One High-Schooler’s Fight Against Brainwashing

The best and brightest. Scowling and/or faceless. 

When I was a senior in high school I became convinced that the administration was brainwashing us.  I don’t recall what I was reading at the time, but 1984 and Brave New World had rocked my world pretty hard in middle school and from then on I knew people wanted to be inside my head.

My conviction began with an assembly that threatened school pride.

It was midmorning on a Thursday the week of the big game against our rival, South Classen.  War drums pounded as all 2000 some high-schoolers of North Memorial slowly poured into the gymnasium and were segregated by class.

The assembly was meant to be forty five minutes of pure adrenaline, incendiary statements pouring into the bleachers and inflating the students’ zeal. At the assembly’s climax, the principal would stand and conduct the entire student body in a war chant, each section rising when indicated and bellowing with all the spite and sincerity we could muster, “NORTH PANTHERS BEAT SOUTH” or something like that, with each class taking a different word.

But this rally was different. While the majority of the student masses was hubbubing energetically, one section remained unimpressed: the seniors. This was not our first rodeo, and we no longer believed the hollow promises of the administration. Nothing had changed in four years, regardless of any game’s outcome. We still had acne, got annoyed with our parents, and didn’t know how to talk to our crushes (some things never change).

The gymnasium was buzzing with excitement, the word “NORTH” still echoing in the rafters. It was our turn to yell, to show our school pride, our communal virility and patriotism. At the same time, an anonymous whisper trickled through the senior section, “Everyone sit down…no one say anything.” As the baton pointed to the senior class, the world held its breath.

Silence roared as the seniors did nothing. No one spoke, moved, or giggled. It was awesome.

Red faced, the administration quickly moved on, but the senior class knew it had scored an incredible victory and impressed the underclassmen with our apathy.

Technically, I did not attend this assembly, choosing to protest against school pride through a furious nap. But I was  inspired by the story when I heard it the next day, especially because of the storm of anger the school administration proceeded to vomit at us.

“You will bow down to the god of school spirit!” they bellowed. “You will be a part of Memorial North and worship your school! We will take away your prom and your grinding should you refuse!”

The outrage buzzing through the administration was electrifying. We had struck a nerve. I finally realized that we had been blinded by petty intra-school rivalry. This was our opiate, meant to keep us calm in the face of gross injustices such as the fact we couldn’t wear bikinis to class. I wanted to mount a resistance, print out pamphlets, hold meetings, and do everything it took to beat the administration and throw off their yoke, whatever that meant.

One day, I began talking excitedly about the uprising with a fellow classmate. I waxed poetic about the need to resist and the false reality we were being spoon fed by the administration. Of course, I sounded completely insane, and classmate told me as much, mocking me every time I saw him for weeks.

I soon forgot my passion for anti-school-spirit—I was graduating soon anyways. Looking back, I still remember how obvious it seemed to me that the administration was distracting us from a greater reality but I think I just wanted my life to be more interesting than it actually was. And that’s when I started vigilante crime fighting.

*some details altered because my memory is bad

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21 thoughts on “One High-Schooler’s Fight Against Brainwashing

  1. I feel your pain. Unfortunately, my high school was so small and rural that I think I may have been the lone dissenter in the back of the pep rally reading Kerouac in my Robert Smith eyeliner. Stupid 90’s.

  2. Nicole says:

    that is an awesome story

  3. tomwisk says:

    Back when I was in high school my senior class began a boycott of the cafeteria because one of the girls found a bug in her salad. It spread through the school. Cafeteria workers responded by halting the sale of everything but lunches and milk. It didn’t bother me. I followed the party line. You did the right thing by furiously napping during the pep rally. You killed two birds with one stone. You avoided a manufactured event and then you publicized the resistance. They were ditracting you from the reality that a good portion of what passed for learning was manufacturing more grist for the machine.

    • edrevets says:

      Amen, brother. I remember people being a little shocked that I would skip the rally, but I’m not known for my willingness to turn down a good nap.

  4. tedstrutz says:

    I thought you were talking about the country… oh, it’s your high school… did you wear your bikini under your graduation gown?

  5. dirtyterry says:

    I am going to go against the norm and say quality vs quantity. Its so easy. Can I get a banal minutiae? What’s the point, and why is this piece important to you?

    • edrevets says:

      Banal minutiae! I’ve recently been thinking about my high school self and thought it was ridiculous that I should get so impassioned about something that ultimately wasn’t that important. Glad you thought the same way!

  6. tom says:

    Bikinis to class. You were setting your goals high.

  7. Word to the assembly-time nappers! Viva la revolucion.

  8. Audrey says:

    You rebel you! The revolution is coming!

  9. I have no doubt that you were right there with those seniors in non spirit, while taking your furious nap!
    I also fought hard against the cruel injustice perpetrated against those wrongfully denied their right to wear bikinis in class – except that I was fighting for the bikini rights of certain exceptional teachers; the ones who were a well rounded education personified. ;-D

  10. ro says:

    Awesome. Sounds like a killer scene in a John Hughes movie. Love it.

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