Friday, April 28, 2006

Top 25 lists

What kind of shit are they smoking in the South Hills and more importantly, can I get me some??? I never said that I wanted to just concentrate on local happenings in this blog, but lately, some of the weirdness that is coming out out Pittsburgh's southern enclaves is enough that even hacks like me can't help but hit one out of the park with commenting on what's going on down there. Kinda like the Pirates pitching these days. Everyone's tagging their beach balls and hitting them into the Allegheny.

First, there's the whole flap in Mt. Lebanon about a "Top 25 in 2005" list that came out earlier this week that rated 25 sophomore, junior and senior girls in the high school on the basis of physical appearance, " hotness", and also included various vulgar and sexual comments about the girls in question. Apparently, this list is an annual event, but I'm guessing that this one went over the top in terms of the crudity and vulgarity. Of course, whenever you have spoiled rich kids who do dumb things and rich parents that will do whatever it takes to make sure that their widdle darlings widdle fewings aren't hurt, the noxious by-product of such a chemical reaction is: legal action. We've got dueling lawyers at 25 paces suing anyone and anything they can lay eyes on. We got the feminists and the touchy-feelies set decrying how this list has caused fear and trauma to permeate the Mt. Lebo community, how these little innocent girls will suffer interminable pain and suffering, low self esteem, and will be labeled the sluts of the school, and the boys who made up this list are low life Abercrombie & Fitch, and J.Crew wearing neanderthals who think with the wrong head and who need to punished swiftly and severely like maybe...being publicly hung outside the Galleria as an example of what happens to those who trod upon the sacred flower of Mt. Lebanon womanhood. "Off with their heads!!!" they shrilly screech from their 12 mpg SUV's as they take their little ones to soccer practice. "They have besmirched our little girls honor and reputation" they howl in fits of righteous indignation as they walk the malls and byways of the Great State of Mount Lebanon. I should remind these folks that if they think this is bad, wait until their little darlings get to college!!!

Then you have those on the other side who say, "Hey, kids will be kids. This happens everywhere. Kids rate each other all the time. You're making a mountain out of a molehill. Does this REALLY deserve front page coverage on the PG?" And of course there are those who link this whole mess to the downfall of Western Civilization, and the lowering of our standards and the whole " this kind of stuff didn't happen when I was growing up" mentality. I'm not from Mount Lebo, and frankly I tend to hold communities like them and Upper St Clair and other affluent towns in a certain contempt, because they always come across as such perfect little enclaves of suburban bliss where prefect children grow up in perfect families with prefect schools and it's just so plastic and fake and self righteous bullshit. I kinda feel sorry for kids in those communities because in the reverse, they are just as ghettoized as kids from Homewood and the Hill in that they are isolated in their own little world, where all their friends look just like them, act just like them and they never really get to see what life is like elsewhere. And when these kids graduate from high school, they are conditioned to think that everyone else is either like them, or if not, somehow inferior. Of course, unlike Homewood and the Hill, their ghetto is cleaner, and the pleasant sounds of 9mm and AK-47 gunfire don't provide the atmosphere and ambiance that is found in those communities.

AAAAAnyhoo, back to the matter at hand. My feelings are pretty much multi-faceted about this. Frankly, this is a mountain out of a molehill. If this had happened in a high school in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, there would not have been nearly the amount of noise being generated. This incident does not deserve the amount of coverage it got in the Post-Gazette, It should have been covered primarily in the South Neighborhoods section with the school board meetings and the church potlucks. But because it is Mt Lebanon and because that community is known as an affluent location with highly regarded schools, and it is the home of many of the region's movers and shakers, anything of substance that occurs there gets the whole " trouble in paradise" treatment. Face it, teenagers do dumb things. It's the nature of the beast. Part of the ritual of growing up is finding new and exciting ways to shock the parents and authority figures. It is the goal of most teens to find out where the boundaries are and how close they can get to them before crossing, and even crossing them, and hoping they don't get caught. I don't care if a teen is pulling a 4.0 GPA in AP level classes, speaks four languages, plays five musical insturments and has half the Ivy League doing backflips to get them to even consider let alone apply to their school, they will do dumb things. The hormones are raging, kids are finding out about the opposite sex, but the info they are getting isn't the right kind. They are being saturated by media outlets that are blasting sexually charged messages at them. The magazines they read, the songs they hear, the TV shows they see tell them that sex and sexuality are the be-all and end-all of life. Girls are being told that they have to wear short skirts and show lots of skin to attract the boys, and boys are being taught that they have be aggressive in going after girls, that "no" is actually "yes", and that it's their right to expect sex somewhere during their relationship with a girl. And parents are not serious in their roles as parents anymore. They'd rather buy the kid off with a new iPod, rather than play the role as educator, disciplinarian, and role model. And instead of correcting their little angel when they do wrong, they blame the other person and get their lawyer on speed dial. School districts are being pressed into roles they aren't designed for. They are educators, not baby sitters. Why are they being held accountable for the failings of the parents? Was this Top 25 list generated on school property?, Was it done using school resources, on school time, at school expenses? If so, then yes, the district may have some culpability, but if this was done online in some kid's house on their computer, then the school district has no control over what happens off their property. Do the boys in question deserve punishment? Yes, they do, although lopping off their genitals is a little extreme, apologies and community service are more appropriate. They need to know that women are to be respected and cherished. They should be reminded that if they didn't want their sister, or their girlfriend on that list, then they should extend that same courtesy to the other girls in school. This is childish, but we are talking about children. Also parents of girls need to start educating their daughters that they don't have to look like $20 hookers in order to snag a nice guy. They need to start checking out what their girls are wearing to school and offering alternatives to the 'teen slut' look. And any guy that prefers that look to a girl who's dressed in a way that shows her femininity, but is more reserved and dignified is probably not the guy for them, as we know what he's looking for. And all those who are doing the most screaming need to remember that stuff like this was happening when they grew up, they just selectively chose not to remember it, ot maybe their role in it.
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