The following is an op-ed by junior columnist Brett Chody. All of the opinions and viewpoints expressed within the article are solely that of the author.
Last week the 2017 Lake Forest High School Prom Court was announced. That much you likely already know. The first thing many people saw when the names were announced was the imbalance between males and females elected onto this year’s court of nominees. The uneven court is a result of a change of ways here at LFHS. Starting in 2017, there will no longer be a Prom King and Queen. Instead, students of the Junior Class were asked to vote for twelve individuals that they felt deserved to be on Prom Court and best embody the core ideas and values of a leader at Lake Forest High School. From there, twenty-seven names with the most votes were compiled and a second round of voting was conducted to determine the final court. The result? Eight boys and four girls. In a week or two, the Juniors will be asked to vote for two of their peers–regardless of gender–who will become our school’s very first Prom Royalty representatives.
The decision to remove the King and Queen titles from the Prom festivities has not exactly gone without controversy. Many hold reservations about the subject, calling the change “dumb” and “uncalled for” either behind closed doors or candidly amidst conversation with their high school peers. I cannot necessarily blame them. As a member of Student Council, I was told about the change in October. I’m not going to lie, it took me a bit to digest the information at first. But a week later Mr. Wanninger came to a meeting to talk to us about the reasoning behind this change and his simple yet profound words resonated with me. He said, “This is a small change that doesn’t really affect you guys that much, but could literally change somebody else’s life.” He went on to explain why this modification has a larger meaning than just removing the King and Queen titles that some of us placed on a pedestal with other time-honored school traditions; soon after hearing him speak, I became a supporter of the change myself.
Any change to a tradition is going to require time to process, especially at Lake Forest. Our school is one rooted in tradition, from its picturesque entrance to its venerated academic and athletic reputations, and everywhere in between. But there are concrete reasons why everyone in the Lake Forest High School community should not only accept, but embrace this change.
To begin, there is a stereotype behind Prom King and Queen shown in movies and TV shows that we have been exposed to our entire lives. The quarterback of the football team is King, his girlfriend who happens to be the head cheerleader is Queen, and the rest of the court are their best friends–all the “popular” kids. But here’s the thing: Lake Forest High School already does not follow that stereotype. For as long as I can remember, Prom Court has been filled with the kids who are nice, the ones who are friendly and affable to their peers and teachers alike; they are the ones who may or may not go out every weekend, but have such a presence between the hours of 8:15 and 3:20 that their peers feel like they deserve the nomination.
Many of these traits were written in Student Council’s mission statement that was printed on each voting ballot. You may have skimmed it or disregarded it completely, which is fine, but I find it important to say it here and note something about what it outlines.
“Prom court members possess positive energy and embody Scout pride in both words and actions. These students have a great spirit and can be found competing on the field, cheering in the stands, acting on the stage, studying in the library, playing chess in the commons, or simply saying “hi” in our hallways.”
The characteristics listed in this mission statement are not ones that are subject to a certain gender–they are human. So why is it so ingrained in society that one girl and one boy have to win? What if our grade feels like two of our peers who don’t fit the standard boy-girl partnership should be crowned? The solution: remove the labels of King and Queen and leave it up to any two nominees the students believe should be crowned. It seems simple.
Anyone who feels like this change is so drastic that it should be overturned, I’m sorry, but it’s not. Being a member of Prom Court myself, I can assure you that none of the nominees care that there are more boys than girls or that there won’t be a named King and Queen. In fact, I am truly flattered to be recognized in such an esteemed group of my peers. Every single individual on the court was chosen by the Class of 2018 because they embody what it means to be a Scout. Any two of us that win–no matter which two it ends up being–I am confident will be a completely accurate representation of our grade, our school, and our community.
Change is inevitable. We are living in a generation where the norm no longer exists; life is no longer black or white. Our world is changing every day to be more accepting, more tolerant, and more open to new ideas and ways of thinking. We should be proud of that change, not condemn it. I am so proud that our school is trailblazing a new path and breaking the long-established tradition set forth by a process with an out-of-date purpose that perpetuates an archaic stereotype.
Our generation is growing up in a unique time. We are blessed with myriad opportunities to truly amend the way we view the people around us who were once outcasted and accept those different schools of thought into our lives without judgment. This, in my own opinion, is our first real defining moment to showcase our capacity for open-mindedness. This is our generation. We are the change, and from now on we will be forever linked to it. Let us be proud to be among the pioneers in a trend that will one day become the standard.