August, 2011. My freshman year, and the first year in USD 497 history that 9th graders were crammed in with the 10th-12th graders at the high schools. Even though Free State was new and exciting, by the second week of school, I was already bored enough in my sixth hour Algebra class to attempt an inconspicuous readthrough of the student publication in the back of the classroom.
My eyes caught on the lead of the Editor in Chief’s column: “Dear Freshmen, I’m one of those seniors. The kind who will probably not like you. The type who will be irate if you go to prom. And may God help the freshmen that (sic) sits in front of me at a football game. Yep, I’m one of them. I’m sure plenty of you are really nice people but in all honesty I don’t want to get to know you.”
Wow, welcome to high school.
I don’t want to say that I spent the last three years rising slowly through the ranks of the Free Press and the grade-based social hierarchy just so I could respond publicly to an editor’s column I read at the beginning of ninth grade with one of my own. But, that is exactly how things seem to have turned out. So, here it goes.
First off, showing such disdain for a group of about 380 people with whom the author had never spoken is all too common, disheartening nonetheless. A mindset of “I’m older; therefore, I’m superior” thrives in the breeding ground of insecurity we call high school.
And, as soon as the bell rings after the last final exam in May, the vicious cycle of degradation renews again in full force, fed by the burning desire to avenge last year’s wrongs. New seniors turn on new juniors, who turn on new sophomores, who turn on new freshmen. Well, let’s be real. Everyone turns on the freshmen.
A few year’s age difference doesn’t magically make someone less human. One can make many decisions in his or her life, but age comes at its own pace.
Putting a group of people in a box and labeling it with stereotypes isn’t healthy for anyone involved and only feeds the problem. The remedy is simple, with respect—as always—being key. Evaluate people on an individual basis before passing judgment. Be nice. Follow the golden rule. All that jazz. Remember the treatment endured as an underclassman and strive to prevent younger students from experiencing the same. I will, too.
So welcome, freshmen. I promise I won’t kill you for going to prom. In fact, as long as you refrain from excessive PDA, loud noises and general uncouth behavior, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.