The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

School Spirit Not Lacking, Just Ill-Defined

Apathy seems to be a common sentiment when it comes to high school. This is true to the extent that, at least in passing conversation, it is considered cool to keep oneself at a polite distance from school involvement. Yet, whether or not that seeming sense of disengagement with school events and activities actually exists depends largely on how school spirit is defined.

In light of recent events such as the Sadies dance nearly being canceled, the school’s sense of spirit must be called into question. Students aren’t just participants when it comes to school spirit, they’re its creators.

“People feel that [spirit] is just supposed to rain upon them and they will feel spirit,” Assistant Principal Cristy Dawson said. “It’s not like that, it’s what goes around comes around. If you were invested personally in attending something or being somewhere or supporting or learning, then you get it back, it feeds you. I would ask people to look inward and say ‘what stops me from being engaged?’”

Often times the answer to that question is simply being too busy. With the immense number of other activities available to students (both in and out of school) from sports to the arts, not to mention substantial workloads, many students just may not have the time or energy to attend events like dances and sports games when all is said and done.

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“I have practice and then school work, and after that I can’t fit in an hour or two to watch another game as much as I would like to,” Track and Cross Country Team member senior Stephen Soward said.
Furthermore, it seems that the fewer there are of people who attend sports games and other events, the less appealing they become.

“I think the most important thing is that when other people don’t go, or your friends don’t go, you as an individual are much less likely to go,” Stephen said.

With students as busy as they are, it appears as though their engagement, within or outside of the school, is not the problem, but rather our collective definition of spirit. It isn’t just a question of attending dances and sports games, as much as it is a matter of attitude.

“School spirit is basically school pride… it can involve getting dressed up in LAHS gear, but it’s more about pride in your school and a demonstration of that,” Stephen said.

While school spirit can take the form of the gym rallies we’ve seen in teen movies since the dawn of time, it doesn’t need to. That is only the physical manifestation of what is, in reality, a feeling rather than an act.

“I graduated in 1970 and we were talking then about how there wasn’t enough school spirit,” Assistant Principal Cristy Dawson said. “I think it is a continual conversation.”

So perhaps the issue of school spirit isn’t so much one of students not having it, as defining the thing itself. School spirit is not merely how loud we cheer at assemblies or how many school events students attend. It is a matter of being part of something bigger than oneself.

“I think spirit pretty much represents everything that goes on outside of a classroom,” Dawson said. “I like to look at a student holistically, I don’t think it’s just about academics… I think the memories that develop not just as intellects but human beings are experiences that take place in a performance, or in athletics or art or even just playing with your friends.”

As a result, the perceived lack of spirit may simply be a function of students being too busy to participate in the many school activities, rather than actively avoiding them. Between academics, extracurriculars, sports, the many other trials of teenagehood and high school students are certainly pressed for time. Under that degree of pressure, priorities are typically established and anything extra tends to be put on the back burner.

“Overall I think kids are really busy and I don’t know if I would categorize it as them being apathetic,” Dawson said. “They care, they’re just booked.”

If this is the case, not having school spirit may not be such a huge problem. As long as students remain active in their lives outside of academics the role that school spirit attempts to fill is still being accomplished.

Being a part of something bigger than oneself is an important experience for students to have, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be found in a wild pep rallys or attendance at school functions.
School spirit cannot simply be evaluated by how many students show up to a football game, or buy tickets for a dance. For better or worse, school spirit and student’s degree of respect for their educational institution, as a matter of attitude, must be defined at an individual level.

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