"The march of the toy
soldiers" is the way a rebellious freshman girl describes
students passing at the high school. She has a point. The majority of
the youths walking before her look and walk (rather strut) the same way.
The guys wear Champion shirts or sweaters (never solid, though) with
turtlenecks underneath, thick gold chains, Reebok or Converse hi-tops,
or Lotto lows, jeans or sweatpants, and a jacket from whichever sport
they play. The girls dress the same, except for an occasional skirt or
skin tight spandex pants, and the jacket isn't theirs, it's their
The walk is different for each sex. The
girls walk slowly, scuffing their shoes, or jog at a slightly faster
pace. The guys have a strut all their own, arms pumping out to the
sides, bent slightly at the elbow and never touching the body, unless
the hands are in the pockets, which is also
In addition, they also have no opinions of
their own. It's not that other views are forced upon them, but a fear of
being ridiculed prevents them from expressing what they do think. Tastes
in music are also taken from those around them, not from listening to
the bands and evaluating them. If Johnny Smith, the captain of the
football team says his favorite group is "Guns An'
Roses," and that all rap should not be liked, soon the majority
of the school population is throwing away rap cassettes and buying
"Guns An' Roses" en
Individuality is lost, all in the name of
false friendships with other clones. Things must change. After spending
four years with their exclusive cliques, these poor children will enter
the "real world" with no concept of independence.
Usual activities include drinking, smoking, drug use, and/or the
physical and emotional abuse of the small number of their peers who
chose to break the mold - all real career building
Why are these students following others
instead of doing what they feel is best for themselves? The answer is
not peer pressure, as most parents and educators claim; it's possible to
live a happy life without interacting with these cliques, and they don't
pressure you into "hanging around" with them. It's
deeper than that. What is it? The problem comes from society. Even in
the adult world the underdog is persecuted, and students do have the
intelligence to realize that. The fault rests with the media. Movies,
television, and books all depict the "popular group"
as the power source at schools. They tend to attach a negative stimuli
to not being part of it. Why would someone want to be in a negative
How can this be solved? How can we bring about
a new individualism? There isn't all too much to be done. Solutions that
"experts" might offer including dress codes and
parental monitoring of friends and interests won't work, but they will
raise the ire of the affected students.
work? Students need to be taught in a manner that encourages more
creativity and independent study. They need to be helped by their
teachers and guidance counselors to be themselves. They must be
encouraged to appreciate literature, movies, and music in terms of
quality not popularity. Most of these teenagers are individuals striving
to express themselves. This must be brought out, before or during high
school, not afterwards when it's too late.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.