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Editorial: Week 2 at Ground Zero

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It is hard to believe that a week has past since the city was rocked by the worst act of terrorism in the history of this nation. The twisted steel of what used to be the twin towers of the World Trade Center still smolders. Ground Zero looks as devastating as it did one week ago.

But there is a shining light in this otherwise dark night. This is New York City’s finest hour. Never in its history has this complex and diverse city been so united. There is no more difficult or painstaking task than the job of removing the thousands of tons of twisted wreckage from what is now called “Ground Zero.”

And yet so many men and women have come forward that the city has announced it cannot handle more volunteers. Around the clock they have worked since moments after the attack, hoping to find even one more survivor, knowing that more than 5,000 men, women and children are still missing.

From Little Neck to Long Island City, from Astoria to South Jamaica, the people of Queens have stood firmly behind the rescue effort, donating everything from canned food to blankets and flashlights. In every corner, residents are proudly and defiantly flying Old Glory, sending a message to those who have tried in vain to break the spirit of this great city and nation.

A cheer for uniformity

Three years after the city introduced uniforms in the public schools, less than half of the 1,103,580 students are wearing them. Some one third of the districts opted out of the program. And parents were given the option of allowing individual children not to participate.

The time has come for the schools chancellor to revisit this policy and make uniforms mandatory for all children attending the city’s public schools. The benefits of school uniforms have become increasingly obvious. Children, especially those attending high school and junior high school, are under enormous pressure to wear the latest styles. Like it or not, they are judged by their classmates not only by the look of their clothing but by the label of the maker.

Michael Jordan and Nike have succeeded in making children feel abused if they go to school in sneakers that cost less than $120. MTV and the merchandisers of the hip-hop culture have convinced children that they need to wear expensive clothes, like those sold by Fubu, Rocawear or Sean Jean. Pity the kid whose parents shop at Kmart.

But the problem of dressing kids for school goes beyond expensive labels. Principals are faced with the nearly impossible task of determining what clothing is appropriate to wear to school. Most schools have a policy that bars clothing that is sexually suggestive and clothing with messages that are offensive. But knowing where to draw that line is not as easy as it might sound.

Add to this the reality that the colors and styles children choose are sometimes gang-related. If every child wears a uniform, the gang influence in the schools is sharply limited.

The solution is simple. For the few hours that children spend in school each day they should wear uniforms that remind them that school is a special place. Every child is equal and no child needs to fear being laughed at because of the label on his or her clothing.

Opponents of mandatory uniforms argue that students should have the right to express themselves through their clothing. They have a point. Nevertheless, the benefits of uniforms for both the children and their parents far outweigh the concerns about creativity.

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