Dear Joseph,
I am a single parent of two girls. Going to school has become an absolute nightmare. My girls, who are six and seven, are so fashion conscious already that I am beginning to hate dressing them. Every morning there are tears and tempers because of their fear of being teased because of what I can afford to dress them in. I want to know if there are any parents out there who feel the same way. Do you have any ideas about what can be done about this problem?
--Mother of Two

Dear Mother of Two,
As I read your letter, I was thinking of a step that some public schools (and many religious and private schools) have taken to solve this problem: school uniforms. Wearing uniforms does not mean that a child has to wear the same outfit each day, which children rightly regard as boring. There could be a dress code with three or four permissible outfits. The greatest benefit of such uniforms is a moral one. Students whose parents lack the funds to buy them the fancier clothes worn by their wealthier peers would be spared embarrassment.

That your children go to school in fear of being mocked because of their clothes is outrageous, even evil. That you, a single mother, have to spend far more on clothes for your children than you can afford is also outrageous. It seems to me that any school with a student body from widely dissimilar economic backgrounds is morally obliged not to allow students to be humiliated because they can't afford the style of clothes the more affluent students can.

While it is true that life is unfair, the place and time to learn this unhappy truth should not be the first and second grades--or indeed at any point in elementary school.

The benefits of uniforms, particularly for girls, are of course more than moral. While my experience is that young boys usually couldn't care less about what they or their classmates are wearing, girls care a great deal about such matters. As it is, females in our country derive too much of their sense of self-worth from how they feel about their attractiveness. Undue attention to clothes only furthers this exaggerated focus on looks.

I am interested in hearing opposing views (which undoubtedly I will get from my 10- and 12-year-old daughters), but it seems obvious to me that for moral, psychological, and intellectual reasons, children will flourish more in schools that require uniforms.

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