posted by Noel Ignatiev
Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, someone posted the following comment on Facebook:
Everyone wants to make school shootings about guns, but no one wants to consider that they might also have something to do with schools.
I <shared> the comment on my Facebook page. My <share> elicited a number of <likes> and comments, among which was the following:
It seems like a systemic problem which should be approached from as many different angles as possible, one of which should be sensible gun reform.
As it happens, the person who made that comment wrote a letter in 1994 describing conditions in her high school. The letter was published in Race Traitor, a journal I worked on. I am reprinting it here because I think it sheds light on an aspect of the problem which, with all the focus on the violence of this latest school shooting and the hundreds that have preceded it, may not get the attention it deserves:
LIFE IN THE SUBURBS
To the Editors:
New Trier High School, Winnetka, Illinois, 1994. To some it could be looked upon as the “Harvard of High Schools.” It is located in one of the richest neighborhoods in the United States, and many of the kids drive their own cars. Needless to say, New Trier is predominantly white. Many of those unfortunate enough to attend this elitist public school like to call it New Trier Hell School.
Everything here is a rat race. Coming from an elite school, we feel the pressure most to get into an Ivy League College, earn a 4.0+ grade point average, participate in activities that students really could give a damn about, take as many “intellectually stimulating” courses as one can possibly fit into four years, and last but most definitely not least, fit into this twisted little image of what a New Trier High School student should look like, act like, and in general, CONFORM TO. It’s all basically a summary of what your perfect little girl or boy should be. Here’s the illusion: good grades, primarily gets along with the family, drives their own car (but only if they got that “A”), neat, clean, respectful, and the girls must have a ponytail, and everyone MUST participate in a varsity sport. It’s all about trends, who’s doing what, where’s the place to be, and who will go furthest in life.
Just recently there was a scandal. The problem wasn’t the scandal so much as the way it was handled. After years of senior pranks consisting of mostly pulled fire alarms and intentionally spilt food, on the day before Halloween, all the administrators’ addresses were distributed amongst the student body. On Halloween night, there were houses egged, windows broken, cars smashed, and (figure this one out) there was a squid thrown on the lawn of one administrator’s house. Every student involved was expelled. This could be attributed to a variety of motivations. I have thought about this extensively, and my conclusion is that there is one viable option for the cause of this vandalism. I was later to find out, upon speaking to the culprits, that my hypothesis was correct. It is that the administrators have ceased to listen to the requests or consider the needs of the students. Among others, campus was primarily closed to prevent fights and littering, and there has been a recent crack down on those kids wearing suspicious colors for GANG AFFILIATIONS. Anyone who has ever visited the North Shore knows that anyone who pretends to be in a gang here is either just kidding really hard, or is actually involved in a gang in Chicago. Does the administration think that the expulsion of one kid in a ritzy neighborhood for gang involvements is going to solve any of the real problems?