Point-counterpoint: seniority vs. unity
Seniority is what keeps Redwood tradition alive
By Carolyn French
The first time I walked into a Redwood rally, my heart stopped. Giant crowds of people I’d never seen before pushed me through the doors into a room of overwhelmingly deafening screams and music that was taboo in middle school. I walked towards the left side of the room, to the red bleachers filled with other freshmen faces equally as intimidated and nervous-looking as mine.
It was homecoming week, and that meant skits. The year’s theme was “Hit the Streets,” and the seniors had been assigned the Yellow Brick Road. After three mediocre performances from the younger classes, including a weak Broadway performance from a few freshmen (myself included), I watched as a mass of seniors filled the gym floor and had the time of their lives. Their very presence in the room fostered the spirit of the entire student body: a united force. An inspiration for what I would want from my class someday. I spent the next three years preparing to embody the true spirit and Redwood pride that I saw from that senior class at my first rally. And yet now that I’ve made it, I can’t help but feel that the image I worked towards throughout my high school experience has been squandered.
On Wednesday, Aug. 23rd, Redwood kicked off the new school year with a rally, with students seated according to the new house system. This meant that different grade levels were forced to intermingle. Frankly, I don’t care if this new seating arrangement was simply a one-time change or a permanent alteration to the rally’s tradition, it gave off the wrong impression to incoming students. Seniors are meant to be school leaders—to lead as an example for those who are just entering Redwood. We foster the spirit of the school because we’ve seen it from three grades before us. We’ve been preparing to take it on since we were the gangly freshman getting booed off the gym floor and back into the safety of our red bleachers. But how can we unite when we’re surrounded by students four years younger than us who don’t know how to rile up the school like we’ve learned to?
So, a little hierarchy is necessary within high school. The grades each have a role to play, and the seniors are there to inspire, to show the rest of the student body what high school should be. And the freshmen are there to learn from them. It isn’t something that can be taught in a day, or a week, or even a year. It took our class four years to get to where we are, and same with the seniors before us, and so on. Our knowledge is made up of our experiences at Redwood: the booing we faced during our freshman homecoming skit, or when we nonchalantly walked into the wrong classroom…multiple times…a day. When we accidentally parked in Senior Row and our car got written on, or got lost trying to find the third floor of the main building. But our missteps brought us to where we are today, so now we should be looked up to by those who have yet to make those same mistakes.
Stanford professor of Organizational Behavior Bob Sutton said that there is “a series of studies showing that when such agreement is absent (so the nature of the formal or informal pecking order is not clear), members become less committed to their groups, less productive and effective, dysfunctional competition for status emerge, and coordination and cooperation suffer.” The example given here is in a work setting, but the same goes for high school. Without the clear leading senior class, underclassmen have no expectations to exceed. We have seen what Redwood embodies and can enlighten those who haven’t yet witnessed our unity and spirit. But if we don’t have the chance to show what our grade represents, that opportunity will disappear.
Look at the way we treat our elders. Those who are older than us are treated with respect. Why is this? It’s because they have more wisdom and experience than younger generations. They’ve lived through more, they’ve seen more, and they most likely know how to handle the situations presented to them better because they’ve had many more years of experience. Granted high school seniors are still naive teenagers, the same idea should apply. We know Redwood like the back of our hand, and we should have the opportunity to pass on our understanding of the Redwood spirit to the rest of the student body. As the staff tries to equalize freshmen and seniors, respect is lost for what we know, and we can’t effectively pass on what we’ve been taught throughout our years of high school.
I came to Redwood expecting an authentic high school experience. I came for the crowds of faces I didn’t know. I came for the overwhelmingly loud screams to friends at rallies, and music that we weren’t even allowed to talk about in middle school. I came for the Lip Dub I watched twenty-five times in my middle school Pre-Algebra class, and all the Redwood ra-ra that came with it. That pride and spirit is modeled by those who know it best: the seniors. Now that I’m a senior, I think my classmates and I are ready to show our new peers what Redwood has always been about.
Grade integration creates inclusivity, community
By Maggie Smith
I’ll admit it: I woke up dreading the first day of school. I’d heard that the advisories would be mixed grades, and I was afraid of having to spend the day with people I didn’t know. And yes, I didn’t have any close friends in my advisory, and I probably would never have been friends with most of the people in my class, but as the day went on, I found myself getting more comfortable. Everyone in my class was enthusiastic about participating in the icebreaker activities together, genuinely getting along and enjoying themselves.
Before school started, most of the seniors I talked to felt the same way I did. We wanted to spend time with each other, not with the rest of the school. We didn’t want to participate in the all-school activities, nor sit amongst our houses at the rally. Many of us had looked forward to enjoying a lot of these “privileges” as seniors since freshman year.
My positive experience in my advisory class, as well as my experience being an underclassmen, has led me to believe that we should prioritize school unity above senior tradition. Instead of focusing on exclusive senior privileges and activities, seniors should make an effort to be leaders for a more inclusive school environment.
During freshman year, upperclassmen can seem very intimidating, like a different human species, because of the drastic changes that happen from freshman to senior year. On my first day of high school, I never would have talked to an upperclassmen. However, this intimidation creates divisions in the Redwood community.
Imagine how much easier the transition to high school would be if the the upperclassmen, and especially the seniors, were more friendly and welcoming, both through the Giant Kick-Off Day and throughout the year. Not only should seniors be examples to the rest of the student body, but older students could relate to a lot of problems underclassmen go through and, as we all know, freshman year is hard. Having an older mentor could be incredibly helpful.
During my freshman year, I was one of three students in my grade in my math class. It was terrifying. Throughout that entire year, I can barely remember any non-freshmen who talked to me in that class. Transitioning to high school is difficult, but it becomes even harder when you feel uncomfortable in an academic environment.
In that math class, I was very afraid of raising my hand to ask the teacher a question, much less anyone around me. I remember that class being very difficult, not only socially, but academically. If there had been a more inclusive environment in that classroom, due to the changes in mindsets caused through adjustments like the new advisory, where upperclassmen were more willing to reach out to underclassmen, I’m sure I would have different, more welcoming experience.
There are multiple studies that tout the benefits of having more inclusive environments at school. According to an article published in the American Journal of Public Health by Victor Battistich and Allen Hom, in schools that have a larger sense of community, students are less likely to engage in problem behaviors. When traditional ideas of class seniority become more inclusive, freshman at Redwood are welcomed and have a smooth transition; this makes things easier not only for the students, but also for teachers and administrators.
A nontraditional first day of school also has other merits than establishing community. It eliminates the need for a multi-hour freshman orientation the day before school, which is helpful not only for freshmen but also Link Crew leaders. Furthermore, being at school without needing to worry about academics or homework for a day was a relaxing way to ease into the year.
The difficult part of creating a more inclusive environment at Redwood is that people are used to, and look forward to, the high schools they see in movies and in past years at Redwood, where seniors rule the school (and boo the freshman at rallies). It’s hard when seniors have always been on top, have always been the “leaders” of the school. But are seniors really leaders when underclassmen feel like they can’t talk to them?
The fact is, this change isn’t expected to happen immediately. It may take many years for students to become less resistant to the changing traditions of Redwood, as a lot of my class is now. However, Redwood would be a much better place if we had a more unified community, and where seniors are leaders, not people everyone else is scared of.