Tuesday, April 3, 2012

High School Misconceptions

In June, it will be two years from the time I graduated high school. I'm not far out of the loop when it comes to how high school is like now. Sometimes when I read or watch movies and TV set in a high school, I find myself getting disjointed, perhaps because it's been a while since the writer was in high school or they fall back on stereotypes. These are some of my high school misconceptions:

  • "Everyone (except perhaps for that one rebel) wants to be popular." This is very much false. "Popular" is a very subjective term nowadays. I found that overall, people are content with whatever level of "popularity" they have. The people who don't have a lot are fine with that. The only ones who freak out about becoming "popular" are already "popular." And the kicker? Most of the people who aren't "popular" hate the people who are. They don't want to hang out with people they don't like, so they don't want to be popular. Do teens want to be included and have fun? Yeah, but they do that with their friends. For a high school student, friends=contentment. As long as people aren't bullying them or making fun of them, they're fine. Honest to goodness, fine.
  • "People hate nerds/"jocks are bullying idiots"/"cheerleaders are mean, shallow, and popular." Nerds can be well-liked and even embraced for how nerdy they are (I should clarify that I took honors and AP classes in high school, so maybe my vision was clouded). Jocks don't bully nerds just for being nerds. Jocks aren't even idiots. Sometimes, jocks are nerds, too. Cheerleaders aren't witches with a b, or supermodels. They're girls who like to cheer. They can be witches with b's, and they can be nice, although not that ambiguous "popular." Add some grey, people.  
  • "All teens want sex, except for that one Christian girl (who will be seduced and get pregnant anyway)." Um, actually, no. Whenever I read/watch something where every single teen is plotting to get laid, it's just like...no. Not really. Some people aren't interested in opening up that part of their life yet. And they don't even have to be the born again Christian. Of course some teens do have sex, but it's rarely the horny sex-fest some works present it to be.
Have you found things in books/movies/TV shows that misrepresent high school or teens in general?


  1. I'm one of the dreaded teachers and I agree with all you have to say. I love the comfort of individuality kids have today. Cliques are nothing more than groups of friends. Though I did have a brainy student say to me just a day ago, "I'm sick of voting for homecoming court it's the same kids who get it every time. The popular kids." When I asked her what it meant, she shrugged and said "Oh you know, the ones with money, the preps, the ones who play sports. I doubt more than 1 of them is in the top 20% of our class."

    And I'm actually struggling with the topic of sexuality in my WIP because I want to make sure my girl (who is"fast") isn't grown-up fast. It's a challenge. Many of my students open up and tell me they're still hanging on to their chastity, they just don't feel like being there yet.

    Great post.

  2. I definitely agree with this post. I have trouble thinking of a popular TV show based around teenagers that *doesn't* do this, to some degree. Although I do agree with Jaye that, while stereotypes about teenagers' personalities are usually false, the stereotypes about the "popular" kids always getting on the ballot for Homecoming/Prom court are usually true. But that's life--the popular, well-known kids who put themselves out there are going to be the ones that get the most attention.

    I think it's funny how even though most people realize that these high school stereotypes aren't true, they stick around anyway.

  3. So true! The sad thing is that many other cultures see these TV shows and assume that is the norm for teenagers in the US.

  4. YES. I completely agree with you on all your points. The one thing in books I find that authors are obsessed with is popularity. But in my high school, I honestly don't see that at all (granted I live in Canada so it might be different than the US... but from what you said it doesn't seem like it).

    I definitely agree with you completely and your first point - the battle of popularity that exists in TV shows and such I just don't see in real life. There are cliques, there are groups of friends. You're right when you say "friends = contentment". :D

    Thanks for this post!!

    1. oops... I meant there are NOT cliques, there are groups of friends...

  5. None of those stereotypes fit my high school. Nobody cared about being popular. People had their own friends. And some cheerleaders were very nice people. But I suppose that isn't dramatic enough for a story.

    Also, I tagged you in my Lucky Seven Meme post. Check it out!

  6. My son is a Junior in high school and last year the homecoming king was a "special-ed" kid (or what we would have called him back in the late 80s). I was like "Is this a [Stephen King] Carrie thing?" and he said it was for real. The dude was super funny and positive and everyone loved him. I'm continually amazed by the difference between my son's school in a WA State college town vs. my hell of high school (true to the stereotypes) in the Midwest. Yay for improvements!

  7. I'm 12 years out of high school, but even then it was nothing like TV/movies makes it seem.

    Our homecoming king was a band nerd. Our prom king was a Mormon (aka- not part of the "popular kid horny sex fest" you referred to) and an active part of the theater program. The only cheerleader I knew who was dumb had a C+ average and was kicked off the squad for not maintaining her grades. Groups and cliques seemed to constantly blur at the edges.

    What makes me crazy is how well-dressed high school kids are in movies. Even now, every teen I see is in jeans/shorts and a t-shirt 99% of the time. But in movies, they wear skirts and polos and pressed khakis, designer heels, fitted leather jackets and cardigans. The girls all carry purses, no backpacks, and guys are all buttoned up and tucked in. It just makes me roll my eyes. Teens are casual, comfortable (not sloppy, mind you, just casual) and pretty silly. The teens I know are more likely to rock blue sparkly eye shadow than liquid liner and department store cosmetics.

  8. I think boy-crazy girls are mistaken for sluts. Of course, entertainment has to take it a step further so adults will be interested; therefore, the sex crazed teen. I agree that it is a misconception.

  9. I've been out of high school for a while and my perspective now stems from my kids (boys). But I think you are right about being popular. And nerds aren't the only smart ones. =) Great post.