Skip

"...redbrick, linoleum-­tiled perdition."
January 21, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

"Most American high schools are almost sadistically unhealthy places to send adolescents." Does the "worst of adult America looks like high school because it’s populated by people who went to high school in America?"

Mentioned in the article: Rookie Magazine's feature from last year: Higher Learning: Remembrances of the first year of high school, and advice for getting through your own, from some of our favorite grown-ups, specifically Winnie Holzman's contribution. The essay collection was highlighted previously on MeFi.
posted by zarq (176 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was brutally ostracized in school, until finally I couldn't stand it anymore and dropped out. I used to think the kids at my school were the most cruel, sadistic, entitled pieces of shit who ever walked the earth. Like, mass-murderers in training. Imagine my surprise when, over a decade later, some of them started finding me on Facebook. Turns out? They're all doing a bunch of really normal, boring shit. All along, I really was the weird one, with my fucked-up family and late-blooming social skills. They were all perfectly normal.

And most of them never made it out of my hometown.

Muhahahahahahahah.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [47 favorites]


I would like to, once again, thank the universe for my totally boring, un-bullied, romantically fulfilling, sports-and-social club stuffed High School career that I only have vague memories of despite it being only a decade or so in the past.
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


“There’s no reason why, at the age of 60, I should still be listening to the Allman Brothers,”

have you seen the crowd outside The Beacon? nobody who listens to the Allman Brothers is under 60 .
posted by The Whelk at 10:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Brown says it’s remarkable how many parents of teenagers talk to her about reexperiencing the shame of high school once their own kids start to experience the same familiar scenarios of rejection. “The first time our kids don’t get a seat at the cool table, or they don’t get asked out, or they get stood up—that is such a shame trigger,” she says. “It’s like a secondary trauma.”

If you are still worrying about high school 20 years down the road, you seriously need to get a life.
A bunch of people whose names you don't remember and haven't seen for 2 decades were rude to you and now you're going to pass that neurosis on to your children?
It's just sad.

(Notwithstanding actual trauma, of course)
posted by madajb at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


How was I supposed to think about prom when I spent so much time thinking about the concept of infinity?
christ, zooey
posted by arsey at 10:12 AM on January 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


But these disparate paths did arguably have one virtue in common: They placed adolescent children alongside adults. They were not sequestered as they matured. Now teens live in a biosphere of their own.

American society is increasingly age-segregated, and I don't think it is good for us.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:17 AM on January 21, 2013 [34 favorites]


High school is an enhanced preview of adult life.
posted by davebush at 10:18 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It will be a wonderful day when articles like this no longer need to include several paragraphs carrying out the ritual of Naming the Neurotransmitters. It's painful to have to read through that kind of gobbledygook about myelin sheathing and dopamine just so that talking about the scars of adolescence can be done under the imprimatur of SCIENCE.
posted by RogerB at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2013 [33 favorites]


Also Whedon's " dont tease me for I will enjoy it too much" stratgem was also employed by Stepehen Fry, although he said dont beat me up for I may get too aroused.
posted by The Whelk at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


This article was really well-done and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks. I haven't made a close friend other than my spouse since high school (I'm in my late twenties) so those days are more real and immediate for me than they are for most people, I think, because I end up talking about them with friends pretty much whenever I see them. I was just talking with my best friend the other day about how deeply our school bus ride to high school shaped us both; we agreed that we share a bond with people who rode our bus route that we think nobody else could possibly grok. That bus was like an insane asylum on wheels, seemingly calibrated for maximal strangeness. I remember wanting desperately to write my college essays about the bus and what it meant, and nixing the idea because I just wasn't sure how to phrase it. Now, ten years later, I think I actually could write a pretty persuasive essay about why surviving my school bus commute made me a good candidate for a world-class college education.

My high school experience was mostly unhappy, but I was one of the "brainy girls" cited at the end of the article. I had a source of inner strength, which was that I knew I was weird and unattractive, but I had a half-formed plan to make bank plugging my brain into the world economy once I got out of there, and I was just biding my time.

I was really interested in the study about how poorly adolescents do at identifying emotions. That explains SO MUCH. I'm glad people are finally getting interested in doing this research; here's hoping by the time my currently unborn daughter gets to high school age we'll have better tools to help her cope. My parents both spent a lot of their adulthoods trying to forget high school, but mine keeps cycling back to it, and I'm also hoping that'll make me a better parent of a kid that age.
posted by town of cats at 10:24 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


High school is an enhanced preview of adult life.

My experience is the utter, utter opposite and I guess I ought to be really glad about that.
posted by griphus at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


I hated middle school and high school with such a passion. To this day if I see old classmates out around town, I will not even acknowledge their existence.

I was raped right before my 7th grade year in middle school. I told someone I thought was a friend about it, and she gleefully went to school and told everyone I had sex. Oh the taunts that started...sweetmag is such a slut. sweetmag had sex with an older guy. Sweetmag will do anything that asks her. I couldn't walk down the halls without being shamed. All the while I'm starting to think "Maybe I did just have sex with him. Maybe I really am a slut for hanging out with this older guy".

Highschool was even worse for me. By then, it had been 2 yrs since the rape and everyone still thought I had sex at 12 by choice, I was still a slut. I had a small group of friends (4 people), but even they never knew the truth. I was so ashamed of what people thought about it me, I just tried to get through school and never look back. It was hard hearing the rumors about me, it was hard trying not to cry as I walked down the hall and could hear the whispers of "SLUT" as I passed, it was hard getting turned down for a date or prom because they didn't want to associate themselves with me. I wanted to scream, "I WAS RAPED YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES. IT WASN'T WILLING. I'D STILL BE A VIRGIN UNLIKE MOST OF YOU."

I didn't even have consensual sex with anyone till I was 17, but that didn't matter. I hate highschool and I feel bad for any kid who has to deal with those jerks on a daily basis.
posted by Sweetmag at 10:28 AM on January 21, 2013 [47 favorites]


I think mostly high school is filled with teenagers, so it's like imagine a place filled with teenagers.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


madajb: Its not an issue of the particular classmates that bullied you in high school that people are still haunted by, rather it is the archetypal personalities that they represent which persist throughout life.

I can only name a few people that I went to high school with but I am confronted by same bullied and clique-ish behavior that HS reinforced in people every day. Unfortunately for myself and others like me our reactions and defense mechanisms to that behavior are rooted in the past.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 10:31 AM on January 21, 2013


One of my best professors in college used to make the argument quite earnestly that he believed public high school is necessary because young people need to learn as soon as possible how wretched most human beings are. My high school experience was indeed a parade of wretchedness, but I can't help but start to see his point. I mean, nothing since then has been quite as bad or quite as immediate; the pettinesses I encountered were a kind of preparation for the general pettiness in society.

But I'd never thought about the possibility that the pettiness in society might be caused by that high school experience. I haven't gotten to the point in the article where they talk about that, but I'm a little skeptical; I mean, if that were true, we should be able to demonstrate that adults in other societies are not as abusive or petty as Americans, and as much as that thesis appeals to me I'm just not sure about it.

Anyway, it's very interesting to think about. Thanks, zarq.
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on January 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Nerds who recall high school with anger or despair are usually underachievers, because it means they failed to learn the really important lessons which high school should teach a nerd. The first and foremost of these being that intelligence has no inherent value to anyone besides one's self (assuming that one enjoys being smart), and as such earns no automatic social or economic reward. The second being a successor to the first, which is that you do earn that social and economic reward when you convert intelligence into product desirable in the market (using "product" and "market" in the broadest sense). The third being the converse of the first: that one's beauty, charm and physical prowess do have inherent value to others, and should be cultivated in oneself to the extent possible.
posted by MattD at 10:35 AM on January 21, 2013 [38 favorites]


Also mentioned in the article: Irina Werning's photography project: Back to the Future and Back to the Future II
posted by zarq at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nerds who recall high school with anger or despair are usually underachievers, because it means they failed to learn the really important lessons which high school should teach a nerd.

Oh, so I can't even be a nerd right, either? GodDAMN.
posted by nevercalm at 10:37 AM on January 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


Somewhat disappointed that the intimated discussion of the pathology of how US high schools are physically constructed never occurred. American high schools built in the last quarter-century resemble nothing so much as minimum security prisons. It's no wonder they breed sociopaths.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [35 favorites]


The third being the converse of the first: that one's beauty, charm and physical prowess do have inherent value to others, and should be cultivated in oneself to the extent possible.

Assuming that everyone is capable of these traits...
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 10:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


High school is full of all sorts of people, many of them openly and unashamedly cruel. Adult life is full of all sorts of people, many of them who've learned to be secretly cruel. Also, good people.
posted by davebush at 10:41 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like I may be some sort of outlier in this, but most people I encounter and interact with in day-to-day adult life are just, well, average people with good aspects and bad aspects (the latter in varying levels of tolerability) who generally, don't want to be a pain in the ass and want to just get through the day, same as you are. Perhaps this is privilege speaking -- okay, obviously, this is privilege speaking -- but I've never had an enemy. I've had people in my life I was not fond of vice versa, but I've never had a reason to interact with them and they just faded away. I've never gotten serious shit from another adult because the moment a person outs themselves as a ridiculous person who gives shit to another adult, I walk away. Anyone with the slightest hint of being a dramatic person has been excised from my social life. I'll listen to, but I won't offer opinions on gossip, and I certainly don't spread it. I don't make peoples lives difficult for them by my actions, and I try to help them whenever I can, and I get the same in return for the most part.

Now there's a thousand different scenarios where between psychological scars and trauma and social responsibilities you can't just not deal with a ridiculous person in the way I do. But are these ridiculous people really so common? I hear a lot of "real life is as bad as high school" and I just don't feel that way, most of my peer group doesn't feel that way, and I can't tell if I'm lacking in empathy or experience or what?
posted by griphus at 10:41 AM on January 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


Sweetmag, I'm so sorry. :(
posted by zarq at 10:41 AM on January 21, 2013 [27 favorites]


In re-finding/encountering people I went to high school I was struck by three things: what little distance many of them had travelled life-wise from high school 20+ years on, that how for many of them high school seemed to be the peak experience of their lives, and lastly, how I had nothing whatsoever in common with any of these people.

There's no animosity or venom or sorrow when I say I have nothing in common; I can't claim to have had a either horribly bad or a extremely good high school experience. But high school is ancient history to me, and it is a bit weird to be made acutely aware of the distance you've travelled.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 10:42 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would have loved to have been as single-minded as your typical teen heroine (must get in with the popular crowd, must get floppy-haired dude to take me to prom, etc.), but as a teenager I had a lot on my mind. For instance, infinity. How was I supposed to think about prom when I spent so much time thinking about the concept of infinity? Prom was OK, but infinity was interesting and terrifying. This made it a lot harder to think about the dudes with floppy hair...Of course, I went to an artsy sort of school, so things were a little bit different. It wasn’t unusual to find a young gentleman wrapped in a piece of duvetyne theater curtain secured with safety pins into a makeshift toga. And no big deal guys, but we had Guys Wear a Dress to School Day. But even surrounded by all these unicorns, I felt like the unicorniest. I just did not fit in.

Well, this surprised me a bit. I went to school with Zooey. Zooey was definitely not the "unicorniest" of the kids at our particular school, and she was popular enough by high school. (Who didn't feel awkward in middle school?) She had her quirky charm, she did well in her artistic and academic pursuits, and the only animosity I can recall anyone directing towards her was the socially competitive kind. She was certainly not a misfit. She had time for at least one or two floppy-haired dudes that I can recall. But of course, everyone's insecurities dominate their recollection and I don't know what her internal experience was like. I guess my point is, growing up is tough for everyone--even for a talented, popular kid in one of the most privileged environments imaginable.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:44 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


In real life you have networked dependencies, vital for survival, which cross social boundaries. The sales rep who was a jock in high school has to be able to get what he needs from the nerd who is an engineer on the product he represents -- there are a million other examples in everyday interactions. Whereas in high school students do not normally need anything from other students in order to function. Consequently what you get is unmitigated pack behavior, in that the need to create and enforce social boundaries isn't mitigated or breached by any other need and becomes the dominant social force.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:52 AM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


High school is an enhanced preview of adult life.

It has been rare as an adult that I have been as afraid for my physical safety and that of my friends as I was in high school. As a kid you have no recourse. The adults tell you to "sort it out yourselves." As an adult I have the police, the courts, and public shaming at my disposal, should I need them. I can also leave the room, my job, or my town if I want to. Being an adult is BLISS compared to being an adolescent.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:57 AM on January 21, 2013 [52 favorites]


High school is an enhanced preview of adult life.

My adult life has been as lonely as, if not more lonely than, my life in high school, but I don't think this is true. High school, for all its faults, forces you into mental activity. Once out of school, you have to do that for yourself.

You could argue that you need to do it for yourself all your life, and I would agree, but school spurs people who need the spurring.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:57 AM on January 21, 2013


The more I learn about education right now, the more I keep coming to the idea that at some point I'm going to home-school her, if I can.

The homeschooled people I've met seem so vibrant, and smart and so intellectually vigorous and confident, that I've got to wonder if that comes from not having their souls crushed in High School.

I myself, went to an all boy's Catholic High School, and there was a lot of abuse all around, it wasn't specifically emotionally or mentally torturous, as much as it was physically rough, which I think is also the not so sharp, delineation between what happens between males and females competing for status and attention from the opposite sex.

If anything, the lack of girls simply led to a deeper descent into over-cerebralizing shit, and going off on dreamy visions and fancies, as are only possible during those teen years when the sheer overwhelming hormonal overload is like a daily ordeal in remaining balanced even while certain parts of your body are going pretty damn insane...and the consequent ideas and feelings that come with that bodily weirdness...

But, looking back on that all boys H.S. experience, whereas it was easy to geek out to all hell and back to ones utter satisfaction, not learning the socialization skills towards the opposite sex, that should go with the time leads to a serious retardation in ones college years in understanding the signs and the ceremonies and the unverbal conventions that signal either interest or non-interest from the opposite sex, and makes rejection more harsh than it ever should be, had the emotional mechanisms for developing those emotional muscles begun their formation and strengthening at an early time.

tl;dr: Kids gonna be kids, and need to take their growing pains and knocks one way or another, and either they get it out of their systems at an age appropriate time, especially all the hard emotional lessons of the tenn years, or later on, ten or even twenty years down the line when not having those emotional mechanisms can lead to some bad situations that will no longer be given the leeway and natural understandign of adolescence, but will be judged more harshly and less compassionately, by the standards of what an adult should be capable of...

For example, over and over I've met people who due to very smothered over-protected, teen years, never smoke pot, or try drugs, or learn how to manage their drinking, and so end up over compensating for that fact in their 20s and 30s and 40s...sometimes to pretty ruinious effect.
posted by Skygazer at 10:57 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


MattD: “Nerds who recall high school with anger or despair are usually underachievers, because it means they failed to learn the really important lessons which high school should teach a nerd. The first and foremost of these being that intelligence has no inherent value to anyone besides one's self (assuming that one enjoys being smart), and as such earns no automatic social or economic reward. The second being a successor to the first, which is that you do earn that social and economic reward when you convert intelligence into product desirable in the market (using "product" and "market" in the broadest sense). The third being the converse of the first: that one's beauty, charm and physical prowess do have inherent value to others, and should be cultivated in oneself to the extent possible.”

Very few high school students have ever earned economic or even social rewards for converting intelligence into desirable products, mostly because they don't generally know what 'products' are desireable but also because there just aren't that many economic opportunities for high school students. There are a few, though. The few people I knew in high school who had money to spend and time to spend it were either getting it from their obviously-negligent parents or selling drugs.

Also, note that high school students unfortunately lack the self control and initiative to "cultivate" their beauty, charm, or physical prowess. Even athletic high school students generally do what they do because of negative social pressures, not because of a conscious decision to improve themselves. In general, it has to be accepted that beauty, charm and physical prowess are seen for what they are by high school students: entirely accidental, and something that they probably can't do anything immediate about. Reputations are made quickly but not easily shifted; if you're known for one thing, it's hard to become known for another thing any time soon.

One notices that this extends even to the ways high school students are treated by adults. Every high school student in America is probably aware that intelligence certainly doesn't translate into grades; nor does intellectual activity. Even acquiring good grades is a social game that not everybody knows how to play.

In short, it seems as though the biggest "lesson" people tend to learn in high school is that people are not usually compensated for things like effort or achievement. High school students are taught that life is generally unjust, and that they can't count on their friends to try to make it just no matter how much they may trust those friends. They're taught that humans are wretched.

So I think you're wrong. You say that "nerds who recall high school with anger or despair are usually underachievers, because it means they failed to learn the really important lessons" – but I think anybody who doesn't look back with anger or despair probably missed the point of high school. Learning that human beings are wretched isn't something you're supposed to look back on with fondness.

But then, it seems like you were probably trolling, so I'm not sure why I said all of this.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 AM on January 21, 2013 [34 favorites]


...Pathways of Jocks, Princesses, Brains, Basket-Cases, and Criminals,” which asked a large sample of tenth-graders which of the five characters from The Breakfast Club they most considered themselves to be, and then checked back in with them at 24.

you know, I really like that film...but I can't help but wonder if maybe the measure should have been validated by some actual research before being used. Maybe not every kid can see themselves in The Breakfast Club, and they'll just shoehorn themselves in when asked. Okay, everyone I've asked knows exactly who they were, but I'm sure there's someone out there...
posted by jb at 11:02 AM on January 21, 2013


madajb: Its not an issue of the particular classmates that bullied you in high school that people are still haunted by, rather it is the archetypal personalities that they represent which persist throughout life.

Sure, I got that, and it makes a certain amount of sense that a large part of our personalities is formed during the puberty years.
But if people haven't learned, by the time they have children old enough to be in high school themselves, to deal with different personality types and find those similar to themselves in temperament and interests, then I think they are doing a disservice to their children and only perpetuating the environment that so affected them.
posted by madajb at 11:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


To put my comment above more succinctly: in order to thrive in the adult world you need to be able to interact politely and congenially with people who are not like you. In high school you are mostly negotiating with the system rather than arbitrary other students to achieve your goals -- the only collaboration that occurs is usually between like kinds -- on the school newspaper, on your sports team, etc. There really isn't the same interdependency between members of disparate social groups.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:03 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


it seems as though the biggest "lesson" people tend to learn in high school is that people are not usually compensated for things like effort or achievement

Which would be an accurate lesson, so maybe it wasn't all wasted?

Me, I'd just wish that everyone could come through high school with strong literacy and numeracy, and maybe some critical thinking skills, but the education system doesn't seem particularly interested in either.
posted by jb at 11:04 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


that one's beauty, charm and physical prowess do have inherent value to others, and should be cultivated in oneself to the extent possible.

Iirc, you are a corporate lawyer and work in environments and with clients where the important qualifications seem to be being tall, loud, and having thick hair. You're only saying what you are saying because it is applicable in your personal milieu, a milieu you are in because it selected for a certain set of values and attributes you already had. Otherwise you would have ended up elsewhere and discussed the importance of whatever attributes are rewarded at that place and profession.

A more important high school lesson on the limits of intelligence are more along the lines of the importance of converting intelligence into grades via hard work. The alternative, as Afroblanco mentions, is never having left one's home town, where you will just be a smart person who is still stuck with the same people you went to high school with.

That said, I didn't relate to this article regarding its claims that high school always sticks with you. The intensity of experiences I had in high school paled in comparison to the intensity of experiences I have felt at other time in my life. It may be that for most people, high school is as intense as it gets, when it comes to social and emotional experiences, but I can't say that was really true for me, compared to the rest of my life. But for most people, it is entirely possible that nothing was ever as intense and formative as high school was, but that is a function of a common circumstance, not a biological destiny.
posted by deanc at 11:05 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Even acquiring good grades is a social game that not everybody knows how to play

I think the best thing I ever learned in school was "play their stupid game, don't complain about the rules, don't assume a referree, and play to win what you want to win and not what they tell you to win."

And that applied to everything: teachers, friends, assholes, girls I needed to sort my feelings out about, after-school activities, parents, everything. All of adolescence is a long lesson in either learning that playing strictly by the rules will get you nowhere just as fast as not playing, that expecting fairness out of the game is a losing proposition, and exploiting the rules to your own benefit is the only way to make do. The trick is to exploit them without getting anyone else hurt, or getting yourself caught.
posted by griphus at 11:06 AM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Somewhat disappointed that the intimated discussion of the pathology of how US high schools are physically constructed never occurred. American high schools built in the last quarter-century resemble nothing so much as minimum security prisons. It's no wonder they breed sociopaths.

I don't know that I would go so far as 'prisons', but I have noticed a tendency for new schools to isolate themselves from the outdoors and their surroundings.

All the schools I went to had large windows, large doors and courtyards (of sorts). The new schools I've seen have tended to do away with this in the name of energy efficiency.
As well, even my suburban school was connected with and surrounded by the community. The new schools I see are built on the outskirts, with fences and parking lots separating them from the town at large.
posted by madajb at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


it seems as though the biggest "lesson" people tend to learn in high school is that people are not usually compensated for things like effort or achievement

High School: Four years of Ecclesiastes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


More succinctly, I bet that Iraq War veterans don't sit around talking about their high school experiences all day and how crucial high school was to forming their identity.
posted by deanc at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


(NB: I may have been raised by Ferengi.)
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Knowing people in HS, I think also helps in understanding people later in life. And I mean in terms of 'types of people', it can help massively in knowing how to deal with people, and peacefully and successfully having good relationships with them, and I hate this term for this, but to 'manage' those people if necessary, not so much to manipulate them, but respectfully be able to communicate what you're trying to do or your thinking...
posted by Skygazer at 11:09 AM on January 21, 2013


Yeah, I mean, I'm all for nerds learning how to become more socially fluent and hard working (btdt, even! - okay, work in progress), but does it have to be framed as the ticket to prestige and capitalist success? Can't it just be because for most people, forming interpersonal relationships and exercising agency are intrinsically fulfilling?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:11 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


NO THE MARKET IS YOUR GOD
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:13 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hear a lot of "real life is as bad as high school" and I just don't feel that way, most of my peer group doesn't feel that way, and I can't tell if I'm lacking in empathy or experience or what?

My biggest disillusioning was I figured the average high school group project--one or two people do most of the work, two or three contribute in minor ways, the rest don't do anything but you have to work with them and give them credit and you're A Bad Person if you complain--would never work in the real world because those people would be fired. Turns out, not so much.

But I had a pretty good time. My friend group was almost Breakfast Club stereotypical and I'd hang out with everyone as my moods struck me and sitting down to talk football with the football players wasn't a transgression and going to play Magic with that crew or talk about music with the stoners was all fine. I don't really talk to anyone from high school because a lot of them stayed in town and never really grew up so we don't have much in common. I'm skipping my reunion just because it's a bunch of people I only vaguely remember (all the people I was friends with are skipping it likewise), not because it's digging up some trauma.

So you're not the only one.

With that said, I do have a lot of friends in their mid-30s who still get mad when they go to bars and it's full of, ugh, JOCKS watching SPORTS, so I know it's there, but I don't claim to understand it.

But I was just reading in Emotional Intelligence (the book) about high optimism and emotional intelligence being a better predictor of college performance than SAT scores, so some interesting parallels there.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:14 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


> American high schools built in the last quarter-century resemble nothing so much as minimum security
> prisons. It's no wonder they breed sociopaths.

All government buildings built by the lowest bidder look like prisons, because that's what the cheapest kind of building looks like. They just seem especially dreadful when a bunch of young people is crammed into one.

The worst thing about school days is that all the people you see every single day know you and have you pigeonholed and expect you to stick to your assigned social role. The proverbial small town has nothing on a high school in this respect. It makes it f*cking hard to grow. Bonsai Kitten has been getting bigger for five or ten years but the training twisties have not gotten any bigger or any looser in all that time.

When you get out into the wider world you at once start meeting large numbers of people who don't know you from Adam and don't enforce these sorts of expectations because they don't have any. The relief is palpable. For me graduating from HS and going to college was like escaping from Devil's Island and going to Paris.
posted by jfuller at 11:15 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Imagine my surprise when, over a decade later, some of them started finding me on Facebook. Turns out? They're all doing a bunch of really normal, boring shit. All along, I really was the weird one, with my fucked-up family and late-blooming social skills. They were all perfectly normal.

And most of them never made it out of my hometown.


This has been very much my experience as well, even back before Facebook. I was pretty nerdy in high school (my activities included the geek triumvirate of debating, chess club and school paper), although most of the bullying had ended back in junior high -- by high school I was well over six foot, so no longer such an easy target.

Anyway, in the pre-Facebook era, there was a grand reunion for everyone who ever went to my high school, when it hit its 75th anniversary. Just before high school, in seventh and eighth grades, I had been in an enrichment program for brainy kids. When I was in seventh grade, I knew most of the people the year ahead of us; likewise in eight, I knew most of the grade sevens. Of course, I knew all my classmates in my year. Thus between these three years there were maybe 75 people; a couple of decades later I still knew about half of them as friends or friends-of-friends.

So of the thirty-odd people I knew of, almost all of us had fallen off the edge academically at some point or other. We were a pretty bright bunch, as I recall, and even in high school many of us were in the same boat as I was -- studying not at all but still winding up as an honours student. By the time I hit university, I had no study habits, and I actually had to learn some: it took a bunch of failed courses and year on academic probation to inculcate me with some better approach.

As I say, I was not alone in this: of those I still knew or knew of, only two had gone straight through high school on the first try and then gone straight on through to post-secondary and completed that in the expected number of years. Two. That is only one higher than the number in that group who had died of lightning strikes.

For years after, I kind of reckoned this whole enrichment thing was a bit of a washout. Then at the high school reunion, where I met up again with a lot of my enrichment class friends (quite a few of my classmates from there had wound up going to the same high school with me), I noticed something odd. Where everyone else had wound up in real estate or retail sales management or something, every one of the enrichment types had become musicians or photographers or dancers or actors. Everyone else was liviing within ten minutes' drive of where they had grown up and we had all lived abroad at one time or another. Everyone else was trading business cards and were were all swapping CDs and gallery openings and such. Maybe we did okay after all.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:15 AM on January 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


As someone who never went to high school at all, I've never heard anything which has made me feel even slightly wistful about having missed out. It sounds awful, like prison, like its primary job is to grind people down and get them used to a life lived under the thumb of bureaucracy. If there's good in the American high school system, it sure doesn't come out in the stories people tell.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:15 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Somewhat disappointed that the intimated discussion of the pathology of how US high schools are physically constructed never occurred. American high schools built in the last quarter-century resemble nothing so much as minimum security prisons. It's no wonder they breed sociopaths.

Too right.

Yet this is a great leap forward, because the ones build before that were designed like maximum securty prisons.

Diane Divoky got it right in 1970: high school is No Place to Send a Kid.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:15 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


NO THE MARKET IS YOUR GOD

fuck, sorry, this always happens when I eat too much granola, doing a Red Bull Vodka cleanse now
posted by en forme de poire at 11:16 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Imagine that, four years of people lying, cheating, beating, and hating you sometimes leaves people with bad memories.
posted by Nothing at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


"There are some people who simply put in their four years, graduate, and that’s that."

Yeah, I'm one of them.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am still listening to the music I was listening to in high school, mostly because Iggy and The Stooges' "Raw Power" is the perfect album.
posted by hellojed at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am still listening to the music I was listening to in high school, mostly because Iggy and The Stooges' "Raw Power" is the perfect album.

Oh man, if I didn't have raw angry nerd music back in high school, I don't know what I would have done. I mean, I listen to Fear of Men instead of The Jesus Lizard now, but damned if I don't still love Gang of Four and so on.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:20 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having been to an Israeli high school (sort of - Israel splits the 12 years 6 & 6, not 8&4 like America), I can find some observations about how American high schools mess up kids' lives:

1. Everything has to be done under high school auspices. That's just fucking crazy.

In other countries, if you want to play sports, you can represent your town (instead of funneling money through the schools, the governments funnel sports money to park facilities and Olympics prep programs - same amounts, different pipes), or a local political machine (okay, that's a little messed up, but it's better than wearing your school's uniform on the field.) The school has nothing to do with it.

You want to do something in the arts? Same deal. Lots of government programs doing the same thing, outside of school.

Want to learn a trade? Again, same deal. Youth clubs do it, not the school.

The end result is even if your time in school is miserable, it's not all of your day.

2. The transportation and warehousing issue. In other countries, school is in the center of town. You ride municipal buses, not school buses, to get there. The moment you step out of school, you're still in the public square, ready to do other things, like a 2nd class citizen instead of a 3rd class citizen like in America. Your school years are a preparation for adulthood, not a time spent being warehoused in a facility on the edge of town far from everything.

Some American cities still have their WPA built high schools, and there are the bigger cities that are also like this. But the suburbs are a nightmare.

3. In other countries, the culture does not over-romanticize high school years. So there is not the bitterness from having missed out on some cliche version of high school others are supposedly enjoying.
posted by ocschwar at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2013 [39 favorites]


NO MOM DOWNWARD SPIRAL DOESN'T HAVE A LOT OF CUSSES ON IT
posted by griphus at 11:23 AM on January 21, 2013 [29 favorites]


I friended everyone I knew from high school on FaceBook but not one person accepted.
What does that mean?
posted by Postroad at 11:23 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


3. In other countries, the culture does not over-romanticize high school years. So there is not the bitterness from having missed out on some cliche version of high school others are supposedly enjoying.

John Hughes has a lot to answer for in this regard. The day I started seeing his movies as purely fictional entertainment rather than coming of age experience shared by "normal" people that I missed out on was the day I started functioning like a normal human being.

Sadly I was born a little too late and didn't have the maturity to recognize this at a time it may have been relevant.
posted by Talez at 11:26 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


ocschwar: “Having been to an Israeli high school (sort of - Israel splits the 12 years 6 & 6, not 8&4 like America), I can find some observations about how American high schools mess up kids' lives...”

Since I went to an American high school, maybe I should offer some of my observations on what I think German high schools are like.
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I went to an American high school for 9th through 12 grades. I was in an Israeli one for 7th and 8th.
posted by ocschwar at 11:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see; thanks. That makes a lot more sense.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2013


I got my first job in 1976, the summer after 11th grade. Unlike most of my friends who'd taken retail or food service jobs, mine was in the office (as a telex operator) at a conservative Fortune 500 company. Every time I committed some minor transgression such as, say, wearing nail polish that was too red or was an unusual color like blue (I'm not making this up), I was given a talking-to by my supervisor....his oft-repeated admonishment was "This is not high school, this is business." However, I couldn't help but notice how very high school the overall environment truly was. This was a Mad Men type of place, where older male executives didn't think twice about patting my behind as I walked in the hall or making comments like "What's the matter, was the drugstore out of rouge?" (I had and still have a pasty white complexion) or "Did you comb your hair with a Mixmaster?" (when I got a curly perm). The women, many of them in their 40s and 50s were just as catty and back-biting as the Mean Girls in high school. They squealed on you to management ("I saw Oriole leave dirty glasses in the lounge sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher"), they gossiped endlessly about your clothes, your personality quirks, and who in the company you were probably "doing."

I guess my point is that I think most of us remember all the ugly times in high school because we were more impressionable then and adolescent and lost and lonely and vulnerable....but much of adult life is still high school revisited. The difference is as adults we've either developed a protective shell, a "who cares" attitude, or some other coping mechanism.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


No single article has done more to make me want to home school my future kids.
posted by salvia at 11:33 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


That article also gave me new insight into my friends' parents who don't want to go to a retirement community, a new "box of strangers."
posted by salvia at 11:34 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having grown up in America, but spent most of my working years working with/for Israelis (and having gone to school with plenty of Israeli immigrants,) the social culture over there is really, really different than American social culture and that extends to the high school level as well. I wouldn't know where to even start, and I'm not saying it is necessarily better, but "not putting up with shit" and "not being taken advantage of" is really high on the list of desirable social qualities in Israel, whereas in America it is much more (and dangerously so) lower.
posted by griphus at 11:34 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


American high schools built in the last quarter-century resemble nothing so much as minimum security prisons.

Either it is more than a quarter-century, or Canada is ahead of the USA: this is a circa-1970 high school in my hometown and this is the circa-1970 jail, a few blocks away, done by the same architect.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


High school is no fun, but for me at least, it was not nearly as bad as middle school. That was hell. In high school, I could actually see the bullies etc growing up so that by senior year it was no longer a horrible place to be.
posted by nolnacs at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Having gone to and utterly hated high school, and having known a few home-schooled kids, all I can say is: home-schooling is not the answer, people.
posted by nonmerci at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2013


Having gone to and utterly hated high school, and having known a few home-schooled kids, all I can say is: home-schooling is not the answer, people.


I just watched a cousin in law graduate from a high school in Brooklyn.

There are corners of the US where high school isn't a dystopian nightmare. Learn from them, people.
posted by ocschwar at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


American high schools built in the last quarter-century resemble nothing so much as minimum security prisons. It's no wonder they breed sociopaths.

Schools are built to meet the demands of society. Unfortunately, in American, those demands tend to be "babysit and feed my brats while I'm at work. But, don't you ever, ever discipline them no matter what they do. And do it dirt-cheap, cause I hate paying taxes."
posted by Thorzdad at 11:43 AM on January 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


We were ridiculously lucky to find our son being offered a scholarship to a really nice private school in our city. We toured it, he shadowed a student for a day, and he decided he wanted to go there for high school.

It has been amazing. Two years in, he's happy. Truly happy. He loves his classes, he loves his teachers, he has friends, he feels accepted, and I am so relieved that he doesn't have to live the experience his father had in high school. It wasn't so bad for me, but for him, it was terrible.

There is so much to be said for small class sizes, emphasis on doing your best (which means they're all high achievers), demanding a culture of respect not only for the teachers but amongst the students as well, and treating the students not like children but like real people (because they are) who have to have ownership in their lives and decisions.

Expect the best from kids and they generally (there are exceptions, of course) live up to it.
posted by cooker girl at 11:43 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a great article - thanks for posting it.

I think junior high school (Gr 8 - 10) was a more dangerous place than high school. I had a very bad experience in Grade 8 - I was the lowest of the low, totally ostracized, forced to eat lunch by myself and then hide in the stacks of the library. I was very nearly beaten to death, and had to change schools in Grade 9.

It was a little like the River's Edge. This was back in the 80's when the common uniform of a middle-schooler was a jean jacket with a Venom backpatch and Nike turf shoes.

The new school I went to was better. I was with some of the same kids I went to elementary school with, but most of the kids didn't know me, so I figured out how to fit in. And it wasn't nearly so violent. I liked it there.

Then came high school, and I was back with some of the same kids from my original junior high. Everyone had mellowed by that time, so there were no issues, although I cannot say that I give a shit about that place.

At graduation, there was a big bush party, just like there was in Dazed in Confused. There was a lot of fighting (or, in other words, drunken assaults). I was punched by a girl who now reads the news for the Atlanta Fox affiliate.

The only thing that is consoling (if you can call it that) is that our parents had it worse, and that everyone in older generations is suffering from PTSD of some kind.

And that my own kids are growing up in a more emotionally-healthy society. Peoples' EQ's are higher now, and it shows on the school playground.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:44 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there's good in the American high school system, it sure doesn't come out in the stories people tell.

I could tell you a thousand good stories about high school, but they don't have the same emotional pull as all the bad stories people have.

High school was some of the best (and some of the worst) times of my life.
I fell in love, got my heart broken, fell in lust, got my heart broken.
Had my first drinks, had my first hangover.
Learned to drive, got my first job.
Met some great friends, kept some, forgot about others.
Occasionally opened a book or two.
Got a bad haircut, wore horrible clothes (seriously, horrible. What was I thinking?)

My high school was neither a prison nor a shining city upon a hill. It was just high school.
I'm not particularly nostalgic about it, but I'm not traumatized by it, but then, I'm close to retirement now than I am to my high school years.
posted by madajb at 11:48 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aside from the bullying issue, high school sucksed because it was HORRIFICALLY FUCKING BORING. I was a good student who was motivated to get high marks, so I don't know how the less academically-inclined kids made it through five years (in my day) without going crazy. It was like a crappy full-time job you didn't get paid for. There's a reason I still have occasional nightmares about being back there.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


> There's a reason I still have occasional nightmares about being back there.

What's up with that one that I get once a year or so where I'm back in high school but somehow have too many absences in pre-cal to graduate? What the hell? I went to class!
posted by Burhanistan at 12:00 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Koeselitz: humans are wretched

I suppose if HS teaches you that one thing alone, and keeps you from wasting time expecting anything greater or better from this limited and dreary thing called life, that's about as good as it's going to get.

And that's the Truth, Ruth.


Now, excuse me while I go open up a coupla veins...
posted by Skygazer at 12:00 PM on January 21, 2013


I have a couple of things that comfort me about my middle/high school experiences.

1) As far as I know, we've never had a reunion. (Facebook doesn't count.) If I become curious about where someone else ended up, there are plenty of ways for me to track them down, and vice versa. But if I haven't tracked you down in 20+ years, it's doubtful that we have anything much to talk about OTHER THAN things that happened 20+ years ago, which makes a class reunion a Chris Farley sketch drawn out over a very long evening with alcohol.

"Remember that time... in that place... where we did that thing... and that other thing... that was AWESOME, man." "Yeah." *crickets*

2) The stuff I learned outside of class was more useful than most of what was inside. Do I remember much of anything I learned in calculus, what I'd use Avogadro's number for in real life (it's not like I'd call Avogadro anyway because I haven't talked to him in, like, forever), or whether Utah or Nevada became a US state first? Not really. Good for trivia games and such, but otherwise not all that practical unless I had gone on to a specifically related career.

High school was more about conformity: adhering to rigid schedules, producing required work regardless of whether not you see any point to it, dressing alike in gym class, accepting authority without question, surviving all types of social interaction, passing through four years and emerging as a few hundred quasi-adults who could coexist in a civilized work environment. Or at least that was the target goal of most of the administration. Your goal was to clear those particular hurdles AND maintain individuality and not be squashed into a perfect little worker bee, and thus the daily battle was waged.

3) I am glad that I did not go to grade school in an era with the Internet. It's not that the rumor mills and the bullying and the social castes and whatnot didn't exist back then, but they're so much more EFFICIENT in the electronic age.
posted by delfin at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had a pretty darn good high school experience but I still find this article very relevant and interesting. The take away for me is, even without major instances of hellishness, how impactful early memories can be. This is a topic that's been on my mind recently.

High school wasn't forever ago for me, I'm in the first half of my twenties. Anyway, I had a dream about a week ago in which I bumped into my ex-girlfriend from high school. There wasn't much else to the dream except for the fact that the person in the dream didn't look a thing like her. Now, this wasn't the case of "well I was talking to Groucho Marx but for some reason I knew it was actually Harpo" it was clearly the best my brain could do to put together what this person looked like (I haven't seen her for nearly five years) and yet I still had the vague emotional reaction that would come with bumping into someone that one had once cared for deeply.

Now, I'm not asking for a dream to be accepted as anything other than, at most, an anecdote. What I am saying is that I think this article points out a really surreal part of being human. Our early years are, by default, formative and certainly impact greatly who we become. Whether you were bullied, or popular, or fell in love the abstract of that sticks with you but the details go away.

That's crazy, absolutely nuts. Presidents and world leaders greatly impact people. I'll be 95 and losing my memories and one of the last to go will be a semi-accurate image of George Bush Jr, god help me. That girlfriend totally impacted me in a "who I am now" kind of way. Just 5 years later and I might be able to pass her on the street without noticing.

My complex and involved conclusion is as follows: Brains are REALLY weird.
posted by sendai sleep master at 12:03 PM on January 21, 2013


This is why you do LSD in college.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:04 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skygazer, pessimism doesn't necessarily imply despair. Even Schopenhauer didn't kill himself.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:05 PM on January 21, 2013


Rustic Etruscan: Even Schopenhauer didn't kill himself.

Nah, of course not, but he was a fucking miserable mean bitter motherfucker who basically despised every one, (especially Hegel who stole his thunder and was a wildly popular media darling whose classes were always full), and once in the midst of a rage threw his landlady down a flight of stairs...

But, damn if The World as Will and Representation isn't fucking life-affirmingly inspiring and brilliant, and amazingly consoling.

But, I get your point, pessimism and despair shouldn't be confused.

We are all of us in the gutter,
some of us are looking at the stars.


- Oscar Wilde

(Who on his deathbed said, Either that wallpaper goes, or I do... I'm pretty sure in the high stakes game of chess we're all of us playing with death, that was like such an incredible "fuck you" to that black robed smug scythe weilding bastard.)
posted by Skygazer at 12:11 PM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


in the midst of a rage threw his landlady down a flight of stairs

Touché.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2013


I attended a specialized high school, where most of my classmates were academically gifted and where a lot of the teachers used experimental methods for teaching classes. The group I fell in with were kind of the kids who didn't fit in anywhere else, the weirdos among weirdos, the nerds among nerds, but we weren't ostracized or looked down upon by our peers. In fact, we were seen as pretty cool, in our own way. Even if we were weird kids, we did feel comfortable expressing ourselves and trying on different identities, in ways that I certainly was never made to feel ashamed of. In college, I was one of the only people I knew who looked back upon high school with fondness. And now that we're in our twenties, many of these people are still my close friends. (One of them introduced me to this very website!)

Things have changed in the way the school is run these days and it's now a much more creatively/academically stifling place for the students who are there now. Administration overly focused on GPA/test scores/etc, you know the type. But even so I really think it's useful to think about grouping students like that, even if there might be some racism/classism going on -- African-American and Hispanic students were severely underrepresented in my graduating class -- that needs to be fixed on an institutional level, and even if it means that a slight elitism might form among kids about their way being the best way. I think kids need to be in an environment where they feel like they belong, learning in a way that suits their learning style and interests.

On the other hand, high school was, indeed, where I discovered the severity of my anxiety issues. It was mostly tests/grades related. I needed to absorb the message much earlier that that shit doesn't actually matter. What matters is: did you learn something? Did you challenge yourself academically? So we need to deal with that side of things too.
posted by capricorn at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's up with that one that I get once a year or so where I'm back in high school but somehow have too many absences in pre-cal to graduate? What the hell? I went to class!

My father finished college in the early 60s, and still has nightmares about skipping class all semester and then having to take the final, so I think you are stuck with this forever.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


ocschwar: " 2. The transportation and warehousing issue. In other countries, school is in the center of town. You ride municipal buses, not school buses, to get there. The moment you step out of school, you're still in the public square, ready to do other things, like a 2nd class citizen instead of a 3rd class citizen like in America. Your school years are a preparation for adulthood, not a time spent being warehoused in a facility on the edge of town far from everything. "

Worth noting that this isn't the case everywhere. In New York City and the five boroughs, schools are in residential areas. They are not on the edge of town. I literally lived a block away from the second high school I attended.
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2013


The other odd thing about high school is something I didn't really notice until much later in life, particularly once I started driving upstate regularly into some of the more rural areas.

Apparently -- both from conversations I've had and from its omnipresence on local radio -- there are places where people REALLY, REALLY, REALLY care about whether their local high school football team wins or not.

And they're not even related to anyone who's playing.

And it's not even Texas!

It's a puzzler.
posted by delfin at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't presume to understand other people's experiences with and feelings about high school. I can only speak for myself.

But I find that the narrative of my high school years as The Formative Experience of My Life, A Painful Tragedy in Which the Awfulness of Society Tried to Quash Me (A Tragedy in Four Acts) has lost its luster over the years, as things like my awesome kid, my loving wife, and the day to day demands of my job have largely squeezed those memories out of my headspace. I find myself sorting the once cool kids who yearn for their halcyon days and the tortured uncool kids who can't let it go into the same box.

It's not a judgment on how anyone else thinks about their high school experience, just me being frank about how mine shook out.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I moved around all my life, so while I didn't actually ever change that much, people's perceptions of me were sometimes radically different in different schools.

I won't say that I went through every high school / middle school experience, because I was never really physically bullied (there were some attempts, but I've always had a "I-will-fucking-bite-your-fucking-nose-the-fuck-off" attitude when really pressed, so...), but I was invisible sometimes, considered a "nerd" sometimes, and I remember someone taunting a popular guy that he "liked me" or something, and him being all "oh, puke," so maybe I was a beast at some point ... but I was pretty removed from all of it because I was just reading all the time, and kind of completely and passionately involved in my own world that way. I really didn't care too much about the social politics and competitions of my classmates, or even what they thought of me, too much.

But I had really loving, supportive, involved parents (where "involved" means that we had tons of great family time, not that they were involved with my school experience), so it was not so hard for me to live in my own world. But at some point, after some move late in my school career, I became one of the popular kids (by election, sort of literally – they were like, "what's with this new girl, she seems kind of cool – should we grab her?"), and was also considered "hot." Quelle surprise!

My cohort of popularati was not the jocks (although there was some amount of crossover, and we weren't enemies), and not the student council types (though, again, some crossover), but sort of upper middle class, or better (but I was just plain middle class) creative, artistic types, smokers but not stoners, quite a few gay kids, though we didn't really register that back then, party types, but not party animals, pretty high achievers scholastically, and they were all blazingly confident. And fun.

I'm glad I got to have that experience, and it's the one I chose to carry with me, though if it hadn't happened, I don't really think it would have made much difference. I still move in and out of different social situations because of moving or just becoming more or less introverted, and I still feel pretty much the same as I always felt, and feel like the same person. Where I happen to drift seems to make more difference than anything else, in terms of social perception.
posted by taz at 12:42 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


deanc: I bet that Iraq War veterans don't sit around talking about their high school experiences all day and how crucial high school was

I think that the article made a good case for high school being the most intense experience for a lot of people. That's not true for cases where you have extreme stimuli, positive or negative at other times. Some people will experience trauma and injury before or after high school, or will become rock stars or mercenaries and not give much mental space to high school. But hormones are pumping hard for teenagers, experience is more raw, and it's a gigantic non-consensual trip. Not to mention that you may well end up monstering other kids and they may end up monstering you.

The depths and peaks of my life since leaving school have dwarfed those during it, but I can easily see how someone that scored the touchdown, was the lodestone for style, whose band was playing real gigs, who was top of their state for mathematics and got to travel to another country for the olympiad, or someone who was blinded by bullies dropping them in a dumpster or facially scarred over a drug dispute, or started self-harming and disordered eating and was institutionalised... I can see why it might be a tide-mark of one kind or another.

I guess you can take that and do what you want with it; motivation, or a stick to beat yourself with.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:43 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is why you do LSD in college.

Speak for yourself.

Although my band teacher would tell you otherwise, the Jurassic Park medley was vastly improved by my improvisational work.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:50 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, upon reflection I think my lack of adult life high school related trauma is probably related to the other things going on in my life at the time that were way more traumatic than anything some mere shitty kids could think up. Also obviously I was super fucking high the entire time.
posted by elizardbits at 12:56 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the highly unlikely event that I were to spawn, I'd definitely homeschool. Yes, I know some homeschooled kids are iffy, but it depends on how you do it. The town where I live has some excellent homeschool programs where you go in and work with a teacher periodically and complete course work, it's not just religious foofery/"unschooling" or whatever.

Now, homeschooling wouldn't have worked for me because my parents are some of the worst teachers you'd ever meet, but I still wish I could have done it. I had people literally hating me at first sight from kindergarten on where I grew up, so imagine how high school went.

I read the book "Libby on Wednesday" by Zilpha Keatley Snyder as a kid. It's about a girl who is homeschooled until middle school, when her absentee mother finally rolls in and insists that Libby be "socialized," i.e. tortured by the other students by being smaller and smarter than others of her age. Now, in the book Libby eventually finds her own small crowd of motley writer friends, but what I focused on was that she had like 12 years of NOT being picked on by the other kids before she was forced to take her lumps like everyone else. She had 12 years to develop self-esteem, to be loved, to not be shamed for existing every time she left her house. I was so jealous of that. I wish I hadn't started out broken right out of the gate at age 6. And the homeschooled kids I knew through ballet school and the like just seemed to do better than the rest of us. I knew some that finally started public school in high school, and they were fine. It wasn't "Mean Girls." They already knew who they were outside of school and outside of the reputation thrust upon them by everyone else.

But...how would we solve this problem, realistically? We can't. Most people aren't going to or can't homeschool their kids. You gotta warehouse 'em somewhere for the entire work day. We're all trapped and stuck and that's just how life is here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just wish I retroactively realized the number of times I was getting hit on. I just thought people where nice! It's nice to be nice!
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Although my band teacher would tell you otherwise, the Jurassic Park medley was vastly improved by my improvisational work.

Well, leave it to a high school band teacher to not understand the intricacies of the tambourine you brought from home.
posted by griphus at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hung out mostly with some other band geeks in high school at first, but eventually my circle of friends evolved where we didn't really belong to any social group but could mingle between all of them. One of my sisters was in drill team, who was a senior my freshman year. We threw enormous keg parties where everyone showed up and had a blast, including all the nerds and jocks and everyone else. We were utterly weird and confident about it, in the way only naive teenagers can be, but I loved being with other people who encouraged this side of myself and without feeling like an outsider. I learned you can be yourself without being broadly rejected socially no matter how strange you think you are, if you are confident and comfortable in your own skin. (I had to re-learn that lesson later ...)

I had been much more introverted prior to public high school having previously attended a much smaller private school, but once I came out of my shell I really didn't want to conform to anyone's group identity, and overall it was good for my growth socially. However, my grades were occasionally great but mostly mediocre, with a mostly absent senior year, and I barely graduated. At that point I was pretty much over it and would have benefited by graduating at the end of my junior year (which would have been possible, though my parents never wanted to bump me up to higher grade levels for social reasons).
posted by krinklyfig at 1:15 PM on January 21, 2013


Junior high was my hell - I was bullied, ostracized on a daily basis, I was deeply unpopular and wounded, and I retreated inside myself. It made me a wounded person going into high school. The main thing that sticks with me about my high school experience (and college, to some degree) was how much I doubted myself and had internalized that I was worthless, and how much that crippled me... self-esteem in the deep negatives, thanks to my parents and that really scarring junior high experience. In high school the teachers were supportive, and the other kids actually gave me the benefit of the doubt and were friendly, for the most part, or indifferent at worst. I got along with people in every social milieu from the punks, nerds and acid burnouts to the popular and well-adjusted kids. I had a reputation as a smart weird creative type but it never meant I was shunned. Mostly I just bullied myself constantly, and so I had a bad experience anyway. I assumed everyone hated me when that was anything but the case. A lesson I'm still learning is that most people will treat you okay, and won't laugh at you or give you shit or look down on you for no good reason - some people will even actively like you - and it's largely your own perception of yourself that drives others' perception of you, which feeds back in an endless loop. So be kind to everyone around you but especially be kind to yourself.
posted by naju at 1:19 PM on January 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


I just wish I retroactively realized the number of times I was getting hit on.

For a long time I thought that, maybe, if time machines were invented, I could go back in time and find RetroGriph and just gently explain the fact that the girls who took the train home with him, or hung out with him in the stairwells, or stuck around in the empty classrooms after school were not, in fact, as interested in Magic: The Gathering or Wildstorm Comics continuity as he thought they appeared, and did, in fact, have slightly more, well, interesting things on their mind but were waiting for him to shut the fuck up and make a move or something already. But then, recently, I had the following conversation with my girlfriend about right after we had met, five or so years ago:

"Remember I was flirting with you on MySpace and you totally ignored it?"
"...I thought we were just talking about comics."

My time machine fantasy now just involves me taking RetroGriph out for a burger and buying him a pack of Camels and saying "good luck" and that's about it.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


oh god I just want to shake RetroWhelk violently while shouting HE! WAS! LITERALLY! THE ! SWIM TEAM! STAR! YOU! IDIOT!
posted by The Whelk at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


(actually that's something that I bet is easier now then in HS's past, no one gave two shits about the gay thing or had freakouts about prom dates. Maybe being most well-known for our wildly overfunded drama dept was a factor.)
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's all about demographics.

When your graduating class is north of 700 and the median family income was only about $5,000 above the poverty line there isn't a whole lot of opportunity for socio-economic ostracizing. I was a mega-geek in high school but I was also just a tiny, cash-strapped fish in a sea of similar nobodies and thus rarely saw any of the horribleness often attributed to high school life in America.

We had the worst football team in the county, though our debate team was actually pretty good. Nobody really cared about the jocks, and for some odd reason it seemed like the cool thing to be in was concert choir of all things. It was a strange school, but mostly a nice experience. I guess I was lucky.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:26 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, griph. I had a girl that asked me out every day for 4 years. Every. Day. "Hey, Ghostride, will you go out with me?" I'd just laugh. Like this was our little joke. Our little routine, you know? Like "Say goodnight, Gracie."

A couple years after I'd graduated and gone to college, I ran into her again and she practically Elaine-shoved me and said "Why didn't we ever go out? I really liked you!" And I said, "You did?!" And she screamed "I ASKED YOU OUT EVERY DAY!"

She was pretty cute, too. And not the only one.

I am fortunate I wound up being shepherded by some very nice punk/riotgirrl types who, for some reason, saw fit to take a snotty young conservative shithead like me under their wings and eventually made me into a decent person because assertiveness was very okay in that circle and you have to be very assertive to get through to me. As illustrated above.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:27 PM on January 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


Not everyone feels the sustained, melancholic presence of a high-school shadow self. There are some people who simply put in their four years, graduate, and that’s that.

I had a couple really serious bullyings, one guy nearly broke my ribs and another was actually going to court for assault, except he died first. I was high all the freaking time, a total outcast, and had a counselor who I’m still not sure what the hell was wrong with, but he hated me for some reason. He lied to defend both of the bullies I mentioned and told me after taking an aptitude test I should work at a gas station and might want to think about dropping out, though my parents found out I had scored well on the test.

In spite of all this I really didn’t have any trauma or deep feelings one way or another about High School. I figured out early that I didn’t want to do the four years so I took a lot of extra credit and did it in three. And then never really thought about it again.

30 years later I was looking at old yearbooks for the first time with my brother. I realized I couldn’t remember more than three or four people from the 2000 plus in there. This was sort of stunning. I knew I wasn’t very engaged, but not to that extent. No wonder I’ve always been baffled by people who can’t let go of High School.
posted by bongo_x at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2013


Oh, griph. I had a girl that asked me out every day for 4 years. Every. Day. "Hey, Ghostride, will you go out with me?" I'd just laugh. Like this was our little joke. Our little routine, you know? Like "Say goodnight, Gracie."

If you weren't already aware of this, I think you are holding the trump card for whenever this topic of conversation comes up.
posted by invitapriore at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Notwithstanding actual trauma, of course)

That reads to me as, "Not withstanding legitimate trauma,..." Which just falls off the cliff into WTF territory.

Trauma is trauma, whether the outside observer thinks it is, or not.

Also, high school was really not that bad for me, but middle schools should be banned.
Just banned.
Seriously. Those kids should not be allowed out of their cages.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: “I just wish I retroactively realized the number of times I was getting hit on.”

I just wish I could retroactively forget the number of times I was getting hit.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you weren't already aware of this, I think you are holding the trump card for whenever this topic of conversation comes up.

Most of my early 20s was spent waking up every few nights going "Wait, the reason she always made a point of sitting next to me wasn't just that I was a nice lunchtime companion? SON OF A BITCH!" and realizations of that sort.

For example, my cute, single female friend that would always come over alone and get drunk with me when my mom was out of town? Yep, never took a shot. Never even occurred to me until years later she said, "I totally should've taken advantage of you when we were drunk because you were just not getting signals." And I said, "Signals?" And she sighed and shook her head in that way women do.

Note: I'm not autistic, just oblivious.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:37 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


And most of them never made it out of my hometown.

Muhahahahahahahah.


Never quite grasped this as a putdown. Does it count if I left my hometown, but I came back because I liked it better there?



(Ohhh, wait -- you specified YOUR hometown. Yeah, that's a real hellhole.)
posted by delfin at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, high school was really not that bad for me, but middle schools should be banned.
Just banned.
Seriously. Those kids should not be allowed out of their cages.


Yeah, this. I'm always surprised when high school is brought up as the ultimate social hell, only because, in my limited experience, by the time everyone got to high school they had largely outgrown the compulsion to abuse other people for fun. There was a sort of student-body-wide, tacit acknowledgement that we should just forget that those years ever happened. I'm sure people who endured a lot worse than I ever did in middle school were rightly displeased with that arrangement, but in general the boundaries between what used to be viciously delineated cliques became a lot more porous.
posted by invitapriore at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


has anyone ever had a good Middle School experience? I'm struggling to remember a single positive middle school memory that wasn't Legend Of Zelda related.
posted by The Whelk at 1:44 PM on January 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


...and realizations of that sort.

Yeah, my early-20s were also filled with angry regret over my missed calling as that material they strap onto submarines to deflect radar.

Now in my late-20s reflecting on those Missed Connections brings to mind roughly the same feeling I get when I see the dog try to jump on the bed, miss and fall off: "I love you but I am not at all sorry for laughing at your plight."
posted by griphus at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


> What's up with that one that I get once a year or so where I'm back in high school but somehow have too many absences in pre-cal to graduate? What the hell? I went to class!

Yep, that's the one. Virtually everyone I have asked has had that exact dream about high school/college/university/grad school...
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2013


What's up with that one that I get once a year or so where I'm back in high school but somehow have too many absences in pre-cal to graduate? What the hell? I went to class!

Mine usually involves upper year French. Which is funny, because I dropped French as soon as I could after Grade 9 (got a 51%, which I'm pretty sure was a pity pass to get me out of the French teacher's class forever).
posted by jb at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, junior high was the worst, just a never-ending buffet of various flavors of humiliation and frustration. High school was almost fun, if only because I could start to shed the bullshit I had been taught to believe about myself by a bunch of rabid 12-year-olds.

I do wonder how much of that is because I went from an uptight Catholic school to a relatively permissive normal public school, and so I was able to drop not only a lot of specific cultural baggage that didn't resonate with me but also a big fraction of my old peer group. Going to school with the same people from year 1 to year 12 sounds pretty claustrophobic to me. And in general I think probably the more people around the better - some level of anonymity can be really relaxing after feeling like your every move has been scrutinized under an electron microscope by the same 20-30 people.

Yep, that's the one. Virtually everyone I have asked has had that exact dream about high school/college/university/grad school...

I've heard that when you're a professor, you still have this dream but in reverse - at the last minute you have to fill in for someone except you have to teach calculus, and you haven't taken calculus since undergrad, and you can't find the room and you're late, and when you get there the students are complaining about you or have decided to leave, etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


My middle and high schools were in the same building, so while we were sort of separated, I don't know that the experiences for each were vastly different. My middle school was hard because halfway through seventh grade, my mom impulsively pulled me from public school and put me into a Catholic school where everybody else had come up since kindergarten. I was miserable, got terrible grades, and spent recess deliberately ostracizing myself by standing out in the parking lost moodily staring at seagulls, or isolating myself in the library. After a semester I was returned to the public school and it was such a relief.

My junior year of high school was overseas at a school I had last attended when I was quite young. For the first time I was faced with the fact that I had been getting decent enough grades by coasting. The first half of that year was dismal as I ran right smack up against the fact that you couldn't put in minimal effort and still get by, especially in upper-level science classes. It wasn't pretty. Things straightened out the next half of the year, but then we went back to the US and I spent my senior year back in the same school as before.

So, I guess for me, high school trauma wasn't mostly about other people, but about discovering the things I didn't really like about myself.
posted by PussKillian at 2:02 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was not a happy kid, but the people themselves at school, when it comes right down to it, didn't have all that much to do with it, especially once I got into high school and started paying attention to how I looked (neurotically so, but there you have it). I felt physically safe for the most part, as much as a Catholic girl can.

My heart goes out to those who had a radically different experience. I wish we didn't live in such sick times.
posted by Currer Belfry at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lately I have been

(a) thinking about having kids someday, and
(b) watching lots of cinematic depictions of high school

Incidentally, these are connected; the person I'd have the kids in (a) with and I both like the movies of type (b).

Anyway, these movies make me think "why would I want to bring a child into the world, if they're going to have to go through this?"
posted by madcaptenor at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agreed that middle school was the worst. High school was at least punctuated by brief moments of levity, and the light was at the end of the tunnel- by tenth grade I was well into planning how to get the hell out of Dodge. Eighth grade was just pure misery- no one is happy in their skin, and those who can take it out on others, do. There was no sense that things would ease up in high school, so it looked like years and years of misery coming at you. Ugh.
posted by ambrosia at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just wish I retroactively realized the number of times I was getting hit on. I just thought people where nice! It's nice to be nice!

It's not like I get hit on often, but in those rare circumstances this still happens to me. And I hope people don't think I'm hitting on them when I'm nice, because I try to be nice all the time. Because, as Master Vonnegut said, "Goddamn it you've got to be kind."
posted by JHarris at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


"why would I want to bring a child into the world, if they're going to have to go through this?"

Well, fortunately they're not. I'm trying to come up with anything resembling a movie review of my school career:
While the director has seen the works of such luminaries as John Hughes, he has not cracked the secret to their charm. As an attempt at a cinema verite, this movie is also an abject failure. Character motivation is either confounding or non-existant. The dialogue is full of pointless anachronisms and clearly made-up slang which may work for Diablo Cody, but certainly not here. All attempts at witty repartee come off as banal, disturbing, or, during the innumerable cafeteria scenes, both, loudly. There was also no real reason to punctuate the film with constant, pointless classroom scenes in which our protagonist stares out a window or doodles in his notebook. Perhaps, once in a rare while, it is better to tell than show.
posted by griphus at 2:14 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obligatory XKCD.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:19 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


>> Even Schopenhauer didn't kill himself.
>
> Nah, of course not, but he was a fucking miserable mean bitter motherfucker who basically despised every
> one, (especially Hegel who stole his thunder and was a wildly popular media darling whose classes were
> always full),

Actually Schopenhauer had his time as a popular and media darling too.

in 1918 the Viennese house of Wilhelm Braumuller brought out the first volume of
Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Anticipating tepid interest and minimal sales, Braumuller printed just 1,500 copies. The book hit the German consciousness like a boulder tossed upon an anthill. As one scholar wrote a few years later, "Never had a thick philosophical work had such a success—and in all reading circles, learned and uneducated, serious and snobbish." Sales hit a hundred thousand within eight years, and the book was translated into numerous languages. (source)

Higgledy Piggledy,
Clemens von Metternich
Whispered to Tallyrand
Over their drinks
Schnitzels und noodles are
Not what they used to be.
Abendlandtuntergang.
Everything schtinks.
posted by jfuller at 2:22 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've heard that when you're a professor, you still have this dream but in reverse - at the last minute you have to fill in for someone except you have to teach calculus, and you haven't taken calculus since undergrad, and you can't find the room and you're late, and when you get there the students are complaining about you or have decided to leave, etc.

Actually, this happens even when you used to be a professor and you're not any more. I last taught in the spring semester of 2012; then I went and got a real job. In December of '12, around exam time, I had a dream that somehow my former department had assigned me to teach a class and somehow I hadn't been doing it and I suddenly found I had to give a final exam. Oddly enough, when I got to class the students were there; you'd think if I hadn't been showing up all semester that nobody would have been there. (Even when I was showing up to teach the classes, in real life, attendance was poor, because it was that sort of institution.)
posted by madcaptenor at 2:24 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, junior high was fairly awful but rest assured, it sucked for fucking everyone. 11-13 are the most physically awkward, emotional, sweaty, acne-riddled, smelly years for absolutely everyone on earth.
posted by elizardbits at 2:27 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


JHarris: Because, as Master Vonnegut said, "Goddamn it you've got to be kind."

Holy crap, I've just had a major realization: Vonnegut was hitting on everyone, every time he said that...

That wily bastard.
posted by Skygazer at 2:33 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love the Oh Crap, Back In High School dreams. Usually, they are based around some technicallity requiring me to go back to high school to complete a class or something. It doesn't take my dreamself long to realize, "Wait... I have a job, a wife, a kid, a mortgage, and a Master's. The hell am I doing here?"

Then I get up and just walk out the front door, flipping the building a bird so big it could be the football team's mascot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:33 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


has anyone ever had a good Middle School experience?

My seventh grade middle school was great! I was challenged intellectually, had a fun group of nerdy friends, and was in general very happy. Of course, then we moved to a different county, and my eighth grade middle school was a total hellscape full of stressed and disillusioned teachers and desperately unhappy kids. I was more or less an outcast there, but I didn't mind it. I wasn't really bullied, and I knew my parents would be switching me to a new district for high school, so I knew I only had to deal with it for about eight months. Also, it was very clear to me that my peers' issues and acting out had nothing to do with me. I probably came off as a snob to them, because I took one look at that group of kids, compared it to the friends I had left behind, and decided "fuck this noise, I'll be an outcast." I put my head down, made a few friends, breezed through the work, and didn't look back when I went to high school.

Even as a 13 year old I realized that those kids were all terribly unhappy or angry or ignorant for various reasons that had nothing to do with me and my insecurities, and which I couldn't really do anything about, so I never took anything they said or did especially personally. I moved from a wealthy, well-funded, ethnically diverse district, to a more isolated one in an economically depressed area, and the object lesson in privilege and the inequalities of public education really hit home.

I proceeded to have a perfectly pleasant and academically challenging time in high school, with some friends who were nerds like me and some who weren't, and all in all enjoyed a mostly drama-free four years. Honestly, my biggest source of stress in high school was goddamn AP Calculus. That said, just last night I had one of those stupid "surprise! you need to go back to high school! also, hope you still remember your senior year class schedule!" dreams, and the thought of returning to high school did not fill me with joy.
posted by yasaman at 2:39 PM on January 21, 2013


But I had really loving, supportive, involved parents (where "involved" means that we had tons of great family time, not that they were involved with my school experience), so it was not so hard for me to live in my own world.

When I look back, my worst experiences were either in middle school or at home.

My parents divorced as I was ending elementary school. They hated each other. I couldn't praise one in the other's presence. As he drove my brother and me to his house, my father ranted about how terrible our mother was. We had to nod and agree with his judgments, or else he would refuse to see us for months at a time. Our mother, who had custody over us, believed these biweekly betrayals to be sincere. She held them over us. When we failed to do one thing or another - often when we lied to her, hoping to avoid her temper - she would explode and threaten to send us to live with our father, who belittled our interests, supposing our mother to have planted them.

This was not, to be sure, an environment that fostered independent thought. If my school life was bad, it was because my home life occupied too much of my energy.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:06 PM on January 21, 2013


I have not yet finished the whole article, so maybe they get into this... But I think part of the reason why high school seems like such an epic, defining and memorable experience (in ways good and very very ill) is because at the same time your emotions are so over the top, your sense of time is so different from what it will be when you grow up.

These days Christmases seem to be about 5 months apart, if that, but when you're 16 a week is a pretty long time and a semester is like 5 years long. When you're going to school your emotions are all charged up and you're young and confused and angry and depressed and joyful and there are SO MANY FEELINGS TO FEEL, and it all just seems to go on forever. You go out with somebody for 3 weeks, and it can start to feel like a long-term relationship. You stop speaking to your best friend for 4 days, and it can seem like a major life event.

As an adult the workday can drag on and on, but somehow that never slows life down any. It'll still be Christmas again in five months. I don't understand how the hell that works.

Bit of a derail, but high school is hardly the only bizarre, inexplicable misery factory that Americans have built for themselves. Recently I was up at 5:45 in the god damned morning, stuck in wretched traffic on the 405, inching my way to work and hating everything, and I looked around me and realized that it was likely that every single person on the road around me felt the same way. Nobody wants to endure a hellish, early morning commute so they can work for 8 hours, 5 days at a week, at some job they don't really care about, a job that probably isn't even that useful to society in the grand scheme, a job that never quite pays enough, a job that we mostly endure while we wait for the weekend. At that moment, it all seemed insane. Why were we living like this? How did we all let this crazy thing happen?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:08 PM on January 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


> It doesn't take my dreamself long to realize, "Wait... I have a job, a wife, a kid, a mortgage, and a Master's. The hell am I doing here?"

I've had this dream so many times I've learned to recognize it and wake myself up, too; since then I've had it a lot less.

If my wife were on Metafilter she'd be another person posting about The Hell On Earth That Is Junior High/Middle School. Fortunately for me my hometown only had K-8's.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:24 PM on January 21, 2013


I should add that my variation on this dream never involves a test I forgot to study for, it's a class I somehow flat-out forgot to go to for the entire term and now I'm screwed and I'm going to have to stay at high (or grad, never undergrad) school for another term.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:27 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


This article and the memories it evoked got me so fucking pissed that I turned off the computer and ran some errands that were in sore need of running.

Thanks, zarq! Without this post, this would have been a totally unproductive weekend.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:32 PM on January 21, 2013


I just wish I retroactively realized the number of times I was getting hit on.

You poor thing you.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:50 PM on January 21, 2013


has anyone ever had a good Middle School experience? I'm struggling to remember a single positive middle school memory that wasn't Legend Of Zelda related.

I discovered girls in middle school.
It was awesome.
posted by madajb at 4:01 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love the Oh Crap, Back In High School dreams. Usually, they are based around some technicallity requiring me to go back to high school to complete a class or something. It doesn't take my dreamself long to realize, "Wait... I have a job, a wife, a kid, a mortgage, and a Master's. The hell am I doing here?"

Then I get up and just walk out the front door, flipping the building a bird so big it could be the football team's mascot.


It's been over 20 years and I still get dreams like this. Sometimes it's high school and sometimes it's University. Had one the other night. It wasn't my old school but a school and I was supposed to go to class but I couldn't remember my schedule and didn't know what rooms things were in. It's either this or something about taking a test or exam after blowing class off for months. Slowly I seem to work out, hey wait a minute this isn't real, damn I can wake up now.

My recollection of high-school wasn't horrible but it's not great either. I recall feeling like I didn't fit in, worrying a bit about what I looked like, clothes and such but just never really got into trying to be better at it. I was too busy doing things outside of high school, which I expect made a difference. It was still with teenage groups and sometimes angsty but I was choosing to be there.

I don't feel that I really started living or became alive until after high school. I did a year of University, said screw it for now and went off snowboarding for a season. That season turned into seven years at a major ski resort and oodles of off season adventure. I haven't kept in touch with anyone from high school and don't think about it much except for those silly dreams.
posted by Jalliah at 4:04 PM on January 21, 2013


Trauma is trauma, whether the outside observer thinks it is, or not.

If high school looms large in your memory because of assault or physical abuse, then you have my sympathy. No child should go through that.

If you can't get over high school because the 'cool kids' didn't invite you to a party then no, sorry, you need to move on.
Especially if it's been more than a decade.
posted by madajb at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't take my dreamself long to realize, "Wait... I have a job, a wife, a kid, a mortgage, and a Master's. The hell am I doing here?"

Letting the days go by, letting the water hold you down, water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was.
posted by delfin at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]



Oh, here's something funny related to those dreams.

I went back to University at age 28ish. I was taking three economics classes one term. It was exam week and when I got to school I checked the board to see what room my exam was in. The exam wasn't listed. I checked and doubled checked. I realized that somehow I mixed up my exams. The one I studied for was two days away and the one I thought was two days away was in an hour.

I started to panic but then stopped myself and thought, "It's okay. This is only one of those dreams. I'm going to wake up now."

........

Okay I can wake up now.

.........

Oh shit. This isn't a dream this is real.

Then the cold sweat broke out and I felt sick.

I spent the next 45 minutes trying to rushing through my notes. The whole thing felt so surreal as through the whole thing I kept the hope in the back of my mind that it still was one of those dreams.

There was a silver lining though. I ended up pulling off a B+. It changed the way I approached the rest of studies and made exams from then on way less stressful.

It still cracks me up thinking about it.
posted by Jalliah at 4:14 PM on January 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm twelve years old and what is this?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:19 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to get back and read everything later (and sweetmag, I am very, very sorry that you had to go through that) but I think the more I look back on it that I accidentally had the ideal high school experience, as far as that can go.

Between 9th and 10th grades my family moved from Houston to small-town Oklahoma. What that meant was that I got to start fresh in a new school where everyone knew one another and I was interesting and - this is important - I had zero delusions of sticking around that town.

I got the awkwardness and heartbreak and everything else, but it was like it was in a controlled, consequence-free environment that never occured to be real life to me because it was just this situation I was stuck in for three years, you know?

I know that sounds snotty and shitty, but in truth I'm just very happy that it worked the way it did for me. My development didn't get stunted until my twenties.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:31 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, my senior year of college I totally messed up the exam schedule in my head and FORGOT TO GO to my capstone class exam. I figured it out about ten minutes before the exam was over, and thank goodness my prof let me reschedule the exam because otherwise I would have been just done. No graduation, no degree, no nada--and I had plans to be in grad school that fall. I've never had that experience as a dream, strangely, but you can bet it's one of my stronger memories.

As for high school, I'm slowly starting to realize that if you knew the people in charge of yearbook and student council and band and drama, were friendly acquaintances with the prom king and queen, are Facebook friends with the reunion organizers and your graduating class had more than 800 people in it, you probably can claim some semblance of 'popularity.' It's been a revelation, since I assuredly didn't feel that way in high school. Middle school, of course, sucked.

Finally, last week Slate had a pretty excellent article on the reminiscence bump that's mentioned in the first part of this article. It makes for interesting reading in the light of the comments in this thread.
posted by librarylis at 4:32 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


has anyone ever had a good Middle School experience? I'm struggling to remember a single positive middle school memory that wasn't Legend Of Zelda related.

In true fashion to the larval nerd that I was, I discovered D&D. It made the next few years easier.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did not enjoy High School, but it was a learning experience, in being forced to get along with [survive dealing with] people that I had little in common with.

But I feel sorry for the kids these days, I think that the new social medias make the pecking order even more complicated and stressful than what I had to deal with.
posted by ovvl at 4:51 PM on January 21, 2013


I liked middle school a lot. I was a very, very late bloomer emotionally, which meant a lot of what was going on socially just got past me entirely. By the time I grew up enough to see that social games were being played, I think I kind of figured I'd got along with out them up till then and there was no sense getting started now. That was a few weeks before middle school graduation.

So for me middle school was basically just an extension of elementary school, except with more interesting classes. I was such a weirdo and operating on such a different plane from most people that I don't think anyone even bothered to bully me. Or maybe they were making fun of me all the time, and I just didn't notice. I guess it helped that I was a girl since I was only rarely threatened with physical violence.
posted by town of cats at 5:03 PM on January 21, 2013


I was a TA for a professor in her late 60s who told me that she and her husband (a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian) both still have dreams about missing a high school class and thus having all of their subsequent achievements negated.
posted by dhens at 5:27 PM on January 21, 2013


I experienced school twice, the first part in my hometown where I had no friends and was ostracized from elementary school on, then at a completely different school as someone totally unknown after pretty much everyone had already made their friendships years before. I'm not joking when I say that changing schools probably saved my life.

The thing is, now I teach in a junior high, and I see firsthand students going through the crap I used to. There's little I can do to stop what goes on when I'm not around. Even worse is the mindset in the teachers' room, which is not all that different than that of the students. I've seen teachers bullied by other teachers, ostracized by the group. I'm tired, honestly, of the whole thing, and fantasize about working with adults in the real world.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:45 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had no middle school. High School was grades 8 -12. It was kind of terrifying, there were guys old enough to join the Marines walking around.
posted by thelonius at 5:51 PM on January 21, 2013


My high school career was truly depressing and horrifying; but it wasn't because of anything that any kids did, because the kids I went to school with were generally okay, and my classes were usually somewhat interesting. It sucked because my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was fifteen. I spent the next several years shuttling back and forth between hospitals, and watching her slowly die.

I felt really isolated and depressed. I felt like a ghost drifting back and forth between classes. I had a couple of friends who were pretty supportive. But it was a big, big school, and most people didn't know who I was.

After Mom died, I ended up hanging out with my dad a lot. We cooked a lot, and went on trips. School became like an afterthought. School? I guess it was something I had to do. I cut classes when I could. I was pretty indifferent to it all by senior year. I was happy to be heading off to college and leaving it all behind me.

I still keep in touch with one of my old friends, C., from high school. She's a pretty cool person. (The other one has dropped off the face of the earth; neither me or C. have been able to locate her at all.) I have no interest in going to a reunion. Those years are really not anything I want to revisit.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:01 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, when I read this part…
It turns out that just before adolescence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs our ability to reason, grasp abstractions, control impulses, and self-­reflect—undergoes a huge flurry of activity, giving young adults the intellectual capacity to form an identity, to develop the notion of a self. Any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can, therefore, make more of an impression, because we’re now perceiving them discerningly and metacognitively as things to sweep into our self-concepts or reject (I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers).
…I had to dig out something I remembered from Fever Pitch:
A critical faculty is a terrible thing. When I was eleven there were no bad films, just films that I didn’t want to see, there was no bad food, just Brussels sprouts and cabbage, and there were no bad books – everything I read was great. Then suddenly, I woke up in the morning and all that had changed. How could my sister not hear that David Cassidy was not in the same class as Black Sabbath? Why on earth would my English teacher think that The History of Mr Polly was better than Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie? And from that moment on, enjoyment has been a much more elusive quality.
Now, these aren't quite the same thing, but it strikes me that the development of taste is about taking the things you already like and making them personal. Black Sabbath was always better than David Cassidy, but it's not until a certain age that you start insisting that it's so, wondering how your sister is so dumb that she can't see this simple "fact" you've used to buttress your whole self-image.
posted by savetheclocktower at 6:18 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, high school was really not that bad for me, but middle schools should be banned.

Our high school was grade 8 through 12, so it spanned both, sort of.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:39 PM on January 21, 2013


I was a TA for a professor in her late 60s who told me that she and her husband (a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian) both still have dreams about missing a high school class and thus having all of their subsequent achievements negated.

This is one of my most popular stress dreams. Typically it involves not just me but every person I've ever known missing one credit at Randolph High School, and all of us having to go back. There's some weirdly utopian about it even in the horror.
posted by gerryblog at 6:58 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah, the USA educational system; the first 12 years are free, mandatory and useless, the next 4 put you in lifelong non-negotiable debt but make you employable as a paper-shuffler.
posted by eurypteris at 8:00 PM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ghidorah: The thing is, now I teach in a junior high, and I see firsthand students going through the crap I used to.

Ghidorah, I'm not a teacher and can't speak to the realities of teaching today. But it strikes me that bullying is (FINALLY) being taken seriously in the US, and there must be anti-bullying measures your school could be trying. This shit stops when somebody steps up to be the grownup, and STOPS it. Students in your school should know that they have the same rights adults do, in the sense that if somebody is harassing them, they can report it to the authorities and it will be stopped. If nothing else, maybe you could anoint yourself the school's anti-bullying cop, and let kids in your class know that if they are getting hassled they should come to you, and you'll help them. Even if there isn't that much you can do, if the bullying kids THINK they'll face some dire consequences if they don't knock it off, it could help act as a deterrent.

Again, I'm not a teacher, and this whole situation could well be much more complicated than I know. But bullying can and does ruin lives, and it has to be dealt with. You know what these kids are going through, and I hope it's within your power to help them somehow.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:47 PM on January 21, 2013


Ursula Hitler, the thing is, I'm in Japan, and as a foreigner, I'm already somewhat of an outsider in terms of being able to do anything. The bullying in Japan (where being part of the group is literally all-important) is endemic, and it doesn't end in school (my wife, when she was transferred, had to deal with being bullied by staff who'd been there longer, and she was in her mid-thirties at the time). There have been, in the last year, too many suicides by children who'd been bullied. I take it very, very seriously, and I do what I can to make sure that it's not acceptable, but I'm one teacher, and I can't always be there. Too many of my colleagues turn a blind eye to the issue, or pay lip-service to anti-bullying.

The only thing I can say is that things might be changing. Bullying wasn't something that I saw being taken seriously, or even talked about a couple years ago. It's just a damn shame so many children had to kill themselves before people would talk about it.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:22 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't realize you were teaching in Japan... Which I know even less about than teaching in the US.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:41 PM on January 21, 2013


Ricochet biscuit wrote: this is a circa-1970 high school in my hometown and this is the circa-1970 jail, a few blocks away, done by the same architect.

The prison has a unified art deco-ish design, angled windows for privacy, and lots of natural light. The high school presents a blank wall to the world, broken only by a loading bay and a two narrow rows of grimy windows. The high school has less barbed wire though, so I guess that's something.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:30 PM on January 21, 2013


At my high school:

-The music teacher watched porn in his office over the surround sound system. I walked in with some paperwork I needed signed once and it took a while to comprehend what I was hearing. This teacher is now an instructor at the University of Maine.

-The english teacher threw books at students, kicked students in the balls, handed out rubber finger protectors as "condoms that might fit you, har har", pushed students into rose bushes, and jumped up and down yelling "FUCK YOU!" at my brother when coaching soccer, and regularly called students "shitbags".

-The director announced over the email listserv (and the school's website, FFS) that a bag of marijuana had been found in the parking lot, and would the owner please claim it? He then later announced that he had given it back to a "non-school affiliated adult".

-When it seemed like a teacher might have to be let go due to funding, two teachers did a two-periods-for-three-credits class supposedly designed to "create an ad campaign for the school", but really to make themselves look good to the nitwit director. A third through the semester, they ran out of lesson ideas and told us to go to the computer lab and "come up with ad designs". When I confided with my classmates that the teachers didn't seem to have a plan, I got ratted out.

-Overall, there was no respect for students and no standards of quality. I am still so angry I was subjected to that hell. I recently found a CD with some emails where I predicted the school's demise if its act wasn't cleaned up. "The school is doing great, the staff is world-class, how dare you criticize anything!" the nitwits brayed.

The school was closed by a lawsuit within two years, but the responsible parties are still walking free with unbroken knees.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:40 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, griph. I had a girl that asked me out every day for 4 years.

Yeah, rub it in, why don't ya.

I thought I didn't have any traumatic high school experiences until I read those humblebrags and realised, that, no, I hadn't missed obvious in retrospect come-ons back then because there weren't any.

Feckers.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:45 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Soooo, MartinWisse, wanna go down to the malt shop later, and maybe listen to some tunes on the jukebox? My dad can drive us.
posted by taz at 2:59 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dunkadunc, not to engage in a one-upping, but one of the big stories in Japan this month has been a high school student's suicide. The kid was captain of his high school basketball team (at a sports-focused school), who was slapped in the face by his coach. He went home that night and killed himself. The teacher, who's been at that school for seventeen years (which in itself is odd, public school teachers usually get transferred every five years or so), is still employed, even though several former students of his have come forward with stories of how he physically struck them during practices.

Somehow, that fucker still has a job.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:21 AM on January 22, 2013


But it was only in 2004 that a trio of economists thought to burrow a little deeper and discovered, based on a sample of thousands of white men in the U.S. and Britain, that it wasn’t adult height that seemed to affect their subjects’ wages; it was their height at 16. (In other words, two white men measuring five-foot-eleven can have very different earning potential in the same profession, all other demographic markers being equal, just because one of them was shorter at 16.)

Huh. That's interesting. The funny thing is that because of the heavily South Asian demographics of my high-school (in Dubai) I was in top quartile or so of male height during school, despite being fairly short for a Dutch male - 176cm, about 5'8. I also grew rapidly until 16 or so and then stopped early, as opposed to some of my peers who were shorter at 16 but taller than me by the time we were 19.

I never "realised" that I was supposed to be short until someone pointed it out when I was... 21ish. I wonder if that means that I have whatever mental traits are supposedly associated with being a tall teenager.
posted by atrazine at 4:10 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I moved schools constantly during high school, attending 5 schools in 4 years due mostly to family instability. As such, I never got close to anyone, was always "the new guy", and only got attention from girls when I started dressing and acting different from the crowd.

I spent my 20s in a town I constantly wanted to leave, making mostly transitory friendships, and founding a freakshow (that, yes, has gotten me a fair amount of attention from girls). I'd say I've changed a lot in my early-mid 30s though. My personal experience does seem to reflect the study's results but I'd like to see it followed up on 10 years later. Then we head into 7 Up territory, don't we?
posted by Drew_Blood at 6:57 AM on January 22, 2013


The Whelk asked, "Has anyone ever had a good Middle School experience?"

Much of Middle School sucked for me, because we were attached to an all-boys, Catholic, military (JROTC) high school. And the worst teachers of my career were there: Mr. Byrne, the ignorant social studies guy with the giant, red head, or our math teacher who threw erasers at people, but stopped talking to watch planes fly overhead (and who later quit to be a pilot). Or the dumb English teacher Tom Weber, who told my friend Matt that he didn't believe him when he wanted to do a book report on "I, Claudius" because no kid would read that. Ugh. Also, mandatory swimming & showers in phys. ed. 7th period, which meant threading through Giant High School Men as a puny seventh grader.

Then again, we also had the great science teacher Dave Bassett, with his handlebar mustache and card tricks, whose recent death caused an outpouring of love from former students. (He also taught a class on paper airplanes and model rockets, which we launched just a few miles form a big international airport. We never did find Chris Ginther's six-foot rocket, but we're pretty sure it appeared -- briefly, but dramatically -- on the ATC radar scopes at MSP.)

And I had some good friends who played Car Wars with me in the cafeteria in the mornings (Hi, Stadtherr brothers!!) and for some reason in eighth grade I ran for student council -- as a stand-out d0rk -- and won. So who knows, you know?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:00 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Soooo, MartinWisse, wanna go down to the malt shop later, and maybe listen to some tunes on the jukebox? My dad can drive us.

If I were MartinWisse, I'd be hurt. Some people don't get hit on.

I still think these stories are hilarious, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:19 AM on January 22, 2013


Yeah, I'm near positive, even as someone who is occasionally prone to optimism, that I wasn't the recipient of any covert gay hit-ons in high school. If we want to talk about being the donor, sure, I donated about a metric fuck-ton of covert gay hitting-on. (What can I say? I had a lot to give at that age.)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:36 AM on January 22, 2013


If I were MartinWisse, I'd be hurt.

Naaah.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:10 AM on January 22, 2013


Eh, well, I'm not MartinWisse, after all.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:22 AM on January 22, 2013


-Overall, there was no respect for students and no standards of quality. I am still so angry I was subjected to that hell. I recently found a CD with some emails where I predicted the school's demise if its act wasn't cleaned up. "The school is doing great, the staff is world-class, how dare you criticize anything!" the nitwits brayed.

Yeat, but then again, how much does the average middle school teacher get paid?
posted by sour cream at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2013


madajb: If high school looms large in your memory because of assault or physical abuse, then you have my sympathy. ... If you can't get over high school because the 'cool kids' didn't invite you to a party then no, sorry, you need to move on.

You need to stop telling people how they were affected by their experiences.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:19 AM on January 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Have been out of high school for about 15 years.

If I may: My family was the first to move into the first Section 8 housing in an otherwise very wealthy, terrifyingly racially homogenous exurb; we were instantly labeled as poor white trash that must be pressured out of the community by hook or by crook to save the honor of the community.
This move coincided with my freshman year of high school. Years of standard-issue hitting/spitting/shoving/name-calling/etc. followed. Even my guidance counselor told me that I would be lucky to work in fast food because I was too stupid and lazy to get any other type of employment; I walked out and applied for a work-study program in the finance industry, was immediately accepted, and then just waited to get out.

Early on in senior year, a kid who had been mercilessly assailing me since day one of freshman year thought it would be funny to tell his mother -- a lunchroom supervisor -- that I had been giving blowjobs to any boy that would have me during lunch. (I was 16 years old but did not know what a blowjob was.)
As the day progressed, more and more kids started piling up Kleenex on my desk as I went from class to class, saying things like wipe your mouth off, whore, calling me a dirty slut, etc. I had absolutely no idea what was going on until the end of the day, when the principal pulled me out of my last class and informed me that he had already called and told both of my crazy absentee parents -- including my father, with whom I had not lived or interacted in 5+ years -- what I had done. They, in turn, had expressed their regrets that I was such a troublemaker.

In order to be allowed back into class, I was told that I had to sign a police statement admitting guilt, affirming that I had committed an arrestable sexual offense (public indecency). If not, I would be suspended from school for the rest of the year. Neither of my parents cared in the least, didn't show up or defend me or even simply point out that I was a hyper-prudish straight-edge nerd who would rather die before she touched a dude's junk, so I was indeed suspended for the rest of the year.
I reported directly to suspension half-days in the morning and worked half-days in the afternoon and evenings for all but the first few weeks of senior year. School adminstration actually sent police to stand guard at my classroom doors on exam days to ensure that I would not be allowed to take exams -- unless I signed the report admitting my guilt (which would have, of course, resulted in my arrest).

There were no corroborating witnesses to the first kid's story, but his mom 'testified' on his behalf and my parents were nowhere to be found, so I was deemed unquestionably guilty by administrators and students alike. I even had to sit in for an interrogation by the school board about what could be done to address the sexual deviant they had on their hands: me, a terrified virgin who had kissed one boy in her life.

Even after all of that, I ultimately did not graduate high school because my freshman year gym teacher would not allow me to pass freshman year gym class unless I could run a mile in under 10 minutes. I had more than enough credits to graduate, even with the abysmal senior year GPA, so I took freshman year gym 4 years in a row because I thought she would eventually understand that physical fitness is generally fine by me, but acute breathing problems prevent me from really hauling ass and hitting that blessed 10-minute mile. (The best I've ever done is 12.) Nope!
Police were also stationed at the doors of my class' graduation ceremony because the principal sent out a memo saying I was likely to try to "start something," so I couldn't even watch my best best friends get their caps and gowns. If I had not lived this, I would not have believed it could happen. It's funny in retrospect, but really it just reminds me why and how I started to fight like hell for kindness, peace, acceptance, and equality. It was the soil in which I planted my tiny little social justice warrior tree. "Goddamnit, this just isn't right!" And for that, all of it, even the Kleenex and the terrible role models, I am grateful.

I have not ever been a part of Facebook, so I don't know about what has happened to the people who felt they had a right to torment me because my family was scraping by on the dole while theirs could afford a housekeeper, but I will refute the idea that the trappings of high school stay with you forever, uh, forever. It was a springboard that launched me out of an illusory fantasy world and into reality. Its only purpose was to help me learn where my hidden impossible inner strength lived.
posted by divined by radio at 10:57 AM on January 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


High school was kinda awful, but I realized it at the time. I also realized that it was a compulsory artificial construct, and never bought into any of the culture of it in the first place. I didn't buy into school spirit, pep rallies, rooting for the home team, or who was or wasn't "popular."

Then again, I don't pay attention to pro sports or take organized religion seriously, so there ya have it.
posted by stenseng at 11:04 AM on January 22, 2013


High school is an enhanced preview of adult life.

The biggest issue I had in high school occurred because I caught a teacher cheating the grades for her daughter who was in our class. Not a single person at the school, my parents included (my mom worked at the school), would do anything about it because everyone had something to lose, and only I had something to gain. I was forced to leave the class, keep everything hush-hush, and wasn't allowed to re-take the class with another teacher, meaning I was the only kid at my school save for the serious underachievers without three language credits. That teacher was also the college counselor and made it her mission to sabotage my getting into college. I overheard her once telling one of the teachers who wrote my recommendation letters to change them and explain how horrible I was.

It wasn't until I got to college and we all shared the "oh man high school sucks, amirite" stories with each other that I realized how supremely fucked up the whole thing was.

But now I'm a grownup, and I work in the financial industry (not by choice, it's just the way things happened), and it's pretty much the same thing. People will cheat to get ahead, even when the stakes are low, just because no one has the goddamned balls to call anyone else on it, or because, hey, right now this is working in my favor, so why would I want to do anything to change it?

If my high school experience wasn't a pretty decent primer for how the world works, I don't know what was.

For those interested, the teacher who tried to destroy my life was eventually caught by the College Board for enabling her daughter to cheat on the PSATs and the school was forced, finally, to fire her. And then she got hit by a car. So I guess everything worked out ok, karmically.
posted by phunniemee at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Jesus, dbr, that's horrifying. So sorry to hear you had to go through that.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmmm... I hated high school, and junior high, and everything above 4th grade for that matter. It's not that I'm anti -education, it's just that the experience for me was bad. My Dad was in the Air Force so most of my childhood I was an outsider, by the time we reached JH however, we stayed put. this didn't have the desired effect of making my life better. I was now a sitting target instead of a moving one. I was a small and weird asthmatic who never learned to think and act like the normals. I still don't and I'm in my 50's. I have a couple of school friends who got in touch with me after HS, one of whom I freaked out (did lots of drugs and didn't apologize for it) and one who freaked me out (quit the army because he was a racist). My only other HS connections are in my family. So I see who they've become and mostly I'm happy for the ones who's lives got better etc.
I never went to any of the reunions and frankly I think hanging on to the past is a stupid waste of time.
So I just wrote all of that nonsense to lead up to my favorite Tom Robbins quote "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." I'm doing that now. hope you are too.
posted by evilDoug at 12:24 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also re: missed connections: to this day unfortunately, to this day.
posted by evilDoug at 12:39 PM on January 22, 2013


Holy crap divined by radio, that is an absolute nightmare of a story. It's so so fucked you went through all that...if I'd been your father I would've went at the administration of that school, with a flame thrower*.

*Metaphor
posted by Skygazer at 2:16 PM on January 22, 2013


Due to excruciating shyness my teenage years were one long refrain of please don't look at me. And I made it out of high school without being bullied or going on any dates, so I guess I succeeded.
posted by book 'em dano at 2:18 PM on January 22, 2013


Man, when I read the stories like divined by radio's and phunnimee's I just want to throw a huge party where everyone gets roaring drunk and laughs and laughs at the bastards who could not break them.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:19 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


« Older If you want art, don't mess about with movies. Buy...   |   Side effects include FUN Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post