THE POSTERS READ “Juniority,” and with them, the latest battle in Shaker’s class war began.
When students arrived at school Oct.14, they found the school decorated in green. It was a color war spirit day, and students had been encouraged to wear the colors of their respective grades’ homecoming shirts – blue for seniors, green for juniors, yellow for sophomores and red for freshmen. Assigning colors and decorating hallways was meant to showcase class spirit and increase students’ excitement about homecoming the following night.
In addition to dressing in green, juniors covered the school, including the senior hallway, in green. They hung posters around the school that read “Juniority,” asserting that juniors – not seniors – are really the dominant force in the school.
“The junior class has natural spirit, and it’s not just a one-time thing. It’s a consistent trend,” Junior Class President Parker Smith said. “The seniors just have spirit by default because they are the senior class. There wouldn’t have been any senior pep rally if it was not for junior spirit.” Smith was referring to the “pep rally” that seniors organized to occur before tenth period Oct. 14. They gathered in the senior hallway, where they chanted cheers about the class of 2012 in order to display their school spirit.
This was encouraged by members of the senior class who felt that the juniors had gone overboard in decorating the school. “I think it was not only uncalled for, but unnecessary,” senior Cassie Torrence said.
“I think that what the juniors did was originally funny, but then it got really out of hand,” stated Senior Class President Michelle Cahn. She added, “I think that putting all the green stuff in the senior hallway went a little too far – the juniors will have their chance to be seniors. They don’t need to step on ours.”
The decorations that the juniors put up were supposed to be harmless, but they proved to be a safety and health hazard. Before first period, the 110 hallway floor was littered with long, curly strands of ribbon that challenged students using crutches and wheelchairs. One teacher became entangled and fell. More seriously, Torrence suffered a severe allergic reaction because of latex balloons the juniors used to decorate the hallways. Her body broke out in hives, her heart rate was twice the normal rate and she experienced difficulty breathing. “The seniors aren’t [annoyed] that you have more spirit,” she said. “They’re [annoyed] because you almost sent a senior to the hospital.”
In response to juniors covering the school in green, a few seniors retaliated by Saran Wrapping the cars of the responsible juniors. “The juniors pranked us, and we pranked them back,” said senior Jessie Komp, who helped Saran Wrap the cars. “It’s not personal; it’s just a prank. I think that if it’s all fun and games, it is completely acceptable.
“I think it was unfortunate that it ended how it did, and again, it’s not personal. It’s just spirit and seniority,” Komp said. The juniors whose cars were wrapped went to administrators, who used Twitter to figure out which seniors were involved. Those seniors were called down to the office and given a warning against any future actions requiring disciplinary attention.
Although some teachers were upset by the day’s events, Assistant Principal Eric Hutchinson said that he appreciated the juniors’ decorating the school in green, as it was a strong display of class spirit. “I believe that juniors and seniors deserve certain allowances. I think they deserve additional considerations. They have earned the right,” he said.
As for the impromptu senior pep rally, Hutchinson said that it was a fantastic demonstration of spirit. “Go seniors! I love my seniors. I would run through a wall for my seniors,” he said.
Demise of Pep Rallies Undermines Unity
JUDGING BY EVENTS such as spirit days, school spirit as a whole seems to be decreasing while competition among classes is booming, often with negative results.
“I think competition between the classes makes the classes stronger, and making the classes stronger makes Shaker stronger. Competition is always a good thing and if you take away that, you take away a sense of identity,” said Smith. “Taking away the sense of competition between classes would hurt the school overall. Shaker doesn’t have enough spirit as it is.”
However, it often seems as though increasing class competition is the only method of increasing school spirit, and that competition is therefore widely encouraged, by students and adults.
Sophia Bellin-Warren, 2008-09 student body president, said that while competition can increase spirit, there are alternative ways to do so. “I think that the best method is to come up with creative spirit ideas,” Bellin-Warren stated. “Sometimes this involves competition, but other times it simply means thinking outside the box and creating events that are new and exciting.”
When Bellin-Warren attended Shaker, competition between classes was not as prevalent. “Sure, we had competitions, but we also worked together a lot. In Student Council, we made sure that all the classes were working hard to make their grade more united and the school as a whole a better place. We wanted all classes to succeed,” she stated.
The goal of class unity that ’09 set out to accomplish seems to be deteriorating with competition-oriented spirit days and the class warfare that comes with it.
Student Body President Michaela Matthews acknowledged that efforts to arouse spirit can be perceived as divisive. “Competition is not encouraged between the grades, but with spirit days like color wars, it can seem like it,” Matthews said. She added that competition among grades has not led to any problems that she is aware of.
Matthew Podl, sophomore class president, thinks that competition can lead to some problems. “But that’s only when people don’t understand the limits,” he said.
However, senior Michelle Hurley said that class promotion can backfire when some students grow impatient with their class’ status. “I think [competition] can become a bad thing if we allow it. Some classes just need to wait their turn – they’re thirsty!” Hurley stated.
In most cases, the competition is purely for the sake of proving which class is the loudest or the most energetic or the wildest, rather than advancing the overall spirit of the school. Spirited competition instead seems to emphasize rivalries among students and classes fighting to be the best class in the Raider Nation.
“Competing against other classes about who’s the most spirited definitely adds to the amount of people who dress up for spirit days,” stated sophomore Conor Matthews. “It’s fun to show which class truly runs the school. I think classes are not becoming more competitive, considering that the high school as a whole is becoming less spirited. If there is competition, it’s on a smaller scale.”
Council Members Say Class Rivalries Boost Overall Spirit
CONOR STATED, “As a member of Student Council, it’s disappointing to see that the people who dress up on spirit days are the minority, especially when there was a time at this school when those people were the majority. Most people associate things like dressing up for ‘prep day’ as having school spirit, but what school spirit is truly about is being a proud member of Raider Nation and how you show that pride.”
Math teacher Joel Rathbone (’95) recalls a time when group spirit was common. “Time heals all wounds, but I remember [spirit] being more of a group camaraderie,” he said.
Rathbone said that the general lack of school spirit now is influenced by the socioeconomic diversity in Shaker – a student’s background directly relates to his or her feelings about school spirit.
At other schools, students show school pride by supporting athletics and cheering for teams during pep rallies and games. Pep rallies were common when Rathbone was at Shaker, but he said that they would not serve to increase school spirit today because of bad student behavior.
“The behavior of students when they get together in large groups is unacceptable,” Rathbone said. Although Shaker built the North Gym to be able to hold the entire student body at a pep rally, it held exactly one. They were abandoned after some students acted out, and these days, many students are unaware of athletic teams’ important contests.
Hutchinson expressed disappointment that Shaker does not hold pep rallies. “We don’t have certain things that bring us together as a school community because of the fear of someone doing something that embarrasses the school,” he said. However, that leaves spirit days as the only times for students to cheer for their teams, and a sense of competition against rival schools seems to have turned inward, turning students against rival classes.
Student Council Spirit Head Ana Sinicariello feels that while school spirit is important, it is not at the level that it should be. “The number of people who respond [to spirit days] doesn’t reflect the number of people who love Shaker,” she said.
That is most likely true. However, it often seems as though spirit days are not about Shaker spirit, but about class spirit and rivalries. There is an obvious disconnect between spirit days and actual school spirit.
Asked which class has the most school spirit, Conor said, “Seniors, without a doubt. When you’re at the top of the pyramid, it’s easy to show school spirit and be proud to be a Raider.”
Hutchinson is known for perpetuating that viewpoint. However, he said, “Honestly, I think this junior class is a special class. From day one, they just seemed to be on board as far as loving their class. No class is perfect, but I think this junior class just has some aspects about them that are really attractive for our whole building.
“Spirit is something that is waning all across the country,” Hutchinson added. “Young people have so many different distractions now. Caring about your school and what your school is doing is not as easy as it used to be.”
Despite distractions and other priorities that students face, Hutchinson still feels that increasing school spirit is important to Shaker as a whole.
He said, “School is your second home. You should care about the red and white,” Hutchinson said.
Even when you’re wearing blue, red, yellow or green.
A version of this article appeared in print on 21 November 2011, on pages 8 and 9 of The Shakerite.