School Spirit: A Softcore Cult?

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Very early in life, every American student becomes acquainted with the concept of school spirit. For many, they become used to it in elementary school, although for some it can be as far into their education as middle school. Because of how early on we are all indoctrinated, we fail to notice how (for lack of a better word) creepy the whole thing is. For example, pep rallies:


Nearly everyone has been to a school pep rally. It’s “normal.” But if you just take a second to deconstruct it in your head it seems to lose that normality;  we all don uniformly colored clothing and march single-file to a big room, where we all celebrate and chant about how great our school is, and how much better than other schools we are.

This superior attitude leads to interschool conflict, another thing that we’re so used to that it seems normal.  “I think school spirit bring us together,” Evelyn Milias, a freshman at George Washington said, “but it can also be destructive, especially when there’s conflict between schools.”  These interschool conflicts, as most students know, frequently extend beyond the debate of my-school’s-better-than-your-school, with students vandalizing each other’s schools, from graffiti to broken windows, and on some occasions fights even break out based solely on where people go to school.

Of course, the schools don’t encourage such behavior, however they also do little to cut it off at its roots; the cult-like indoctrination system of school spirit, the center of the issue.

The practice of school spirit encourages conformity and mindlessness. It teaches students to follow, to be the same as everyone else. For example, sports. Anyone who doesn’t want to go to every football or basketball game is generally considered weird. They don’t like the things that everyone else likes. They don’t wear school colors or go to pep rallies. They may not be ostracized for those things, but they’re outcasts, forced to create their own smaller groups to belong in.

School spirit is not inherently a bad thing. “I don’t really care about [school spirit], but I can see how it can help other people.” River Greer, a freshman at GW said. At its most pure base form, school spirit can be a unifying force. However, in its worst (and most frequent) form, it creates a cult-like system of in-groups and out-groups, conflict between schools, and a general feeling that uniformity is a good thing.

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