The Issue with Pep Assemblies

By Ella Ilg, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Pep assemblies: we all love them. Just kidding; no one does. Niles West has a notoriously low attendance rate when it comes to pep assemblies, best illustrated during the chaos of the Black History Month assembly, where kids had to sit on the floor and on exercise bikes because when everyone actually shows up for an assembly, the students can hardly fit. Of course, this is not an issue for pep assemblies. Though many do seem to enjoy themselves, there is still a flood of students leaving the building.

Instead of going to the homecoming assembly my junior year, my friends and I went to Biggies and wandered around Target with our free hour and a half before theatre rehearsal. Now, the doors are locked to prevent students from leaving after ninth period, but that didn’t prevent students from escaping during early release and getting in the cars of their parents, who also realize that SAT prep classes or some relaxation time for their kid is a more valuable way to spend a Friday afternoon.

I was recently a part of a student focus group and one of the issues that was frequently mentioned was our lack of school spirit, but honestly, why is school spirit necessary? We didn’t do anything special to end up in a suburban public school besides living in the district. Unlike college, we didn’t earn our way in; we were simply forced to go here due to education laws and district borders, so why should we have pride and spirit about it?

School spirit has always been pushed on us as American students, but why should I have pride in something I have no say in? Not to get biblical, but traditionally, pride is considered a deadly sin that one should avoid, but American culture insists on pride for your country, pride for your community, and pride for your school. I’m proud of my accomplishments, not of my birth place or school assignment.

School spirit, though frequently cited as lacking in our school, shouldn’t be considered a major problem. District corruption, drug abuse, and safety should be our top priorities, but students and administrators regularly point out that the lack of school spirit is the real problem. Calling out students to form a drum line and parade down the hallways on the day of a pep assembly, which many schools do, doesn’t exactly support a peaceful learning environment, just as shortening periods and making kids sit in a cramped gym watching people they’re vaguely aware of doing flips and lining up on the floor with their team isn’t a productive way to spend hours intended for learning.

Don’t get me wrong; I do not mind getting out of school at 1:40, but sometimes, especially with finals or a big test coming up, losing that class time can leave you feeling more stressed than relieved.

The obsession with school spirit also signifies a larger issue with American patriotism, which to me is just nationalism in disguise. The pledge of allegiance, a flag in every classroom, and the frequent singing of the national anthem all contribute to this misguided pride.

Germany only plays their national anthem during political inaugurations and when they won the world cup. As a country with a history of totalitarianism, having any pride for their country seems inherently problematic and a dangerous slippery slope. Of course Nazi Germany is a dramatic comparison to the United States, but there are some shared traits of nationalism that I find disturbing.

School spirit is wholly unnecessary. We are forced to be in a building and learn things, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. School can be fun, but let’s not pretend that school isn’t school. School, by nature, isn’t designed to be fun and entertaining, and to take away class time to make a show of our supposed pride is a waste of time. School spirit doesn’t make kids want to go to school more or do better while they’re there; it has no real benefit.

Let’s quit the charade and allow students to learn in peace.