Reminiscing about high school, my informant told me of a tradition/practical joke that Seniors in his high school would orchestrate.
The following is an transcript from our interview:
“Informant: Every year, for as long as I’ve known, the Seniors would have a Senior Ditch Day. After the Prarie State Achievement Exam, which all students in Illinois had to take, the Senior Class would skip school for a day. They would all go out to party or just do whatever they wanted. Many would go out somewhere the night before, and celebrate by drinking or smoking, and would use the next day as a skip day to sleep away the hangover.
My year, I spent the day with a couple friends, celebrating like those before me, but we didn’t get together as a group like other grades. Usually they go out to a campsite or someone’s house that’s really far away so they can’t get in trouble, but we just went to my friends house and were sneaky.”
My informant said he looked forward to this day for many years, excited by the idea of breaking rules, feeling free, and skipping work for a day. He said that even though the whole grade wasn’t together, he had a great time hanging out with his friends anyway.
The first thing to note is when this tradition takes place: because the examination has passed and these are Seniors in high school, they likely will not be punished. Even if they are punished, they won’t have to deal with the consequences for too long since this happens towards the end of their career. Celebrating the end of work (the examination done) the students skip school. This helps the Seniors through a liminal period, since the administrations rules don’t have as much of an effect on them any more. Almost at the end of their careers as students, the Seniors illustrate that they are no longer children by escaping the confines of school and breaking laws (doing activities reserved for adults).
Simultaneously, this is a practical joke and an act of rebellion. These students break laws and disregard school rules. A show of power, the students, skipping school, demonstrate they cannot be controlled by the school’s authority.