Rite of Passage

“Since it was our senior year we decided that we had to do a really memorable senior prank.  We knew that we could get in big trouble, but some of my friends were going to community college and didn’t care if they got caught.  So, we decided to prank the deans because we wanted to get revenge against them for all the detentions we had gotten over the past four years, and decided to glue the door to their office shut and trap them inside.  We picked a day when we knew the deans were going to be going through a lot of paper work and would be in the back of the office, and we had people stand guard to distract any teachers that might walk by.  Then, three people in the group wore sunglasses and put their hoods on (so they couldn’t be recognized) and really quietly opened the door and started putting glue around the entire frame.  Then they shut it and put more glue to seal the crack between the door and the wall.  We brought a blow dryer so we could try and make the glue dry faster, but we put it on a lower setting so it wouldn’t make so much noise.  Then we waited a couple hours for the deans to try to leave for the day, and when they tried to open the door it was completely stuck shut.  They had to call a repair company to come and saw the door off so they could get out!”

Analysis: Laura was one of many high school seniors that tried to play a senior prank before graduation.  It is a rite of passage traditionally done by seniors during their last days at school, and it is often a chance to one-up the seniors of the previous year. Many seniors are discouraged from playing a prank because they might be prevented from receiving their diploma or walking on graduation day if they are caught.  For Laura and her friends, however, the risk of getting caught was not as big because many in the group were going to community colleges that would not revoke their acceptances if the students got in trouble.

Usually senior pranks are aimed at teachers or at underclassmen and are a way for seniors to demonstrate their superiority as a graduating class.  Laura said that after the school found out about the prank, everyone said it was probably the best prank done in the history of the school.  She and her friends became small celebrities among the people that knew the identity of the pranksters.  Unfortunately, that news spread quickly and Laura said that within a few days she and her friends were called into the deans’ office.  They confessed but offered to pay for any damages.  Although the deans threatened to prevent them from participating in the graduation ceremony, Laura said she and her friends only had to help clean up the lockers at the end of the year.  She said that the risk of getting in trouble was worth it because they had such a legendary prank.

When I talked with Laura about the primary influences on her decision to participate in the senior prank, I thought that she would mention her two older brothers.  Both of them were involved in senior pranks, and it seemed likely that Laura would want to follow in their footsteps.  However, Laura said that she did not think about her brothers so much as the senior class that graduated before her.  She said that they their prank was pretty good so she wanted to try and top theirs.  This seems to show that rites of passage, such as a senior prank, are more connected to institutions they are associated with than with family members.  Regardless of whether her brothers would have done a senior prank, Laura knew she wanted to be involved because it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

The context in which the prank takes place also helps explain why it is such a significant event. For instance, on a normal day, pulling a prank may get a few laughs but is probably looked down upon by others as stupid and a waste of time.  However, in the context of the situation, the prank is not only accepted by the student body, but expected and looked forward to.  It is a rare occasion when the seniors are united together for the goal of common mischief before everyone leaves for college.  Thus, even though Laura was not known as a trouble-maker, the senior prank was a rite of passage worth getting in trouble for because the chance would not happen again.

The senior prank is a rite of passage that has become so popular that it has even had movies and television shows depicting it.  For instance, MTV ran a special countdown of the “Top Ten Best High School Senior Pranks” and conducted interviews with administrators and students from each school to hear their opinions of the success of the pranks.  Though the pranks ranged from the silly, (releasing 1000 bouncy balls down a flight of stairs), to the incredible, (using a crane to hide the principal’s car on the auditorium roof), almost all the students agreed that the senior prank was an essential part of graduating from high school, and was almost as important as receiving their diploma.  Despite the seemingly immature nature of a prank, the senior prank serves as a transition between the childish realm of high school and the more mature world of college.  Therefore, the senior prank is also one last time for the seniors to be foolish before it is no longer acceptable.

At my high school, my senior class was not unified enough to create a good senior prank.  A few different groups tried to prank the freshmen, but nothing was very successful.  The senior class before us did not do a good prank either, which may explain why our class was unable to perform very well.  It was disappointing because I have heard from friends at other schools about their senior pranks, and I feel like I missed out on a special part of the graduation experience.