Teen Thursday - High School Hierarchies

For today’s topic, I really want to hear from our teen readers. Because I’m curious whether high school hierarchies still exist.

Many YA books include in their plots the idea that most schools have an “in” crowd. But lately, I’ve been seeing discussions that this might not necessarily be so. This intrigues me!

On the one hand, I totally relate with the person who said, “Anybody who tells you their school doesn’t have a popular crowd is a member of the popular crowd.” I can even tell, looking at my daughter’s grade schoolmates, who’s probably “in” and who’s maybe on the fringes. The whole “Heathers” hierarchy was so ingrained in the pop culture of my youth that it’s hard to imagine it’s gone. (If you haven’t heard of “Heathers” and you want to be introduced to a teen classic -- plus get a bonus look at 80s fashion – you can check it out here. If you're sensitive to swearing and crude stuff, though, be warned. This movie is snarky and salty and I don’t have “bleep” powers over YouTube.)

But then I look at the way hierarchies seem to have broken down since I was in high school. Certainly, racial and other social barriers continue to dissolve. And it seems like the people who would have been called geeks when I was 16 are now just as likely to be the cool kids.

The truth is, even when I was in high school, the cheerleaders weren’t automatically bitches and the athletes weren’t dumb bullies by default. By the time I was a senior, our “in” crowd included some of the nicest, coolest people you could ever meet. They were popular because they deserved to be. And if you asked them, they probably would have insisted, very genuinely, that there weren’t any in crowds at all at our school. But those who weren’t so “in” might still have begged to differ. So I want to know: what are high school hierarchies like today? Do they still exist? Teens, tell us about the social structure at your school!


brave chickens said...

In my opinion and experience, popularity and being in the "in" crowd was more of a 'concern' in primary school (grades one to six, I'm excluding prep) and lower to middle secondary. By year 11 and 12, it doesn't seem to be as apparent or even a concern of anyone (except a few). I feel that most people get along just fine and we don't even have cliques, such as 'jocks' or 'chess nerds.' Obviously though, there is always a group in each year level where the group's pople are known to most people in the school. These people are nice and friendly.

So I guess the type of popularity (mean cheerleaders, bully jocks, etc...) as shown on TV and in books doesn't exist in my school. Yes, we have bullies and those girls who can't keep away from boys, and people constantly wanting to be "cool", but it's not necessary they're popular.

btw, I'm from Australia and my school is very small so maybe that's a factor too. Oh, and we don't have cheerleaders!

Sorry for my rambling, haha.

Claire Dawn said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head. When I protest against the hierarchy thing, I'm protesting against the cheerleaders are mean/jocks are stupid stereotype.

In my country we go to middle/high school depending on an exam score. So your extracurriculars have nothing to do with how smart you are, cuz we were all smart.

For me, there were groups that were more popular, but I was completely unconcerned with it. I didn't realise it at the time, but it seems now that my group was th popular because they're fun people- as opposed to the popular because they're beautiful set.

Every world, high school or otherwise has hierarchy. I think it's just what the divisions are that changes.

Em said...

Oh I LOVED Heathers back in middle school! The week I bought the VHS (yup) I watched it every day. I loved the bizarre language and Christian Slater. I agree with brave chickens that popularity seemed to matter more in elementary and middle school. In high school there were definitely cliques and scenes but it seemed like they were more open to interacting and crossover than those that I see in mass media depictions of teen life. I also felt like in earlier grades the popular kids tended to be more mean towards the unpopular kids and by high school the kids that I would label as popular I viewed as really nice. That being said, I also had this vision that my classmates were all nice to one another by the end of high school, whereas one of my classmates contacted me a few years ago via social media network saying that high school was miserable but that I always seemed nice and so would I like to be his online friend. I still wonder to this day when I think of him, who his tormentors were? Were they the popular kids? The class in general? Or just some random group of kids?

Em said...

Oh and also, of course these hierarchies are not just in high school. I find them as much, if not more, in my adult life.

Micol Ostow said...

I went to a tiny high school, and while we did have a few outsiders, for the most part, everyone kind of got along (I know that sounds cheesy and vaguely impossible, but I swear, it's true!). Because it was such a small school we didn't have the type of athletics that public schools had, so being a jock or a cheerleader just didn't have the same cache it might have somewhere else, and because it was a prep school, almost all of us were concerned with grades. It also happened to be an EXPENSIVE school, so for the most part, everyone who went there came from a similarly comfortably household.

My own biggest beef with the the place was that it was, in fact, so homogenous. I had to go out of my way to meet people from different backgrounds outside of school. But it was nice to feel safe and comfortable at school in a way that I don't think every teen can or does.

Angela Craft said...

I'm a few years out of high school, but even back then the rigid hierarchies in books and movies didn't ring true for me. I went to a rather large school (1500+ students in three grades), so maybe that was part of it, but I can't think of anyone outside of the football quarterback who was universally popular (and he was a legitimately nice guy, even if his popularity was initially based on his athletic skills + good looks). I was an "outsider" who did theatre and choir, but knew popular athletes who did the same activities. The cheerleaders weren't defined solely by their cheerleading status and usually did another sport or activity in the off season. If anything, the popularity hierarchy happened within the different social groups - for example, there were definitely popular kids in my theatre group, but no one really knew them outside of theatre.

Marie said...

There's a part about this in The Darling Budds that I loved so much I copied it into my quote book. It says pretty much everything I want to say about this topic, so I'll just reprint it here:

If there’s one thing movies about high school love to show, it’s the naive oversimplification that the most popular kids in school are hateful back-stabbers who become gas station attendants and dream about their faded glory days. The less popular kids are always shy and good to their friends and are just a makeover and a diploma away from becoming prosperous adults who always remember the lessons of their awkward teenage years.

Sour grapes, I say. The truth is that most popular kids are uniformly nice but dreadfully dull and destined for lives of moderate success. Less popular kids are a more mixed-bag: some of them are quite astoundingly kind and true, but some of them—not having had many friends before—are horrible to the people who try to befriend them.

Occasionally, one of the less popular kids will become a great success in the world and end up making a terrible movie about how awesome it was to be a nerd. But by and large most of the less popular kids will end up working for the more popular ones.

Sometimes life just isn't fair. I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but it's time you found out.

(Helen) Kiaya said...

I graduated high school about three years ago, and at my school, the hierarchy was completely different than the cliche cheerleaders and jocks.
Our school was so large that if you pointed out the most popular person in your own group to someone you'd never spoken to before, they wouldn't have any idea who they were.
Even if the most popular person in your own group was the quarterback.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I'm in my mid-20s, so I'm a bit out of the age range you're looking for, but when I was in high school I would say that there were definite groups of friends, but not necessarily cliques. And while some people were popular, it didn't have much to do with being a cheerleader or a jock. I think hierarchies exist, but in a very different way than they're traditionally represented in books and movies. And just because someone was popular didn't mean they weren't nice (though there were the bitchy, popular people, too), and just because you were friends with a certain group didn't mean that you didn't talk with other people.

Miranda said...

I think there are definitely still hierarchies in high school, but I don't think it stops there. I think it can continue on into adulthood in the working world. But, in high school there are hierarchies, it's how you deal with those hierarchies that matters. I also feel as if the top tier people don't ever move on past high school. Those will be the best years of their lives, but I've found my life has ben much better since I left high school.

Miranda said...

Also, just because you're a cheerleader or football player don't mean you are automatically popular. The head cheerleader and QB didn't date. In my high school I found the most popular/most well known peole were those with lots of money, drank a lot, and threw the parties.

Michelle said...

In my high school, there really wasn't a "popular group" per say and that's not because I was in it...trust me, I was not haha. There were people that were more well known, the kids who were more outgoing and involved in extracurricular activities such as sports teams, dance clubs, and so on. But they were pretty nice and talked to everyone.

I like the inclusion of popular groups in novels and such (they're fun and add drama) but I like it when there's an original take on them. For instance, maybe the jock isn't mean or dumb but actually quite friendly and smart or the head cheerleader isn't wanting to make everyone's life a living hell etc.

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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