Maybe it’s because I grew up in the public schools of America, but it would seem that I have something against school uniforms. I just don’t like them, I guess, having it in my head that they stifle a student’s individuality – and inAmericathat is the last thing we want to do.
But as far as how this is put into practice inKorea, it would appear that I am wrong.
Yes, the students in my school wear uniforms, but not uniformly.
Pick any two students and I can tell you now, there is no way that their clothing is exactly the same. From the shoes on their feet (anything from simple slip on sandals to massive fluffy pink slippers) to the blouses, dress shirts, or sweaters they were on top. From head to toe these students utilize their clothing to express their individuality, and all while still being in uniform.
The girls all wear these cutesy little ankle socks over their tights. One of them wears two different pairs every day – usually with faces of popular Kpop singers. She’ll then make them “dance” when she’s bored.
And then, both boys and girls, will wear their uniform shirts to school, but throw a sweater over top of it to keep themselves warm in the drafty buildings and the unheated hallways. You can start to figure out different students’ personalities just by looking at the goofy things on their sweaters. These can be really nice preppy nice knit sweaters, or cartoons and Mickey Mouse…it all depends on the student.
My school has a uniform, and the students adhere to it, but it would appear that in this rigid system inKorea, there is still a lot of room for students to wiggle about, for them to try and find themselves within that system that pressures them for grades and constant improvement, at least in a small way.
I had this stereotypical image of a Korean student when I came here as compared to an American student…but I will tell you now, there is no difference. Change the language to English and this could easily be any classroom in America with students who like to learn and one’s who want to be just about anywhere else.
Maybe it is because they are Korean and have been raised in this culture, but they have always been in a society that expects them to conform and behave just like everyone else, but no one really functions that way. There are always outliers in any society andKorea is no exception. No culture will ever succeed in making its people perfectly identical, and this behavior in my school with their uniform is the perfect example of how even when children are meant to act the same, they will find a way to show who they truly are.