At Hotchkiss, we take five days to gear and psych up to play our rival school Taft in most sports (never water polo, as Taft doesn't have a pool, or cross country, a team that has its New England championship on the same day). We call it Spirit Week. During the days leading to the competitions, the students decorate the Main Building and get excited for the weekend's games. Each day has a different dress-up plan. The photo above comes from Secret Dorm Day, in which the students from the dormitory where I affiliate dressed as Tinker Truckers. I particularly liked one girl's hat (not pictured) that said, "I Love Trucks." Another dorm's theme was "Anything but a Backpack." Students from that dormitory carried their books in desk drawers, golf bags, full-sized wheeled suitcases, microwaves, and mini-fridges. Hysterical. Other spirit days include Preppy Day, Way-Back Wednesday, and Twin Day.
And this set of clothing rituals is part of why I love spirit week. I enjoy kids' cleverness and humor, their willingness to look silly and their eagerness to band together. Every year, I see more examples of ways the teens here harness their creativity for community.
On the other hand, I struggle with the tribalism, the us/them, the waste, and the classism of it all. They put up cards (so much paper, so many cards) with quips such as, "I don't speak to Tafties very often, but when I do, I ask for large fries," and I think, what's wrong with having a job serving others? They comment on Taft kids' intelligence, their lack of creativity, their class. It doesn't take a huge leap to imagine that such us-versus-them thinking can lead to thinking about other groups of people as less-than.
For example, in the past few years, they build a cardboard rhinoceros (Taft's mascot) and burn it. How can anyone think it's a good idea to burn at item in effigy?
Beating Taft in competition should be fun because Taft kids are exactly as wonderful as Hotchkiss kids. If they were weaker, stupider, or in any other way lesser than we are, then beating them in competition wouldn't be victory; it'd be bullying. Only if we acknowledge them as equals does winning become about strategy, performance under pressure, coaching, and skill.
Can't we find ways to celebrate what makes us Hotchkiss without denigrating others? Can't we learn to come together without pushing anyone else aside? What do you think?
Below, you'll find one of my all-time favorite psych cards. Hi, AR!