For my few followers, I do apologise for this next rant as it largely has no relevance to your lives.
Of late, I have read a couple of posts by fellow acquaintances who I went to high school with that talk about their experiences of high school and certain abhorrent aspects of it. A particular commonality in both their posts was the stress placed on aesthetics in the sense of physical attractiveness in our school. To loosely summarise their shared perspectives, the strive for perfection in our school extended to placing importance on students who were more conventionally attractive which even went as far as resulting in a number of students having deep, long-lasting and worsening insecurities about themselves. Furthermore, school authorities perpetuated a belief that in order to get ahead in life, you had to be good-looking or exceptionally smart.
At this point I would like to state very plainly that our school did in fact quite unashamedly hold this view which surfaced at every major event that was held. Personally, I fell somewhere in the middle of the on-goings and the experiences held by my acquaintances. With regards to the first post, I was in the brochure for the event. I was not however, chosen because I was exceptionally beautiful, or even ordinarily pretty. Rather, I am (un)fortunately gifted with regards to height, quite uncommonly so for my Indian ethnicity, and was chosen because I was tall. The director of the play even had second thoughts when picking me out in the line of students because I was “gangly, gawky and awkward”. Furthermore, I was rejected from being in the musical for the very reason that I was selected to be in the brochure- I was too tall and as such, didn’t fit “the look”.
With regards to the second post, I too had to face crticism about my appearance. Sharing the curly and frizzy hair described by the author, I stood out in the wrong way no less than my peer. Although I am in no ways chubby, quite the opposite in fact, I was called out for my boy-ish figure and other imperfections by peers and teachers alike. I had and continue to have an abundance of self-esteem issues however, feel that it is wrong to place the onus for these on an institution. I do not claim to feel “nurtured” by my school, but instead feel that all things considered, the things I faced were my own fault for not standing up for myself enough, or for caring far too much about what others thought of me. While it is fully understandable that in a society that you spend 12 or more years of life in, you would love to be accepted, it is unfair to blame that very society for issues that are the result of your own understandings of how society should function. In fact, I would go as far as to thank my school for showing me that I could be better than how I portrayed myself by giving me the confidence to stand up to those people who looked down at me for shallow, banal reasons by teaching me how to be articulate and straight-forward. These lessons were free for us to learn, should we all have given them the attention they deserved. There were a number of avenues that we had to turn to, friends, family and even sympathetic teachers of whom there are more than I can count. It was up to us to turn to them and share our thoughts. Perhaps, I can bring this down to being privileged to have the friends and teachers that I did.
Moving away from the topic of appearance, the second post brought out the importance of academics and our school. Since our school was so preoccupied with its appearance, it stressed academic achievement above and beyond everything else. I do sympathise with my acquaintance for being told that she would not go anywhere in life for committing the cardinal sin of Indian academic culture- being ordinary or average. Note: Indian academic culture, not my school. What is seemingly particular to my school really is particular to Indian academic systems at large, systems in which they very teachers that told her that she would go nowhere in life likely grew up in and expected us to go into. We need to look no further than the outrageous cut-offs for admissions to below mediocre Indian universities and colleges to back this claim up. Due to this, to situate blame for lack of esteem on teachers who were likely using a warped understanding of reverse-psychology is rather problematic.
It is unfortunate that an academic institution that should be geared towards equipping its students with the tools to succeed in life should be accused of what my peers have accused it of, quite aptly so in part. However, it is important to keep in mind one thing which I feel is extremely important in the grand scheme of things- our own roles. How far were we responsible for perpetuating the beliefs that the school is being accused of and how far are we responsible for the consequences of the schools actions by not countering them. If anything, I would like to thank my school for showing me that the world is rather unfair and also, capable of change should we wish and act upon our wish for change.
The first article in question can be found at: http://coffeeshopsundays.tumblr.com/post/50318354944/at-my-high-school-we-will-rock-you-r-self-esteem
The second article: http://thoughtcrimeprole.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/one-hell-of-a-high-school-quite-literally/
I encourage you to read the above to gain an understanding of my criticism of their perspectives. I also would like to give my compliments to them for raising the issues that they did as I do believe that they are very valid in themselves and should be addressed by our school though they likely will not be. Moreover, I would like to congratulate my acquaintances on everything that they have individually been able to achieve in their time in university and hope that life continues to treat them well.