USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘#highschool’
Adulthood
Childhood
Customs
Game
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Year Scavenger Hunt: Los Angeles High School Folk Tradition

Folk Custom:

So basically it was off the grid, no one was supposed to know about it. All the students would get together. A couple students would organize it. If you got invited it meant you were cool cause the popular kids would do it. I got invited my senior year. You got this list of stuff you’re supposed to do thats really bad stuff. You drive around my neighborhood. You get points for the stuff you do on the list. Whoever has the most points by sunrise gets wins a bunch of money that everyone pools before. And so there are certain things that are automatic win like get a tattoo on your ass cheek that says senior scavenger hunt, or – they got rid of this before I did it – but it was drive to Vegas and back. It was all stuff like have sex on the football field. Go streaking. I did go streaking. Piss in a strangers pool. I did that. Most of us were drunk except for the drivers. They also gave you this bag of flour before you left and anyone you saw around the neighborhood (it was far out like 23 miles) you were supposed to throw flour at them or at their car which is so dangerous.” 

Context:

This was a senior year tradition at a high school in the valley in Los Angeles. It was done at the end of the year in celebration of graduation. Informant says, “It’s been going on maybe like 10 years. I think its definitely still going on. I vaguely knew about it before being invited. I heard whisperings and usually something bad about it. Someone got arrested during one of the senior scavenger hunts. “

Informant Background:

The informant is 21, from the valley. He only learned about this formally after being invited.

My Analysis:

There is a lot of children’s folklore created by adults that teach lessons. This is a children’s folk custom generated by children in celebration of the freedom of childhood. Your senior year of high school is regarded culturally as your last year of childhood before you turn 18, move out, and are recognized (at least in American law) as an adult. This final hurrah is a chance for the children of the school to act recklessly and carelessly while there are not the weighted responsibilities attached as they would be in adulthood.

This game resembles the one presented in the movie “Nerve”. In that movie, everyone is either a watcher or a player. Players are given risks at different levels. Completing risks earns players money. The bigger risks like jumping off crane or going under train warrant more monetary rewards.

The fact that both games use money to motivate people to do completely absurd and dangerous things they would never do otherwise speaks to the huge weight it has over our society. People today are willing to do anything for the right price. I think in the case of these teenagers from the valley, it could go the other way around. Since they are the ones supplying the money and setting the rules of the game, perhaps they want to use the money to justify actions they are not allowed to do otherwise.

Customs
general
Initiations
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Year Hoodie Design Competition: Folk Tradition for High Schoolers in Dubai

Folk Tradition:

Basically every year the senior class orders these hoodies. Theres a design submission contest of all the different designs/ideas.  Every year is different. On the back it says your grad year and it has in small letters everyone in the grade’s name. And on the top you would get your own nickname or something funny or something people would call you. The cabinet starts planning it the year before when you’re a junior. They call for design submissions. They narrow it down to two and then the grade votes on the grade facebook page and everyone would pick from the top two. They announce winner based off facebook poll. All semester the next year its like, ‘When are they ready?’ ‘They’ll be ready soon.’ Since its done by the grade, productivity depends on the people doing it.

It’s a really fun day cause everyone is so excited to wear them. The day we do it depends on who the people who are ordering it are. Each grade has their own cabinet in the general student council. The cabinet is who orders them and plans it. But there’s not an official day like the fifth month or whatever. But everyone gets it on the same day and then everyone wears it.

For our year the design was the Dubai skyline. The Burj, the highest building, said 2016 cause that was our graduation year. Underneath it was the Dubai skyline. Every year is different. On the back it says your grad year and it has in small letters everyone in the grade’s name. And on the top you would get your own nickname or something funny or something people would call you. I was gonna get [informant's nickname], but since I didn’t go to school there anymore I thought it would be funny to get ‘she doesn’t even go here’.”

Context:

This tradition is hosted by the leaders in student government, but not the school itself. Being an American school in Dubai, I think this is funny that they put so much weight on this hoodie design competition because I went to high school in Southern California and we had a big design competition for our senior grad night t shirts as well.

Background:

The informant is 21, and self identifies as a “third-culture-kid”, meaning she does not identify as being from one place alone. She grew up in Southern California, Wisconsin, Lebanon, and Dubai. This tradition is from her American school in Dubai. She says that, “The school actually isn’t there anymore. They merged it with another school so it just doesn’t exist.” 

My Analysis:

The folklore of an American school in Dubai is interesting to look at because most of the attendees, like my informant, have not grown up in either location predominantly. Most of the attendees have lived their lives all over the globe, bouncing from country to country. So, the folklore of this location is unique because it is exclusively made up by the people and not attached to any one geographic space. A hoodie is the perfect reflection of that. Many other senior pranks or traditions are tied to the space of the school itself. For example, I’ve heard of students pooling money to donate a bench in their classes’ name or a tree. Those permanent things do not have meaning to this community because they are all so transient. For example, my informant was not in attendance her senior year. However, she could still participate in the tradition because they could mail her a hoodie. It is something small and easily packaged for everyone’s future travels.

Legends
Narrative

Bathroom at Private, Jewish High School home to Naughty Folklore

Folk Story:

“I’m pretty sure it’s a legend, but also it might be true…It was before my time. But, I went to a private Jewish high school in LA and there’s a bathroom on campus next to our gym that is fabled to – the girls bathroom specifically – apparently was home to a sex video with the canter’s daughter and two boys. Pretty sure it happened. I’ve not seen the tape, no no no, but a girl got expelled and two boys got expelled and that’s the tea of what happened, but the school would never confirm or deny, but we know.”

Context:

A bathroom at a private, Jewish high school in LA has this folk story attached to it.

Background:

The informant is 19, from LA, and attended this high school. She learned the story from upper class students who learned it from students that were upper classmen when they were lower classmen.

My Analysis:

In high school, there is a large mystery around sex – what it is, who is having it, how to do it. In religious high schools, where most likely abstinence-only education is the norm, there is a heightened sense of mystery around sex, and very likely supernatural-wrath-inducing consequences for having it. Therefore, it follows that their lore would center around such an awe-inducing concept as sex. The link of discussion between pre-marital sex and God in religious schools explains the necessity of the girl involved to be the canter’s daughter. It nods at the students’ linkage between the two and increases the level of wrongdoing by making listeners acutely aware of their religious beliefs. In addition, girls in high school experience menstruation, which many children’s folktales nod at whether through color palettes or symbolism, as being frightening. The mystery of the menstruation process is recognized in this tale through the placing of the narrative in the girls’ bathroom.

Legends
Narrative

High School Pizza Rolls Fire: Folk Legend

Folk Story:

“My school had a little store, it was called the ‘milk n mart’. It was a snack stand, you could order real food there, but they also had snack foods and frozen foods. So one time apparently, before I attended the school, a boy purchased pizza rolls and warmed them up in the microwave but instead of reading the instructions, he just put them in the microwave for 10 minutes which started a fire and everyone had to evacuate. I’d say it’s folklore cause nobody I knew actually saw this, everyone just knew about it.”

Context:

This happened at a private, Jewish high school in LA.

Background:

The informant is 20 and went to this private Jewish high school in LA.

My Analysis:

I think high school is a notorious time and place for people to learn hard lessons in stupid ways. This story epitomizes the high school experience because this legendary student made one stupid mistake that could have been fatal for the entire school. In high school, most of your decisions feel that momentous – who you take to prom, whether or not your parents let you go to that party, etc. The fact that the student in the story was microwaving pizza rolls really hammers down that point because pizza rolls are maybe the saddest lunch to microwave. They are bad, but also quintessentially high school. For example, the totino’s pizza rolls commercials are marketed explicitly to teenage boys.

For example, “Totino’s Pepperoni Pizza Rolls TV Commercial, ‘Awesome Mustache’.” ISpot.tv, 17 Oct. 2014, www.ispot.tv/ad/7yVz/totinos-pepperoni-pizza-rolls-awesome-mustache.,  depicts a late middle school/early high school aged boy lusting after an adult man’s mustache. The commercial promises the boy a mustache, the symbol of manhood in the commercial, if he purchases totino’s pizza rolls. In the folk story my informant shared, the boy’s inability to microwave his pizza rolls could be extrapolated to mean he is unable to be a real man or real adult. He does not belong in the school because he is still a child. While I doubt the children that shared this story were cognizant of this subtext, everyone of this age group grew up with these commercials, so I believe it resided in their subconscious.

Adulthood
Childhood
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Send Off in High School Theater Community: Ritual

Folk Tradition:

This was a senior tradition in theater. After our last performance of our last show, the director would invite all the seniors back into the theater after everyone had left and we would look at the ghost light and he said, ‘Right now is just a time for you to be with all the characters you’ve played here, so this is a time to say goodbye to them. So, we would go on stage and remember through action. We would go through different entrances or funny moments in shows and there was no end time. We would stay until we said goodbye.”

Context:

This would take place after the seniors’ last performance with their high school theater program in their Los Angeles public school.

Background:

The informant is 21, from Calabasas, and an actor.

My Analysis:

This is a folk piece with a lot of levels. First and foremost, the concept of the ‘ghost light’ is a folk belief that a light must always be left on in every theater for the ghosts that haunt the space. Though not every theater has someone who died in it, most theater spaces are regarded as sacred by the community and the residence for supernatural beings/occurrences.  The idea of everyone gathering around to stare into the ghost light is a way of symbolically channeling the spirits. It is interesting that the theater teacher prompted the students to say goodbye to the characters they played because it aligns these fictional characters with the actual spirits regarded by theater communities everywhere (symbolized in the ghost light). It could also be interpreted as summoning previous versions of oneself (the self that did perform these characters). High school is a very transformative time for many people, so summoning and saying goodbye to iterations of yourself over those years could be a very cathartic task for students before they leave for college.

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