Last updated on: 9/5/2014 | Author:

Alfie Kohn, MA Biography

Education activist and author
Con to the question "Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms?"

“The appeal of school uniforms is based less on the likelihood of realizing any long-term benefits than on the nostalgic yearning for a simpler and less dangerous age. To imagine that telling students what to wear will bring back those days is to engage in wishful, if not fuzzy, thinking…

If we want students to grow into critical thinkers and ethical people, then we have to aim higher than mere conformity. Children, after all, learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions. If we want them to take responsibility for their behavior, then we have to give them responsibilities…

Thus, if T-shirts contain slogans that offend us, or gang colors threaten to be inflammatory, school administrators might invite students to participate in analyzing the problem and constructing a solution. Apart from being more respectful, this approach is also more effective over the long run (and better preparation for life in a democratic society), than issuing a decree (‘Wear this’)…

Is it even reasonable to expect uniforms to solve the problems for which they are recommended? Can violence be reduced by borrowing an idea from the military?…

Complex problems will not disappear just because we demand that students wear what we tell them. Relying on power to induce conformity rarely produces lasting solutions.”

“The Trouble with School Uniforms,” Boston Globe, Oct. 2, 1996

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Education activist
  • Author of 12 books on education, parenting, and human behavior
  • Articles published in the Journal of Education, Ladies Home Journal, the Nation, Harvard Business Review, Atlantic Monthly, Phi Delta Kappan, Parents, Psychology Today, and other publications
  • Keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for teachers and administrators
  • Appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC’s Today, and other TV and radio programs
  • Profiled in the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times
  • Former high school teacher
  • MA, Social Sciences, University of Chicago, 1980
  • BA, Brown University, 1979
  • Lives in Boston, MA
  • Has two children
  • Born in Miami Beach, FL
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms?