. So this claim of not being responsive to the unique needs of the children is simply incorrect. In reference to constitutionality, I could just as easily claim that the framers of the Constitution would want the most education to be had for the voters of tomorrow.

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  • R3
" This autonomy right has value in and of itself, and limits shouldn't be imposed without a very compelling reason to do so."
  I argue that increased attendance, academic performance, and safety are all very compelling reasons to limit this aspect of autonomy in Public Schools.

"The protection of an autonomy right is nowhere more vital than in a marketplace of ideas, and public schools function like such a marketplace, educating the nation's future leaders through wide exposure to a robust exchange of ideas...Schooling isn't just about academic achievement but how & what it means to live in a pluralistic democracy...Uniforms interfere with the basic human right to define oneself & to develop one’s own identity at the moment in human development where the need to create & assert self-identity is most acute and developmentally important"
  This uniform enforcement is only for the hours that the children are supposed to be spending being educated. They have the vast majority of their time to practice this expression in their daily life. So this whole first point is essentially just being dramatic about the corrosion of autonomy. Many workplaces require uniforms, so it helps the children to prepare for many workplaces.  Schooling is about the quality of education and preparation for success in life and the exchange of ideas is not limited by a uniform policy. 

" Uniforms also create an expectation of sameness that eventually morphs into a broader demand for sameness, which gradually weakens our democratic polity until there's nothing left but totalitarianism."
  Here my opponent has committed a slippery slope fallacy [2]. Uniforms today, totalitarianism tomorrow, because we will all have our individualism crushed. I argue that uniforms do not necessarily mean an expectation of sameness, but rather an expectation of cooperation and modesty; and that my opponent has not established that this course of events will transpire with anything other than a vague reference, no direct evidence.

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  • R4
"Uniforms pose a risk of arbitrary enforcement. When educators must apply a uniform code to large numbers of students moving quickly through the hallways of public buildings, they are set up to apply discipline unfairly. Teachers will make different judgments as to what battles are worth fighting. Administrators will focus limited enforcement resources on students who are already on their radar. Students who are perceived as more sexualized (perhaps because of age, race, or other factors) may draw more attention from disciplinary forces for attire that might be ignored when worn by other students. Uniforms thus create an insurmountable risk of arbitrary enforcements."
  On the contrary, free dress creates a much more arbitrary statute of prosecution for students dressing overly sexually or otherwise inappropriately. In my High School, I witnessed far more arbitrary dress discrimination by faculty than there ever was at the school where we wore uniforms.

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  • R5
"In particular, a nationwide uniform requirement would violate states’ rights as protected by the Tenth Amendment, and thus would amount to a form of tyranny that imposes a majoritarian mandate on local governments."
  Thankfully, I did not explicitly state that the Federal Government had to mandate it. This could easily be a hypothetical where every state individually decides to implement this dress code. 

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  • R6
"...But distinguishing adults from students doesn't require uniforms. And identifying dangerous students isn't easier if every student dresses the same. To the contrary, uniforms hide potential dangers like gangs when they replace identification labels with uniforms..."
  While not required, it is a truism that someone not wearing a uniform will be recognized faster in most cases than someone wearing one, in a school that requires them. It is considerably harder to maintain a gang in a school that doesn't allow for gang attire, than in one where uniforms are required because gang clothing often involves baggy clothes that make it easier to hide weapons in [3]. Uniforms make this considerably harder. Without weapons it is harder to protect gang territory, a staple of what a gang even is [3].

"Pro says that some teachers saw a decrease in gangs. But perceptions aren’t reality...gang members don't stop being gang members just because they don uniforms."
  I would be interested in knowing how else than the perceptions of those most closely involved we can ascertain information about the effects of uniform policies on gang presence.

"Pro’s safety claim also conflicts with numerous studies, including for example a 2007 study in which the introduction of uniforms led to an increase in the number of assaults in a specific school district. [4]"
  Unfortunately, the link in the link my opponent cited does not reference the study. Perhaps my opponent could clarify, and perhaps lay out the causal connection between the increase of assaults and the implementing of school uniforms.

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  • R7
" Pro says uniforms increase attendance and/or academic performance. But professor David Brunsma argues in detail & with empirical precision that uniforms don’t increase school attendance or academic performance, and he highlights numerous problems with studies that show otherwise. [5] So the empirical evidence appears to be mixed."
  Perhaps my opponent could point to exactly what the problems are with the studies I cited. 

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  • R8
"[Pro’s 6] As Pro's source explains, students spent slightly more time at school but had outcomes no better than when they spent less time at school. "
  My sixth source does not say what my opponent has claimed. In fact a direct quote states, "'The benefits increased over time,' Imberman said. 'The effects were smaller during the first year uniforms were adopted but grew in subsequent years. We interpret this as indication that there may have been an adjustment period. The uniforms might have taken some time to have an effect and become ingrained within the schools' environments.'"

"When teachers waste time measuring hem lengths, or evaluating cleavage exposure, it leaves less time for teaching or monitoring actual behavioral problems"
  What's interesting is that I have personally seen that far more often in schools without uniforms, than in schools that required them.

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  • R9
"This must be why Pro doesn’t specify any specific benefit to increased attendance: his source shows that there isn’t any when uniforms are involved. "
  Gonna let this paper do the explaining for me on this one. "By attending class regularly, your child is more likely to keep up with the daily lessons and assignments,and take quizzes and tests on time...[4]" There are more listed by the source.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, Public Schools in the US should require uniforms. Safety and education are more important than expression through dress during school hours. My opponents arguments against the uniforms were fickle at best, and my points stand as before. I await my opponent's response.





Over to Con!
Con
Pro’s sources

1. I’m fairly confident Pro hasn’t ever been to Africa, or he wouldn’t be using it as a model for policy in the US. Again, don’t compare the two because the broader social, economic, and political contexts don’t allow for comparison. I'm actually from Africa, so this is a bit personal to me. Pro simply doesn't know what he's talking about here. 

Even worse, Pro’s Kenya study doesn't say what Pro thinks. In short, the study didn’t evaluate the effect of imposing uniforms (Kenya already had a nationwide uniform requirement). Instead, the study evaluates the effect of providing free uniforms. This resulted in cheaper access to education, which unsurprisingly led to increased attendance. [Pro’s 5]

2. Pro’s [6] refers to a UH study. The study itself states that uniforms had no impact on elementary students, and a slight improvement in middle & high school students’ attendance. The study also found no overall improvement in academic achievement, as well as “increases in disciplinary infractions in levels models that are concentrated in boys and small drops in Hispanic reading scores.” [6]

3. Pro repeatedly refers to his personal experiences. My experience is exactly opposite of his. So even on a personal level, the evidence is mixed. If you give any weight to our personal experiences, note that the evidence is mixed.

4. Every piece of empirical evidence that Pro cites is based on a weak correlation, not actual cause & effect. This debate isn’t the place to explain in-detail the weakness of Pro’s sources, but suffice to say, my sources offer evidence that directly contradict Pro, including negative correlations. That’s enough to call into question any causal connection between uniforms and Pro's alleged benefits.

Pro’s case

Pro lists two benefits of uniforms: safety, and academic performance. [7] But as I explained in R1, the empirical evidence is weak & mixed.

1. Pro admits that his safety argument rests on unreliable perceptions from biased teachers. And Pro ignores my evidence that students don’t feel safer in uniformed schools. Why trust the perception of teachers over students? Pro doesn’t say. Trust the students because they don’t wear rose-colored glasses.

Perceptions-aside, the empirical evidence shows that violent assaults increased in some schools that required uniforms. [8] The study cited in Pro’s [6] supports that finding, noting that uniforms led to an increase in behavioral problems. How could uniforms increase violence? By interfering with our autonomy & expression interests and the important developmental process of discovering who we are, and by creating unnecessary tension with educators over arbitrary enforcement, and so on. Some students are bound to lash out at perceived violations of their basic human rights.

Pro drops my argument that educators can’t identify dangerous students if they all dress the same. That’s a massive concession because most harm to schools comes from student perpetrators, not outsiders (e.g. school shootings). Pro says that uniforms prevent gangs from hiding weapons in “baggy clothes,” but that won’t stop gangs from hiding weapons in a sportcoat or backpack. Again, Pro offers no evidence that gangs stop being gangs just because they don uniforms. 

2. Pro doesn’t contest the findings of professor David Brunsma, which show with empirical precision that uniforms don’t increase school attendance or academic performance.

Pro drops my argument that uniform enforcement creates unnecessary tension between students & educators, which in turn harms educational outcomes. Pro also drops my argument that uniform enforcement leads to discipline for noncompliance, which in turn leads to less educational time for the students who most need it.

Pro drops my argument that spending less time at school is a good thing if you can achieve the same academic performance (i.e. grades), because it allows you to spend more time on extracurriculars. This calls into question any perceived benefit of increased attendance.

Pro admits that enforcement drains resources away from core education, but says that enforcing strict dress codes is worse than uniforms. I don't think that's true (and Pro doesn't back it up with any evidence). But even if true, it's irrelevant, since we're not comparing strict dress codes vs uniforms, we're comparing uniforms with no or minimal dress restrictions (and no or minimal enforcement). The result of less enforcement is more resources dedicated to core education, and that's a benefit for my plan, not Pro's. 

Pro says that attendance makes it “more likely to keep up with the daily lessons and assignments, and [to] take quizzes and tests on time.” But Pro doesn’t say how any of this leads to better academic achievement for all students. The study cited in Pro’s [6] shows that students don’t overall improve academic performance despite increased attendance. 

My case 

Because the empirical evidence on uniforms is mixed, I advocate a flexible uniform policy that allows but doesn’t require students to wear uniforms. 

Pro says uniforms helped a certain group of impoverished children avoid bullying. But my plan allows these children to go to a uniformed school. The benefits of Pro’s plan aren’t unique. And my plan also allows other children -- children who value autonomy more than uniforms -- to attend a school without uniforms. This is what flexibility means. We adapt uniform policy to the unique needs of specific students, parents, and educators, allowing people to weigh the pros & cons for themselves, instead of having the government paternalistically impose its vision on everyone.

Because the empirical evidence on benefits is mixed, and because public schooling is so important, we must be very cautious about imposing a nationwide requirement, especially if uniforms also cause potential harms. In weighing benefits & harms, we must also take into account how certain & large the benefits are, compared with how certain & large the harms are.  As I argued in R1, uniforms cause many direct & indirect harms, harms that occur with far greater certainty & that far outweigh the magnitude of any unconfirmed benefits. 

1. Pro asserts that his weak & unconfirmed benefits are compelling enough to limit our autonomy & expression interests in public schools. But he doesn’t say why. How much of an increase in safety & performance would justify abridging our basic human rights? Pro doesn’t tell us (he actually doesn’t even specify how much of an increase in safety & performance we should expect from a nationwide uniform requirement). I leave this decision for students, parents, and educators to weigh for themselves, because different people might value autonomy & expression interests differently.

Pro drops most of my argument on autonomy & expression. Rather than argue against the benefits of these rights, or their developmental importance for students, Pro says uniforms don’t harm because students may wear whatever they want outside school. But this doesn’t get to the heart of the issue: Our autonomy & expression interests are at their height in any public marketplace of ideas, and our public schools function as such. Students must therefore have the freedom to discover & express ideas in public schools without authoritarian selection. Pro didn’t address this point at all.

Pro says that “exchange of ideas is not limited by uniform policy.” But this is untrue, and it also misses the point. For starters, the very density of our ideas & emotions prevents us from reducing our personal issues to a simple slogan that we can repeat whenever we meet someone. And second, it’s not just about exchanging ideas but creating & asserting self-identity. Young people use their fashion choices to explore who they are & what they value, and to present a personalized manifesto to the world. 

Pro says uniforms prepare children for workplaces. But many workplaces don’t have uniforms. My plan offers the best of both worlds, as some schools would have uniforms and others wouldn’t. And besides, in Silicon Valley, Ivy League campuses, and most white-shoe firms, the rule these days is to dress down. The professional world has moved more & more towards allowing people to wear what they want, especially in creative industries. 

Fashion choices also facilitate the formation of relationships with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, and discovering how this process works in public spaces is a large part of growing up. Pro completely drops this point. Remember, our children are the future leaders of this country, and we should cultivate their independence & understanding in this arena, not repress it.

Pro says that uniforms don’t necessarily create an expectation of sameness. But how could they not? By definition, a uniform requires all students to dress the same. You could say that uniforms replace fashion with fascism. This creates an expectation of sameness, and Pro’s baseless assertions otherwise don’t make this untrue. The harm of creating this expectation cannot be understated. Think of recent developments like "cancel culture," which inflicts massive social harms on people who think differently. 

Pro says I commit a slippery slope fallacy. But slippery slopes aren’t fallacies, it’s just a way of thinking about an issue. And in this case, the connection isn’t weak: Uniforms directly abridge students’ autonomy & expression rights today, not tomorrow. That’s a form of totalitarianism today, not tomorrow. Over time, this erodes respect for human dignity -- the right for people to decide for themselves what’s best -- and thus erodes respect for our basic rights, until eventually we lose respect for our system of democracy. These types of risks aren’t imagined, it’s precisely how totalitarian governments have formed from the ashes of democracy, time & time again. And I cited numerous articles showing examples of this in R1.

2. Pro completely drops my argument re: equality & the punishment of people in relation to ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, politics, and class.

3. Pro drops my argument that uniforms lead to arbitrary enforcement, and instead argues that “free dress creates a much more arbitrary statute of prosecution for students dressing overly sexually or otherwise inappropriately.” But if you have “free dress,” there’s no enforcement. Pro’s response simply doesn’t make sense. Pro refers to his high school experiences, but my experience was different. I went to a school with no dress restrictions or enforcement, though. Pro doesn’t seem to contemplate that possibility for some reason.

4. Pro drops my argument that his plan violates numerous constitutional protections, including substantive due process rights, equal protection rights, first amendment protections (including freedom to practice religion). 
 
Pro says that every state individually decides to implement his code, avoiding the states rights’ issue, but that’s a hypothetical. The resolution calls for a nationwide uniform requirement, and that means there must be some enforcement at the federal level, or some states might go rogue & implement my plan instead. How will Pro keep states from going rogue under his plan? 

---

Sources:

[7] Pro doesn’t identify any benefit of attendance other than academic performance, so I’m grouping the two together.
[8] Pro says that my link didn't show what I said. This is the link, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-unquestioned-goodness-of-school-uniforms, and this is what it says: "Many studies show no change in school culture, and some even show negative results: in one 2007 study, the introduction of uniforms accompanied an increase in the average number of assaults in one district’s violent schools."

Round 3
Pro
  Thank you Ayyantu for your response. Allow me to clarify that I am not arguing for some top-down policy. But rather, that it be wise for US public schools to require uniforms. This makes no specifications as to who would set the policies into action in the same way it makes no specifications as to who is going to finance the conversion. 

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COUNTER-REBUTTALS

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  • CR1

"1. I’m fairly confident Pro hasn’t ever been to Africa, or he wouldn’t be using it as a model for policy in the US. Again, don’t compare the two because the broader social, economic, and political contexts don’t allow for comparison. I'm actually from Africa, so this is a bit personal to me. Pro simply doesn't know what he's talking about here. "
  My opponent asserts that the social, economic, and political context of Africa doesn't allow for comparison, but fails to demonstrate how.

"Even worse, Pro’s Kenya study doesn't say what Pro thinks. In short, the study didn’t evaluate the effect of imposing uniforms (Kenya already had a nationwide uniform requirement). Instead, the study evaluates the effect of providing free uniforms. This resulted in cheaper access to education, which unsurprisingly led to increased attendance. [Pro’s 5]"
  This appears to be incorrect. The study researches the effects of the mandatory uniform policy. It makes no mention of a uniform distribution policy. And concluded, "...that mandatory school uniform policy positively and significantly influences students’ school attendance in secondary schools in Langata Sub County." 

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  • CR2

"2. Pro’s [6] refers to a UH study. The study itself states that uniforms had no impact on elementary students, and a slight improvement in middle & high school students’ attendance. The study also found no overall improvement in academic achievement, as well as “increases in disciplinary infractions in levels models that are concentrated in boys and small drops in Hispanic reading scores.” [6]"
  To quote the study [1], "Overall, we find that uniforms appear to havea moderately positive impact on students in middle and high school and little impact onelementary students." So there was a positive impact on elementary students, contrary to my opponent's assertion.

  Immediately after the statement of Hispanic reading scores, it states, "It is possible that theincrease in disciplinary infractions are due to uniform violations or increased enforcement,although the lack of a similar increase for girls suggest that the latter is unlikely." So it is unknown why there was an increase of disciplinary infractions.

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  • CR3

"Perceptions-aside, the empirical evidence shows that violent assaults increased in some schools that required uniforms. [8]"
  My opponent's source doesn't give access to the 2007 study, the link in the article just says page not found when I click on it. So unfortunately, my opponent's source can't be checked and should be summarily dismissed as unsupported.

"Pro says that uniforms prevent gangs from hiding weapons in “baggy clothes,” but that won’t stop gangs from hiding weapons in a sportcoat or backpack"
  This is why I didn't mention that the uniform should require a sportcoat. Additionally, I attended a school that required see-through backpacks, so problem solved.

"Again, Pro offers no evidence that gangs stop being gangs just because they don uniforms. "
  I'm not arguing that they stop being gangs, but that it becomes more difficult to maintain their gang without gang colours or weapons.

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  • CR4
"2. Pro doesn’t contest the findings of professor David Brunsma, which show with empirical precision that uniforms don’t increase school attendance or academic performance."
  I welcome my opponent to name one of the findings that we may discuss it in the final round.

"Pro drops my argument that uniform enforcement creates unnecessary tension between students & educators,"
  According to this study [2], "Finally, we find that uniforms generate significant reductions in teacher attrition in elementary schools on the order of 5 percentage points." So it appears that teachers are more at ease with uniforms than not, since they leave the profession significantly less in schools that have uniforms.

" But Pro doesn’t say how any of this leads to better academic achievement for all students."
  Good thing I don't have to, because I'm not arguing it will help all students, but that it will probably affect an average. A bell curve, where some are going to thrive, some won't, but most will reap a moderate amount of passive gain by being present for more class time.

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  • CR5
" We adapt uniform policy to the unique needs of specific students, parents, and educators, allowing people to weigh the pros & cons for themselves, instead of having the government paternalistically impose its vision on everyone."
  This ignores the benefits of uniforms improving school image and promoting school spirit, and the lax policy of sometimes enforcing policy ultimately corrodes the authority of the state in its own schools.

"How much of an increase in safety & performance would justify abridging our basic human rights...Students must therefore have the freedom to discover & express ideas in public schools without authoritarian selection"
  This concern about a human rights violation is simply reaching. The time a child spends in school should be spent learning, not keeping up with the latest fashion statements, or being discriminated against because they arent keeping up with them. Uniforms remove this source of contention between students, thus fostering an environment with less bullying. We all know that bullying often leads to tragic ends to children's lives. Safety takes the cake over free expression in this case. 

"Pro says uniforms prepare children for workplaces. But many workplaces don’t have uniforms."
  Many do and many don't. Uniforms prepare them for the ones that do.

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  • CR6
"Fashion choices also facilitate the formation of relationships with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, and discovering how this process works in public spaces is a large part of growing up."
  And these fashion choices should be encouraged in the appropriate social setting, but the classroom is for learning, and during school hours, fashion statements should take a back seat to education, and the benefits of uniforms.

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  • CR7
"Pro says that uniforms don’t necessarily create an expectation of sameness. But how could they not?"
  They create an expectation of cooperation and modesty. Not sameness, but unity. There is only the compulsion of dress, not compulsion or suppression of ideas. A child in a uniform may still say and think what they want, and will be involved in complex social interactions that all help to differentiate them.

"Pro says I commit a slippery slope fallacy. But slippery slopes aren’t fallacies, it’s just a way of thinking about an issue...it’s precisely how totalitarian governments have formed from the ashes of democracy, time & time again."
  To quote my source, "The slippery slope involves an acceptance of a succession of events without direct evidence that this course of events will happen." The sources do not demonstrate directly how uniforms will lead to totalitarianism other than arbitrarily branding them as totalitarian to rationalize the slippery slope.

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  • CR8
" Pro completely drops my argument re: equality & the punishment of people in relation to ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, politics, and class."
  I cleared that up in the intro of my last round.

" But if you have “free dress,” there’s no enforcement." 
  The problem is that you cannot have "free dress" because if a student shows up with a shirt that has pornographic images on it, I doubt my opponent would support allowing that child to express themselves in that way. Thus, some limitation must be imposed. The stance my opponent has taken necessitates an arbitrary standard of where the boundaries to "free dress" are.

"Pro drops my argument that his plan violates numerous constitutional protections, including substantive due process rights, equal protection rights, first amendment protections (including freedom to practice religion)."
  I addressed the only potential constitutional violation in the 10th amendment, which doesn't apply because this doesn't have to instituted by the Federal Government. As far as freedom of religion goes, that's more of a gray area of law since like, weed churches aren't permitted to practice their religion [3]; however, I invite my opponent to bring up a religion that the proposed dress code would violate.

"Pro says that every state individually decides to implement his code, avoiding the states rights’ issue, but that’s a hypothetical. The resolution calls for a nationwide uniform requirement, and that means there must be some enforcement at the federal level, or some states might go rogue & implement my plan instead. How will Pro keep states from going rogue under his plan? "
  Like I said, I'm not arguing for a plan. Simply that there are good reasons for schools to adopt uniforms policies.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, uniforms do actually foster a safer environment, academic achievement, and higher attendance rates. The evidence isn't so mixed as my opponent would lead one to believe. Also, my opponent's reasons against the uniforms fail, as do his reasons for free dress to be allowed in all schools. The studies I have presented have gathered data from all over the world and concluded these things I relay here today. I hope I didn't miss anything because I am out of time. I await my opponent's response.




Con
Overview

As I explained in R1 & R2, uniforms are self-defeating in many respects. Extensive evidence shows that uniforms don't increase safety or academic performance, while other pieces of evidence show that uniforms create unintended dangers that decrease school safety & hinder academic performance. Pro still hasn't contested this evidence.

Pro also hasn't provided any specific numbers. How many lives will a nationwide uniform requirement save? How much of an improvement in academic performance will we see? Will it lead to higher graduation rates? How much higher? Pro doesn't give you numbers because the benefits are mostly hypothetical, & because the evidence is too mixed to present a case with any degree of certainty.

Without certainty or specifics, Pro's alleged benefits cannot justify the abridgment of our basic human rights. And because the evidence on benefits is mixed, my flexible approach still offers the best of both worlds, upholding our basic rights & respect for human dignity, while allowing uniforms for people like Pro. While my proposal isn't much different from the status quo, Pro's proposal looks like something you'd find under an African dictatorship.

Evidence & sources

1. Africa isn’t a helpful model for US policy because the baseline conditions of life aren't comparable. Consider GPD per capita, for example. In Africa, it’s $1,585. [9] In the US, it's $65,118. [10] Or consider Pro's study itself:

The context is Kenya. Kenya has had a nationwide uniform requirement for as long as I remember (at least before the year 2000). Kenya also has a bunch of NGOs & other governmental organizations (e.g. USAID, DFID, VSO, Peace Corps, etc.) providing students with free uniforms & school supplies. Within this context, the study outlines the following problem: "the cost of school uniforms has escalated and become an added burden for parents and students yet no empirical study has been conducted to aid school authorities to remedy the situation." 

To solve this problem, the study doesn't measure the effect of a change in uniform policy. It doesn't even measure attendance rates because that information isn't recorded in Kenyan schools. Instead, the study relies on surveys of students, students who receive (and desperately need) free uniforms from NGOs. These are students who have never been allowed to attend school without a uniform & most likely can't imagine such a thing. Based on these surveys, which measure perceptions, not reality, the study concludes that Kenya's nationwide uniform requirement has increased attendance. 

Unfortunately, policy studies in sub-Saharan Africa don't have anything close to the level of academic independence & rigor that we expect in the US. These countries aren't liberal democracies (not even the ones that pretend to be), and dissent from the government isn't something you just do. In short, the academic standards simply aren't comparable to the US. And I say this with great sadness in my heart, as I'm from Ethiopia myself & briefly lived in Kenya as a political refugee before moving to the US.

2. Pro admits that the UH study found no increase in academic performance, and even worse, found an “increase in disciplinary infractions” and a “decrease in Hispanic reading scores.” And Pro notes that the disciplinary infractions probably weren’t the result of uniform enforcement. So even though the study found an increase in attendance, it's not clear whether that increase was a good thing.

3. Pro drops my argument that all of his evidence is based on weak correlations, not actual cause & effect. 

4. Pro says that the link to the 2007 study is broken. I’m not sure what happened, it was working when I initially posted the link in R1. It was a study published in Volume 4 of the Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice. Pro should have googled it (just as I googled Pro’s UH study when he didn’t link it directly). I was able to google & find a working link here: https://6c46cd80-4ef7-424c-bdc5-555a6298416a.filesusr.com/ugd/4d13c6_e9f51dbcb9264936a2ca69d79b9310d5.pdf

5. Pro wants me to name the findings of Brunsma. The findings were expressly stated in both Round 1 & 2: uniforms don’t increase attendance or academic performance. Pro’s own source -- the Kenya study -- reviews Brunsma’s findings without any dispute about results or methodology. 

Safety

1. Pro drops my argument on perceptions, and he still doesn’t address my argument that educators can’t identify dangerous students if they all dress the same. Again, that’s a massive concession because most harm to schools comes from student perpetrators, not outsiders.

2. Pro admits that his own source showed an increase in disciplinary infractions after uniforms, and he drops my argument explaining how uniforms might increase violence. As I said before, some students are bound to lash out at perceived violations of their basic human rights. 

2. Pro admits that gangs don’t stop being gangs just because they don a uniform. Instead, Pro argues that uniforms increase the challenge of hiding a weapon. Pro even expands his uniform requirements to prohibit a sportcoat (and presumably any other sort of jacket or coat) & to require see-through backpacks. While this might pose a challenge to gangs, Pro offers no evidence that gangs won’t find innovative ways around dress restrictions, as they always seem to do. Pro’s argument is based entirely on a hypothetical. 

Academics

1. Pro still doesn’t contest any of Brunsma’s longitudinal studies.

2. Pro admits that many students won’t benefit from uniforms (see Pro’s argument on bell curves). These students should be allowed to attend schools without uniforms.

3. Pro says that teachers prefer to work at elementary schools with uniforms. But this isn’t responsive to my argument: Uniforms create tension between some teachers & some students, especially after elementary school when students begin developing greater autonomy & expression interests. Yes, some teachers might enjoy this tension because they’re the ones in a position of authority, but that doesn’t mean the tension doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t harm educational outcomes.

4. Pro still doesn’t address my argument that uniform enforcement leads to less educational time due to discipline for noncompliance, and Pro drops my argument that uniform enforcement siphons resources away from core education. Pro also drops my argument for more extracurricular time.

Flexibility

1. Pro says that “the lax policy of sometimes enforcing policy ultimately corrodes the authority of the state in its own schools” (Pro’s words). This “rebuttal” isn’t responsive to my case at all, because my plan doesn’t entail arbitrary enforcement of a nationwide policy. If anything, that’s Pro’s problem, because uniform requirements can’t be enforced exactly the same across all students & schools. Thus, Pro’s proposal “corrodes the authority of the state in its own schools” (Pro’s words).

2. Pro asserts that uniforms improve school image & school spirit. But (a) this is just another hypothetical for which there’s no evidence, (b) not everyone agrees that we should sacrifice our basic human rights for the sake of improving school image & spirit, and (c) some schools improve their school image & spirit by celebrating their “free dress” policies. [11]

Basic rights

1. Pro’s nationwide uniform requirement directly violates our basic autonomy rights & expression rights, our rights to equal treatment on the basis of ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, politics, and class, and our basic expectations of fairness & due process in a public forum. Because this erodes respect for human dignity (i.e. the inherent freedom to choose what's in our best interest), a nationwide uniform requirement is totalitarian in nature.
 
2. Pro says that “safety takes the cake over free expression.” But Pro hasn’t shown that "free expression" in this context poses anything close to a "clear & present" danger. This isn’t like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Pro hasn’t even told us how much safety we're talking about (how many lives will Pro's plan save?), nor has Pro shown that uniforms are the only way to prevent the alleged dangers.

3. Pro says that uniforms remove a source of contention between students. That’s precisely my point. A public school must be a marketplace of ideas where we cultivate the capacity of students to work with people who look & think differently. This might create some contention between students, but each point of contention is an opportunity for education & growth. 

4. Pro says uniforms create an environment with less bullying. But Pro doesn’t tell us how uniforms decrease bullying. It’s just another hypothetical for which there’s no evidence. The reality is this: kids who bully others don’t do it because of clothing choices, but rather because of other emotional/psychological reasons. Even if you have uniforms, then, kids will still bully about non-fashion items (e.g. intelligence, athletic ability, etc.).

5. Pro admits that many jobs don’t require uniforms. Again, that’s more reason to have a mix of schools, some with uniforms, others without.

6. Pro admits that fashion statements are important, but argues they shouldn’t be allowed in school because “the classroom is for learning.” Pro ignores my argument about the marketplace of ideas & the value of using fashion in the context of a classroom to communicate certain inchoate ideas & emotions that aren't communicable except via fashion, and to create & assert our self-identity.

7. Pro says that uniforms create an expectation of cooperation & modesty. But (a) that's just another hypothetical, (b) students should have the freedom to decide whether to develop values like modesty for themselves (the US isn't a place where modesty is always valued above grandeur), and (c) uniforms don't teach students how to cooperate with people who look different. 

8. Pro says uniforms create an expectation of unity rather than sameness. But (a) that's untrue, and (b) that’s a distinction without a difference. Uniforms create an environment where everyone looks the same. Sameness doesn't inherently lead to unity (this is why we have civil wars), and to the extent sameness leads to unity, it's the wrong type of unity. We don't want fascist unity, we want pluralistic democratic unity. And that means it's very important to develop a sense of unity with people who look & think differently, because that's the very basis of this country: a pluralistic federalism, in which states with very different people & laws remain united under the same constitutional framework.

My other arguments

1. Pro clarified what type of uniform he'd allow. But that doesn't address the substance of my argument. Uniforms aren't neutral in relation to ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, politics, and class. Thus, uniforms harm students' equality interests (e.g. Pro doesn't allow girls to wear religious dresses, as required by some religions).

2. Pro says you can't have a minimal dress code because of pornographic images. But these types of images are regulated by obscenity laws that apply to anyone in a public space. There’s no need for specific school-based dress restrictions for anything that causes a legitimate danger or nuisance. The limits to free expression have been carved out by the Supreme Court in its 1st amendment jurisprudence, and that's what schools should follow, not their own authoritarian views. 

3. A weed church isn't considered a religion, it's a dispensary. It's also entirely irrelevant to the issue here. Uniforms interfere with our capacity to wear religious clothing in public schools, and that poses serious constitutional issues. In fact, courts have repeatedly struck down uniform policies for violating our religious expression rights. [12] 

---

Sources:

[11] See, e.g. New World School of the Arts, one of the best public high schools in the country, as an example of a school that creates school spirit by celebrating the artistic individuality & autonomy of its students.
[12] See, e.g., A.A. ex rel. Betenbaugh v. Needville Indep. Sch. Dist., 701 F. Supp. 2d 863(S.D. Tex. 2009) (invalidating dress restrictions prohibiting plaintiff fromwearing his hair in style meant to convey connection to traditional Native American religion); Chalifoux v. New Caney Indep. Sch. Dist., 976 F. Supp. 659, 671 (S.D.Tex.1997) (holding that strict dress code violated a student's religious freedoms).
Round 4
Pro
  Thank you Ayyantu for this debate. I would love to respond but I have been really busy these last couple of days and I just realized I'm running out of time to respond. I apologize. I'm at work, so I won't be able to post an argument in the last two hours. I appreciate your understanding. Please consider my third round as my final round.

Vote Pro!
Con
I had saved my concluding thoughts for the final round, but I don't think much more needs to be said. I'll just briefly recap the debate from my perspective: 

My proposal allows some students to benefit from uniforms, while allowing other students to benefit from creating & asserting self-identity through their fashion choices. In particular, my proposal offers a number of unique benefits: it safeguards basic human rights, it doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, or class, it doesn't lead to unfair & arbitrary enforcement, and it doesn't pose any constitutional issues. My proposal also provides students, parents, & educators with more flexibility to weigh the pros & cons of uniforms for themselves, allowing local institutions to decide what's right for a particular student body in a particular place at a particular time with its own particular set of issues. Thus, my proposal aligns closely with the American values of autonomy, free expression, equality, fairness, the freedom of parents to choose how they raise their children, as well as the very notion of a pluralist democracy in which different people are allowed to pursue different views of a good life. 

In contrast, Pro's case is rigid & self-defeating. Uniforms directly interfere with basic human rights, including the right to define oneself & to develop one’s own identity at the moment in human development where the need to create & assert self-identity is most acute & developmentally important. Pro admits that uniforms interfere with at least some basic rights. Instead, Pro argued that uniforms increase safety & academic performance, but Pro's evidence relied almost entirely on unreliable perceptions rather than actual data. Pro never told us how much of an increase in safety we'd see, or how much of an improvement in academic performance. He doesn't tell us exactly how much he expects grades to improve, or whether graduation rates would improve, or whether this would have any measurable impact on society as a whole. In fact, I provided uncontested evidence that uniforms led to increases in behavioral problems, including one study that showed an increase in violent assaults after uniforms were introduced. This evidence was uncontested, and unlike Pro's evidence, it's based on actual data, not perceptions. I offered numerous uncontested explanations for why uniforms don't improve safety or educational outcomes. Pro never answered my argument that uniforms decrease safety by making it more difficult for educators to identify dangerous students via their dress, and as I've stressed, that's a massive concession because most harm to schools comes from student perpetrators, not outsiders. 

Pro's case fared no better on academic performance. His own study showed that Hispanic reading scores decreased when uniforms were introduced. Again, that ties in with my argument that uniforms punish people on the basis of ethnicity (along with a number of other categories), an argument that Pro never addressed. My studies showed no academic benefits, and Pro never contested my argument that uniforms lead to less educational time due to discipline for noncompliance. As such, this shouldn't be a difficult debate to judge. Pro's case, at best, showed that some (but not all) students benefit from uniforms. How many students? We don't know. How much of a benefit? We don't know. Regardless of whatever benefits Pro proved, Pro repeatedly admits that some students won't benefit from uniforms and that some students are harmed by uniforms. That alone means you should vote for my plan: allow some students to benefit from uniforms, and allow others to benefit from broader autonomy rights.

Again, thanks to my opponent for the debate. Vote Con!