Written by Stina Chang
“Mean Girls,” “High School Musical,” “Clueless”—what do these movies all have in common? All of them display a culture of cliques on high school campuses, something that kids today call “squads.” Distinctive friend groups have become extremely prevalent as kids move on from middle school to high school. Squads, or cliques, promote exclusivity, lack of individuality, labeling and social ranking. Therefore, it is important that our school address the problems associated with clique mentality and discourage its presence on campus.
Staff in the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) emphasize the importance of developing an inclusive learning environ- ment on campus. But how can we achieve this goal if the first thing we see when we step on campus is a dispersed student body?
Although a clique can provide a stable friend group, it limits the chance to socialize with people outside of the group. The comfort that develops from being in a clique or squad promotes exclusivity and rejects the introduction of new members or changes. Eventually students who are excluded from a clique start to feel unsupported. This exclusion defeats the purpose of the school-wide events Gunn holds to promote inclusiveness, such as Not In Our Schools Week. Thus, the concept of cliques itself contradicts these events.
According to psychiatrist Marie Hartwell-Walker, many teens associated with cliques lack self-confidence and esteem. These teens rely on cliques to determine their identity and listen to their peers for advice rather than their own scruples. Because of this, it is very easy to take away one’s individuality. To feel like part of a clique, students inside the clique tend to dress alike,have the same interest and have similar backgrounds. Because of alack of freedom to be oneself, members are easily affected by peer pressure. Just like Cady in “Mean Girls,” students may feel pressure to uphold an image with the a certain group which can result in negative consequences.
Just like in movies, the brainiacs, jocks and drama geeks that we see on screen are often mirrored in high schools. At Gunn, a group of Asians may be labeled as “nerds.” However, a group of Caucasians may be labeled the “popular” kids without any real justification. This stereotyping divides the student body into cliques. The solution here is not to limit student’s freedom on campus, but rather to limit the expansion of possible clique culture.
The issue of cliques in schools should be addressed seriously. The encouragement of exclusivity on school campus should not be tolerated because it is unhealthy for students and can create stereotypes.