The "Greatest Class" Comes Unglued
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," and your host, Annie. I'm a school teacher off for the summer. Today I'm enjoying the luxury of having nothing to do but blog and laundry.
I have two daughters, The Heir and The Spare. I got the idea for their names from Princess Diana's two boys. Some Brits call Wills and Harry "The heir and the spare."
Both Heir and Spare graduated from the same high school, Snobville Memorial High. When Heir graduated four years ago, her class was hailed as "the greatest class" ever to come through the school.
(I had to wonder about that, because the Monkey Man went to that school. He graduated in 1960, which was probably a greater year.)
June 19 was Spare's turn to graduate, and once again her class was lauded as "the greatest class" ever to come out of the school. Well, you can make a compelling case. There's not a single Ivy League school that isn't getting at least one Snobville graduate. The valedictorian (a math whiz) will be going to Princeton and is so like "A Beautiful Mind" that it's freakin scary. The class president got a full scholarship to Rutgers, independent of financial need. Someone is going to West Point.
Trouble is, there's a dark underbelly to these high-performing schools in towns made up mostly of extremely wealthy families.
For the past five years, the local PTA has paid for a post-graduation party at the Snobville Country Club. (You can imagine how posh a country club in Snobville would be.) This post-graduation party costs the graduates nothing, not a penny. There's a DJ and great raffle items, like Xboxes and mini fridges and gift certificates. All paid for out of PTA money and donations.
The rationale behind this party is that it would keep the students from going out after graduation and getting drunk, high, or both, and having a tragic accident.
There were no breathalizers at the door of the party.
More than half the students arrived drunk and, by virtue of flasks, got drunker still at the party. Midway through the evening, students began to stagger and vomit. Someone puked on the dance floor. One student had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance when he aspirated his vomit. The policemen on duty were the same ones who had taught this class about drinking and drugs back in fifth grade.
Spare doesn't drink, and I don't think she had ever seen a true drunken party. She came home so dismayed that, after speaking about it for ten minutes, said she didn't want to talk about it any more. When I asked her to show me which kids were drinking by using her yearbook, she said it would take too long, because mostly everyone was drinking except her friends. (She runs with the Ivy League crowd.)
Snobville has an ugly history of teenage drinking. Heir lost two classmates to drinking/drug use, including a boy who jumped off the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
What is it that drives these kids to such extremes?
I imagine that part of it is biochemical, because, after all, alcohol is a drug, and many kids medicate depression and anxiety with alcohol. Every high school in the country has its drinkers and its stoners.
However, in the case of Snobville, I think there's an extra stress load. High-achieving parents are either not home much, or they demand excellence from their kids to maintain their financial status. It's like this: Where do you go but down if your parents are millionaires but not gazillionaires? We aren't talking one percent here, or if we are, it's the newly-minted and insecure one percenters. Students are pressured to keep the money flowing into the family bloodstream. The absentee parents are probably trying to haul in enough money to maintain the blood flow if Junior turns out to be average.
Spare has hosted more than six big parties here at our little Snobville house on the wrong side of town. Six parties in one year. When she finally asked me for a big graduation party, I was flabbergasted. I said, "Ten of these kids on this invite list live in mansions. Why are we throwing the parties?"
She said, "Mostly their parents don't give a shit, and the rest of the parents don't want kids in their houses."
Message to rich parents who don't give a shit: The sound of smart kids playing charades in a tiny back yard is priceless. Too late, you missed that. And having a warm and caring relationship with your flesh-and-blood is absolutely priceless. Too late, you missed that too.
Would you rather struggle financially and have a close and loving relationship with your kids, or rake in the bucks and hardly see Junior from week to week?
I had a very hard-working student at my school this year, an African American kid with a caring mom. One day he stayed after school on Friday to finish an assignment. When he was done, I said, "What are you going to do on the weekend?"
He said, "My mom and I usually drive around and look at the big houses in C**** H**** and Snobville. She wants me to live in one some day."
I told him, "If you and she could walk inside one of those houses and see what really happens there, you would save a lot of gas."