The Roots of Downcast Part 2: High School

High school graduation. Who would think such an innocent face would hide such a caustic sense of humor?
High school graduation. Who would think such an innocent face would hide such a caustic sense of humor?

Some of the classes that Stephanie Starr takes in “Downcast” are actual classes I took at my high school, including European History, and Honors (or rather, A.P.) English.

It was in A.P. English that I first read Jonathan’s Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and Volataire’s “Candide.” These two satires resonated very deeply with me, as I had finally found words that saw the world the way I do – with its beauty, hope, and hypocrisy.

The assignment that came with these books was to write our own satire.

I wrote a piece called “The Quest.” It got an A+++ (I’m not kidding. That’s literally the grade it got).

So, for your satirical enjoyment, here is the masterwork from 17-year-old Cait.


“The Quest”

It all began with an innocent quest for the answer to the ultimate question: where can a girl buy a pair of run-free pantyhose?

Honors realized how critical run-free pantyhose are for a first impression and vowed never to rest until she found the answer to this question and freed all woman-kind from the bondage of worrying about their pantyhose running.

For days, Honora tried to think of the answer to the ultimate question, but, alas, she could not find it. She then tried to think of how she could find the answer. She thought for many days and many nights, and finally found a solution.

“I must find a place where there would be people who would know where a girl can buy a pair of run-free pantyhose,” Honora thought to herself.

Being the bright girl she was, Honora sat and pondered until, in a burst of inspiration on the fourth day, she concluded that fashion-sconscious young girls would probably know where to get run-free pantyhose. The inspiration lasted long enough for Honora to realize that young girls are usually found in high schools.

Honors hopped into her car and sped (not literally, she was too honorable to drive faster than the speed limit) to the nearest high school. She walked in determinedly and put her nose in the air. The highly sensitive organ soon caught the smell of heavily fried foods and sugary deserts. Honor’s nose led her straight tot he cafeteria where she found clusters of students anxiously bent over sheets of paper.

“Excuse me,” she said to the nearest table of kids. “Are you students here?”

A student looked up and said scornfully, “We are seniors, not students. Furthermore, we are currently involved in enjoying our high school career, so will you please state your business succinctly or go away.”

Honors was taken aback, but not to be deterred.

“What are you doing?” she asked politely.

All the students looked up at her, each with an expression of absolutely terror and confusion.

“We’re filling gout college applications for colleges that we have to go to, or else our prestige and position in the world will be forever affected negatively!” said a panic-stricken student.

“Oh,” said Honora, not really understanding, “But what will happen if you don’t get in?”

But her question was lost to the students who had returned to filling out their applications.

One student spoke to himself as he checked off boxes on the application.

“National Honor and Sobriety Society President, Spanish Club President-” the boy was interrupted by a girl going for his throat with a her pen, yelling “I’m the Spanish Club President!”

A short, bitter fight ensued which ended quickly because both students killed each other rather efficiently. Four students from the Environmental Club came and took the bodies away for recycling. They gave Honor to understand that this was a fairly common occurrence, and that they had a special bin outside just for senior bodies, and another one for junior body parts (the juniors were not as violent yet; they were just practicing for the real thing).

The scornful student blinked and remarked, “Actually, I’m the Spanish Club President.” He then went back to his work.

Honors pondered this strange turn of events for a few moments, then embarked on another round of questioning.

“What do you put on your college applications?” she asked.

A harried-looking student looked up and said, “Everything we’ve ever done that was important, and if it’s not important, they have classes here that teach you how to make it sound important. For example, I have 16 scholarships, 27 extracurricular activities, two part-time jobs, and I do 10 hours of community service a week.”

Honor was astounded.

The student continued,” I also have a 5.23 GPA out of a 4.0. I have taken all the A.P. Classes there are.”

“What intelligent people these students are!” Honor thought to herself in awe.

“Who wrote ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ and what kind of writing is it?” Honors asked. She had always wanted to know about it, but nobody had ever told her. Honor figured that these brilliant students could tell her.

The student looked sagely at her.

“Ahhh, that was a paper I got an ‘A’ on, but I do not remember.”

“Oh dear. Well, can anyone tell me the answer to the ultimate question?” Honor cried.

A girl looked up and said, “If I can, I can put on my application that I answered the ultimate question!”

“Where can a girl find a pair of run-free pantyhose?” Honora asked.

The girl’s face went blank, then she turned back to her application and wrote under awards: “Finalist in contest to answer the ultimate question: Where is it physically and geographically possible/probably to employ capitalistic principles of free market to gain possession of nylon habiliments that are technically designed to resist the destructive action of action.”

Honora realized that she couldn’t find the answer here. Disappointed, but not discouraged, Honora got back in her car and went home to think of where else she could find people who would know where to find run-free pantyhose.

After five days of intensive thinking, Honora came up with an answer.

“Pantyhose are sold in stores, and store clerks have to know about the products they sell,” Honora reasoned, “Therefore, I must go to a store.”

Honors got in her car and sped to the nearest clothing store. The moment she walked in the door, a bevy of salesladies swooped down on her, all smiling, offering assistance.

“What lovely, friendly people!” Honors thought, “Surely I can find the answer here!”

The saleslady with the broadest smile and the most robust offers of help shooed the others away and turned back to Honora.

“Hi, my name is Betty. Can I help you in any way? My job is to make your shopping experience here better and better and better…” the saleslady said, firmly grasping Honora’s arm and propelling her into the middle of the store where Honora could get a complete view of the store.

“I’m looking for the answer to the ultimate question,” Honor said.

“In the great mix-and-match sales rack of life, aren’t we all?” the saleslady replied brightly.

Honors paused then continued, “I was wondering where a girl could get-”

“You can get everything a girl could want right here!” cried the saleslady, enthusiastically flapping her arms to indicate the whole of the store.

“And what’s more,” she continued, “I’m here to make sure you get it in a pleasant and efficient way. I just want to let you know that anything you ask me to do will make me ver, very, very,very happy.”

Honors was delighted. At last, she had found the place where a girl could get a pair of run-free pantyhose.

“Then take me to them!” cried Honora.

The saleslady looked blankly at her.

Honora looked at the saleslady, taken aback.

The saleslady coughed suggestively.

Honora, being the bright girl she was, realized the saleslady didn’t know what she had come for.

“Run-free pantyhose?” Honora said sheepishly.

The saleslady paused a moment, then said cheerfully, “We have everything a girl could want except run-free pantyhose.”

“Don’t they make run-free pantyhose?” Honora asked anxiously.

“Oh, probably not,” replied the saleslady, shrugging, then smiling in a way that would have made most people call for the men in white.

“Why not?” inquired Honora.

“Let me show you the latest in pantyhose technology,” said the saleslady happily, dragging Honora over to the stocking section. The saleslady rifled through packages until she came up with the one she wanted.

“This is the newest pantyhose style,” the salesleady announced, holding up a package of ‘Banes Worry-Free Pantyhose.’

“These pantyhose are specially designed to free women from the threat of getting runs in their pantyhose,” the saleslady explained ebulliently.

“How?” asked Honora.

“Simple,” continued the saleslady jubilantly, “The manufacturers recognized the problem women face each time they wear pantyhose. Since we, the women of the United States of America, in order to form a more stress-free life, demanded worry-free pantyhose, manufacturers made pantyhose with runs already in them. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting runs in your pantyhose because they are already there! Now isn’t that just peachy and marvelous?”

Honora looked dejectedly at the package of run-filled pantyhose and asked, “How much are they?”

“A real bargain!” cried the saleslady, “Only $37.99.”

Honora was shocked. “Why do they cost so much?” she asked.

“Profit, of course. That is the great blessing of the capitalist system! But let me assure you, dear customer, that we here in this store have the lowest prices of anywhere in town. And if we don’t, and you can prove it to us, we will all happily commit suicide and leave you the store in our will, just to oblige you,” replied the saleslady excitedly.

Honora realized sadly that she would not find the answer to the ultimate question here. She took her leave of the saleslady and the store, with all the salesladies sending her off with bright cheery calls of farewell and promises of making her next visit even better and better and better…

Honora left the store and went home, despairing of ever finding the answer to the ultimate question. Upon her return home, she found the latest fashion magazine waiting for her. She absently flipped through it. Suddenly, she sat bolt upright. There, on page 79 of the magazine, in big, bold letters, was the answer!

Honora read it carefully: “The new trend in fashion: Out with nylon pantyhose, in with cotton stockings and knee-high socks!” Honora reflected on this and finally came to the conclusion that it was the best, most convenient and sensible answer. After all, hadn’t she proved that a girl can’t get a pair of run-free pantyhose?

The Roots of Downcast Part 1: College

Cait circa junior year, the time I wrote this paper. Yes, that is a champagne flute. It's filled with iced tea. And yes, that's a J. Crew catalog. I was making fun of it. College was weird, okay? Leave me alone.
Cait circa junior year, the time I wrote this paper. No, that’s not my room (it’s my neighbor across the hall). Yes, that is a champagne flute. It’s filled with iced tea. And yes, that’s a J. Crew catalog. I was making fun of it. College was weird, okay? Leave me alone.

“Downcast” was not my first attempt at trying to capture the splendid complexity of high school social hierarchies. Apparently, I have been thinking about this for a very, very long time.

Way back in college, I took an anthropology course called, “Myth, Ritual, and Symbol.” This class may or may not have inspired me to want to become an anthropologist…how I ended up in marketing is a whole other story…

The other day, I came across a paper I wrote for this class, and it was clear that I was already trying to analyze and distill the crazy crucible that is high school.

So, here, in its entirety, is my college anthropology paper on high school social structures. (Being a good academic, I would have added the footnotes, but the ancient word processing program I wrote the paper with decided to garble them beyond recognition. Suffice to say that I did footnote the heck out of this thing and can provide notes/bibliography as asked.)

Also, FYI, I got an “A” on this assignment, with Professor Kaplan remarking, “Caitlinn – This is an excellent paper. You provide a detailed ethnography and use both Tume and Gluckman in creative and convincing ways. One point for further thought: what would Bruce Lincoln ask us to consider about the ritual if we put it into real historical context (e.g. compared to 1950’s, 1960’s/70’s versions)? Good work!”


Honors Convocation: An Attempt at Communitas through a Ritual of Rebellion

I. Introduction

High school is one of the most important socially formative experiences in the lives of the majority of Americans. Teenagers go to high school to play the role of students, and the primary goal of most high schools is to provide these young men and women with an academic education.

However, the social education received through the social structures of the student body go far beyond the media stereotypes of camaraderie and popularity contests. The organization of student social groups and relationships is an extremely complex entity, informed by many factors such as the personality of individual actors, the particular myths and traditions of the school, and the variations in the social map that occur in different schools and class years.

A better understanding of the tacit social arrangements of high school students might further our understanding about the effects of this influential time. An approach to opening up this field would be to look at certain rituals in high schools and how they reflect the social organization and conflicts within the student body.

One such ritual is the “Honors Convocation” held biannually at Brebeuf Preparatory High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Honors Convocation was a ritual meant to bring together the student body by honoring those who had excelled academically and to inspire everyone to work hard and do well in the coming semester.

However, Honors Convocation failed to bring together the students in a kind of communitas and was in fact divisive because of its similarities to a ritual rebellion.

In order to see how this ritual failed so consistently, it is necessary to place it in the context of the pre-existing social structure of the student body and to examine the actual mechanics of the ceremony. Then, by using the theoretical frameworks of Victor Turner and Max Gluckman, Honors Convocation can be analyzed and evaluated as to its effectiveness.


II. Student Social Organization and the In’s and Out’s of Honors Convocation

It would be tremendously difficult to imagine a ritual or a ceremony without some sort of cultural context. In fact, in the case of Honors Convocation, there is such a myriad of variables concerning the social structure and the administrative goals that it would be almost impossible to map out all the rapports and connections.

Thus, it is easier to use the senior class as a model and to extrapolate general trends from there. By describing the composition of the senior class’ social hierarchy, the context of the ritual of Honors Convocation itself comes into focus more clearly.

Brebeuf Preparatory High School is a Jesuit college preparatory school located in the more affluent northside suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana. The school’s stated goal is to educate students, prepare them for college, and send the entire graduating class to college.

There is a heavy emphasis placed by administrators and teachers on academic excellence and the accumulations of honors and achievements that will increase one’s chances of getting into college. There are about 150 students/class year. The number of students in a given class would be about 15-20. The student body is predominantly upper-middle class whites, however, there is a noticeable presence of Asian-Americans and African-Americans.

An entrance exam is required for admission and once admitted, that exam is used to determine which level of classes one takes. Every year, there are several levels of difficulty in core classes such as English, math, and science.

As the years go on, a group of selected students are strongly encouraged to take Honors and Advanced Placement classes. Thus, the result is the formation of an academic elite over the years who compete for the same scholarships, club offices, and college admissions.

The trials and tribulations and pressures put on this group give them a common ground for commiseration and a limited camaraderie. However, the competitiveness of their academic situation inhibits relationships born of the scholastic context.

A greater influence is exerted on the formation of social groups by the nebulous concept of “popularity”, which might be quickly defined as charisma coupled with the ability to draw other to oneself, and the establishment of leadership as evidenced by one’s powers to determine social and fashion trends.

The social hierarchy was formed by strategic combinations of four basic criteria: popularity, athleticism, academic ability, and involvement in extra-curricular activities.

At the zenith of the senior class was the group of young men and women who “covered all the bases” by being in the top echelons academically, active in athletics, on the cutting edge of fashion, in the know about the parties and social machinations, and involved in many extra-curricular activities such as clubs and volunteer work.

Next came a less gender-mixed group – this meaning that they were both on this social level, but they tended to segregate more by sex. They were active athletically, socially and somewhat extra-curricularly.

Underneath that came the group of students who were also in the academic elite, and involved in extra-curricular activities, but who were not invited to participate in private parties and who were on the whole less involved in athletics.

At the bottom of this hierarchy were those who were neither top nor bottom academically, occasionally in sports or clubs, and who were nearly non-existent socially.

For all practical purposes, this bottom group and the group of academics just above it were taken as one level most of the time. Of course there were crossovers and variations since these groups were not hard and fast, as is implied by delineation of social categories, and there were social intrigues within all the groups, with leaders and followers, etc.

However, overall, this seemed to be the model of the hierarchy used by the senior class and others. Even though academics was an element of being on top of the hierarchy, it was the icing on the cake because of all the other prerequisites.

However, there is one moment during the school year when the social hierarchy is redefined by factors outside its control, namely the administration. That event was Honors Convocation.

Honors Convocation was announced in the school calendar and in all the letters home from the administration. Parents and friends of the family were encouraged to attend this ceremony in honor of the accomplishments of their children.

The students were informed that this was to be treated with as much importance as the all school convocation on St. Jean de Brebeuf day, meaning dressing up was required. Any boy not wearing slacks, a collared shirt, a tie, and dress shoes was subject to detention, as was any girl in casual attire, skirts that were “inappropriately short”, etc.

The morning of convocation, in homeroom, honors and high honors ribbons were distributed. Honors meant that one had a GPA of 3.0-3.4, and high honors was defined as 3.5 to 3.9.   A 4.0 was considered as “class honors” and those ribbons were to awarded during the ceremony.

The distribution of ribbons in the homerooms eliminated what would be a time-consuming process during honors convocation, and also distinguished even more the awarding of class honors ribbons since the recipients would get to walk up to the stage, shake hands with the principal, and be presented to the school.

After the class that followed homeroom, the entire student body was directed to the gymnasium. Students had to sit in the sections that corresponded to their class years. Those receiving class honors were told to sit further down on the bleachers so that they wouldn’t hold up the procession to the stage.

Parents and other guests sat on fold-up chairs set out for them on the floor of the gymnasium. The principal and other administrators sat up on the stage. The teachers stood along the back wall by the doors, and some sat up in the bleachers with the trouble-makers. Finally, everyone was assembled and it was time for the ritual to begin.

The principal got up and gave a short welcome speech to the students and to the parents who had come. In the fall Honors Convocation, which celebrated the achievements of the previous spring semester, the freshmen were excluded from any of the activities, since they had not been at Brebeuf long enough to amass any honors connected with their time there.

The winners of various memorial and other scholarships were announced. In the winter Honors Convocation, the next thing to follow would be the induction of the qualifying members of the junior class into the National Honors Society. They went up on stage, received their certificates and shook hands with the president of the school.

The final part of the ceremony was the announcement of all of those who had received any kind of honors. The listing of those receiving honors began with the freshmen class, unless it was fall Honors Convocation, in which case the president of the sophomore class would get up and begin the announcement of sophomore names.

Those with honors were announced first, then high honors, and finally class honors. The student with class honors were called up to the stage to receive their ribbons. They walked from the bleachers to the staircase up to the foot of the stage where a teacher put the in alphabetical order and prompted them at the right moment to walk up on stage.

Then when everyone was lined up on stage and awarded, the audience applauded and the students left the stage. The senior class was left to go last, and at winter Honors Convocation, it was mentioned that this would be their last Honors Convocation – a remark which always brought tears to a few senior eyes and handsome rounds of applause from everyone.

The principal concluded the convocation by thanking everyone who came and exhorting the students to continue to work hard and strive to be the best they could be. Parents and guests were allowed to leave first, then most of the teachers (except those who were to keep the students in line). Seniors were dismissed next, then juniors, sophomores and freshmen. Students returned to their classes and tried to continue the rest of the day as if nothing had happened.

In the afternoon aftermath, students tended to be particularly listless in their classes, as if to show that what had happened during convocation hadn’t really mattered. A few congratulations had circulated among friends who had gotten class honors or a scholarship, but most of that was previously known because of the quick circulation of information through the classes.

The social structure had been challenged and needed to return to its normal hierarchy in order for the students to function properly in the relationships the understood and were comfortable (although perhaps not happy) with. The next day, there was no talk of what had happened during convocation at all.

Honors Convocation was disruptive because of the way it reflected the tensions in the prevailing social hierarchy of the student body. It was forgotten quickly, in order to circumvent the blossoming of any more ill feeling than what already existed.

This was the opposite effect hoped for by the administrators who had planned this event as a communitas-building moment. In order to better understand this failure, it is necessary to use two theoretical perspectives that address the meaning of what the ritual attempted to do, and how it was actually unconsciously perceived by the student body.


III. Victor Turner’s Take on Honors Convocation

Despite the fact that Honors Convocation was a secular ceremony and that many of Victor Turner’s ideas are geared toward more religious rituals, there are several concepts of his that can be transposed to an analysis of this ritual.

In his article “Passages, Margins, and Poverty: Religious Symbols of Communitas”, Turner introduces three terms: liminality, structural inferiority, and communitas. Interwoven into his discussion of these terms are Turner’s discussion of ritual degredation and ritual elevation and a definition of social structure.

Using this point of reference, it is possible to examine critically Honors Convocation in terms of an exercise in building communitas, the aspects of this ritual that correspond to liminality, and the structural inferiority built into the context of the social structure of the student body.

Before plunging into a full analysis of Honors Convocation in Turnerian terms, it is necessary to outline some of his definitions and ideas, from communitas to social structure, and to show how they apply to the study of high school social dynamics in general.

According to Turner, secular communitas is a spontaneous feeling of fellowship that is engendered outside of the set social structures. While Turner argues that institutions cannot successfully communitas, he believes that communitas is not completely separate from social structures and that it is often institutionalized in the form of religion. In the high school setting, an example of communitas outside the self-imposed social group distinctions among students might be the commiseration and relief shared by students as they get out of particularly grueling test.

The students might belong to different “cliques”, but the feeling of relief is outside of that structure. Turner’s definition of a social structure is the “patterned arrangements” of different roles and degrees of social mobility that function and are sanctioned in a society. This structure can be seen in the established social hierarchy described earlier, especially in the two groups at the bottom of the social totem pole.

Being in a group that is classified as somehow lower than another group illustrates the concept of structural inferiority in which there is a permanent class on the bottom of social stratification. In general, movement between social groups was very subtle. A more formalized and ritualistic movement between groups would take place at sports banquets, and club parties and elections, where there would be a more qualifiable liminality.

According to Turner, liminality is the midpoint of a transition between two positions in a society, and may include ritual degredation, ritual elevation, or homogenization of the group. All of these concepts of communitas, structural inferiority, social structure and liminality play into the construction and failure of Honors Convocation.

The established, everyday, dominant social structure of the student body was suspended for 1 1/2 hours during Honors Convocation, and a temporary, artificial structure was imposed which meant to show the possibility of other structures and encourage fluidity between groups.

This new arrangement placed the emphasis and importance on those who had excelled socially across all social lines. Unfortunately, the other pattern of social relations was too firmly entrenched, and the students were not in that setting long enough for it to make a real difference over time.

Part of the reason for the lack of lasting effect was the way the structural inferiority of the senior class, and in general the student body, was constructed. Those who tended to excel academically, aside from those at the top of the hierarchy, were the students who were strong academically and in extra-curricular activities. Thus, the placing of this low group on top was a change that was too drastic to be tenable, let alone comfortable.

There were serious attempts made by the administration who presided over the ritual to achieve a moment of true liminality among the students. They sought to do this through the homogenization of the look of the student body through clothing (formal dress). While clothing has less of a distinguishing impact today, there were still markers of social rank such as cheerleading outfits, letter jackets, sorority sweatshirts, etc. However, those who took the lead socially still were able to “lead” in the realm of formal fashion.

By making everyone sit according to their class year, the administrators seemed to convey their desire that the students think of themselves as “juniors” or “freshmen”. There again, the organization of how students sat according to their social groups showed that there was no elimination of divisive elements. Perhaps the only true liminality that occurred was the ritual elevation of the academically honored and the ritual degredation of the socially prominent but academically weak.

The attempt to find some sort of communitas generated by Honors Convocation may be the hardest and most complex application of Turner’s analysis to the ceremony. The spirit of goodwill and fellowship that the administration hoped would come from the recognition of scholastically strong students by their peers never materialized because of all the pre-determined factors working against it.

Also, as Turner points out, the creation of communitas is usually uncontrollable and unharnessable. Thus, no amount of exhortations by the principal to work together and be a community of scholars only aggrieved the tensions that existed in the social system and reinforced the desire to stick to the established hierarchy.

There were some instances of communitas that happened during the ceremony, such as the explosion of feeling by the senior class at the mention that this would be their last convocation. In a way, this illustrates Turner’s idea that communitas does have a rapport with structure – that in fact, it is often a response to too much structuring. But these moments are few an far between, and sadly brief.

Honors Convocation meant well. It wished to instill feelings of goodwill in its students. However, the arbitrary imposition of communitas and a new social structure based on the overturning of structural inferiority only brought into sharper relief the conflicts and stratification of the senior class and the student body. It succeeded in distinguishing for a moment those who had excelled academically, and this ephemeral triumph call to mind the theories of ritual rebellion put forward by Max Gluckman.


IV. Gluckman on Honors Convocation as a Ritual Rebellion

Max Gluckman’s ideas encompass a new vocabulary and a new frame of reference.

There are many questions that arise from a brief examination of his analysis, such as: what is ritual rebellion? what are the criteria that allow this classification? and, in regards to an application of his theories to Honors Convocation, what are the elements of this ritual that resemble the structure and significance of a ritual rebellion?

The rituals of rebellion in south-east Africa offer Gluckman ample concrete examples for this theories. The sacred protests against the king, but not necessarily the kingship, both release pent-up tensions and affirm the support for the institution that allows society to continue.

Every society is full of tensions resulting in both struggle and cooperation. The societies in which these rituals of rebellion against the distribution of power tend to occur are in what Gluckman would call “repetitive” societies, where there is relatively little, or extremely subtle change in the institutions. This can be seen in the structure of the student body.

The designation of class years does not change, and there always seems to be the athletic crowd, the brainy crowd, the popular crowd, etc. According to Gluckman, a ritual of rebellion is an institutionalized and traditional protest by those in habitually subordinate roles.

In the African tribes, the ceremonial expression of hatred for the king is not just a mass assertion of unity in face of the oppression, but also it is a highlighting of the conflict inherent in their society, and a statement of rivalry with the king. The king himself is made to be the symbol of the nation and its strength and prosperity.

By transposing the structure of a monarchy to the structure of a social hierarchy, it is not hard to see how many of these concepts are applicable to an analysis of the social organization of the student body as well as Honors Convocation.

This ceremony is definitely a reversal of roles for students at opposite ends of the social hierarchy, and this factor may be the most important link to Gluckman’s theories.

By giving these students on them bottom a moment of importance that allowed them to assert their worth, tensions were released since there was no concession by those on top because the entire ceremony was handled by administrators.

Those on bottom were only responsible for having worked hard, and thus they avoided spreading the image of a personal attack on the system that allowed everyone to know his place and to establish the pattern of social relations.

Having publicly affirmed their value, these students could return to their position of the social hierarchy and to enjoy the unity and in some cases prosperity of a class that functioned well because of everyone playing the same social game. Thus, in evidence here is the paradox the Gluckman sets forth by showing that through dissent, unity (happy or not) is possible.

Perhaps Honors Convocation did succeed at creating unity, although not the kind it necessarily wanted, by the very disruption it caused in the social fabric of the student body. Whatever its original goals, the effects and perception of Honors Convocation are closely aligned to those described in rituals of rebellion by Gluckman.


V. Conclusion


Honors Convocation was a problematic event in the course of the scholastic year.

By its elevation of the students who had excelled academically, it overturned dramatically and briefly the established and sanctioned social hierarchy. Its goals were to honor those who had received good grades and to encourage a feeling of academic fraternity.

However, because of all the factors working against it, the ritual fell short of achieving this scholarly agape among the students through the methods the administrators thought would work. As the application of Victor Turner’s theories shows, many elements of the cultural context of Honors Convocation, such as the inherent social structure, the shallow quality of any liminality, and the firmly entrenched structural inferiority, all turned the odds against the development of communitas through this ceremony.

The analysis of Honors Convocation from the point of view of Max Gluckman’s theories comes much closer in its conclusion that it represented to the students a ritual of rebellion. All of these analyses and evaluations attempt to delineate the social dynamics of the cliques of the student body.

Honors Convocation is but one ceremony at one particular high school. There are numerous other rituals ripe for studying and who could yield a valuable guideposts on the road to understanding the impact of high school social structures on the development of groups and individuals as the move on in society.