The Ageism Behind Class Loyalty in GHS
George Washington once said that political parties will destroy this country. Judging by the constant stagnation of Congress, I’d say he’s pretty close. Well, there is another universal, but less-discussed disparity, that I believe cripples our school, called ageism. Ageism is defined as prejudice or discrimination on the basis of someone’s age, and everyone in this high school has experienced or employed it in some way. No—do not worry, this is not a teenager-grumbling-about-how-adults-never-take-him-seriously cliché, or about how Millennials get a bad rep from the “kids-these-days” type of geriatrics. This is about the seniority and resulting caste system established in our school’s society.
I’m sure that all of you are familiar with tensions between classes: “Freshman Friday,” the superiority of seniors, the flame wars between classes, etc., and if you’re like me, you wonder why that is so. We’re all in the same school, after all, we all have friends in other grades, we share classes with other grades, we eat with other grades, we play sports with other grades, so clearly, the grades themselves are not what separate the classes, our social behaviors do.
According to the 2013 U.S. Current Population Survey, 65.8% of heterosexual, married couples have an age disparity of 3 years. So chances are, you may have the same age difference with your spouse as you do with a freshman. This just gives an example of how arbitrary the age gap is.
I asked students of every grade a set of questions, which would highlight the issue of class loyalty and ageism. The responses most likely won’t surprise you:
Q1.) Do you consider kids in your grade to be your peers?
Q2.) Do you consider the grade(s) under you to consist of peers?
Q3.) Do you consider the grade(s) above you to consist of peers? If you answered “no” to the last two questions, explain why.
Most questioned, male and female, answered that yes to the first and no the second and third, but there were some interesting answers.
One sophomore girl, who answered no to the last two, cited that she was ” taught that peers are people that are of your age.”
While it is true that a “peer” is someone of the same age, rank, merit, and characteristic ability, age is only one part of that definition.
One junior boy considered this, “I don’t think age, at least the difference between one of two years is a factor in defining peers, but I would say that I have less ‘peers’ as the difference in age increases. Like I have more ‘peers’ that are seniors and sophomore than I do freshman or college kids.”
Ageism is a form of segregation just like sexism, racism, economic classism, etc., and we should all be more accepting of one another. Rivalry between classes is a longstanding tradition in any high school, but we should be the ones to shed the facade that the year you are born in holds any sort of significance in the scope of a four-year span. You have a friend in other grades, shouldn’t that mean that everyone in that grade has at least the capacity to be your friend and deserve some respect?