Red Hawks in the Front? Let Me Hear You–NO

graphic by Johanna Wong

graphic by Johanna Wong

By Holly Parkin

graphic by Johanna Wong
Graphic by: Johanna Wong

“School spirit” is a phrase that has never evoked much excitement within me. This has become even more apparent in my senior year, a time when it seems that everyone is obsessed with getting involved in school activities and trying to savor the last few wonderful parts of high school.

At this year’s homecoming rally, I stood awkwardly amongst my fellow members of the class of 2015, baking in the 80-degree heat and the neck-choking cotton of my senior shirt, which I had to settle for after not making the popularity cut that ensures many of my peers their special senior jerseys.

After almost being stampeded by my fellow seniors in our traditional run into Mead Theater, most of my time during the painfully hot hour was spent trying to follow the actions of my peers to feign normalcy, clapping when they clapped and cheering when they cheered, much like a confused toddler might when learning basic English.

For the most part, I tend to enjoy the rallies. After all, watching a teacher get drenched in some foul substance from a bucket or teenagers hit each other with inflatable objects is always a fun time.

But in recent years, I have found it more and more difficult to get on board with the obsessive school spirit that I feel is being forced on students–and even more seriously, is far too exclusive.

Based on my observation, school spirit seems to attract a certain type of student: outgoing, party-loving, social media moguls who think that rallies are undoubtedly the most fun part of high school. While I place no judgment on these people’s right to do what they want, say what they want, and dress how they want, it’s important to recognize that Tam’s “school” spirit seems to be mostly monopolized by these types of students.

For this reason, many students at Tam who don’t fit into such niches feel out-of-place and awkward when it comes time to create a cheering mob at rally, also known as a nightmare for people who suffer from claustrophobia or social anxiety.

If taking this stance makes me a buzzkill, so be it. The principle of school spirit is not something that needs to, or should, ever go away–if anything, it sends a positive message about being proud of a group that you are part of and celebrating its variety. Yet the nature of school spirit, at least at Tam, consistently draws a crowd to which not all members of the student community belong, turning a part of high school that is supposed to be all-inclusive into a another popularity contest. You can see this dynamic in a multitude of ways, many of which were visible at this year’s homecoming rally.

When it comes to seating arrangements, the front rows of every grade’s section are always swooped up by the same students–the ones who remain standing the longest, who cheer the loudest, and always get featured in the photos of the rally. It has gotten to the point where these students have essentially staked these spots as their “property,” so to speak–I wonder if any other student would ever think to sit there lest they commit some kind of unspoken social taboo.

The singularity of school spirit has even become noticeable in the clothing that we wear. Take, for example, the famed senior jerseys that Tam High’s oldest class -or rather, a selected portion of it-wears to the first day of school, and of course, the homecoming rally.

Due to the fact that these glamorous customizable jerseys are not provided by the school, the situation quickly devolves into a popularity contest, where only certain students get the privilege of wearing them thanks to the organization skills of the ones in charge–the very students mentioned earlier. The rest of the senior class must opt for the humble senior shirt provided by the school, scratchy, neck-choking cotton and all.

Because this has manifested as the quintessential version of “school spirit” as it appears today, certain types of students have been driven away. Oftentimes, it’s just a natural reaction to the gregariousness of spirit. Some people don’t like rallies, or cheering, or going to the homecoming game, and that should be considered just as acceptable as a student embracing their school pride and vocalizing it.

In order to be accepting, we have to take into account that school spirit is not for everyone, and forcing it on these students through mandatory rallies and the like is no solution.

I am proud of my school. I am proud of my classmates. But just because I feel uncomfortable with vocalizing that pride in the commonly-accepted ways does not mean I am a bad person.

Everybody has a right to behave how they want to behave – and forcing school spirit on those who’d rather not seems to go against the mentality of an all-accepting student community that Tam High prides itself on.