OPINION: Normalizing dissent: An open letter to my high school

Earlier this week, I received a message from an alumnus from my high school. It was simple — a link to a local news story about an individual who graduated a few years before me and was now being held on $100,000 bail for sexually assaulting a minor.

I didn’t know the assaulter. I didn’t even recognize his face. But for some reason, I wasn’t surprised he did something like this. It took a few minutes of reflecting on the article before I realized how colossally screwed up it was that I wasn’t surprised this happened.

At best, high school is purgatory. At worst, it’s a nightmarish hellscape lorded over by underpaid teachers and ruled by a perverse social hierarchy. I’m not going to go so far as to say my high school was a carbon copy of the latter, and I’m not so self-absorbed to think I was a victim of it.

Nonetheless, my high school — Servite High School, a private, Catholic, all-boys school in Anaheim, California — was tremendously, massively screwed up.

There were swastikas and slurs carved into the bathroom stalls, bigoted meme accounts, widespread far-right sympathies, a deep socioeconomic divide and rampant sexism and homophobia.

The spring dance with our sister school was fiesta-themed (problematic in itself) and girls in shorts that didn’t meet dress code were turned away while guys in border patrol outfits and MAGA hats waltzed past the chaperones.

Sickening rumors frequently spread about the female teachers, who were mercilessly objectified and body-shamed. A video of a kid being hit in the head with a wrench by his classmates in the parking lot was widely circulated. Gay students stayed in the closet in fear of being singled out by their peers or the administration.

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These problems primarily arose within the student body, but the administration was aware of many of them and complicit in most.

I’m ashamed to say I was, too. However, I did do some things to battle these issues. I debated my classmates in theology and government classes, and I reported a few of the aforementioned meme accounts.

But in hindsight, I could have done so much more. I could have tried to involve the media. I could have told my parents. I could have organized a group of concerned students to bring up the issues publically.

But in hindsight, I could have done so much more. I could have tried to involve the media. I could have told my parents. I could have organized a group of concerned students to bring up the issues publically. — Eamon Morris

Coming to the 5Cs was a culture shock. The driven activism and passion I saw in my new classmates made me realize how greatly I had failed, and it made me reflect on the reasons for my failure.

A big part of it was fear, and a big part of it was my own complicity. Another substantial part of it was that my school didn’t teach me the value of dissent. So many schools fail to do this.

Young people are told they’re taught the truth, always.

This culture, where what’s said in the classroom is deemed true, regardless of whether it actually is, harms so many people. It leaks beyond the hallways of high school, which is seen as a simulacrum of society as a whole and where issues of bigotry are overlooked under the assumption the whole world simply operates this way.

I’m not sorry I went to that school. It got me here, after all. It was my decision, and I take full responsibility for that. I’m also thankful my parents sacrificed so much for me to get there. However, I am sorry that I didn’t speak out more vehemently against the problems there.

With my failure to speak out, I blame myself for some of the problems there.

Until young people like me are encouraged to ask questions and dissent from the norm, more of these issues will be overlooked and passed off by the students experiencing them.

 

Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, California. He’s still bitter about losing the English and Writing award to his high school’s valedictorian.

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Eamon Morris

Eamon Morris PZ '22 is from Orange, California. He is an opinions writer for TSL.

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