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Logo of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Logo of the Chicago Teachers Union. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent issues involving the Chicago Teachers Union and revolving around how the Chicago School Board is selected are big in the news. Yes there are troubles with salaries, with contract negotiations, with the idea of a strike looming and when it might happen and who might be able to participate.Parents wonder “What about the kids?” “What about my children?”

Citizens who see their tax dollars spent in the schools wonder about the students, about the disparities, about the “diversity” issues, the cultural and the ethnic issues, about so much it is a wonder anyone knows where to begin or what to talk about. Yes there is a need for an elected school board and I hope the referendum is put on the ballot this year, but the issues of education are so much deeper and essential than officials bickering, or about policies about how to run a school or a district or about the hiring of teachers or the status of principals.

There is one thing the Chicago school system can do and should do right away to facilitate learning and make the environment easier for everybody- and that is adopt uniforms for every public school. Now it might seem that the big-time and expensive clothing companies would take a hit because of the teens and parents not shopping them for school clothes, but what some people think of as “school clothes” are not appropriate to the learning environment and cause more distraction than advantage.

If you are a student, consider this next part carefully. Uniforms would make distinctions between rich and poor, neighborhood and area non-important, reducing a lot of distractions right away. No matter the color you are, the ethnicity you are, the goals you have, wearing a uniform is a good idea. Think of the benefits right away- you are thinking as a professional, you are working as part of a team, you are not distracted from your work and thus are able to concentrate on your studies. Uniforms are used to great effect in other nations to reduce just such distractions as presently infect the American school system.

Uniforms are a sign of the professional. In fact something I heard on a Cubs broadcast this week brought some of that issue to the fore. One of the commentators on WGN talked about how some of the umpires were dressing, and apparently that one was not in tune with the rest of his crew. Now it is right that members of the baseball team dress out in the right uniform for the occasion- be it a home game or an away game. It would not make sense for one of the Chicago Cubs to play an away game in the home whites while the others come out in gray and blue. When you wear a uniform you are part of a team and you have come ready to work and make a positive contribution to the bigger effort, which in this picture is the competitiveness of a nation, the interests of a nation and all that is threaded into that idea- security, the workforce, education, infrastructure design and maintenance, the arts and sciences. Coming to school in a uniform would signal, “I am ready to participate. I have my work done and am ready to play my role, to find out how to make a positive contribution and to take an active part in society as a worker, a teacher, or anything else I want to be. I am neat and clean and… gosh, I fit right in! That’s a great feeling!”

Thus a uniform can also be a source of pride, just as any other type of clothing can be. A uniform tells you that you are part of a team, that you do have something to offer, that you are part of something really great and big and of national importance, that you can be a winner and help others to achieve and grow. You have come ready to give your input, to work hard, to put in those hours of practice and reading and shop and writing and spelling, with the graduation goal in sight. You will, every day you are doing your best, bring pride to yourself, your relatives, your parents, your classmates, your community, your school, and to your country.

As for the clothier, you would not lack for business. After all, the students can change into other clothes once they are home, or for travel and vacations and other occasions so the money is still there to support your businesses. The high-end sneakers have to wait; the short skirts and bold colors have to wait; the heavy jewelry and big watches have to wait till the end of the school day or week or other times for display. As far as is possible, distractions must be reduced in the formal educational environment- the school campus at every level.

Distractions also include talk of ethnicity, of being such and such an -American, of neighborhood, of gangs, of turf wars, of demographics in other words. As a student, as a progressive parent, and especially as a leader, you have the chance to tell the demographers to take a back seat, that there are other more important issues to think about than the above useless aspects of society. Time to set those non-essentials aside so you can understand what the ESSENTIALS are.

What are the essentials? Let’s think about it in terms of a baseball team gathering to play. The players get up, perhaps they eat together and have a pre-game meeting, then they assemble in uniform to warm up and stretch and take batting practice. Soon they are ready to play, and each has his role on the field and in the batting order. Each player must know his role without question, to know what a shortstop does, where his area is to cover, and to either call for a catch or signal that he cannot find the ball and leave it to another player so to do. The players must remember how many outs there are, what the counts are, where the opposing base runners are and what to do if a ball is hit in the infield. Sounds simple perhaps, but for many it takes months or even years of rising through the levels of the game to build the professionalism it takes to be a good major league player.

Another example is a symphony preparing to perform. Now not necessarily is it that a professional symphony has a “uniform”, meaning to say that each person has to dress exactly the same. For the gentlemen of the Chicago Symphony, dressing alike looks easier than for the ladies of that excellent institution, who appear in black for the most part but whose clothes are not so much like in appearance. Some have a little sparkle, some have lace, some have soft pants- the styles vary. But most important is that they come comfortable, looking professional and ready to play for an appreciative audience, an audience that knows how hard those players have worked.

Thus the CSO assembles on the stage at Symphony Center. They have mastered their instruments, prepared, tuned, rosined, assembled, polished those instruments and bows and now have come out to get ready for the performance. After a pre-concert conversation in which a speaker enlightens patrons on the selections for the evening, the audience gathers in the auditorium. Now the lights change, the announcements are made, and the Concert Master comes out to prepare his troops for the show. The tune up happens, everyone is then seated, and out comes the conductor. What we in the audience will then see is the culmination of years of hard work, of hours of rehearing and fine-tuning and practicing, as we hear the notes of Beethoven’s Eroica, or the Pastoral, or the rousing notes of Gershwin. There are no distractions- there is only the sound of wonderful music, the sharing of culture with hundreds of others, and the appreciation of years of dedication crystallized into a small span of performance time. We came, we saw, and we enjoyed!

Thus what then about uniforms for all Chicago students? It is a good idea that is long overdue and must from every aspect and facet be considered for the benefits.

Divi Logan for ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2012.