The Cult of Seniority
By Shiva Peri
Senior trip, senior spirit week, senior skip day, senior portraits, senior prom, senior prank, and most notorious of all, ‘senioritis.’ In this article, I wish to explore whether this cult of seniority is a warranted sense of accomplishment, or an irrational excuse for blatant irresponsibility.
Personally, I never understood much of senior culture. For example, I did not get a Disney bag because, as many of my friends, such as Kelly Orr, can now attest, they fall apart.
Orr, however, still stands by her choice of a Powerpuff Girls backpack and justifies it because it is fun: “I don’t think as a senior you necessarily have to be getting a Disney bag, I think it’s just fun to get a little kid’s backpack.”
While a backpack is relatively harmless, I do not share the pride in being a senior. I did not understand why simply getting older should be rewarded. John Vanderslice, on the other hand, associates seniority with respect:
“As seniors, we get extremely lazy and we tend to have days like senior-skip days … we also take seniority as a big thing… [when it comes to choosing] … seats in the lunchrooms and on the buses.”
However, my outlook shifted from December (when I was initially going to write this article) until now as I was writing this article and conversing with fellow seniors about life.
A major motivation for the rise of seniority is a shift in responsibilities. Suddenly, school and grades matter less and one’s future after high school takes precedence. The college application process, for example, affects the lives of seniors in many ways.
During the autumn months, many seniors struggle to finish writing supplemental essays, to secure letters of recommendation, to meet all college deadlines, and to maintain their academics. The time between application submission and decision day puts many in an uncomfortable position of uncertainty. The road ahead is no longer clear because the right decisions concerning one’s future depend on the individual circumstances.
During this period of uncertainty, many seniors join the cult of seniority and, understandably, seek temporary solace in dreaming of Disney, of senior prom, and most notably, of graduation. In fact, this anticipation is not even limited to seniors.
Larry Tsai, currently a junior, testifies to his excitement for this time period: “I am excited for senior year … [The beginning] … that’s all the college apps, that’s what I’m not looking forward to. … I’m looking forward to the last two months of senior year, when you're doing nothing.”
Keeping the understandability of this temperament in mind, seniority manifests in many ways. Examples include arriving late to school, skipping classes, procrastination, poor academic performance, and a general attitude of care-free-ness.
However, one must draw a line between reasonable extensions of seniority, such as senior spirit week, and unreasonable ones, such as blatant academic decline in the name of seniority. The reason I draw this line is twofold: firstly, seniors are to be the exemplar students who represent Council Rock North. Championing poor academics and general irresponsibility sets a low bar for underclassmen.
Secondly, seniors should strive for an ideal graduation. Graduating should be like a victory lap. While nearly all seniors will receive their diplomas, only a minority may see how rewarding it is to earn their diplomas. Thus, perhaps seniors might consider adopting responsibilities, even if that responsibility is not obligatory, in order to reach that goal in way you can be proud of.
Both the positive and negative aspects of the cult of seniority have a major impact on both the lives of teachers (particularly period 1 teachers) and students themselves.
Mr. Biglan, who teaches AP Art History during first period, notes, “The juniors are always on time. We have a little loophole so if it’s 7:38, I’ll allow [seniors] to come in then. Otherwise they have to have a pass. … [For example] today we had a test and a couple kids came in late, so they’re obviously missing part of the test and that affects them more than me, but it’s disruptive. I wouldn’t call [seniors] lazier, but they are getting excited about the end of the school year.”
Perhaps this lateness is a result of seniors driving to school with variable traffic and the seniors find fun in the excuse of seniority. However, seniors slacking in the name of seniority is not exclusive to period one.
Mrs. Storlazzi, who teaches AP calculus BC (arguably one of the most difficult courses in the school), offers some perspective: “In my class, you can’t slack off or you won’t pass the AP Exam. I have a golden prize of eight college credits … The seniors I have are always in calculus … so even if they slacked off, they’re all sending me thank-you notes and I’m-sorry notes the year later … I always tried to make [students] see value in what they’re doing right now and how it would set them up for success in college.”
This point addresses the crux of why I fail to understand seniority; senior year in high school is not the end of anything but high school. Life will not get any easier.
Senior culture is an inseparable and inevitable aspect of senior year. In my opinion, the hackneyed advice that “everything is good in moderation” is applicable to senior culture. Seniors should enjoy their senior year, but to a reasonable extent.
By Marissa Cohen
The hallways at Council Rock North often echo with complaints from students and teachers about everything from homework to letters of recommendation. For years, members of the Council Rock community have felt the pressure of being in a top-ranked school. In fact, in a recent survey of 55 students in Council Rock North, 51% said they feel close to dangerous levels of stress on a daily basis, while none said they feel little to no stress. Although people may debate whether stress is more of an issue now than in the past, everyone seems to have the same question: why am I so stressed?
This is also a question that’s been running through the minds of administrators and counselors as they try to develop new ideas and programs for relieving these enormous amounts of stress laid upon students.
Most of this stress stems from quizzes and tests, with homework and extra-curricular activities coming in a close second place. It is common knowledge that quizzes and tests create much of the stress for students for a variety of reasons. Students often spend hours studying for each exam, which may lead to a lack of sleep. In addition, students often feel nervous and anxious before tests since grades seem to be so influential for many students.
Students also may feel stress because of time commitments due to extracurricular activities. Whereas tests are an unavoidable part of school, extracurriculars are just that: extra. Thus, many people advise students to give up some clubs and hobbies to relieve stress. However, the stress of extracurriculars comes from the ingrained belief that a student must participate in them often and fully in order to be accepted into a good college. As far as students know and the community seems to believe, colleges won’t like to see that they never participated in activities because it was too much for them.
In addition to the above causes, 46% of students surveyed said they feel much pressure from teachers, parents, and friends to be perfect, which causes them immense levels of stress. North has been a very well-known and well respected school for a while because of its reputation, which is based on students’ college acceptances and SAT scores.
However, those who fawn over North’s incredible reputation fail to see the stress students feel from teachers, parents, and friends alike to maintain that amazing reputation. A junior at North who wishes to remain anonymous said that in her two and a half years at this school, her stress seems to have gotten worse as time has passed.
According to her, sophomore year was less stressful “except for the Isearch [paper], decades project, and geometry projects”. However, she also said that junior year has been “really, really stressful.” This student’s opinions relate exactly to the survey, where most people who said they had a dangerous level of stress were juniors.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, junior year may offer the most stress since it is the year in which many students take AP classes for the first time in addition to the SAT exam and college preparations.
In comparison to juniors, freshmen also feel great stress, but in different ways. As mentioned earlier, homework seems to be the primary cause of stress in students and is seen in all grades.
Katie Pearcy, a current North freshman and honors student, feels like most of her stress comes from homework. She said that the transition from work in middle to high school “was a huge change for me.”
Many students go from an hour or an hour and a half of work in middle school to hours of homework and studying every night in high school -- a huge transition and challenge for freshmen.
Homework is also stressful for Pearcy and others because “every teacher treats their own class like top priority so they give more homework” and “teachers in honors classes use the fact that their class is honors to give more homework.”
Many students at North suffer from all of these stressors and more. Other common stressors from the survey were popularity, jobs, college acceptances, and SATs/ACTs. The question remains, though, how long will this internal battle of stress continue in North’s students before it becomes too much?