was not a fan of my high school. With windowless classrooms and dispassionate students, success was violently stripped from by being and parasitically sucked out of my soul. Common core was brutal, reading from textbooks was boring. Sudden shifts in learning, like reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, would spark my interest, but I was mostly uninspired. Most of my classmates were uninspired too.
There were few options, go to class (or don’t), get a good grade (or don’t), do drugs (or don’t).
Every day just prepared you for the next test that did not assess how much you learned, but how much you remembered. Be sure you don’t stray too far from the common core, or you might not pass your regents, and if that goes poorly, you won’t move on to the next grade where you do the same thing all over again.
It is not that I had bad teachers, or was uninterested in the subjects. It’s that I did not know “why” I was being taught these things. I didn’t have the perspective of why I should be learning these things outside of the fact of getting a nice big number on a piece of legal-sized printer paper was important.
A blinding white when first torn from the envelope, turned soft after being passed around family and friends as everyone compares and judges.
You worked hard in school, so when that day came, the judgment was not as harsh, although it never actually mattered because you would never be perfect. There was always something you could do. Get home on time, join an elective, clean your room, don’t talk back, speak more.
While in history it was announced that my year, class of 2014, was the highest performing class my school had ever seen. Best Attendance. Highest GPA, Highest Test Scores, and on and on. This is what people were looking for, this is why you worked all night on that essay, this is why you spent hours cramming before a test.
A beautiful form of validation, it was terribly exciting. Then even grander news was brought before us, this class would, for the next month, be used as a space to help inspire and improve other grades who are not doing as tremendously as us.
We were to use this space to create posters and brainstorm other ways to inspire our less fortunate schoolmates. There were audible Yips and Cheers. Not only were we the best, but we were also being rewarded with what all of us wanted so badly. No Work. No Class. No Textbooks. No Tests. This was exciting news, we were no longer History Class, we were now the Ripple Effect. We were now geared towards using our collective brilliance to help better to school, show them what it meant to be a model student, how to become the best.
But this didn’t sit right with me. Maybe coming from an underlying sense of never being good enough, I could not accept this. Who was I to tell people how to be a better student? People learn differently, people have varying home lives; To say “take it from me, I’m the best” is no way to inspire. Promote collaboration, create active tutoring programs.
I did not want to be a part of this group that openly held themselves higher than everyone else. So when the time came to sign up for the Ripple Effect, to take an oath that you would inspire and teach the other students. I did not stand. I was threatened with a “Talk with the Principal if I did not join” so I left. One person followed
While we were leaving the pledge started, a promise to make this school better by any means necessary. The words echoed out of the classrooms and into the halls bringing chills down our spines as the door closed behind us. This was an unordinary pair to be entering the principal’s office, I had always been one to stand up against the establishment, but my partner was smart and quite. Staying out of trouble and getting good grades, there was an air of confusion in the office as we waited to be called in to speak to the principle. We talked briefly on why she followed me out.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable being a part of that, it felt wrong.” I agreed with her, and when we finally were able to talk to the principle we shared our feelings.
So we read and wrote. Soon the halls were filled with the propaganda of the Ripple Effect, those recruited from other grades were given badges to wear as a sign of their achieved greatness.There was a strong pride that had built up during the rise of the Ripple Effect. Chants before class, constant reminders that they were better.
I was torn slowly further and further from my class, and while I was able to get one other person to leave the Ripple Effect, everyone else stayed. It was easy, it was fun, it was something they all wanted.The kids with lower GPAs tended to take the whole movement more seriously, this was their time to shine. They were no longer the worst in the grade, they were a part of the best grade.
The group morphed into a circling power trip. You were the best, why outcast yourself?
Because it was the right thing to do. I was raised with a very simple rule, treat others before you treat yourself. The whole idea behind this Ripple Effect seemed to blossom from the gluttonous idealism of self pride. I could not bring myself to be a part of something that made me feel so wrong. It was nice to know that I was not the only one who felt this way. Throughout our outcast of the class there was a bond, and understanding that we were in this together
At the end of the month there was an assembly for the entire grade, which to my surprise, I was allowed to join as well. The assembly started as I assumed, a great appreciation for all of the work the Ripple Effect students did to inspire and create a better school. Then quickly things turned dark, an email was read out which stated why we, the walkouts, did not appreciate the Ripple Effect and our concerns with this fascist idealism that was being implemented into our classrooms.
Then completely out of character, the teachers that had been cheering everyone along opened up. We were right. This month had been an experiment, one started by history teacher Ron Jones in 1967 called the Third Wave, where students were put in an environment that resembled the start of Nazi Germany. It was to teach how quickly things could get out of hand, how a complement could grow into a belief. A belief that you were the best.
The seats were still, people had to take time to process the news they had received. Despite there being vague conversation about the Ripple Effect alluding to the Nazi regime, it was built into any real conversation. Why bite the hand that feeds you? While everything processed, there were some who quickly turned furious.
The Ripple Effect was their dream, students who were not doing well help this promise at such a wonderful standard that to have it ripped from them crushed any ideas of leverage they had. While most sat uncomfortable or unphased, few marched up and tore down any Ripple Effect poster they saw on the wall. It was crushing to be brought back down to reality, for all these promises of prosperity were just farces poisoning the minds of those who wanted more than they had.
fter the assembly I left school feeling hollow. I was right, but what did it matter? I didn’t stop anything from happening. There was nothing I could have really done, but hold on to what I believed in. But now, thinking back to that time I am extraordinarily proud, for this was a true turning point in my life. I had always been one to believe in speaking out, but here was evidence that I really would.
I saw every step towards injustice as an opportunity to do what is right, I learned that action is critical and in a society that was built off of action and fighting for what you believe in, it is tragic to see that more people are siding with indifference. The time to prosper is now, and there is no reason to wait for someone else to lead because if you are the first person to step out, odds are someone will follow you.
About Author: This is a guest post from student Lucas Webber from Watson U, a new university model for the world’s most promising young changemakers and social-entrepreneurs.
This post was written by Lucas Webber A storyteller at heart, Lucas spends his time re-creating human experiences.Inspired by the stories of people’s lives, he traveled the world to gain experience and understanding of what it means to be human. Lucas is now working on creating a space where people can come together to share stories and grow together, creating a platform that produces meaningful, and important content.