By Nate Ahern
Have questions about classical Christian education? We are here to help!
Q: Why do classical Christian schools require uniforms?
A: For a rich, rigorous school, a dress code is usually essential, typically via school uniforms. What students wear is directly linked to what students learn.
To many parents, uniforms may seem like a hassle—uncomfortable, controversial, unimaginative, robotic, or expensive. School uniforms are nothing new in the educational tradition, but they are recently misunderstood.
The basic purpose of school uniforms is to promote good, honest learning, without distractions and without compromising beauty. They promote focus, reduce sidelong glances, and foster unity. Learning class material well is arduous, and uniforms show respect for that task.
But this might not be immediately clear without understanding that everything in God’s world speaks (Rom. 1:20, Ps. 19:1). Nothing is neutral, which means there is no part of life that can claim exemption from the way God made things, and there is nothing—plant, animal, or mineral—that can opt out of speaking. As Bonhoeffer once said of Christians, “Not to speak is to speak.” Just as the heavens declare the glory of God, the clothes we wear also declare something. They either speak well or badly.
Still, uniforms tend to give the impression of robots, not students. Why dress all students the same when no other area of society does that? The answer is that every area of society does that. Businessmen must wear suits. NFL athletes must wear helmets and tights. Swimmers must wear swimsuits. And every public school student must wear whatever is considered most cool. All areas of life have dress codes and uniform policies. So when a classical school student who wears a uniform envies his public school counterpart who does not, he is simply envying a different kind of uniform (and one usually much less classy). He is not envying that student’s freedom, which does not fully exist.
Why do classical Christian schools require uniforms?
While the principle should be the same for every Christian school—dress in such a way that God is honored and academics are the focus–the methods can be different. One school allows navy blue pants, the other only allows khaki. Both methods are perfectly fine.
Students and parents should clearly understand the standard and know that their school’s uniform policy is simply one way of upholding that standard. When this harmony between principles and methods is clearly understood, and everyone knows that it’s not a moral issue, a uniform policy becomes a freedom, not a restriction, and everyone is able to lighten up a bit. ✤
Early on in my parenting journey, I vowed I would never send my kids to a school that didn’t require uniforms. I can’t imagine anyone rejecting this simple way to eliminate the morning stress of figuring out what to wear. Add to that the social, emotional, practical, and financial burdens that clothing in our culture heaps upon our children, and uniforms become freedom! —Mom of 3 CCE students
~NATE AHERN, Principal of Augustine Classical, Lakewood, CO