Why School Events Fail and How to Fix Them
I love Lawrenceville. I can’t even express how grateful I am for this Lawrenceville experience.
I love Lawrenceville. I can’t even express how grateful I am for this Lawrenceville experience. The memories of new experiences, the lasting friendships, and the extraordinary amount of growth over the past two years have been invaluable. I feel as if I have fully immersed myself within this community. However, there is still one facet of Lawrenceville life that I find incredibly alienating.
“It’s so boring here. The dances are beat. There is nothing to do.” I had barely been on campus for three days when I first heard that popular mantra. Since then, I have been bombarded with the same harsh criticisms of School-related events from friends and other aggrieved students. I often ask others why they consider School-related events so dull and boring; the response is almost always that “the administration hates fun” or “our sports teams are trash.” I find these answers flimsy and evasive, if not downright false. At the end of the day, one of the biggest problems at Lawrenceville is that, even if these events might not be the most engaging, students embrace this negativity, which I believe hints at a lack of school spirit. This becomes especially apparent in comparison to my prior experience at public school.
Memorably, in my previous school of around 1200 students, half of the student body would attend Friday and Saturday night football games with overwhelming passion, showing strong social culture and pride. During my freshman year, my classmates and I, some 400 of us, would often flood the tiny bleachers of our high school gymnasium to watch our boys basketball team lose again. They won zero games that season, yet hundreds of students still showed up to cheer. This number exceeds the number of students attending the games of the highly successful Lawrenceville varsity teams; thus, I can hardly see how the performance of our sports teams justifies poor turnout. Moreover, my public school’s administration also actively attempted to discourage such impassioned behavior from our student fanbase, so Lawrenceville’s administration, which openly encourages us to support our teams and events, cannot be blamed for poor spirit. The harsh explanation for our School’s disappointing School spirit is that we have a social culture that fosters toxic insecurity.
The current School norm is to either turn a blind eye, or go on the offense. One can quite easily observe the amount of judgment within social circles that poisons our sense of community. This causes many of us to feel underlying insecurity that debilitates the positive energy each and every one of us should be bringing to this community. In truth, our desire to fit in is so strong that we would rather join in on the negativity—such as claiming that events are boring— rather than try to enjoy everything the School has to offer.
Put bluntly, we find School events unenjoyable not because they are bad, but because our insecurities prevent us from having fun. As a community, we have collectively decided that dances and sporting events are lame, that we should not actively participate. If you go out and cheer on your sports teams by shouting at the top of your lungs or decide to actually participate in spirit week by dressing according to the theme, you are no longer conforming to the School’s social norms. You consequently risk not being taken seriously, or you are seen as “uncool.” Over the past year, I have tried to attend as many sporting events as possible, and I have witnessed the same trend. Someone will bravely attempt to start a chant or yell a scream of support for our athletes, but rather than joining in, the majority of spectators engage in capacious stares and quiet whispers of judgment. This toxic insecurity is an indication that the students themselves dictate the atmosphere of School events far more than the quality of the event itself. When our insecurities hinder our enjoyment, we give credence to those who criticize the events, and they become characterized as unenjoyable time and time again, regardless of what the organizers attempt to achieve. If everyone attends these events expecting a mediocre experience, the hard work that goes into each and every activity is never properly appreciated. How can we enjoy our own team’s success if we don’t delight in every shot they make and cheer in rowdy fashion? Similarly, how can music be properly enjoyed by standing around and doing nothing for the simple sake of “looking cool,” for instance? A dance doesn’t have to have the best music, lighting, or location to be good; it’s our communal spirit that determines if people enjoy it or not. Despite the clear difference in quality, the general objectives are the same, to jump around, scream, and mosh. School dances may not have live performances from platinum artists, but there is no reason that we cannot enjoy the basic experiences of letting loose just as we do at concerts, and we certainly shouldn’t discourage those who attempt to replicate the fun of a concert within our own walls. Our enjoyment of School events hinges on us changing our current attitude, which downplays every event and prevents us from building an atmosphere that promotes School spirit.
Moreover, many students also use stress and school work as an excuse to miss every dance and game, but homework really shouldn’t prevent us from having some fun once in a while. School dances take at most two hours of one’s time, a length negligible to the amount of free time we have to complete our homework. In reality, students prioritize work over School events because we have the preconception that School events are lame and not worthwhile. However, if we change our social attitude towards these events, more students will be inclined to choose to attend them instead of skimping out. We students attend Lawrenceville with pride because the institution has prestige, but we should also actively seek to convert our pride into spirit, shamelessly and openly. If just a few of us act with the conviction to overcome our insecurities and display some School spirit, if just a few of us set aside our biases about School events, our enthusiasm will rub off on others. School spirit can return in full force, but only if we take action as a community.