Do schools need a dress code?

In many European countries, there are discussions about the need for a dress code for schools. In Sweden, teachers complain that many students come to school in sportswear, like bandits and Gopnik. In France and Switzerland, teachers complain about girls coming to class dressed too frivolously. For example, in one of the schools in Geneva, students now have to put on a huge T-shirt with the words ‘Now I am in proper clothes’. Observers speculate whether such prescriptions and teachings make sense.




Moral attitudes that harm girls

According to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, “the T-shirt of shame” is no longer talking about those who were forced to wear it, but about those who put forward a similar idea:

“This T-shirt is a pillar of sorts — made of fabric. It hides nakedness, but at the same time exposes very harmful moral ideas. Apparently, the female body is still perceived as a danger, and this danger needs to be eliminated — by shaming the woman. … These attitudes have made life difficult for many women and girls — and for far too long. The theme of the flesh seems to be constantly implied. This attitude complicates the life of many boys and young men: they are imputed to a downright reflex desire to grab a bare knee or stare at the neckline. But there is a simple way out of this lack of freedom. Teachers could discuss these issues with students in the class. After all, you can give reasons why school needs to dress differently.”

General rules create a common identity

In one of the schools in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, a rule has been introduced prohibiting the wearing of sweatpants at school, since this piece of clothing resembles the way of dress adopted in criminal communities. Objections in the sense that the ban additionally discriminates against students from low-income families, according to the newspaper Goteborgs-Posten, are unfounded:

“Schools with many disadvantaged students and discipline problems would benefit most from a rule like this. In this way, it would be possible to start a fight against the attractiveness of gangs, because often only there teenagers find a sense of community, identity — and spectacular status symbols. … The radical legacy of ’68 still has a strong influence on the way we approach social issues in Sweden — including when it comes to school. The rights of students are elevated to absolute. … However, lack of responsibility does not make a person stronger. And least of all those who cannot find support in a family where prosperity, social well-being, and identity of the middle class would reign.”

There are no “normal” clothes

French Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquet said on this occasion that school should be dressed “normally”. But any norm is a social construct, sociologist Nadya Vargaftig notes in her article in Liberation:

“Well, of course, it’s clear! Let’s just be normal, ladies and gentlemen! … Is there anything more normal than the norm? Why do we, scientists of the humanities and social sciences, make a garden at all — study and question the accepted norms: deconstruct them, contextualize and compare them? With their call to adhere to the norm — no, ‘normality’ — Macron and Blanke are trying to curtail the debate on this topic, but we need this debate — in order for our coexistence to be possible. At the same time, we must not forget and underestimate the historical nature of the established norms, as well as their meaning and objectives, one of which is to serve the interests of the authorities.”




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