Hazing in American High Schools
ANT 101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
August 3, 2009
Hazing in American High Schools
Everyone has either seen someone being picked on, been picked on, or have been the one giving someone else a hard time while in high school. The horrible truth is the act of hazing is a very real concern within American high school culture. Hazing goes by many names including: initiation, freshman hunt, and the welcome wagon. The sad truth is the existence and evolution of these rituals in American high schools, can cause psychological and physical abuse to so many teens every year. Although hazing can be a terrible act, it is, ...view middle of the document...
” (Florida statute 1006.63)
The American high school culture is a society which is filled with many different subcultures. (Milner, 2004) These subcultures or social groups, commonly referred to as crowds or cliques, consist of the jocks, nerds, preps, and the popular kids to name a few. As a young adolescent enters into high school, they often look to belong to a certain clique or crowd, but often in order to gain a rite of passage to a high school subculture a new student must endure some sort of initiation or hazing. High school is a very vulnerable moment for a student because their need for belonging, making friends and finding approval in one’s peer group (www.stophazing.org). The new student is the victim of hazing rituals.
Another party involved in hazing are the hazers or the ones conducting the initiations. This group is often the leaders of the given social group. Often they look at initiations as a part of school spirit and tradition. (Nuwer, 2000) This act is thought to create a bond between the members and the newcomer. It is also way to instill respect between the newcomer and the upperclassmen. The hazers perceive the act as tradition more than anything else; because it is the same thing they had to endure as a newcomer years prior.
The next party involved is the school. High schools believe in the importance of promoting school spirit and protecting school traditions. The administration and the supervisors of certain school organizations often promote mild forms of harassment to underclassmen, in order to stick with traditions. (Nuwer, 2000) Hazing rituals are commonly referred to as horse play and symbolic of younger students, “paying their dues”. Coaches of high school sports teams are sometimes seen as encouragers of hazing rituals. They look at the process as a team bonding ritual.
The act of hazing has been around for hundreds of years, the problem is hazing has evolved from scavenger hunts and public embarrassment to mental/physical violence and sometimes even death. One of the main contributors to the evolution of hazing has been the concept of it being tradition and each new hazer trying to leave their mark on tradition. (Nuwer, 2000) For many years the thought of hazing has been associated with college fraternities and sororities, but now it is looked at as just as serious as that which occurs among college students. (Fine, 1999) The reason for this is because of the mental damage done to children at such a young, vulnerable age. In Hank Nuwer’s book on high school hazing, he compares the emotions of a hazed student to a rape victim. Much like a rape victim, a hazed student will fail to report anything and act like nothing wrong has been done. The event will cause the victim to have a loss in self esteem and trust in anyone of their peers. (Nuwer, 2000)
Not all students are subjected to hazing. In a recent study conducted through Alfred University in New York it was found that forty-eight...