Monday, June 09, 2008

High School Yearbooks

High school yearbooks. Remember those? A permanent record or snapshot of your high school and its inhabitants and what happened during one school year as interpreted by the yearbook staff (and generally one lone advisor). How many of us still have our high school yearbooks and either (1) laugh or (2) do a slow-burn over something ill-advised that got printed or left out or (3) both?

So the Times had this article about a yearbook from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in today's edition. Seems the kids got really caught up in being cool and making the yearbook cool and it offended some kids so much they asked for their money back. Now it takes a lot to offend most teenagers. They tend to take a live and let live attitude so as to not look "uncool". But apparently there were numerous references to drug use throughout, sex and drinking.

Yearbooks cost upwards of $40-50 so it's not chump change that gets dropped to buy one.

The principal said,

"Unfortunately these are very unique pieces of memorabilia," Brumley said. "There's no do-over on it."

And that's true. It's especially difficult if it is your senior year and the yearbook is a big disappointment.

He also said:

"I think (adviser Carol MacPhee) got a little too trusting and a couple things went in that shouldn't," he said, adding that she'll keep a closer eye on the staff next year."

The advisers have big jobs, it's true. But they are allowing a book to be produced that nearly every student will have and is the official record of that school year. It's important to read every single word of the book. In fact, it seems surprising that at least one adult wouldn't do that before it went to print. But it doesn't more often than you might think.

This reminds me of my older son's experience with his senior yearbook. The first thing that happened? About 25% of the senior class wasn't pictured in the senior section. How did that happen? Oh the school didn't bother to make it clear when the pictures were due (we proved this to the principal and adviser and they were mightily embarrassed because they were convinced that they had done everything properly). Then, they had the usual list of boys and girls who were "most likely" or "most". Now, my high school yearbook didn't have this; we did in the student newspaper. A yearbook is forever, a newspaper is a throwaway.

So, most of the time, these categories are either complimentary or funny. The measure should be for the editors to insert their names into any given category and ask how they feel about it. If it bothers them, then that category should go. So one category was "most obsessive". My son was the boy. Now this school had more than one adviser (although one teacher was named as yearbook adviser). My son had had most of the advisers as teachers and they knew he had a disability. But it managed to get past all of them and was printed. You can imagine how upset he was. But he was a good guy and got past it but he still doesn't like to look at his yearbook.

It's hard to believe that schools can be so lax on these issues but everyone assumes that due diligence is occurring. When we came to Roosevelt, I did speak to the yearbook adviser about these issues and she was clear about her oversight and what she would not allow or advise against. I'm going to hold her to that promise.

11 comments:

Ad Hoc said...

Well this was exactly my point with the Nathan Hale school newspaper having headlines like legalize marijuana, and electro sexuality (music appealing to the sexually deviant). I know a newspaper is a throw away and does not carry the significance of a year book, but the concept is the same. Content of a school newspaper should not be inappropriate. All students have the right to pick up the newspaper without having to read offensive articles. How far have we sank? Do we not respect other peoples rights anymore? There should be a filter of some sort for official school correspondence. And the guidance counselors need to step up and do their jobs.

agibean1958 said...

While I agree with the need for some guidelines for student publications, I don't think that they need to be only about innocuous fluff or puppies and rainbows either. Student writers can be very thorough and insightful, and I think that investigations into something like legalizeing marijuana would be of interest to many studetns.

After all, there are a number of ADULTS working to pass this legislation-even a former Seattle police chief (Norn Stamper) thinks some legalized drugs would be appropriate. I don't see an article or editorial about this as being a sign of the apocolypse, and certainly not offensive.

As for "electro sexuality"-this is the second time you're mentioned this, but I can't find any reference to it anywhere. Electro music, yes-it's described as a "funk beat" in one of the few references, but "electro sexuality" only got me references to sex toys. So what exactly are you talking about? And I'm really wondering why "sexually deviant" people, whatever that means, would universally like a certain type of music.

I'd think that their tastes in music would vary, just like any other segment of society-heck, my three kids like entirely different music from each other! Why would the "sexually deviant" gravitate to one kind?

I think teenagers can be silly and impulsive and do stupid things like brag about drug use in a yearbook-and I DO think that has no place in a yearbook. While after a year or two, the importance of a yearbook fades away, they should be more of a who's who than a paper version of Myspace.

But newspapers are something else again. The point is to explore different trends, news and opinion, and that's EXACTLY where I'd expect to see articles about a new type of music or legalizing drugs. High school students aren't babies and deserve some credit for being able to filter out what they don't want to read.

Ad Hoc said...

Check out the article in the Nathan Hale newspaper, it will well define electro sexuality for you. It's on their website in archives.

hschinske said...

Well, "music appealing to the sexual deviant" could include Broadway musicals, for pete's sake. It all depends how you define "deviant." Here's an example of the musical use of "electrosexual": "DJs Paul Burston and Dom Agius play sexy electronica from the golden age of disco, the early '80s and beyond. Think Giorgio Moroder, Depeche Mode, Human League, Soft Cell, Donna Summer, Eurthymics, Paul Jabara, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Yello and more. No cheesy disco and no '80s trash. Just music of quality and distinction for a retrosexual, polysexual, electrosexual crowd."

So basically electropop (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electropop) with a slightly different marketing spin (well, not so different, from what I remember of the early eighties).

Helen Schinske

agibean1958 said...

That's what I was guessing, although I only have ever heard a couple of the above-named groups/singers. I can't find the article Ad Hoc refers to-only 2 of this year's papers are online, perhaps it's the Nov. 07 issue that's listed but not available?

I stand by my comments and then some-decades ago, jazz was considered the downfall of civilization, then it was swing; now it's hip hop and apparently, electrosexuality. It's always something that threatens each older generation. I've read all of the back issues of the Nathan Hale paper available online, and the work is very good-covering everything from biodeisel to the new principal to the school arts-hardly a sign of deviancy.

And with all seriousness, though somewhat off-topic, I think the very term "sexual deviant" is up for debate, AND I know a few people who would fit that description according to some labelers And they're not such bad people.

Ad Hoc said...

Agibean1958, I stand by my comments too. I don't think legalizing marijuana is an appropriate topic for a school newspaper - nor do I think anything that is classified as sexually deviant is an appropriate topic for a school newspaper. I just don't want my kid reading a school newspaper making an argument for legalizing marijuana. Sorry. And where is the line? What if kids want to print pornographic pictures? Or post pen pal links to prisoners? Or advertise for members of a new skin head club? How would you react if it was something offensive to you or your family? And, why not respect what is offensive to others?

What kids want to read about or do on their own outside of school is between them and their families, but what comes via a school newspaper should be appropriate for the entire community. And it doesn't have to be rainbows and butterflies, and innocuous fluff to be cutting edge. There are plenty of relevant subjects for conversation without having to rely on inappropriate material. Plenty of room for inappropriate over the top writing later on when they become writers for the Stranger.

agibean1958 said...

The problem, Ad Hoc, is that "offensive" is a fluid term. What is offensive to you is not what might be offensive to me. And what is offensive to my next door neighbor might not be offensive to you.

You simply CANNOT have a "no offensive" material policy in place that guarantees no one will ever be offended.

I read through ALL of the online editions of the Sentinel. I'd bet some conservatives would be offended by the article a few years back about the kids walking out of class to protest. And I'm SURE that the ads for Planned Parenthood bother some people.

Inappropriate is often in the eye of the beholder. I think that a story on a dance trend IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS would be ideal in a school paper. And at a time when pot is a subject of much discussion, why WOULDN'T a school setting be a place for discussion about it?

Your pornography example is a red herring-there are strict guidelines about it being unavailable to the under-18 set, so of course, it would not be allowed in a school paper. Ads also usually have guidelines and are simply not the same as written work by the students.

I'm a writer-I have a huge respect for freedom of the press. Ads are not written work, of course, so I have no problem with restrictions, within reason. The bottom line is-if you see something in writing that you don't like-write about it yourself. Send letters to the paper, comments to the blog, emails to the editor. Don't impose your standards on everyone else.

I understand that high schools are not the public forums such as regular newspapers. But just as those papers are not expected to print only non-controversial stories, high school papers shouldn't be expected to please everyone all the time. That's not giving youth much credit-it says that they simply can't handle anything that might bother them.

Ad Hoc said...

"Your pornography example is a red herring-there are strict guidelines about it being unavailable to the under-18 set, so of course, it would not be allowed in a school paper."

Marijuana is also illegal to "the under 18 set", along with "the over age set" and "the hippie set" too.

As I asked before where would you draw the line? How about an invitation to join a skin head club? A KKK meeting? An orgie? What is appropriate in a school setting.

Heck, you can't have a Christmas tree in the lobby, but it's OK for pro drug articles in our school newspaper?

Melissa Westbrook said...

There was no point/counterpoint in the article about marijuana? That's usually how it's done. I think it would be wrong to only present one side of anything.

What I told the Roosevelt principal (upon his request that I read and comment on the "sex" issue of Roosevelt's student newspaper) was that the students need to understand their entire audience. That is, other students. They are not writing for an adult audience.

However, the caveat is that there are a wide range of students at Roosevelt. There are girls in head scarfs, some goths, etc. Just because the editor and his or her pals think it's hilarious, the subject matter might offend others. The adviser needs to continually ask them, "What is the point of your article? Why write it? Why do you feel the student body might value this information?"

It's a fine line for sure. Also, if kids don't like the yearbook or newspaper, sign up next year and make your own voice heard.

Dorothy said...

An article discussing legalizing marijuana would be comparable to an article discussing legalizing porn.

Pornographic pictures in the paper would be comparable to the editors tucking a joint into each paper.

What can I say? My 14 year old son reads the Stranger and discusses it with his dad. Knowledge is power. Discussion is awesome.

(Back to the thread, I agree that it was sad that the yearbook staff abused their power and snuck in private jokes and references as well as inappropriate material. Yearbooks are permanent and they did real damage with real consequences for their class and school.)

hschinske said...

Again, I haven't read the articles myself as the links didn't work, but I can't see an article discussing whether a law should be changed as being in at *all* the same category as yearbook captions that assume students use illegal drugs. It sounds on the face of it far more serious and far less tacky.

I can't imagine a high school newspaper in Seattle *not* occasionally mentioning the existence of homosexual or bisexual folks. That horse left the barn some decades ago.

Helen Schinske