Be sure to check out LFHS New Media’s coverage of the annual freshman clap in on Tuesday, August 22nd.
Hello, boys and girls. I’m going to ask some questions and I’d like you to think about them. Don’t answer them out loud, because if you’re reading this, you’re probably not talking to anyone and saying something out loud would just create a very awkward and embarrassing situation for you. But think about them. Has Lake Forest High School succumbed to the stereotype of having a social hierarchy? When you see someone in the halls, can you name their friend group by the way they’re dressed or who they’re talking to? Are there certain areas of the lunch room that are sectioned off for certain groups? Have we formed our own unimportant, trivial social code that no one acknowledges but we all obey?
Well, if we are what our culture seems to perceive as high school, we would be all that and more.
Everyone loves the classic rom-coms and high school movies from the late 90s and early 2000s, like Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless. In watching these movies, I noticed one very strong similarity. To be more specific, one similar scene. To explain the high school atmosphere these stories are set in, a scene is included where a student explains the various cliques and groups of the school. They go something like this:
“You got your freshmen, preps, JV jocks, asian nerds, cool asians, varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don’t eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst…beware of the Plastics.”
10 Things I Hate About You
“Here’s the breakdown. Over there, we’ve got your basic beautiful people. Unless they talk to you first, don’t bother. To the left, we have the coffee kids. Very edgy, don’t make any sudden movements around them. These delusionals are the White Rastae, Big Marley fans–they think they’re black, semi-political but mostly–”
“Smoke a lot of weed?”
“Yeah. These guys–”
“Lemme guess, cowboys?”
“These are your future MBAs. We’re all Ivy League accepted.”
“That is Alana’s group over there. They do the TV station. They think it’s the most important thing on Earth. And that’s the Persian mafia. You can’t hang with them unless you own a BMW. There’s all the most popular boys in the school. If you choose to date a high school boy, they are the only acceptable ones. Looties generally hang on the grassy knoll over there. Sometimes they come to class and say bonehead things and we all laugh, of course, but no respectable girl actually dates them.”
These scenes are light-hearted and funny, yes, but they also create an extremely warped perspective of high school for middle schoolers and even students of the high school age that may be watching them. For an adult to write about high school as if it’s a cartoonish collection of tribe-like groups who spend a surprising amount of time talking to their friends in disproportionately long passing periods is slightly ignorant when they consider what message they are sending with their stories.
In fact, in their perception of authenticity, they objectify ethnicities, gender roles, intelligence, the relationship between identity and self-worth, and most of all, the American high school.
To begin with, these situations are obviously exaggerated in order to make for interesting entertainment. In high school—at least in my own personal experience—friend groups are formed and certain people become close, but there are not such great and profound divisions that it’s considered unfathomable that a varsity football player and the head of robotics club would be talking to each other. What is important to remember is that, when we exaggerate, we are always pulling from our perception of real life. When adults are writing about these cliques, they believe they are basing them on the true atmosphere of the American high school, which the audience can, in turn, recognize and identify with. Ultimately, however, we expect our pop culture to be somewhat reflective of what is actually occurring in our lives, and when we see this over-exaggerated version of school, we recognize it as a blown up version of reality.
And I might be giving us too much credit. Sure, logically we realize that these silly rom-coms are written for the purpose of being ridiculous and are not a documentary of high school life (how boring would that be), but do we really take this into account while forming our opinion of a social hierarchy? Our culture is chock-full of comedy, from sit-coms to rom-coms to your average, every day comedies. In order for these countless comedies to have any relevance to our lives (and keep us to like watching them), they must be based on real life situations. When we recognize these situations, we often don’t think much about the differences manufactured to produce comedy, but rather we ponder what we can relate to. Our culture enforces what we believe, and if our culture is full of nonsensical depictions of high school, we will start to believe that high school is just as nonsensical. The fact that we are making fun of these hierarchies proves that we believe in them in the first place.
More than anything, the stereotypes brought on by certain activities are enforced by these movies. In Mean Girls, the popular girls are long-legged with blonde hair and perfect skin, while the bottom rung holds the goth girl and gay guy. Clueless comes across with a very similar picture. Regina George and Cher Horowitz are both tall and blonde. What does that say about our culture if we accept that as normal? What if we are reminded by this ideal so much by Hollywood that we perpetuate it in our own lives almost automatically? These movies are teaching kids that, if you’d like to find footing in the seemingly very important high school social hierarchy, you can’t be openly homosexual or prefer wearing black to pink, and instead have to look like a walking Barbie doll.
And in addition, these movies go on to teach you that, in high school, one single thing about you defines who you are. If you get straight As, you’re a nerd. If you’re on the cheerleading team, you’re dumb. If you wear designer brands, you’re a snob. And, apparently, there is an already established clique just waiting for you to join based on that one defining factor of your identity. However, this could not be farther from real life. High school kids are just as complex and compassionate as any adult writing the scripts to silly teenage rom-coms bleeding from the reel with letterman’s jackets, posh sports cars, and bullying. We have so many different things going on in our lives–from school to sports to a social life–that there is no way our entire identity could be defined by one aspect of our insanely busy lives. The lesson that a student’s certain likes and dislikes will constrain them to one group of friends and only one defining activity for their entire high school experience is a misleading one, despite how goofy the rest of the movie is.
What has bothered me most is that, although the popular people in these movies might be cast under a negative light, the characters always seem to strive to become one of them. This glorification of a flimsy and temporary high school hierarchy is the reason they still exist. From experience, I can tell you that almost any kid at Lake Forest High School will carry a pleasant conversation with you, whether you play on the varsity baseball team or are first chair in band. We, at LFHS, are not self-absorbed morons with the inability to have genuine kindness towards others simply because of an overrated establishment dating back for decades. This fascination with the idea of fleeting high school popularity is the reason that these movies intend for the main character to have that objective, rather than simply not care where they rank and carry on being happy with themselves. Are we supposed to be dissatisfied with our lives if we are not Homecoming king or queen? I could name many people who are perfectly satisfied doing what they wish to do with who they wish to do it with and are very much unaffected about what label (if any) they might receive because of it.
But that’s just my view on the situation. Now, I’ll bring you back to my earlier question. Is LFHS plagued by the confinements of a binding social hierarchy? Is popularity the number one objective? Do we define and judge others by how they dress, what they’re a part of, and what grades they get? I have a feeling there might be a variety of answers.
In this edition of Behind the Lyrics, columnist Clara Finley explains why we love Rupert Holmes’ 1979 smash hit “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).”
Yes, that’s right, you heard me, the Piña Colada Song. If you’ve heard it before, I can understand why you wanted to read this article. It’s a good song. If you haven’t heard it before, I would highly recommend it before reading this article. And I’ll tell you why.
It’s a good song, but it’s not just a good song because of the catchy tune and fun musical accompaniment. What makes this song a beloved classic is the meaning behind the lyrics. They tell a story humans are begging to hear. The very first lyrics of the song propose an old, stagnant marriage in which the flame of romance has been extinguished long ago.
“I was tired of my lady
We’d been together too long”
This paints a picture we are all too familiar with. In the Unites States, where 50% of marriages end in divorce, a fizzling marriage on the rocks is not an uncommon scene. As a listener, we have already connected to that idea in the first few lines of the song. The next lyrics describe the married man reading an ad.
“So while she lay there sleeping, I read the paper in bed
And in the personals column, there was this letter I read
“If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I´m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape”
This ad is an individual searching for a passionate fling as a means of escaping their otherwise drab life. The activities described are obviously meant to be relaxing and enjoyable, unlike the stressful and busy life of normal adults who may be stuck in a seemingly monotonous relationship. The main character of this song illustrates that in the next few lyrics.
“I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady, had fallen into the same old dull routine”
He is not claiming that he doesn’t love his wife or that he desperately wants a divorce, but just that their relationship lacks spontaneity and passion. This ad excites him and he replies.
“So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad
‘Yes, I like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne
I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O’Malley’s, where we´ll plan our escape'”
The man is answering the call for someone who wants adventure and a break from their normal routine. The true heart of the song lies in the next few lines, however.
So I waited with high hopes, then she walked in the place
I knew her smile in an instant, I knew the curve of her face
It was my own lovely lady, and she said, ‘Oh, it’s you’
And we laughed for a moment, and I said, ‘I never knew’
‘That you liked Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean, and the taste of champagne
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
You´re the love that I’ve looked for, come with me, and escape'”
In this section, it is revealed that the woman who put out the ad was the main character’s wife. Many people view this scenario as negative, claiming that this song tells the story of a couple both actively trying to cheat on each other by running away with a newer, exciting person. That’s not entirely untrue. However, we have already established that we understand the frequency of marriages splitting in our society, so this idea shouldn’t come as a shock to us. Therefore, it’s important not to focus on that, but on the fact that the couple has been reunited by their extramarital search.
This unbelievable coincidence carries the reason we truly love the story of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” If it is true that 50% of marriages end in divorce, that means that half of those married in America experienced severe enough problems in their relationship to end it all together. Whether an American has been through one of these marriages or has simply observed one, relationships that become unsalvageable are nearly status quo.
This begs the deeper question, Is monogamy really worth it? Drastic, I know, but stay with me.
It seems that, as a society, we have stopped having faith in the perseverance of the married couple. That 50% does not even account for separation or extramarital affairs, in which the meaning of monogamy has been diminished. The beginning of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” sets the listener up to hear a story much like those they have heard in the past, of a couple no longer happy in their monogamous relationship. However, the ending provides a twist that we find enchanting, because we, as a society, want to believe in monogamy.
We want to believe in true love. We want to believe in “through thick and through thin, through sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Yet so often these days, we leave those “forever” promises at the altar. We want to believe that the ancient rules of lifelong coupling have not steered us wrong. And this song proves us right. By showing that a worn-out couple can rekindle their spark and fall back in love, discovering that what they were longing for was right beside them all along, knowing that their initial choice was the right choice, proves that monogamy is relevant and ideal. What began as a quest for an escape ends up as a reassurance that what we really need is in our own homes, and that love doesn’t die, it just (perhaps) naps. Everyone wants what the couple in the famous Piña Colada Song has found; another chance at exciting, fresh love with the person they promised to spend the rest of their live with.
Granted, the world in which Rupert Holmes wrote this song in 1979 is far different than the one we live in today for a variety of reasons. Still, though, to lose hope in the preservation and lasting nature of a marriage is not the product of the 21st century or even the newly minted world of 2017. Perhaps we sometimes just need a reminder–a wake up call from a nap–to remind us what really still exists, and in what better form than in one of iconic American music ballad that was the last number one song of the 1970’s?
On this week’s episode of The Village Idioms, Clara and Elizabeth welcome Mr. Scott, the adviser of The Forest Scout and their freshman English teacher. The girls and Mr. Scott discuss the origin of the nickname Frosty, the popular NPR segments Serial and In the Dark, and a parting message for seniors.
See if Mr. Scott can guess which idiom origin story is true and which ones are false.
The Forest Scout’s Clara Finley saw Hamilton with her two friends, Grace Bentley and Grace Duggan, on Sunday, December 4th 2016 at the Private Bank Theatre in downtown Chicago. To fully understand the magnitude of this experience, The Forest Scout asked Clara to provide a live journal documenting the overall experience of being in attendance of theatre’s most acclaimed and innovative productions.
7:00 – I hit snooze on my alarm to silence the annoying chiming urging me to wake up
7:31 – I get up, almost regretting the decision to do anything that forces me to get out of bed before nine on a Saturday (but not really because I’m going to see Hamilton!)
9:28 – I say goodbye to my dad as I walk up the steps to Gracie Duggan’s front porch and see her goldendoodle running at me
9:44 – we pick up Grace Bentley in east Lake Forest
9:45 – the three of us squeal with unbridled excitement
10:06 – we begin to regret getting in the drive-thru line at Starbucks because it is taking longer than we expected and we want to make sure we have time to shop before the 2:00 show
10:08 – Grace Bentley gets her chocolate croissant, Gracie Duggan gets her White Chocolate Mocha, and I got my (don’t you dare call me a poseur) White Chocolate Mocha
10:09 – we laugh at Jimmy Fallon’s cover of “You’ll Be Back” on the Hamilton Mixtape album as we wait for our coffees to be made
10:17 – we finally get out of the drive-thru and onto the highway as light snow starts to fall from the sky
11:08 – we arrive in Chicago and are dropped off in front of the theatre, practically jumping up and down with excitement
11:09 – we take many pictures of ourselves and the lighted marquee that reads “Hamilton”
11:41 – after shopping at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie and failing to find the German Christmas Market, we settle on going to Express
11:56 – while looking through some of the sparkly dresses near the exit to the store, two older women tell us to buy something “sexy and classic” as they leave
11:58 – having gotten nothing sexy or classic at Express, we continue on to Zara
12:19 – Gracie buys a very soft and fuzzy coat and we decide to set out for our 12:30 lunch reservation
12:38 – we arrive eight minutes late to our 12:30 lunch reservation
12:45 – I ask my friends if they will judge me if I order a cheeseburger at a fancy French bistro and they say no
12:48 – I order a cheeseburger
1:12 – the food has still not arrived and we are starting to get anxious about getting to the show on time
1:23 – we are now very anxious about the food coming and Mrs. Duggan asks the waitress repeatedly where our food is
1:27 – we finally get our food and eat it quickly, barely focusing on the tastes of the meal and singing the soundtrack in our heads, (“why do you write like you’re running out of time…” “why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room.”)
1:46 – we hurry out of the restaurant and trek through the heavy snow towards the Public Bank Theatre down the street
1:52 – we see the stage with the whole set through the doors and feel overcome with freshened excitement
1:58 – we find out seats in the third row and are surprised to see a friend, Hannah Scholly, sitting in the row in front of us
2:01 – the lights dim and we grab each other’s hands in eager anticipation
2:02 – the first song begins playing and tears come to Grace’s eyes
2:07 – tears appear in my own eyes as I watch the once inaccessible, beautiful and complex musical I have been obsessing over for a year unfold before my eyes
3:30 – intermission begins and the longest line for the women’s restroom ever ensues
3:45 – the second act begins and I have to force myself not to sing along to Jefferson’s song What’d I Miss
4:34 – Philip Schuyler dies and all three of us are crying
5:03 – the show is over and we all realize we have peaked and nothing will ever be as amazing as what we just witnessed
5:05 – it’s all over. Back to reality.
This week on the 2nd official Village Idioms podcast, Elizabeth Porter and Clara Finley welcome guest Whitney Perschke to guess which idiom she thinks is correct. Today, the girls explain the origins of “Bite the Bullet,” “Beat Around the Bush,” and “Paint the Town Red.”
Join Clara Finley, Elizabeth Porter, and Spencer Oakley for the inaugural episode of The Village Idioms. On this podcast, the three participants each take an idiom and conceptualize its origin. However, the catch is that only one of the idiom origins mentioned is actually true. Check it out to see if you can figure out who is telling the truth and who is bluffing.
I have never been able to process the amount of pure luck I’ve received throughout my life. Even before I was born, I was already luckier than the great number of people in the world without access to clean drinking water, people who are homeless, people without access to education or electricity or proper transportation, people without money to buy clothes or groceries or even movie theatre tickets. The amount of times I hit the jackpot in the geographic, social and economic lottery before I even had hands to hold a ticket baffles me to this day, especially as I sit on the grassy lawn of Market Square, contemplating the beauty of my small Chicago suburb.
I am conscious that an hour away lies the homicide capital of the United States, but that thought isn’t present in my mind while my best friends and I drink iced lattes and talk about our Math tests and English essays. The reality I’m presented with and that of the violent city nearby are so different that it is hard for me to fathom a life with constant threat of a shooting or gang violence.
This phenomenon is often referred to as the effects of the “bubble”, a term commonly used around Lake Forest to describe the “distorted” perspective Lake Forest kids have on the world due to the small, wealthy suburb we have most likely spent our whole life in. Along with long division and cursive, a lesson teachers made sure we had all learned by the time we reached fifth grade was that we were living in one of these so-called “bubbles”, and, because of it, our perspective on the world was “distorted”. However, there was never a follow-up instruction on how to see clearly through the mirage of affluence or how to escape inability to cope with anything less pristine than Market Square. When someone said the term “bubble”, I always imagined something similar to the large glass covering shown in the Truman Show. (For those of you who don’t know the Truman Show, it’s a movie about a man who has unknowingly spent his whole life in a TV show, living on a set of a town that he doesn’t know is fake, oblivious to the world outside of his bubble.) I could envision the glass sectioning us off from the rest of the world and restricting us to our own little snow globe. However, unlike in the Truman Show, we Lake Forest kids can not simply sail out to the horizon of Lake Michigan and find a door which leads us to the “real world”.
And the quotes around the words “real world” were very intentional, both for emphasis and indication of slight sarcasm. It’s always been a pet peeve when people use this phrase to describe the world outside of Lake Forest, as if they have adapted that Truman Show mentality. I find it extremely condescending to say to any kid, but especially a junior or senior like myself who feels they have experienced a wide variety of things and accomplished even more, that the world they’ve spent their whole lives in is not “real”. To speak as if my current surroundings are some kind of fabricated illusion in which any thought or feeling I have will be invalid once I wake up from this dream is extremely patronizing. I would like to believe that any struggle I have, mental or physical, can equal that of anyone living outside the confines of Lake Forest, because to say otherwise would be dehumanizing me to an extent. Not to imply that every time someone uses this phrase in passing conversation they’re attempting a personal attack, but I do believe it is a phrase that should be used with careful consideration. Though much of adolescence is spent in stages of preparation for adulthood, there is no real indicator of when “real life” starts, and I would argue that the preparation is as real as the execution itself. Perhaps I have not learned the life lessons a teenager living in the southside of Chicago has, but I’m sure I, in turn, have learned lessons they have not. Everyone–not just Lake Forest kids–is constricted to the knowledge of their surroundings.
With that realized, it is also important to recognize that our Lake Forest surroundings do not differ entirely from everywhere else. It is true that Lake Forest is very affluent compared to most suburbs, but that does not mean that a similar atmosphere has not been cultivated in other places across America. In fact, I know the opposite to be true; I’ve met many people from different states that live in tight-knit communities much like Lake Forest, including one from Carmel, Indiana who said the “bubble” is a term often used to describe his own home town. So, we’re not alone. Though this term can make us feel isolated from the “real world”, it’s important to remember that there are many other kids who live in the same environment and share experiences similar to ours.
That said, Lake Forest can be distinguished from other suburbs because of it’s wealth. Often, when people refer to the “bubble”, they are discussing the proportion of wealth here compared to most places in the world. As I stated before, everyone living in Lake Forest is extremely lucky to have been raised in such an affluent environment, and we are made sure to realize how grateful we should be. However, with this comes a somewhat negative view on our town’s wealth, as we are told we are completely disillusioned with the idea of what the world is. The extensive discussion we have on the subject, however, makes me doubt the credibility of that claim at all. Not the claim that we are wealthy, but the claim that, because we live in a “bubble” of wealth, we are ignorant of the state of the world and how it works. Thinking about it logically, I’ve come to realize that those who discuss their ignorance can not possibly be ignorant. The acknowledgement of the subject itself means the people are aware of it, and the discussion of their stance means they have thought long and hard enough about it to have an opinion.
It would be an oversight if I did not bring up the fact that kids in Lake Forest can undoubtedly be snobs and wealth can drive teenagers to adopt a somewhat cocky, pretentious personality. However, every place in the world has snobs and jerks, people who assume they’re better than you because you don’t drive a Mercedes or can’t afford Calvin Klein shoes. Looking at Lake Forest, people expect the town full of rich kids to be synonymous with a town full of snobs, so when they find a singular snob they believe they have been proved right. The one snob can serve as the example for the accuracy of the stereotype, when that snob might be the only one in the area and tarnishing the reputation for Lake Forest by living up to that stereotype. It is true that living in a wealthy community can skew your perception of wealth, but as far as being aware of it’s existence in our community as compared to other communities, if you believe the “bubble” has made us unable to understand that we are incredibly lucky and unique in that luck, I’d argue that you’re not giving us enough credit.
I would go so far as to say that being from a wealthier community makes us less in a “bubble” than any other small suburb, due to the opportunities wealth provides. Being able to afford church mission trips and family vacations to Europe expose Lake Forest kids to all sorts of different places, cultures and people. Teenagers from areas with average to low income would be less likely to go build houses in the Dominican Republic, simply because the money must be put toward things necessary for everyday life. The more we travel and see, the better understanding we will have for the world outside of our “bubble”, and the easier it will be to flourish once we are flung out into the “real world”. Every type of community has it’s drawbacks and Lake Forest is not excluded, but growing up in Lake Forest provides us with many opportunities for us to escape rich, suburban life and see the world through a different lens. Instead of fearing incompetence once we leave Lake Forest, we should be eternally grateful for the luck that placed us here and remember that being from Lake Forest does not make us any less real or any more ignorant than anyone else. I believe we, as Lake Forest kids, can escape the fated “bubble” by continually reminding ourselves that the chance of us winning the geographic, social and economic lottery was extremely slim, and we should take advantage of the opportunities the reward provides us. If not, we might end up enclosing ourself in our own little bubble from which no discussion of ignorance or teacher’s lesson can help us escape.
Forget Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, Shmoop, Grade Saver, or even Wikipedia. Learn what you should be looking for in each assigned text in high school through Clara Finley’s unique, original analysis of key topics, thematic elements, and characters in her Clara’s Corner, High School Book Reviews.
Assigned Text: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Grade and Level: Sophomore, (English II-Honors)
Teachers that use it: Lubliner, Eccleston, Laughlin, Finley, Ruda, Hersam
I’m going to be brutally honest with you. Reading the Grapes of Wrath isn’t the most overwhelmingly enjoyable task you’ll take part in during your high school tenure. Between the twenty pages of reading a night and extensive questions on the symbolism of Rose of Sharon’s pregnancy, engaging in the escapades of the Joad family became more of a chore than a learning opportunity at times. I don’t mean to complain about reading and discussing a great American classic, though— as there is no bigger proponent of literature than me—but I didn’t seem to feel a particular connection to this book, and it’s hard to appreciate the verbiage of Steinbeck when reading the chapters at eleven o’clock while half-asleep. But that’s my own bad in some ways, I suppose.
However, I must admit that it does have some strong central lessons that readers can use to learn from the Joad’s mistakes and improve their own life. Although Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, many of the themes running through it are still relevant today. Such as the following:
Dust your house.
One thing that you learn by reading Grapes of Wrath is that dust is not good. You just can’t live in a place with dust. The Dust Bowl in the 1930s that drove families like the Joads out of their houses was caused by overfarming of the fields, leaving those fields dry and infertile and creating dust storms that blocked the sun for days at a time. You, as the reader, can learn an important lesson from this and always use your trusted feather duster around your house. If your house becomes too dusty, you might have to move and go pick fruit in California instead. And who wants to leave the below freezing winters of Chicago to eat peaches in the California sun? No one. So, take it from the Joads and dust your house.
If you’re a pastor and sleep with the girls in your congregation, you can still be a parochial figure and potential representation of Jesus Christ.
Okay, that was a little forward and was meant to be satirical, but I had to make sure you were still paying attention. Pastor Jim Casey does admit to guilt regarding his wrongdoings, but he still goes on to pave the way for the suffering people’s salvation, making him the Christlike figure for this novel in some ways. Also, his initials are JC, which is a dead giveaway. (That serves a warning; if one of your friends has initials JC, they might secretly be a Jesus Christ figure.) Jim Casey is a representation of Jesus Christ, but all I’m saying is, pretty sure Jesus Christ was a virgin. Like mother, like son, right? Okay, this is getting tasteless, let’s move on.
Don’t kill people.
This one should be relatively self-explanatory, but it is advice emphasized in the book. Bad things happen when you murder. At the beginning of the book, you learn that Tom Joad, the main character, is returning from serving his sentence for manslaughter. Right off the bat you learn that killing people means you go to jail, which not many people want to do. But if you do end up going to jail, just be well-behaved like Tom and get off early. Another example of well-intentioned killing gone wrong is when Tom kills one of the policemen pursuing him and Jim, and he ends up having to leave his family. This scene portrays death in a very different light than the deaths of Grandma and Grandpa Joad, who die peaceful, natural deaths. Natural death is good. Murder is bad. Got it?
Know how to fix your car.
The Joads are traveling cross country, placing all their trust in their rickety old car that threatens to break down at any second. In fact, they do face some issues with cars. A family traveling with the Joads, the Wilsons, have a car that breaks down and the oldest Joad sons, Tom and Al, have to take time out of their journey to fix it. The inconvenience of the situation can be translated to getting a flat tire when you’re an hour late to work and, if you aren’t there in fifteen minutes, your boss is giving your job to someone else. Also, you’re driving your entire family to work, including your pregnant daughter and your senile grandparents. Also, it’s the 1930s and you’re fleeing the Dust Bowl in search of jobs. Also, instead of a flat tire, it’s the entire car that has stopped working. Also, your name is Tom Joad and you’re in the book Grapes of Wrath. Relatable? I thought so.
Even if you don’t find these lessons applicable to your life, here’s one thing to think about while reading Grapes of Wrath: it’s an American classic for a reason. The themes Steinbeck portrays throughout the book encapsulate what an entire portion of America suffered through less than one-hundred years ago during the Dust Bowl. He captures, not only the pain and damaged spirits of those driven from their homes in search of new jobs, but also the hope and steadfast perseverance that define American ideals. You might be like me and grumble through the process of dissecting one of the most well-written books of last century, but I encourage you to learn from my mistake and attempt to internalize the messages Steinbeck sends, or at least the emotion behind them.
And, if you think I’m not a credible enough source to take advice from, trust one of the school’s lovely and well-qualified English 2-H teachers, Mrs. Eccleston. When I asked her why she believes the Grapes of Wrath is an important book for the 2-H curriculum, she replied with the following:
“The Grapes of Wrath is important as literature because of the beauty of its language, its literary devices, and Steinbeck’s mastery of character. It’s an important piece of American art because it captures a moment in American history in such a profound and emotional way; it’s a great example of how fiction can capture truth. Most importantly, though, I think The Grapes of Wrath is about the soul of America. It’s about who we are supposed to be: a country that values and cares for the most vulnerable among us, the poor, the hungry, the displaced, the immigrant. It’s American because it’s hopeful, and it can help us be better versions of ourselves. To say the least, that should make it worth the time and energy of any student.” Mrs. Eccleston
The following post is a satire. All quotes, accounts, characters and plotlines used in the story are fabricated for authorial style and effect.
The Lake Forest High School theatre program has just completed the performances of it’s fall play, Radium Girls. The play tells the story of young girls who, having worked in a factory painting clock dials, fall deathly ill due to radium in the paint. The main character, Grace, faces extreme hardship, battling her disease and the company which caused it, while also watching her friends, Kathryn and Irene, die. The tale is heart-wrenching and emotional, and the performances by actors such as Gracie Stockton, Morgan Cohen and Bailey Lawrence moved the audience greatly. Due to the success of the play, the theatre program has decided that their next play will be the lesser-known spinoff of Radium Girls, Radius Girls.
Radius Girls was co-authored in 1993 by playwrights Samuel I. Nicholson and Caroline O’Sullivan, or, as they were called by their peers, S.I.N. and C.O.S.. It was inspired by, based off of and follows a plot arch similar to that of Radium Girls. The story of Radius Girls tells the story of three girls, Soh, Cah and Toa—the playwrights really weren’t attempting subtly here—entering high school as young freshman, eager to find both x and their confidence. They are up for the challenge and hope to make their families proud by earning As on their tests. They spend their first year breezing through algebra and their second year aceing geometry, oblivious to the fatal trigonometry crisis yet to come. With the expectation that math is nothing but fun problem-solving, they head into trigonometry junior year, excited to enter what they believe will be a enjoyable year in math. Little did they know the destruction that awaited them. Just as the girls in Radium Girls show small symptoms at first, the characters in Radius Girls begin with minor grade infractions. A “D” on a quiz here, a “C” on a quiz there; they are distraught but believe they can manage a recovery. However, the quizzes and tests just seem to get harder and the girls begin struggling profusely. Their overall grades drop from “A”s to low “B”s and “C”s. Then, tragedy strikes.
One of the factory girls in Radium Girls, Irene, dies early in the play because of the disease spread through the paint. Similar to this, one of the three in Radius Girls, Soh, drops the class early on in the semester, despite the protesting of her friends. She buckles under the pressure and, not unlike the dramatic confrontation between Kathryn and the doctor who treated Irene in Radium Girls, Cah of Radius Girls angrily accosts her teacher about the grade on Soh’s test which caused her to drop. The teacher responds stoically, speaking the most famous and chilling line from the play: “I told you you needed to memorize the unit circle.” The horror of their friends’ demise causes Cah and Toa to panic, and the two attempt to learn all about the difference between theta and theta prime before it is too late.
They try everything from getting time extensions to extra credit, but nothing helps. Through this journey, they discover how they battle adversity in the real world of coterminal angles and cosine graphs. It turns out that only one of the two has what it takes. The great strain put on Cah and Toa causes Cah’s grades to slip and her willingness to find the inverse of cosecant is reduced to negative numbers. She, like her dear friend Soh, decides to drop the class, leaving Toa fending for herself alone. Toa is greatly saddened by the loss of her friends, just like Grace in Radium Girls is distraught when her second friend, Kathryn, dies.
Angered by the mistreatment the three of them have faced by the unbending laws of trigonometry and the teachers who enforce them, Toa decides to fight back. However, she is not ready to fight the corrupt system in place: the American school system. As in Radium Girls when the company responsible for the toxic paint refuses to admit they’re wrong doing, the high school in Radius Girls will not acknowledge that their tests might be unfairly hard. Toa finds that she can not win against such a large organization and will be subjected to the nightmares of converting minutes to degrees and memorizing all the reciprocal identities. Therefore, like Grace living out her last few days weak and sickly, Radius Girls ends with Toa scraping by with a “D” in the class. Radium Girls and Radius Girls are similar in many ways, from their empathetic characters to their intriguing plot line.
The LFHS theatre department is expecting great success in producing this spinoff play, especially among those tackling classes like Math Analysis Honors and Pre-calc this year. If you saw Radium Girls and enjoyed it, I encourage you to go see Radius Girls this winter! And if you’re in one of the aforementioned math courses, you might want to take notes.
If you are someone who likes to write, whether for a possible career or for fun, the literary magazine Young Idea is looking for people like you! For those of you who don’t know, Young Idea is Lake Forest High School’s literary magazine full of student work that is published at the end of the year. We, at Young Idea, are currently looking for more pieces to read and edit. We will accept anything from short stories to poems. Your pieces will be read anonymously and a suggestion sheet will be returned to you, so if you don’t feel comfortable personally sharing your work with others, Young Idea is the perfect place to get feedback. Your work may even be included in the magazine at the end of the year! If you’re interested in submitting but are unsure of what kind of thing we’re looking for, an example is provided below. This is a piece written by senior Lauren Abbattista that was published in last year’s addition of Young Idea. Young idea is sponsored by Dr. Mara Dukats (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mr. Jimmy Juliano (email@example.com). Please feel free to contact them via email with any questions regarding Young Idea.
The Setting Colors of Childhood
the shade of pomegranate that stains your shaky hands,
the color you have in your eyes when you look at the sun,
the time you snip the tip of your finger doing arts and crafts.
the piece of cheese that lures the mouse,
the powdered burst of sound which springs from the gun barrel,
the crayola marker that blends and bleeds through your skin.
the bitterness in your mouth after tasting garlic,
the screech of a bird falling through the sky,
the color of broken, smiley-faced cookies in grease-stained, paper bags.
the cilantro that diffuses through the sticky kitchen air,
the stalk of prairie what that waves as a flurry of feathers floats down,
the grass stains on your knees and elbows that the bleach cannot remove.
the cracked container lid in the top right corner of the highest shelf in the fridge,
the color of sleep settling over the ever-ceasing twitches of the body,
the cold voice of the lullaby that aids your eyelids in their descent.
the muscle of meat bleeding into the cutting board beneath citrus hands,
the stone-still veins fading into the dirt and shade,
the bruises room other limbs and trees and scratches littering your dreams.
the crushed pepper i the floor cracks, forgotten and brushed under the sink,
the approaching void that stretched over the dirt and higher-up horizon at dusk,
the feeling of nothing in your belly that aches as a fire burns behind your eyes.
To submit a piece, email the document as a PDF or Word file to Dr. Dukats at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to remove your name from it. Whether you’re just looking for tips to improve your writing workshop or attempting to find your voice here at LFHS, Young Idea is an excellent way to showcase the writing talents many students at our school possess. And if you love reading and critiquing creative writing, I encourage you to join us after school on Thursdays in the Publick Room!
We are gathered here today—well, gathered in more of a figurative than literal sense because you’re reading this online, unless you consider the Internet to be the most gathered any group of people has ever been, then yes, literally gathered—to commemorate the life of the great Betta fish, Daveed.
Daveed, when Gracie and I bought you, we intended for you to thrive in our man-made AP Enviro ecosystem. We wanted you to make the plastic soda bottle your home and allow us to be your loving parents, nurturing you and watching you grow. We were going to feed you fish flakes and aquatic worms, even though we were pretty sure you didn’t really want either. Honestly, we thought you were going to starve, because you refused to eat either of the aforementioned things, but alas, you did not starve.
You suffocated. Sorry about that lack of dissolved oxygen, by the way. We thought we put enough plants in there. Apparently not.
People have told me that after a traumatic event occurs you can vividly remember every detail of that day. I never truly believed them until the day you died.
It was October 3rd, 2016. I walked through the hallway, my backpack slung over my shoulder and phone in hand. As I opened the door to my early bird class, my phone illuminated with a message from Gracie Duggan that read: “DAVEED DIED!” “NO!” I exclaimed loudly, running straight to Gracie who was standing with our deceased son in front of her, an equally distressed look on her face. Everyone in the class glanced at us but were too kind to stare at the grieving family, and said a few words of condolences before Mrs. Nawor kindly disposed of the carcass.
A few days later when Gracie and I were speaking of your premature death, she told me “I will always remember watching Mrs. Nawor picking him out of the plastic bottle and throwing him away in the garbage.” I don’t think you could ever know how deeply you affected the two of us. You developed a biofilm around your body while decomposing which was not unlike the film formed while recovering from the scars your death left on our hearts.
Daveed, you gave me a reason to get out of bed every morning. There was nothing that lit up my life more than seeing your ever-present apathetic expression when I walked into Enviro. I would come in sluggish and tired, but would instantly wake up at just the notion of getting to see you. Though I’m not a morning person, the absence of you from my first period class makes me a mourning person.
Daveed, you were not just a son, but a brother to our aquatic snail Lin, the second inhabitant of our ecocolumn. Lin was a loving brother and joyful playmate for you, even though he spent the majority of his time on the side of the plastic bottle above the water because, as I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t enough oxygen. Again, sorry about that. Also, there’s a possibility you would have disliked Lin if you had ever actually interacted with him. Would you have tried eating him? I wouldn’t know because, evidently, I’m not very good at Enviro.
You were named after Daveed Diggs, the wonderful and talented actor who played Thomas Jefferson in the smash-hit musical Hamilton. You lived up to his legacy by matching him in both talent and beauty. Never have I witnessed an organism so motivated to do absolutely nothing. Not only did you seem too lazy to consume any food, but you barely moved more than a centimeter and I think I only ever saw one of your three fins moving. Gracie and I were both astounded by how little you were able to accomplish in the four days you spent living in your home.
I believe our time with you was cut short. There was so much we wanted to do with you, so many conversations left unspoken, so many aquatic worms unfed, so many nutrients left unabsorbed. Gracie and I are deeply saddened thinking about the life we could have had with you, and all we had left to share with you. We never even got the chance to tell you that you were adopted.
Rest in peace in that big fishbowl in the sky, buddy. It was good knowing you.
The following post is a satire. All quotes, accounts, characters and plotlines used in the story are fabricated for authorial style and effect.
Despite the standardized tests and AP courses of junior year, most high school seniors would probably argue that the first semester of senior year is the most stressful time of a high schooler’s career. This strain is due to the rigorous college applications and emotional toil of acceptance and rejection letters. As students’ futures and inexplicable happiness hang in the balance with every application they submit, the extreme pressure is notorious for causing students to dissolve into a puddle of tears or adapt a hermit lifestyle in which they refuse to leave their room. This system is simplified slightly by the ever-so-handy Common Application, the catch-all form accepted by over 600 colleges and universities in the US.
The Common App provides students with a template to share the best information about themselves while covering all the the basic information required for the college. Along with a few other small adjustments made for the 2016-2017 app, such as a criminal history or gender identity question, there will be a new section for students to fill out. This section will give students the option to submit a mixtape they have created, something their Common App would be incomplete without. Schools will judge the students on their music choice, grouping ability and playlist name, among other variables. The purpose of adding this section is giving the application a more personal feel, as well as shaping a school’s atmosphere.
“If you’re listening to pop music,” says a representative from a small liberal arts college, “you probably won’t fit in here. Not to say your love of Lady Gaga won’t be appreciated somewhere else. It just doesn’t fit in with the atmosphere we’ve created.”
Due to this addition, colleges have begun to make their own playlists for students to check out and compare compatibility. Students will be able to identify whether or not the school is right for them based on how many times a song or artist appears on both playlists. I spoke to a representative of the Common App editorial board to hear why this change was implemented.
“It’s a widely accepted fact that the kind of music someone listens to determines how they generally are as a person, so we’re trying to bring that aspect into the college decision making process. We acknowledge the fact that many students apply to certain colleges based on academic and financial reasons, but we’re trying to push the third element of fitting in socially. The more comfortable the student feels among their fellow students, the happier they are, and the happier they are, the better they will do inside and outside of class.”
A single style of music tends to emerge at each school as the most popular, due to the location of the school and student body’s taste. For example, Columbia University favors Broadway, Yale tends to lean toward classical and DePaul takes an “alternative” route. However, this does not mean that students can’t listen to a wide variety of music. In fact, at schools like Vanderbuilt, rap is second to country in popularity.
I wanted some first-hand examples of how this new feature might deliver on the promises it made. One Lake Forest High School senior took time out of his day to walk me through the mixtape he created for his Common App. “As Barney Stinson, my personal role-model, once said, ‘People often think a good mix should rise and fall but people are wrong. It should be all rise, baby!’ That’s the attitude I assume when making playlists. For example, my college app mixtape starts with some Adele. Then, a bit of One Direction. I end with some hardcore Kelly Clarkson just to get across the idea I’m not to be messed with.” He then went on to explain he had looked for playlist matches among prospective colleges, but only ended up matching with all girls schools. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bryn Mawr looks nice and all, but getting in would be more of a challenge than I’m willing to take on.”
Others have taken the task less seriously. “I just submitted the Dirty Dancing soundtrack with the name ‘College Vibes’,” says an apathetic student. “I’ve never been too into music.”
However, this section can also be a cause of major stress amongst applicants. A distraught girl laments to me, “I’ve been trying to come up with a title for weeks. Should I be clever? Should I be cute? Should I just keep it simple? Is that elegant or just uncreative? I’m trying to shy away from anything with the word ‘jams’ in it but I didn’t know it would be this difficult!”
Whichever way each student may be approaching this new task, it is a different way for them to express themselves to a college. In a world that seems to be progressing past test scores to personality tests, every way of sharing your personality is an opportunity for a college to recognize you as, not only the right type of student, but right type of person for their school. You might have a 3 on your ACT, but if your mixtape is fire, you might be moving into Harvard next semester. It’s a real-world-relevant education system that we live in, after all.
The following post is a satire. All quotes, accounts, characters and plotlines used in the story are fabricated for authorial style and effect.
Guys or girls looking for homecoming dates, listen up! This helpful list of tips and tricks will ensure you get a date/restraining order. First, I’ll give you five tips to get them to like you. Then, I’ll tell you five ways to make sure you’ll go with them to the homecoming dance.
- Have staring contests with them. But don’t tell them you’re having them. Intense staring is really attractive to most people. If it stresses you out to retain prolonged eye contact, just pretend they’ve challenged you to a staring contest. When your crush catches you staring, don’t look away. Wait until they look back two minutes later and make sure you’re still staring. They’ll know you’re committed. High schoolers want commitment.
- Write them notes for their lunches. Just cute little things, like “thinking about you” or “you look really good in blue”. When your crush gets these notes from you, they’ll instantly think about the notes they received from their mom when they were little, and everyone loves their mom. That way, they’ll be thinking about you and love at the same time. See where I’m going with this?
- Be ambiguous. Don’t let them know certain things, but also let them know some things. Don’t do too much or too little of anything. Be good at a few things but bad at the things you should be bad at. Save them a spot in the library, but act like you’ve forgotten they have study hall that period. Go to their soccer game, but pretend it’s because your brother is on the team. Don’t tell them you like them, but let them know. That is so high school.
- Know what their car looks like. This may seem unimportant, but it definitely is a key aspect of ensnaring that special someone. Imagine you’re driving to school or practice–or just randomly past your crush’s house–and you recognize their car driving in front of you! All you have to do is follow them and pretend you had no idea that you were both going to the orthodontist at the same time. Try to memorize license plate numbers to avoid awkward situations in which you think it’s your crush’s car but it isn’t. You only want to accidentally drive to Wisconsin so many times.
- Pick up their hobbies and sports. You may have to fight to be the first girl admitted as a member to the varsity football team or the first boy on varsity poms, but not only will you be making history, you will gain a fantastic opportunity to talk to your crush. This provides many conversation topics, like when your crush asks “What are you doing here?” or “Can you stop distracting me? That’s the fourth time I’ve hit you with my stick.” Excellent talking points.
Now that there is no doubt your crush is hopelessly in love with you, start using these handy techniques to make sure you accompany them to the homecoming dance.
- Start a rumor you’re going with each other. Casually mention to a few friends or your Twitter feed that you were asked by a certain someone, and word will spread like wildfire. Despite your crush’s inevitable denial about asking you at all, they will realize it might be a good idea. In addition, they won’t be able to ask anyone else because everyone will think they already have a date. You win here simply by process of elimination. Ever heard of the phrase “trumors”?
- Drop potential sign puns with your name in them. Maybe your crush hasn’t asked you yet because they can’t think up a clever enough sentence to write on the poster. Reminding them of all the playful ways your name can be used will rid them of their worries and give them the final step of encouragement they need. For example, I might say to my friend, “let me CLARAfy that for you” prompting a sign along the lines of “Can I have CLARAfication whether or not you wanna go to hoco?” Disclaimer: if you’re just really funny and make puns all the time you might send mixed signals.
- Make up a fake date to make them jealous. Jealousy is an extremely effective long-term method to captivate your crush that has no bad consequences and makes perfectly logical sense. Invent a fake date who “doesn’t go here” and has a cool name like “Lightening McQueen”. This person might go to Loyola or Carmel, making them instantly exotic and intriguing, and someone your date will envy. When sitting in front of your crush and talking to a friend, casually mention that you already have a date to the dance. Of course, you would want the person you wish to ask you to think someone else has already asked you, therefore not even considering you an option! Their passion for you will increase as does their jealousy, and they will be ready to fight this Libertyville-goer for your hand.
- “Accidentally” send them a picture of your potential dress/suit. Of course, they’ll assume you meant to text “Becky” your dress because “Becky’s” name is conveniently so close to your crush’s name in your list of contacts. Immediately, your crush will begin subconsciously devising a matching outfit and you won’t have to worry about them showing up with the wrong shade of corsage or boutonniere. This is a good way to get conversation about homecoming started.
- After every sentence you say to them, add the word “homecoming”. This will make sure they always have homecoming on their mind. This is also a great way to drop hints that you’re eager to go. For example, you could say “hey, did you do that math homework homecoming?” If they say “what?” just respond with “what?” and they’ll probably drop it, thinking they were hearing things or again hearing hashtags after people’s thoughts. If you do this enough times, the idea will be planted in their brain. It’s kind of like gaslighting, but in a romantic way.
Walking through the basement of Lake Forest High School, you can hear homework mentioned in Mandarin, crushes flirting in French, test scores lamented in Latin and advice suggested in Spanish. The language program at Lake Forest High School offers the students four diverse options for expanding their lingual knowledge, providing not only a linguistic education, but a cultural one as well. After removing the option to take German two years ago, teachers at LFHS have decided to add a fifth language once again. Lake Forest High School will now be allowing their students to take Pig Latin as their required language.
This decision was not made lightly. While some teachers pushed to have a new and exciting course, others insisted they remain with the four languages. However, the biggest conflict was deciding which language would be a positive addition to the Lake Forest High School environment. Many were suggested, such as Russian, Dutch and Japanese, but the board ended up split between Italian and Pig Latin. Due to this dilemma, a poll was sent out to get the student and parent voices involved in the decision making process. A whooping 94% of students picked Pig Latin, while only 58% of parents preferred this popular choice over Italian. Still, this sent a clear message to the board, and Pig Latin was officially chosen as the next language to be taught at LFHS.
The Foreign Language Department will have to go through many steps in order to implement a new curriculum. Many issues arose throughout the process, such as where the classes would be held, what levels would be offered, and most importantly, who would teach them. However, through teamwork and innovative thinking, each of these problems were met with an efficient solution. The classes will be held in the Latin classrooms while the Latin teachers have free periods, an easily adaptable environment for the Pig Latin teachers, who come equipped with their own signs bearing the word “Pig” to put above each of the already hanging signs reading “Latin”. Due to the lack of middle school education on the language and the complexity of even the earliest levels, only beginning courses 1 and 2 will be offered. However, they anticipate expansion as the program grows and gains popularity.
The matter of who would teach these classes was a hot topic among the department and many interviews were held for the position of Pig Latin teacher. There were candidates coming from as far as California, where Pig Latin is growing in popularity. However, the person who was hired is a man by the name of Mr. Hampton, raised in the Chicago area and educated at the University of Wisconsin. I spoke to him about his expectations for the year, and he gave me some insight into what the class might be like.
“Pig Latin is a beautiful and intricate language, and I’m excited to be sharing my knowledge of it with the up and coming generation. We will be doing readings from popular classics in the Pig Latin community, such as Animal Farm, Charlotte’s Web and Olivia,” he informed me. “We’ll definitely study the classics, too, like The Three Little Pigs and This Little Piggy Went to the Market. If we have time by the end of the semester, we might even get to find out what happens If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”
I requested he speak in Pig Latin, just so I could get a sense of how the unique language sounded when spoken. He said, and I quote, “Iay ikelay eakfastbray oodfay, utbay Iay evernay eatay caonbay.” Translation: I like breakfast food, but I never eat bacon.
The language teachers have a variety of opinions when it comes to this new section of their department.
“It’s a fresh and exciting new class,” says one Spanish teacher. “I’m looking forward to speaking with the teacher about how he plans to adapt the language to a classroom setting, as well as witnessing the students’ reactions to the curriculum.”
“Personally, I’d just like to get some things cleared up,” a French teacher tells me. “I’ve picked up some Pig Latin by my own freelance education, and there are a lot of grammar issues I’ve run into. For example, what about one letter words? How do I pronounce ‘I’ properly? And what about letters that start with ‘a’? Do you just repeat the ‘a’ sound?” At this point, he paused, reflecting on the complexity of the language before bursting forth with “How in the world are you supposed to say ‘aardvarck’?”
This passionate intrigue can be seen in many of the language teachers, as they are eager to be exposed to a change in their department, one that will provide many new learning opportunities. However, not all reactions have been positive. Hints of animosity can be detected from teachers who may have been content with the four original languages.
“All I’m saying,” begins one Latin teacher, with a raise of the eyebrows, “is that no one better confuse it for real Latin. Pig Latin and Latin are completely unrelated. Latin is the language of the scholars. Pig Latin is, as I would guess from the name, the language of swine. I don’t want my class associated with that.”
Despite these biting remarks, reactions about the new program have been overall positive and LFHS is thrilled to be ushering in a new opportunity for its students. Both students and teachers eagerly anticipate the new course and the attributes it will bring to the school.
All I can say about the matter is, parents who advised their student against taking Latin due to its inability to apply it to the real world have another thing coming.
Since the Sunday afternoon in the seventh grade my mom brought home the Princeton Review of the 278 Best Colleges, college has been of constant discussion in my house. In between dance classes or after dinner would come the occasional “you should look up the campus of—” or “there’s an excellent English program at—” and so on and so on. By the time I started going on college visits the summer before sophomore year, thinking and talking about college was not a foreboding task to be avoided at all costs, but a regular and even exciting part of my life. Even though I’m only a junior, I know exactly what I’m looking for in a school and what I want to study. As I wish to study English and writing is a passion, I decided to further my education by going to a writing camp this past summer at Kenyon College in Ohio. Although I spent two amazing weeks there, every time my mom asks me what I think about applying to Kenyon, I tell her “I can’t think about that yet, it hasn’t been long enough”.
I say this to her because I know myself, and I know how dearly I cling to familiarity. I’m the type to sit everyday in the same spot at the lunch table or in the same chair in my kitchen. At ballet, I have a place at the barre everyone recognizes as my own because I refuse to stand anywhere else (and no one dares to stand there instead). Admitting this quirk to people usually sparks some sort of negative reaction, but deep down, everyone shares this quality with me. The unknown is daunting for most people, which is why we cling to things that are recognizable. According to research done by the social psychologist Robert Zajonc, the more we are exposed to stimuli the more we like those stimuli. Essentially, the more often you see someone’s face or spend time in a room, the more you will like that person’s face or enjoy being in that room. We feel safe, surrounded by things we know and people we’ve spoken to, expecting no new surprises or challenges. For example, you would most likely feel more comfortable walking through rooms in your house than through a crowded museum, because your mind understands your house while it requires mental energy to navigate somewhere you don’t know.
College is all about navigating situations you haven’t run into before, and choosing where you go will have a huge effect on what situations you end up dealing with. Here in Lake Forest, students are often exposed to a plethora of possibilities and, by their senior year, are prepared to go out and explore the world. However, not all students are given the opportunity to be as adventurous. In fact, only 15.5% of students in the United States go to school more than 500 miles away. Even with financial stress and rejection letters, many students have a few other options outside of the schools in their immediate circle. Yet, in Illinois, 65% of students go to a state school. At this point, familiarity begins to endanger the decision making process and skew the college search. The security of being in a place you’re familiar with—much like a home advantage—provides immediate comfort when you’re thrown into so many new situations. I would be the first to argue that there’s nothing wrong with ensuring your ease in certain circumstances, but college is supposed to be a huge time of change. And though that change might be frightening, relying on your current knowledge of places will not guarantee future happiness. Just because it requires less mental energy to think about going to a school close to home, in areas you’re familiar with and in environments you’ve encountered before, doesn’t mean you will exceed in them. By choosing familiarity over risk, you’re limiting yourself and throwing away potential opportunities. Your perfect college might be out there somewhere, in Minnesota or Texas or Washington, and you won’t know unless you decide to push yourself out of your comfort zone a bit. So, my advice is this. Don’t settle on your parent’s college simply because you’ve visited the school every summer and know the campus by heart. Don’t go to your state school if you only want to remove the stress of a new place. Don’t limit yourself to the schools in a 500 mile radius, because there are a lot of places out there, each with their own unique qualities, waiting for you to fit in and work with them to the best of your advantage. Do more research. Look up colleges with your favorite colors as their school colors, or colleges whose founder has the same name as you. You might be surprised how easily you become comfortable in an environment you never would have imagined yourself inhabiting. As you search for your college and witness yourself shying away from unfamiliarity, remind yourself that everything now familiar to you was once unfamiliar.
The following post is a satire. All quotes, accounts, and characters used in the story are fabricated for authorial style and effect.
The 2016-2017 school year is one of many new beginnings for Lake Forest High School, including a new schedule with two days of block classes. Due to the schedule change, there are now embedded lunch periods for all students. With around 500 students in each of the three lunch periods and the disappearance of the snack shop, the cafeteria has become crowded and chaotic. Between the well-meaning, confused Freshmen and domineering, hungry Seniors, buying lunch has become extremely difficult and relatively lawless. The added factor of the lunch periods being shortened to 25 minutes has created an urgency that panics most students who wish to eat something more substantial than a chocolate chip cookie or shrimp tempura.
As LFHS students have been taught to be inventive problem-solvers, they have found a more efficient solution to the cafeteria situation. LFHS students have actually created a hunting and gathering society in place of frustrating long lines and second-choices. Students have been taking advantage of the wooded areas around the bike path and behind the school. Amidst the student body, there has been a clear divide between the hunters and gatherers, with the football team being the primary hunters and the Environmental Club being the primary gatherers. The two sides of the school depend on each other to survive, increasing teamwork that many teachers have noticed transfers over to the classroom.
“It’s really quite fascinating to see the way this new experience has bonded the students,” says one English teacher. “One day they don’t know each other’s names and the next they’re exchanging a bag of berries for a squirrel burger. It’s an inspiring message for the community.”
The students themselves are also enthusiastic about the new process. After talking to a variety of students, I found that each had found something about the antiquated method to love.
When asked what her favorite part of being a gatherer is, a senior says, “I like how there are so many healthy options.” Meanwhile, a junior states she “enjoys the unique opportunity for learning about the wildlife in Lake Forest”. A freshman explains that she has loved the experience because she has met so many new people through it.
“The two of us met while we were reaching for the same tree branch,” she informs me, gesturing to her new best friend. “I never would have met Abby if it hadn’t been for this new lunch plan. It gives you a really easy way to talk to different people, not just in your grade, but in all grades. There are already some great junior and senior gatherers I look up to, and it’s nice to have that mentorship when everyone out there is fighting for their lives. Definitely my favorite part of the new schedule.”
In addition to all these fun benefits, some students simply admire it for the simplicity of the system.
“It’s just a bit quicker and easier,” says a junior, as she picks small leaves from her hair. “The environment outdoors is a little less competitive than inside the cafeteria.”
The ways in which the food is captured ranges from elaborate traps to weeding the grounds, but it can be ensured that every student gets their fair share by the end of the lunch period. Students have also begun to recognize in-class activities that can provide them with the food necessary for the day. The egg drop project now has the added touch of survival of the fittest, for those students whose eggs survive have lunch that day without the stress of foraging. Those in Biology classes making french fries always come prepared with salt and ketchup, and those in Chemistry making ice cream are the envy of the other students who can not find an equally sweet dessert outside. The students anticipate the biggest rest day will be March 14th, also known as “pi day”. Due to the 3-14 written date, most math classes bring in pie, a highly anticipated event among the hunter-gatherer society.
“It will be weird eating man-made food again, with all that processed sugar and pesticides,” says one student, clearly unaware of how a pie is made, “but after putting in such hard work for a year, everyone deserves a treat.”
Eager to hear their take on this change, I spoke to the cafeteria staff. Many of them expressed positive thoughts about it.
“It makes the lines much more manageable,” one worker tells me, sipping a coffee from the recently added and currently empty coffee bar. “Those few students who haven’t joined the hunter-gatherer practices take their time buying food, and we often get to have conversations with them. It’s helped me get to know the students on a much more personal level. Also, the cafeteria is much quieter. I get less headaches now.” The many other employees I spoke to said similar things, showing the overall positive effects of this new LFHS tradition. Lynn declined to comment.
The administration has found no problem with it as of yet, though they have been monitoring it closely to ensure that no complications arise amongst rivaling groups of students. In fact, higher levels of administration have been heard singing the praises of this new implementation.
“The last thing we want is for this to divide the student body. Here at LFHS, we value inclusion and acceptance. Our first concerns were that fights would break out between students who became greedy or territorial. However, after close observation of the system, we have decided that there is so much opportunity within the land surrounding the school that there is no cause for competition.” At this point, the teacher stopped to offer me a chipmunk chip, which I politely declined. “If anything, this is proof of the unique capabilities and creativity of LFHS students. Our students will rest at nothing to find a solution to their problems, and one that is beneficial for everyone and not just for their select group of friends. Frankly, I couldn’t be more proud.”
The hunting and gathering has sparked positive reactions all across the board, and Lake Forest High School students have no intent of stopping anytime soon. As the student body improves their foraging skills, berry-juice stained lips are spread to reveal healthy smiles. Rumors about possible agricultural development in the Lindenmeyer Field, but for now the students are happy to live off the land as they find it.
As wide-eyed Freshman says, “Lunch at LFHS is one of the big changes freshmen deal with coming from middle school. A lot of aspects of high school are like that. I have a study hall now, I’m able to take an art class and I have a newfound appetite for grass and ants. Everyone is making little adjustments like that, but high school is all about trying new things!”