School uniforms could solve problems

By Ned Cantwell

Scott Peterson will be named Husband of the Year before New Mexico schools adopt student uniforms.
Threatening New Mexicans with school uniforms is like telling a Ku Klux Klansman he has to wear a blue sheet. You might as well tell the president of the local NRA chapter he has to get a permit before he can buy a water pistol. It’s like telling a bunch of Santa Fe activists, “OK, gang, into the bus — we’re going down to Carlsbad to help them get that bomb factory.”
Just the mention of school uniforms unleashes a wide range of passions. Opponents reach deep to bolster their position. They cite all types of historical arguments, including this one by Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
That may be the biggest stretch since Elizabeth Taylor’s last face job. I mean, I doubt school uniforms were within three time zones of Ben’s mind when he said that stuff.
Another American statesman weighed in on school uniforms. In his 1996 State of the Union message (this was a period of history before presidents starting fibbing in their State of the Union messages). Bill Clinton said, “If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require the students to wear uniforms.”
No one is going to listen to Bill Clinton, though, even if he is an intelligent man. That is because he did a very dumb thing. He got involved with Monica.
On the other hand, even though he wasn’t talking about school uniforms, we tend to listen to Ben Franklin because the dumbest thing old Ben ever did was fly a kite in a thunderstorm.
Note that in Alamogordo, teachers will take a new dress code to school this month. No T-shirts, sweat pants, jogging suits, shorts, miniskirts, formfitting pants or clothing with inappropriate graphics. No tattoos or visible piercing except for ears.
Alamo’s teacher code grew out of a parent’s complaint that his kid was sent home for dressing pretty much like the teacher did. So be it. But, look, why shouldn’t the schools be able to control what kids wear?
Here’s the deal. Kids should not be allowed to get up in the morning and get dressed in an attitude. They should not be able to slouch their way onto the school grounds with baggy pants, wrong-way hats, chains drooping from their waists.
Were it up to me, if a kid comes to school with a sartorial demeanor that tells the teacher, “up yours,” send him home. The country has drifted far from the days when education was considered a cherished privilege. It needs to reverse the course.
School uniforms would accomplish that. Studies have proven uniforms increase discipline, reduce crime. Not going to happen, though. You might as well ask Larry King to give up his suspenders.

Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame. E-mail him at: