With the conclusion of the annual Friends Academy homecoming week, one sentiment in particular has been echoed by students and faculty alike:
“What just happened?!”
This question has stumped many since the very origins of the legendary event. However, an in-depth analysis of the event may shed light upon Spirit Week’s inner workings.
The hype which revolves around the so-called “Spirit Week” commences with the incredibly grandiose reveal of the week’s dress-up themes: the administration sends a discrete email to the entire Upper School the Friday afternoon preceding Spirit Week, announcing its upcoming existence for the first time. Such impeccable timing leaves students with more than enough time (two whole days!) to plan their ornate get-ups for the entire week. Each student is sure they will top each of their peers’ outfits in a competition that can only be hailed as Survival of the Best Dressed.
As demonstrated by the unwavering commitment of many students to go all-out during this year’s “Logo Day” or “Advisory Theme Day,” Spirit Week is not something taken lightly in Friends Academy. When deciding upon their ensemble, students this year were required to deliberate for several seconds, if not entire minutes, as to which one of their numerous college sweatshirts or pajama pants they should wear on such theme days. Who gets to decide these unusually creative and original themes? Definitely not the student body, for the task of coming up with a better idea to top “Decades Day” or “Logo Day” must be deemed far beyond students’ meager capabilities.
Perhaps the buildup to Spirit Week truly climaxes on the last day. The highly anticipated pep rally brings the whole school into one screaming flock of people. Upper school sports team members line up procession-style, prepared to make their individual group entrances and emerge as the reigning sport, cheered on by the masses (masses meaning the 400 or so lower and middle school students shrieking in high-pitched voices and blowing horns incessantly, swept up in a frenetic rush of mob mentality). In groups categorized by sport, athletes thunder out onto the catwalk created between the throng of people, asserting their social dominance by yelling and crying out their sport’s name with such ferocity that it can only be attributed to survival of the fittest. Finally, after approximately twenty minutes of ear-shattering cacophony, pep rally inexplicably stops and students swarm out of the building while teachers attempt to stop the stampede by restricting exit routes.
Why did this becoming our annual tradition? To the 10% of the upper school not involved in after-school sports, pep rally is simply an orchestration of the jocks- a way for them to forcibly display and exert their social domination upon the rest of the school. Non-athletes (even if only for the fall season) are left awkwardly gaping from the sidelines with no real team to cheer for. Since when did school spirit manifest itself solely in sports? It seems that to truly embrace the principles of inclusivity and school spirit, pep rally should allow all students- not just athletes- an equal opportunity to take part in the event. After all, why can’t musical-oriented students sing or play their instruments in the procession? Why must it be reserved for the jocks? Even more importantly, why must pep rally be all about typecasting groups of people as “athletes” or “none of the above”? Competition during Spirit Week is understandable, but perhaps we would be better off reorganizing our pep rally into a competition between the grades rather than a competition between the athletes, thereby excluding everyone else. At Friends Academy, where exclusion of any sort is prohibited, it seems highly paradoxical that one of the most anticipated events of the year revolves around exclusivity.
In many ways, Spirit Week embodies the inconsistencies present in Friends Academy’s everyday life. Perhaps we as a school should put greater thought into this special week for next year in order to improve the overall experience of our community.