Ever wanted to know what American students are really like?
Not just the Hollywood actors whose characters generally play to one of two extremes, fluff or rough – think Sixteen Candles vs Dangerous Minds. After attending American schools my entire young adult life, and then teaching in the US for 12 years,
I’ve compiled this list to debunk some of the most common stereotypes about American schools and students for your enjoyment. So if your entire knowledge on the inner workings of American schools comes from film and TV, then keep reading below for a real education on American education.
The cafeteria food fight
This is the leprechaun of all school myths, it is that rare. You’ll almost never see an actual food fight happen. I’ve only witnessed it once myself in 12 years, and yes…was hilarious. There was spaghetti everywhere, with innocent students and teachers caught in the crossfire. Complete chaos. But after several suspensions/exclusions, and more teachers added to lunch monitor duty, it never happened again.
The bully that ends up getting bullied
Nope. I hate to say it, but there is no Revenge of The Nerds. These kids unfortunately never triumph and beat their bullies at their own game. They simply bide their time. They go off and graduate from prestigious universities, and lead successful careers and lives. And then comes that glorious day when they get to flaunt their success and happiness in front of all their haters at the 10-year class reunion, because that's how adults do revenge, folks.
Detention is a fun and unique bonding experience
If this section title evokes memories of The Breakfast Club I hate to tell you, but the reality looks more like ‘The Babysitter’s Club’, for the teachers that is. Scenarios in which students in detention get to talk, fool around, and get into various misadventures – only to ultimately become friends – might as well be fairytales. In reality, the detention room, especially after school hours, is a student’s worst nightmare. There is no talking, no fooling around, no bonding whatsoever, only a stale, stone-faced teacher glaring at you for hours on end.
And the longer it takes for you to sit quietly the longer you will remain his prisoner. So sit your ass down, Molly Ringwald.
The ugly duckling syndrome
The hot girl goes gaga for the nerdy boy with the fun and quirky personality, that no one knows about because they’ve never taken the time to get to know him. Real world: unless the guy’s already attractive, this never happens. Unless the hot girl is also a nerd and/or has low self-esteem. The same goes for the unattractive girl who gets a makeover before prom and turns out to be stunningly beautiful underneath her tomboyish or sloppy outward appearance.
First of all, these teenaged boys would never be fooled by the mere illusion of unattractiveness. Unlike the inept boys in the Hollywood films, the raging hormones of real teenaged boys give them the ability to spot a cute girl through the flimsy veneer of glasses, frizzy hair, and shapeless clothes.
In truth, the kids that start out the year ugly, end the year just as ugly, and maybe a little taller. You get the Summer break to try and sort yourself out.
‘No peeking please’
This one is for all the fans of the ‘Porky’s’ infamous pervy locker room scene. The one in which all the boys gather around holes in the locker room walls only to watch the girls showering on the other side – this one is ridiculous. Male and female locker rooms are usually deliberately separated from one another, not conjoined by a thin wall of Swiss cheese, and devoid of adult supervision. And for the record, students rarely ever shower during school, trust me. I’ve been trapped many a time in a windowless room of olfactory hell. With some of the odors coming off, and out of these kids, I wish showering was mandatory.
The quest to lose one’s virginity
Hollywood gets this one so wrong – the ‘big night’ is less fireworks, passion, and hilarious mishaps, and more unbridled fear. Real world teens have real world shit to worry about, like pregnancy, diseases, and rumours – don’t let American Pie fool you.
The fat friend and the token black friend novelty
We all have a fat friend. Hell, some of us are the fat friend. It’s no big deal. Also, the level of confidence exuded by Jonah Hill in Superbad is admirable, but not the norm. American teens, like any other kids, are often self-conscious, and not nearly as witty as Hollywood would like you to believe.
Which leads me to the infamous token black friend ruse. This is always a flat character whose written as a street smart and tough-when- he-needs- to-be kid, or all-around gentle giant. It’s even worse when the token Black friend is a girl – she’s either all sass and ass with no substance, or simply an endorsement of the White leading character’s street cred. Think the ENTIRE black cheer-leading squad in Bring it On.
So there you have it. And if you really want the scoop, come check out my show for a hilarious and authentic first-hand account of what it’s really like in American schools.
Aug 8-29: Orlando Baxter: Suspensions, Detentions and Summer Vacations, Pleasance Courtyard / more info
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