In a school gym, a school marching band plays a lively song while cheerleaders in brightly-colored garbs jump and leap in time. A mascot runs up and down the court in front of the bleachers filled with stomping and hollering students dressed in matching colors and face-paint. However, zoom out of this “High School Musical”-esque scene, and one can see that it is only an image on a TV screen. While this is actually what some high schools look like, in reality, the majority of school spirit takes the form of colorful themed posters taped to the sides of classrooms while a few scattered students sport spirited attire apart from their classmates.
Some may say that this is a rather sad scene, but it begs one to wonder whether school spirit is really necessary in an educational setting. While it may be fun and undoubtedly has a multitude of positive aspects, in the end, school spirit is simply another activity that does not serve to facilitate the learning of students in a focused environment.
The affirmative qualities of school spirit include not only teaching students teamwork, but also providing a release from stress and a source of enthusiasm and motivation. When students participate in spirit activities, they have a unique opportunity to experience teamwork not only in the classroom, but outside as well. With a similar positive effect in the classroom, school spirit also gives students motivation to work hard and improve their school as well as feel enthusiasm for the school environment. By participating in school spirit, students are also able to take their mind off tests or other stress-inducing activities and relax while they’re at school.
This escape from the weight of school can potentially provide a necessary outlet for any struggling students. Gunn High School in Palo Alto has found that to be one of the key factors in why school spirit means so much to them.
“It’s a way for us to get away from the classroom,” Gunn class council member Josh Spain said. “That’s why it’s so big in the Palo Alto school district. At lunch when there’s a rally or at brunch when there is some activity on the quad, it’s a way for us to not talk to each other about the test we just had and not talk to each other about the homework. [Instead, we] just focus on being with each other and hanging out and have fun.”
It is important to note that simply because a school might not have spirit spilling from students’ ears does not mean the students are limited in learning teamwork skills. Group projects provide those experiences in the classroom, and teamwork outside can be found in extracurriculars, from sports teams to clubs. Also, limited school spirit does not mean a lack of enthusiasm or motivation. Dedicated students can still summon enthusiasm for their studies without spirit activities and in the competitive environment of schools today, students can find plenty of motivation in the prospect of college and furthering their own education.
“I wouldn’t say [school spirit] is necessary, but there is nothing to lose,” Josh said. “Obviously a lot of people make it out of high school fine without a ton of school spirit. [But] if [school spirit is there], embrace it.”
Palo Alto High School (PALY) is particularly known for its spirit among other local high schools.
“Spirit Week is one of the most competitive and fun weeks in the entire year,” PALY ASB sports commissioner senior Aryia Momeny said. “Students are very involved in all aspects of it and it is by far the best week of any school year. Students love representing Paly in sporting events, academic challenges, and love representing the school.”
Since students are the ones exuding spirit, they must be the key difference between schools with copious spirit and schools with minimal spirit.
“It is really a cultural aspect,” Aryia said. “Unfortunately, it comes and goes with the classes going in and out of the school.”
The question of how the school can increase its spirit still remains up for debate. While it is difficult to predict what will affect school spirit positively, ASB has made a huge step in the right direction by implementing a point system. By putting this new system into effect, there is now a tangible competition between the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Due to having an actual score they can see, students will become more competitive which will lead to an increased level of spirit and participation. This point system is similar to the one that Gunn High School has found very successful in recent years.
“Personally I think people like it so much because it gives the students something to be spirited for, like an end goal,” ASB president senior Meg Enthoven said. “We have so many class competitions throughout the year like the float building and powderpuff and all the games at the rallies, and with the new point system, there is a way to connect all of them and keep everyone motivated to have spirit for the entire year.
With new aspects to spirit events, such as more crowd involvement at assemblies or the already mentioned point system, the school has made the necessary change in order to start the expansion of school spirit. At this point, it is up to the students to take the next step.
“Boosting school spirit is a communal effort,” Ariya said. “Whether it’s through word of mouth or student government attempts, even those that say they don’t care about it would love to have people cheering them on in their endeavors.”
Maybe Paly and Gunn have school spirit all figured out, but even though many LAHS students don’t necessarily show it all the time, they do appreciate their school. Paly and Gunn can keep their face-paint and ribbons to themselves; all we need is ASB and our uniquely LAHS traditions.