Tradition at SHS: administrators and students discuss who defines it

March 9, 2016 — by Nidhi Jain and Caitlin Ju

Homecoming, Prom, Powderpuff and rallies — these events are what many students consider to be the school’s core traditions. But in this past year, administrators and students alike have taken a second look at certain controversial or low-attended events, leading to the difficult question: Who decides when to keep or get rid of certain traditions? 

Homecoming, Prom, Powderpuff and rallies — these events are what many students consider to be the school’s core traditions. But in this past year, administrators and students alike have taken a second look at certain controversial or low-attended events, leading to the difficult question: Who decides when to keep or get rid of certain traditions?

Before deciding which traditions should be maintained, students and administrators must first define what tradition is. According to Spanish teacher Arnaldo Rodriguex, who has been teaching at SHS since the 1970s, student interest most significantly determines what makes a tradition.

“Some traditions like Sadies have lost the zest that they had,” Rodriguex said. “Things go up and down. Maybe there is a trend that the [attendance of dances] is going back up, and we should bring back those dances that were considered traditional.”

Because schools tend to make their own traditions, different traditions arise and become the norm at different schools.

For example, during Homecoming at Los Gatos High School, the king and queen are crowned at a coronation dance separate from the football game, while Saratoga merely has a coronation ceremony during halftime of the football game.

According to Rodriguex, Saratoga High at one point copied many of the activities and events that Los Gatos held, as Saratoga admired the strong school spirit that Los Gatos had cultivated. However, he said, now “we have our own identity, and some of the things are different here, because we want to make our own difference.”

Principal Paul Robinson agreed that the school itself makes traditions but is often influenced by nearby schools. He also said that schools slowly begin to create their own identities and cultures over time.

“There are a lot of things that we do just as a habit that evolves into tradition,” Robinson said. “Quad Day performances during Homecoming are not a tradition at every school. It’s just something that has evolved over time and is a real, integral part of what we do.”

Robinson also pointed out how certain events like Speak Up for Change week are growing into meaningful traditions that show how “we treat each other and value each other.”

“Traditions are things that become part of a culture,” he said. “While some people might not understand how or why they got started, there was really a purpose for it, and it was to add something really positive to the culture.”

That’s why Robinson believes that when traditions begin to leave a negative impression, they need to be improved or removed.

“Just because we have always done it this way doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it,” Robinson said.

This came up when a rally tradition molded into something head rally commissioner Isa Berardo said she was not morally comfortable with.

“This year we stopped the chanting ‘Go home freshmen’ because it was hurtful,” Berardo said. “There is a big class of 13- and 14-year-olds coming to a new school and the first thing we do is shun them away.”

In response to these negative traditions, student leaders and the administration have been working to add a positive vibe to — or simply cancel — some events. Often times, they can judge how effective the change was based on student response.

Robinson used Sadies as an example of an event that if adjusted would generate more interest.

“When we had to cancel Sadies [last year] because it wouldn’t be worth running it, the outcry was minimal,” he said. “If you want to create an event and for some reason Sadies is not bringing people together, is there something else we can do?”

Tradition does not always need to be preserved when it no longer fits with the changes in society. For example, Robinson said that the original reason behind Sadies was to give girls a chance to act as the leaders and ask the guys out instead, but now there simply is not a need to set aside a dance for that purpose.

“When it comes to cancelling or changing an event, you change it because times have changed, thoughts have changed and the culture has changed to where it’s not a huge thing anymore,” Robinson said.

Another example is ASB leadership’s replacement of the Kickoff Dance with a Welcome Back Movie night, which resulted in significantly increased attendance. Robinson said that one of the reasons for changing the event was that freshman girls had voiced their reservations about coming to the dance, afraid of people “freaking” with them.

Robinson said he regards student input and voice as extremely important in these decisions and believes students are the ones who truly know the “heartbeat” of the school better than anyone else and should be the ones driving what should be kept as tradition.

“If there’s one thing I know about tradition, it’s a nice word, but what happens on our campus is what we make of it. No matter what was done in the past and what we will do in the future, you’ve only got those four years,” Robinson said. “[If] you want to see something and you want to get something done, gather the support, get the people going, get to the right leaders on campus and make it happen.”

 
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