Pittsford-Mendon High School Highjinks

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the October 26, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259For those of you who don’t know or don’t care, Pittsford-Mendon High School’s homecoming weekend fell victim to rude behavior and mass disciplinary retaliation. It seems a few passionate students took it upon themselves to start an egg throwing contest during a Friday pep rally. The ensuing food fight left plenty of smashed eggs, messy clothes and at least one egg-faced teacher.

Not tolerating anarchy in the least, the administration promptly cancelled all homecoming activities (except the games). So much for a fun-filled weekend of parading and dancing. The action of the powers that be so upset the student body that about 200 of them staged a sit-in the following Monday.

Not a pretty sight. Students against teachers, teachers against students, parents against administration, etc… Pure ugliness of the worst kind. The whole situation has left me with three compelling thoughts.

 

One – I can think of no excuse for the egg throwers during the Friday assembly. They might have considered their act a part of the emotion or an attempt to disrupt a high school ritual, but in either case, the conduct marked the nadir of maturity. Unfortunately, (or, perhaps, “realistically”), we must conclude the same irresponsible element which existed during our own high school days endures today.

Such a lack of respect, as evidenced by the egged teacher, cannot go unpunished. The nature of the events demanded some quick and certain form of punishment. The administration complied by issuing the textbook edict.

Some days the punishment does not fit the crime, but this crime cannot be labeled as a mere childish prank. Quite simply, egging others stands as nothing less than physical assault. It shows a wanton disregard for others. As we have seen, this “innocent” act can lead to very, very tragic results.

 

Two – Regardless of my own Victorian views apparent from the above, had I been a student, I would have most certainly led the sit-in demonstration. Philosophy – not high school spirit – motivates me here. (I never got excited about pep rallies, preferring instead to hang out in the science section of the library.)

As an individual, as an American, I have little toleration for actions which impede an individual’s rights. One of the most fundamental of rights, as we learned in elementary school, states that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Clearly, the administration’s assessment implied the guilt of all the students, not just the egg throwers.

This kind of all-encompassing decision making affects many of our institutional leaders (particularly those in Congress). It leads to the worst kind of cover-up, virtually throwing a blanket over a problem that has no easy solution. Often times, this blanket unnaturally burdens the innocent. Artificial rules rarely change the heart of any problem. They merely prolong its embittered life.

 

Three – It’s easy to point a finger at someone else, especially those in highly visible positions. It is quite irritating, though, when the accuser just mouths off and doesn’t offer any constructive alternatives. (Again, we see examples of this in Washington every day.) While I am not arrogant enough to assume that anything I can suggest in this small space will correct any fundamental plight, I can only hope it represents a next step in the thinking on what happened in Pittsford a couple of weeks ago.

 

Idea #1 – Superficially, we appear to have a rather aggravating tendency among certain younger folks to throw eggs – for whatever reason. Such projectiles are inexpensive and easily accessible. While it would be ridiculous to suggest carding anyone who buys eggs, I have noticed that in the past two weeks, the diary item has been on sale at, in the very least, two well-shopped grocery stores. Perhaps, placing such sales in the two weeks following Halloween might be more prudent.

 

Idea #2 – Clearly, a rogue entity prevails within the Pittsford-Mendon High School. I know it’s difficult, but maybe the students should be asked to clarify what the problem is and what should be done about it. Specifically, if the administration made the announcement to cancel homecoming events unless someone proposed a better alternative, the onus would have been on the students (or their parents).

 

Idea #3 – Instead of outright calling off the events, maybe those events could have been allowed to continue with the stipulation that any further egg throwing incidents would result in the immediate and unqualified cessation of those activities. To make things interesting, one might modify this by inserting the cancelled only if the specific perpetrators are not promptly caught.

 

Idea #4 – Before demonstrating against the administration’s decision, would not it had been more appropriate to go directly to the source? The miffed students should have tried their best to locate the egg throwers and plead with them to a make a public apology. (Note, I do not suggest the innocent students engage in vigilantism or tattle-tailing.) Only after a good faith effort towards this end has been made do the students have the credibility to go through with their sit-in.

 

Idea #5 – If you must be irreverent, the real challenge is being so in a constructive manner. Anybody can be a rebel without a cause, but that gets old real fast. Throwing eggs is simply not the way to be daring. Try something that’s difficult for most people, but make your motive be to present a positive alternative. Don’t just complain, get in there and fix it.

Last Week #32: Monday Night Volleyball (originally published October 26, 1989)
Next Week #34: Thoughts on the BIG Meeting (originally published November 9, 1989)

[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]

Comments

  1. Chris Carosa says:

    Author’s Notes: One day in fifth grade the whole class was punished for the actions of one student. I now understand the psychological reasons for this type of disciplinary philosophy, but at the time I was offended. That’s why I emphasized the presumption of innocence above. I also believe that, when I first wrote this, I was beginning to understand why it’s useful to punish the entire team if one player misbehaves. The offending player won’t change his ways because the coach tells him to. Instead, there’s a greater likelihood of positive behavior modification if his own peers apply pressure. This pressure can come in the form of ratting out the offender (which I alluded to above), but it’s more likely to come about as a result of public shunning. It’s a shame this tool has now been classified as “bullying” because it can be quite effective in normalizing non-conforming behavior. Without the ability to stamp a scarlet letter on a sinner, how else does the broader society learn what sin is and what its consequences are? And, yes, I know this can be abused in an Orwellian fashion, but we can deal with that in another way. Perhaps by throwing eggs.

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