Boarding School Initiation

Jonathan recalls a boarding school initiation ceremony that he learned from the upperclassmen while an underclassman, about 15 years old, at Lawrenceville Preparatory in Princeton, NJ. This ceremony took place at the beginning of the year, when everyone was placed in their houses.

Jonathan remembers, “In boarding school, for initiation into one of the dorm houses – there was a bunch of them, mine was Woodhull – all I can remember is that the younger kids would get a five-star on the back. Like an open handed slap on the back, done hard enough to make an imprint. It was about humiliation, making camaraderie among people because you’re all suffering through the same thing.” The ability to suffer with your companions, knowing one day you’ll be on the other side of the ceremony, in my opinion, is likely the only reason the tradition remains to this day.

When I asked him what he thought of the initiation ceremony, however, he said, “It’s a silly old tradition that kind of alienates people, because it wasn’t mandatory. You didn’t have to do it. Then the people who didn’t want to be a part of it were out of the camaraderie of the house.“ This tradition was most likely brought to fruition for the first time when hazing wasn’t such a taboo hot topic and young schoolboys could be pressured into participating from the inside. However, nowadays, hazing is hardly tolerated. The traditions still exist, as does the peer pressure, even if they now have the imagined option to opt out without consequence.