Author Archives: kmgal

Easy A

Context: LJ, a former student of a private all-girls school in London revealed to me a unique legend that circulated during her time there. With biennial exams being the center of their curriculum, LJ explained how a legend came about amongst the students to unify themselves during the stress of exams and to make humor out of the extreme pressures that were being put on them as these 2 sets of exams were the sole indicators of their academic achievements within school to show off to higher level learning institutions.

Text: “I went to a private all girls school in London where we would have to take national standardized tests at the end of every 2 years for different classes. At the end of year 11 we would take our GCSE’s which were a bunch of exams on the classes we had been taking for the past 2 years and at the end of year 13 we would take our A levels, which were exams based on the 3 subjects we had been exclusively studying for those past two years.Throughout those 4 years from year 10-13 there was this legend that if someone died in the exam room whilst a GCSE or A-Level took place then everyone in the room would get an A* or a 9(the highest grade depending on if A-Level or GCSE). There was also a similar concept of if someone went into labor during the exam then that person would receive an A* or 9 as well. During exam/ study times there would be lots of jokes made surrounding someone “taking one for the team” implying a student taking the exam should literally sacrifice themselves in the room so that the entire class can get a perfect grade. Similarly, 9 months before those exams girls would make jokes about needing to get pregnant so they could time their birthing to be during an exam. All this being said, this ideology was never confirmed by any teacher or exam board but was commonly known across the London private school kids as the loophole to getting a perfect grade on an exam.”

Analysis: I believe that this legend works as a testimony to the British educational system’s impact on student well-being. It shows how the pursuit of academic excellence can lead to unhealthy levels of competition and that the humor in this legend serves as a rebellion against the system, poking fun at sacrificing the life of a classmate to attain a good grade. This underscores both the rigorous level of academia that students in this system seemed to be struggling with, but also the collective wish for a miraculous escape from the pressures of exam taking. Ultimately I think this legend is a reminder of the need for balance in educational pursuit and the importance of addressing issues involving mental health and general wellbeing of students.


Context: This testimony given by SS is a former Los Angeles high-school student who shared with me her reflections on a semester spent in Israel as part of a 10th grade educational program. Her testimony sheds light on the programs commitment to the students safety, and their willingness to use realistic stories to deter the kids on the trip from misbehaving.

Text: “At my high school in 10th grade you can apply to a program and spend your second semester of 10th grade in Israel. And because there’s a lot of freedom given on the trip and you are at such a young age, there’s a strong emphasis on not being able to drink or smoke or do anything like that. When we went out we would need to be chaperoned by a madrichim which was a live-in councilor for the trip. This was always a rule but we were told it became more strongly enforced after an incident that allegedly occurred more than 5 years prior to when I went. Certain weekends would be referred to as open shabbat because you would have the option to stay with a nearby family in Israel, and a girl during this free weekend drank and got alcohol poisoning and needed to have her stomach pumped at a local hospital. As a result of her actions, she was supposedly kicked off of the program and had to immediately go home. Looking back I think they only told us this story to keep us in check and scare us out of doing anything crazy” 

Analysis: I believe the purpose of this testimony serves as a cautionary tale, aiming to teach a lesson through the consequences that the alleged girl who got alcohol poisoning suffered through. The alcohol poisoning serves as a warning to other students about the health risks of engaging in the prohibited behaviors, whilst the girl being kicked off of the trip works to further deter students from following in her actions, as that would result in them being flown back to Los Angeles from Israel and presumably additionally failing the semesters classes.  At its heart, I believe it serves as a mechanism for social control which works particularly well amongst the high schooler demographic, especially when paired with the aim to establish the authority of the madrichim by painting them out to be both guardians of the students and enforcers of the program’s rules.

Girls locker room sink

Context: SS, a girl attending high school in Los Angeles shared this legend of an incident that happened in her high school that had been passed down through the years to the people occupying the girls locker room. She had heard this story from her peers but it was viewed as common knowledge to the girls at her school.

Text: “ There was this high school legend that in the girls locker room a girl slipped, fell and cracked her head on one of the porcelain stand alone sinks and nobody knew who it was or when it happened but it was common knowledge amongst everyone, especially the people in sports because the people who were on teams had their own lockers. Because of this legend everyone avoided the sink furthest to the right in the locker room and it was seen as bad luck if you were to use it” 

Analysis: I believe this locker room legend’s lack of specific details, including the girl’s identity or time of the incident, allows for a heightened sense of mystery and adaptability of the story. It makes the plot timeless, being easy to pass down in the future to younger year groups as they adopt the locker room whilst also fostering a sense of community amongst the girls sharing the locker room as they share this superstition of the unlucky sink. Whilst the legend works as a cautionary story to prevent people from acting recklessly near the sink, a sink is not an innately dangerous object, so the outcome of this legend serves solely to make people superstitious about using it.

“tasting the brotherhood”

Context:TB, a member of a fraternity at USC provided me with this legend that has circulated amongst the men in his frat. We were having a discussion about traditions and rituals that are unique to his fraternity and that is how I obtained this legend. He told me that he had heard it from an active member who was a year older than him when he was pledging over a year ago and that the story still gets passed down to new pledges every semester.

Text:“In my frat we have educators, who are older active members in the house who keep the pledges, the new class of boys being initiated at the end of the semester, in order. There’s this rumor that a few years ago a pledge was promised an expedited initiation if he drank a concoction of urine that had been collected from a bunch of active brothers in the house. This act was referred to as “tasting the brotherhood” but the strange thing about it is nobody knows if it’s true because the person made to do it would be too embarrassed to admit their actions. The rumor probably was first made to freak out the pledges, but with years of the story being passed down its uncertain if it ever happened or still happens at all”

Analysis: One of the most stand out features of this legend is the ambiguity surrounding the truth of the rumor. The idea that someone may be too embarrassed to confirm or deny their participation ensures the story’s continued circulation without any clear verification. I believe this uncertainty is central to the fraternity and them being able to use this story as a scare tactic for the pledges to create a greater sense of unity upon initiation.

The Jersey Devil

Context: This testimony is from a GP who lives in Connecticut. She shared this legend with me that she was told by her 4th grade teacher in an English class. GP shared with me childhood trauma that stemmed from the telling of the tale on the Jersey Devil and exemplified for me the lasting impact that haunted mythic characters can make on younger audiences.

Text: “In 4th grade I learned about the Jersey Devil from my teacher. The story involved this lady who had 7 kids and fell pregnant. It was a painful pregnancy and when she had the kid it was demonic and went into the fireplace, came out of the chimney and haunts New Jersey to this day. When I heard about this I was terrified of going to New Jersey but my family friends were having a New Years eve party in New Jersey and my parents forced me to go and I was terrified the entire car ride over.”

Analysis: I believe this testimony illustrates the emotional and psychological impact that folklore can have on young minds. The Jersey Devil has eerie supernatural elements whilst still being tied to an existing geographical location. GP’s reaction to the story induced a real fear of the state of New Jersey. Additionally the introduction of the legend from a teacher, a figure of authority, amplifies the credibility for children and the fear being experienced as it seems true.