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Sunday, May 06, 2018

The American high school dream

It's been a while since I've discussed or even thought about academic impostors, but I think the overall argument of these two fascinating profiles of people who fraudulently posed as high school students in order to...be high school students is that we should not criminalize posing as a high school student if the poser actually just wants to be a high school student. Yes, identity theft, etc. is bad. But if you feel like your life has dead-ended, and you want another chance and a clean slate, then, well, doesn't everyone in some ways? Objectively, like all impostors, these people are pretty pathetic. But, there have been about 20 romantic comedies made around this very premise, going back to high school to start over (or, in a modified version of the same premise, going to your high school reunion often has the same effect), so evidently the idea resonates widely with non-criminals. It's weird and wonderful that the American high school, for all its utter mediocrity, continues to command this kind of hold on our imaginations and aspirations.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not the high school per se; it'e the opportunity to be a teenager again,and hang around with other teenagers. Where else can you be so firmly identified as a teen, and be with other teens, as in a high school?

Miss Self-Important said...

Why would anyone want that? I think the guy profiled wasn't really in it for that, though perhaps the woman was. But does anyone want to just be a teenager forever, or is adolescence just the starting point for beginning anew?

Anonymous said...

Just guessing here, since I agree on why anyone would want to be a teenager again, but I can think of 2 possible reasons: 1) to return to adolescence in order to complete unfinished business; or 2) to hang around with people who, being not yet adult, are less threatening than actual adults.

Miss Self-Important said...

Yes, I think #1 makes sense, as one of the articles says too: "she saw a high school, the place where it all went wrong." If you think your life derailed there, it makes sense to go back and start again where you left off. And it also makes sense to see high school as a the place where life can derail, since our culture takes it to be a launching pad for subsequent success/failure in a way that elementary school is not b/c it's too insignificant, though college has many similar features to high school in this respect. But who really thinks adults are more threatening than teenagers? Adults have more power, so in a broad sense, maybe, but they also tend to wield it more civilly in social life than teenagers.