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Spirit Days: A Debate Sparked

“We’re all in this together” is Camas High School’s class motto this year, but just how “together” are we as a school community? The small town feeling and the strong sense of community that Camas prides itself on – from football games to spirit weeks to pep assemblies – embeds itself in most students’ high school experience. In a nation so divided, is the school community fracturing in kind, and what is being done to unify it?

One recent example happened when ASB asked students and staff to submit ideas for prom spirit days. Leadership representatives compiled the responses and sent out the winners for teacher input. Many staff members were upset at the proposed “Mathlete vs. Athlete” day, citing that it would open a door for stereotyping and mockery.

“Jock vs. Nerd was on our lists a lot,” says an ASB representative. “Many students and staff alike said that.”

Some staff members called out this day as a way for a glorified group (jocks) to mock and potentially reinforce a harmful stereotype against a less glorified group (nerds).

In some ways, Camas is a diverse place with different groups and subgroups that do not necessarily fit in with the broader nerds and jocks stereotypes. Many students agree spirit days should unify, not divide.

“This [proposed spirit day] is something that not everyone can participate in,” says one student.

Another exclaims, “I don’t think it’s offensive, but it encourages division in the school. It’s about splitting the school into jocks and nerds, while the school is more diverse than that.”

“What is fun, funny, and inspirational to a teenager,” Camas High School Principal Steve Marshall explains, “is sometimes different than what is fun, funny, and inspirational to a middle-ager.”

Principal Marshall looks to the brighter side of the idea, claiming, “edgy, competitive spirit days will create more participation and unity than apathy and division [in student’s minds.]”

ASB says, “Getting people to participate in a competition was key,” to planning this spirit week.

But that intention does not always work. In fact, notably fewer students dress up for spirit days now than in years past. It seems the all-too-familiar sentiment is apathy.

“Go for it, don’t care, I probably won’t dress up for it,” says a senior.

Being overshadowed in a school as large as Camas can make one feel rather small and isolated. Some believe that by presenting another disunifying spirit day could only deepen that shadow.

A student suggested, “We should do something similar to what they did for Acceptance Week and highlight the diversity of Camas, maybe somehow unify the school.”

[Check out our coverage of Acceptance Week]

A new art installation at the high school, a first of its kind, is all about unifying the vastly different populations at Camas:

“[The] art [was] created by so many different types of students: the band student, the AP student, the athlete, the Skill Center student. Art is great in that it unites populations that may not always inherently connect.”

[Check out our coverage of the art installation]

Similar to Acceptance Week, there are many projects ongoing at Camas that are focused on the unity of people, not the division some perceive.

ASB is trying their best to create something fun and energetic to get the student body excited and spirited. Some of them do not understand the argument against the proposed spirit day and say, “it’s hard [to create spirit weeks] because we will reach out to students, and this is what we get back. These were what the staff and students provided.”

Representatives wanted to point out, “We are not trying to make social commentary, we are trying to make something fun.”

ASB will work on a revised proposal for prom week and again ask for staff input.

Principal Marshall asks staff to, “Do our best to participate in the spirit days, whatever they may be,” he adds, “[staff has] a huge influence on our school’s culture and the sense of unity that is felt by our students.”

This idea behind spirit weeks is to be fun and encourage community within the school and between groups of students who may not normally have contact. One thing is for sure, ASB and staff will continue working to promote unity while having fun.

What are your thoughts on the controversy, do you think it is justified? What would you like to see as a spirit day?

UPDATE 3/27/17:

Camas Leadership students, for the week prior to spring break, have put together themed hallways and implemented music during lunches. Michelle Allen stated, “We wanted to have a positive week before everyone left CHS on Friday.”

Leadership has also announced the 2017 Prom theme and spirit week. This year: Great Gatsby theme to be held at Abigail Gardens April 15. The week prior to prom is filled with fun and inclusive spirit days including a “rep your club/activity” day where students dress in like with their club/activity they wish to represent.

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