ELE week sacrificed authenticity in its attempt to spread kindness

Chloe Wintersteen

The home I grew up in fostered a romanticized environment, not only in that my family was very loving, but that we also had a great appreciation for the past. My mom used to walk down our hallway humming old Cole Porter songs like “It’s De-Lovely,” as the clickity-clank of my dad’s tap shoes rattled in the living room. Being engrossed in the Great American Songbook and upbeat movie musicals quite possibly contributed to my idealized view of reality at the time. Anyone could swing dance their troubles away, and all love stories had a happy ending, right?

But then I started to get picked on at school, was exposed to pieces of theater containing verisimilitude like “Our Town,” and “West Side Story,” and began to grasp the idea that real life was far from perfect.

In my discovery that stories don’t always have a happy ending, I found a drive within myself to solve real-world problems rather than ignore their existence.

Enter “Everybody Loves Everybody” (ELE) week, recently center stage at Redwood.

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ELE week is an annual event in which the Leadership class encourages the student body to “love everyone” through a series of scheduled activities. This year’s activities included a sticky note compliment wall, a speaker advocating for a “natural high,” and receiving high fives on a red carpet from the Leadership class, among others.

While I understand that the purpose of ELE week is to spread kindness, it does so inauthentically, and manages to figuratively push many real world issues under that red carpet. Put into context, ELE week perpetuates the naiveté I possessed as a kid, but in a high school setting.

High school is supposed to prepare us for the real world and give us tools to make it a better place. Encouraging students to absentmindedly live in a nonexistent dream world rather than face real world problems doesn’t support the purpose of an education.

Granted, we as a society have made great strides towards positive reform, especially in the past century. Women are much closer to equality now than they were in the stenog days of the ‘20s, and the past 20 years have been revolutionary for the LGBTQ community. To movements such as these which have progressed and inspired change, I grant our country credit. But the issues related to these movements, such as economic injustice and violence aimed towards women and the LGBTQ community, are far from solved. While problems pertaining to these issues have decreased, the movements are still fighting for change.

Civil rights movements wouldn’t exist if everyone respected everyone else, but the brutal fact is a great majority of individuals simply don’t respect others, especially those who deviate from societal norms. If we are able to reach an equilibrium in which everyone in society respected everyone else, we could start to appreciate everyone, accept everyone, and maybe like everyone. But never love everyone.

In most literal terms, it is impossible for everyone to love everyone, and it should not be desired nor endorsed. The true meaning of love has become quite ambiguous and has degraded in recent years. Perhaps I’m still living in my Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dream world, but in my mind, ‘love’ is a term that should be used sparingly, and only when professing the complete and utter truth.

And let’s be honest. In a tumultuous high school environment, just loving oneself can be a great achievement. While Leadership has good intentions, their attempts to promote kindness through silly games and pointless exercises are widely ineffective for high schoolers. Instead of ordering students to ‘love’ everyone with contrived activities, Leadership should encourage students to confront real world problems, and spread kindness in ways that are authentically rewarding.