Dec. 1 was a special day for the elementary students at Newark, N.J.'s public schools. All children are now required to wear uniforms.
"The implementation of school uniforms came from the belief that if we can eliminate things that distract our young people, such as name-brand clothing, they will perform better, have high expectations and develop a vision toward academic achievement," explained Newark Superintendent Dr. Clifford Janey.
What a progressive idea! School uniforms were commonplace a century ago.
But the '60s radicals and the liberal educrats decided to use public schools for social experimentation and behavior modification instead of for learning. Multiplication tables were replaced by rainforest math, and phonics was replaced by books filled with pictures.
The liberals are crowing that the election of Barack Obama has launched a new era of change. But it could be like Woodstock in 1969: the end of an era, not the beginning.
Newark public schools are 85 percent black and 80 percent low-income, and only 2 percent later graduate from college. Failed liberal approaches have long held Newark kids in an environment of failure, but sometimes even liberals tire of their own mistakes and turn to answers from the past.
Competition from charter schools may be the real motivation. North Star Academy Middle School, a charter school in Newark drawing on the same demographics, requires uniforms and other discipline and achieves far better results than ordinary public schools.
North Star Academy has a waiting list of 2,000. North Star's principal, James Verrilli, points out that providing a good education is "the new civil rights movement of our era."
The Newark public schools also plan to require uniforms for their high school students next year. Finally, someone is implementing a kind of change that might actually do some good (in contrast to Obama's vague talk of meaningless change).
The Newark public schools brag about their new uniforms on bus posters, fliers, public service announcements, publications and even a prominent billboard. Newark issued a press release declaring that "research has proven that when students see themselves as members of a group that is disciplined and positively engaged, it helps build their self-esteem and their performance improves."
We didn't need expensive "research" to confirm the positive effects of uniforms in schools. But a fig leaf may help protect against radical colleagues who resist the new policy.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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