One of the stereotypes that seemed to generate the most questions in the UK was are American high schools like they are in the movies. My response was always that there are definitely reasons for stereotypes but not all are like that. A had to switch high schools to a more suburban high school this fall which also is only grades 10 to 12. She seemed okay about it until it got close to the date. The Friday before school began they had an orientation for the sophomores so they could find their classes, get their locker assignments, etc. As we approached the school the nerves began. Did she really have to go? Could she go back to the old school? We made our way to the auditorium for the administration’s presentation.
Our first mistake, I picked seats in the auditorium that ended up seating us in the middle of the cheerleaders and their entourage, all 25 of them . The opening presentation included the drill team in velvet body stockings presenting the flag so we could all stand up to say the pledge of allegiance. Soon the lights dimmed and a multimedia presentation launched. The soundtrack of the presentation was a snippet of a Killers song, Brandon Flowers singing “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” over and over as a montage of tigers (they’re the Bengals) and the high school’s athletic achievements flashed on the screen. As my friend M would say, it was “super-charged”. I began to giggle because it was all so full-on school spirit.
There’s this criticism of this generation’s parenting style. The kids are more in charge and the parents negotiate instead of laying down the law. Well, if that is true, this high school’s administration seemed to have the same problem. I watched slide after slide revealing a very complicated point system for tardies, excused and unexcused absences and the tone was, kids we worked real hard on this, is this okay? Not as black and white and as forthright as the administration of an English grammar school that’s for sure! One last interesting point in the presentation by the administration was the fact that students couldn’t get an excused absence if they were going to go skiing. Never had that point raised anywhere we’ve lived.
As we walked out the auditorium we were in the middle of the cheerleaders, the school mascot, and lots of school merchandise all generated to show school spirit. The funniest item for sale was something called “spririt sleeves”. This caught my eye because years ago my best friend C came home from junior high with a sewing project gone wrong, just the forearm sleeves of a shirt that had ironed on the letters of a boy she had a crush on. I found these things hilarious and gave her a hard time about them. Well, basically this is what is now being marketed as “spirit sleeves”. To this day, she likes to tell me that because of my negative reaction, she’s not a millionaire. I couldn’t help but look around and think American high school school spirit is alive and well and is an indigenous property of our culture.
As we clawed our way through the ultra peppy crowd, A turned to me and said, “Can we get out of here”? After figuring out the class situations, we did just that.