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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 22. September 17, 1968

the uniform

the uniform

Notwithstanding, the Report steers well clear of controversy. Ausubel, on the school uniform, complained that it 'stifles most of the urges towards feminine individuality.' Uniforms? Not a fundamental problem, said the report. And that trouble spot was avoided. But the most cursory glance at a school prospectus shows that school uniform is anything but unimportant. It's the keystone of the system. It takes pride of place in the prospectus Boards of governors go into secret conclave about it daily. As the uniform-defenders say, the uniform has builtin security and simplicity, it 'creates a spirit of unity among its wearers and sets a standard for the organisation it represents … it serves a big purpose in society … there's no denying that.' And if a headmaster does deny that, calling school caps 'a Victorian convention', be sure some member of the Headwear Manufacturers' Association will soon put him in his place. For the Grogzone School regulations must be respected.

• The wearing of other brand-named garments may be approved provided these are Otherwise Entirely Identical In Every Respect (sic) with the officially approved garments'.

• 'The only corect wool is X brand no. 999 5-ply knitting wool.'

• 'Raincoat must be to approved pattern of Grogzone High School crimson of double-proofed nylon.'

The hierarchy, in its wisdom, allows dispensations:

• 'If the hose are home-knitted, the stripes in the top must be of regulation width, pattern, and colour.'

• 'A black-oiled japara may be worn as an alternative to the navy-blue raincoat for boys.'

But as the schoolboy said. 'It could be a sloppy joe and Stoney Burkes, it'd still be a bloody uniform ' And his parents plaintively ask for some sort of price control on school uniforms They arc spending up to 150 dollars on a uniform. They petition the school about compulsory school shirts of wool and thick woollen socks. They write letters to the paper, because, 'we do not even like to voice a complaint at school meetings for fear our child becomes known as 'a child whose mother made a fuss at the last meeting'. And they get precisely nowhere.

What's the result of this accent on uniformity of clothing and hair styles? For parents, there's the expenditure. For the pupils, there's a lesson in mindless uniformity and blind acceptance of rules. Many imbibe this lesson. As adults, they will say, '… his appearance is a credit to him and to his school.' It doesn't matter what you feel like. It hardly even matters what you do. As long as you look all right. Socks two inches below the knees, hair two inches above your collar, and you'll be right. Some don't learn the lesson, and rebel. On one side crushing restriction, on the other side adolescent rebellion. Two buttocks of the same bum. All in the name of a minority of pupils who would 'abuse the wearing of mufti.' Segregation of the sexes and exaggerated deference to the masters are still with us. So is the prefect system. 'Prefects are largely staff-appointed monitors', wrote Ausubel. They are still monitors, though some are now student-appointed. Some schools, (moved by Currie Recommendation 6/28, '… investigate the possibility of introducing school councils…') have school councils. There is little evidence that these councils are more than a sop to reform. When Waikato students aimed to set up a secondary schools' association they were, according to newspaper reports, opposed by college principals. Recently, when a newspaper reporter asked headmasters about the introduction of rugby league he was told:

• 'We are not strong enough numerically.'

• '… we are not in a recognised rugby league district …'

• '… no reason to diversify our sports away from those usually regarded as traditional ….'

• 'We have not considered the matter. Goodbye.'

There is no evidence that school councils have been asked to consider the matter, either. Then or since. Self-government might be a valuable training for youth about to enter a democracy. But not in Grogzone.