Well, this hasn’t happened in a while. A news story has inspired me to rant. Actually that happens all the time but whatever. For some reason I’m drunk. The reason could be the debate tonight, or possibly I’m just an alcoholic. Anyway. Here I go.
So this week, Whitney Kropp, a high school girl, who was voted homecoming queen as a prank did that classic American thing and came up smelling (and looking) like a rose. It’s a real Cinderella story.
Look. I’m happy for you, sista. Less impressed that you are a skinny girl with a boyfriend, but points for how cute your football player escort’s smile is. He looks like the cat that ate the canary. I’d love to know what he’s thinking. Anyway replay this story next year, or somewhere else with a fat androgynous girl who’s never even been kissed (me at 16) and I’ll be really captivated. For now: meh.
What’s making me rant is that this exact thing happened at my school TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. I was in grade 12. The joke was played on the frosh (freshman) queen. I don’t remember her name but she was a chubby, very awkward social outcast. I didn’t really know her, but two of my best friends were freshmen and they told me how the class conspired to elect her frosh queen as a cruel joke. My friends didn’t think it was very funny. Neither did I. But she was crowned at the frosh dance (or something). I suppose she knew it was a joke on her. Maybe she didn’t care. Maybe she did. Like I said. I don’t remember her name. She could be dead for all I know. I don’t think this was a positive experience for her.
For every Whitney Kropp who makes lemonade from lemons, there’s a Stephen King’s Carrie, a girl or boy for whom this kind of humiliation is the last fucking straw. Bullied kids kill themselves and others literally every day in the USA. When pundits ask why bullying and violence are so rampant in middle and high schools the answer is usually something along the lines of “well, kids are jerks.” An easy answer, blame the individual, because surely there is nothing wrong with our perfect society.
Okay, kids can be assholes. We get that. But let me ask you this: where in the real world are people encouraged to randomly choose someone to represent them in some way without that person’s consent? Obama and Romney have volunteered to compete for the job of president. We all know that if we could randomly choose any old person for the White House it would probably end up a tight race between Martin Sheen, Justin Beiber (who is Canadian BTW) and I don’t know, Snooki. Oh hahaha, we would laugh. Aren’t we funny for mocking the idea of democracy? Hahaha isn’t it amusing to place someone on a pedestal and worship/demonize them? Aren’t we witty for mocking someone else’s shortcomings in a public arena without their consent? Hahahahaha…
I’m all for student council elections. Candidates for student council nominate themselves. They are prepared for it. Incidents like the two described above don’t happen with student council elections. Prom king and queen, homecoming court and frosh king and queen are artificial and archaic leftovers from a time when villages voted for people to sacrifice to the volcano fairies. These symbolic sacrifices are providing even more opportunities to make young adults feel badly about themselves, trapped as they are in an arbitrary and synthetic environment with little or no control over their destiny.
WTF? Why is high school so fucked up? Because WE MAKE IT THAT WAY. We make it into a popularity contest that has no bearing on intelligence, interpersonal skills, spiritual or emotional integrity or morals. It’s a free for all, a dog eat dog contest where even the winners are losers. Is it any wonder that the teen suicide rate is so high? Why do we subject our young people to such cruel games? What does homecoming queen, prom king and harvest princess and prince accomplish for anyone? In what way does it prepare young people for the real world? At Walmart, employee of the month is based on sales and performance, not popularity. At Price Waterhouse promotion is based on results and effort, not attractiveness.
In the real world, success should be (and mostly is) based on ideas and determination and should have nothing to do with how good your parties are or what kind of car you drive, how rich your parents are or who your boyfriend is.
Once again, all too frequently it seems, it is time to really look at our school system and what it is teaching young people. From where I stand it seems mostly it is teaching kids how to be mean.