Here it is:
"The school year is nearly over. But if I could have one wish heading into the 2012-2013 term it would be that public education officials in this region and province-wide revisit the issue of school uniforms in an effort to help bring some discipline into a system which appears to be sadly lacking in that department.
I first became hooked on this notion after visiting Great Britain in the mid-1990s and having occasion to see school children there in uniform. We have family and friends in the United Kingdom and uniforms are a long standing tradition there, one they can't imagine being without.
On a late summer morning, two years ago, we watched with our friends in West Yorkshire as their granddaughter headed off for her first day at their equivalent of junior kindergarten. The vision of little Ruby heading out the door in her crisp, new school uniform has never left me. It's a very powerful image and it says something about their system - something extremely positive in my opinion!
Head west across the Atlantic to our shores and the situation is very different. Education is a provincial responsibility in Canada so circumstances vary from one jurisdiction to the next.
In Ontario uniforms are a staple in most private schools and also in Catholic secondary institutions, including Notre Dame Catholic High School here in Carleton Place, our adopted hometown.
I fully realize that the old adage "a uniform doesn't make the man/woman," is probably true. But it sure helps! Picture military personnel on parade, the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for example.
True, school uniforms aren't that impressive. Still, I believe they set a certain standard that can't possibly be ignored.
Not surprisingly our community is simply a microcosm of what is happening elsewhere in Lanark County, the region and the province of Ontario.
As a journalist and also as someone who is involved with a volunteer committee that organizes international student exchanges, I have opportunities throughout the year to visit local schools and see things up close. There are some noticeable contrasts at the two secondary schools, something I have also heard from colleagues.
Certainly the dress style at Carleton Place High School (CPHS) the public institution is considerably different.
Let me make myself clear here! I have no axe to grind with CPHS. Both our children graduated from the school and have done very well for themselves.
I also know there will be varying points of view on this subject. That is always the case with opinion pieces.
It is true that my observations are limited. I'm not at schools regularly. But when I am, I find subtle and not so subtle differences between our secondary schools.
Notre Dame on the surface at least seems to have a little calmer environment. Orderly is a word that comes to mind.
I'm sure it's not always so! But in my personal experience I have heard less shouting and fewer swear words from students at the Catholic school. I have also experienced less acting out by teenagers. Things such as throwing objects, general horseplay and dropping trash in the corridors.
In terms of the student exchange we have found that young people at Notre Dame are more engaged, ask more questions and are better informed about our program at least. As a result we have more applicants from that school.
Of course there could be a number of reasons?
But to me the biggest contrast between the schools is style of dress. School uniforms set Notre Dame kids apart, even if there are complaints that some girls wear their skirts too short and certain boys leave their shirt-tails hanging out.
In general there is a standard, a dress code that students are expected to adhere to.
That is not the case in public high schools such as CPHS.
To reiterate, I don't feel our schools are any different from those in other neighbouring communities. The same issues apply according to those I have spoken to.
Certainly the "dress code" in public high schools at least appears to have hit a rather low level. At this time of year young girls are often seen at school in shorts (some of them very short), revealing tops and flip-flops. Boys wear gravity-defying trousers that are so low a portion of their underwear is sometimes visible.
That is far too casual for my liking. The low-slung pants are particularly unattractive!
Some public school teachers too have adopted rather casual dress which I don't believe sets a good example.
I went to school in the late 1950s, 1960s and the early `70s. So I definitely qualify as an old fart. But I will take the dress shirts and ties for male teachers and skirts worn by female teachers in those days any time. That is far more professional attire and sends a clear message.
The message is straight forward. "We have standards here!"
I feel that when dress rules are relaxed, good manners and discipline also take a beating.
Inappropriate behavior in schools is commonplace today. During a recent event at Caldwell Street Public School in Carleton Place I witnessed behavior on the part of some young students (they were in Grades 6-8) that was appalling. Special visitors from the United States Embassy in Ottawa were making an Earth Day environmental presentation at the time.
Several boys were removed from the room and sent to the office. That didn't appear to have much influence on a number of others who continued to be inattentive and rude. Those individuals were verbally reprimanded - by one of the guest speakers. It was downright embarrassing!
I later had lunch with the special guests, one of whom was a former middle school principal in Pennsylvania. She wasn't the least bit surprised by the behavior issue. "It happens every day (in schools)," she said nonchalantly.
Well, if it does it shouldn't. That's just not good enough!
There should be some tougher rules and higher standards set and maintained.
It seems to me establishing a higher benchmark by introducing a dress code, including school uniforms, would be one positive step in the right direction.
Little wonder I am hearing more and more examples of parents enrolling their children in separate schools, regardless of their religious affiliation.
In the midst of a rapidly changing society Catholic schools are seen as an island of sanity in an education system that could be much better.
Nothing is perfect, nor do I expect it to be. But setting a few guidelines and standards and actually achieving them seems the right direction to me. Surely we can do better?"
What are your thoughts about it?