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Eric Bergeson

Down on the Farm: Homecoming

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School is in session, and with it comes a new round of rules and regulations designed more to keep the school out of the paper than to benefit the children.

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In the latest spate of insincere foolishness, spooked school officials solemnly line up the year's anti-bullying policies, procedures and programs.

Are they really trying to civilize the little monsters in their charge? No. They're just trying to stay out of the newspapers and the courts in case something happens.

If school boards, teachers and administrators were at all serious about their anti-bullying mission, they wouldn't give their approval to the asinine practice of selecting a homecoming queen.

The archaic, sexist, damaging--and mandatory--pageant that is homecoming coronation does deeper damage than peer-to-peer bullying because it carries with it the active participation of teachers and administration.

We're supposed to see kids for who they are, see the beauty inside, treat all fairly and equally, celebrate our different shapes and sizes. Yet a little while after senior girls show up for their senior year, five of them are raised up as more popular and/or more good looking than the others.

If you think those who lose out don't feel bad, you have a short memory or you don't know a kid in school. Harmless tradition? Good clean fun? No sir, this is serious business.

See what happens when the kids try to expose the whole coronation sham by nominating somebody who is actually not all that popular, or who is the wrong gender for the position nominated. The teachers and administration have to make sure that the person selected is actually, truly and authentically popular enough. The integrity of the holy and sacred popularity pageant must be maintained!

Might it not occur to somebody at some time in this process the moral depravity of this whole sordid affair? Wouldn't the teachers forced to make the decision on the worthiness of a girl for the Final Five realize the sheer cruelty of what they were doing and refuse to participate?

Why wouldn't the school board in their wisdom just step in and say hold a nice formal dance, but there is no need for a school-sanctioned popularity contest?

Apparently, everybody is scared to death of the Mean Mamas who get their jollies from this sort of thing.

Sometimes I get the impression that it is the Mean Mamas who really run the school. Mean Mama, keenly aware that she won her last pageant on her wedding day, lives to recreate her past glory through her little princess.

Sure, she could enter Princess in state-wide pageants unrelated to school. But that wouldn't be any fun. What's irresistible about homecoming is that all senior girls are entered whether they want to be or not! So, when Princess gets in the Final Five, Mean Mama has bragging rights. She has won!

Are some girls hurt in the process? Well, they need to get over it! That's life!

That's the rallying cry of bullies everywhere: Get used to it, it is good for you. Conform or die.

News flash: High school isn't life. It is more cruel, more cliquish and more humiliating than anything any normal person will encounter later.

The empathy lobe in the adolescent brain simply hasn't developed yet. The results, when you have dozens of adolescent brains grouped together in one building and segregated by age, aren't pretty.

It is up to the adults in the community to reassure young people of all shapes and sizes of their worth as they struggle to sort out the conflicting messages they get from the world.

It is also up to the adults to crack down on adolescent cruelty, not jump on the pile. Mean Mamas don't get this, and that is inevitable. One has to understand how difficult it must be to have your main source of significance in the world fade beyond the restorative power of cosmetics.

But Mean Mamas don't have to run the school. The school board, administration and teachers should have some say.

The coronation tradition arose in a time when women were taught to passively wait for a Prince to sweep them off their feet and carry them off to a castle.

Today, we live in times where, in theory at least, girls have the right to be anything they want without having to rely on their looks.

It is time for schools to catch up with the times, do the right thing and end the obsolete and cruel practice of crowning a queen.

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