Painful Times at UWT High

By Russ Davis

I have come to the horrifying conclusion that, quite possibly, high school continues indefinitely.

What’s popular on television right now? Well, most lately, fanbases have been solidifying around “Duck Dynasty” and “Doctor Who.” I just hope these programs are sapping viewing numbers from what was popular when I was in community college: “The Real Housewives of Who-Cares-Where” and “Keeping Up—For Whatever Strange Reason Anyone Would Want ToWith the Kardashians,” among other such offerings. I could launch into all kinds of reasons why I hate these shows, such as the latent (and sometimes blatant) sexism that pervades them, and not to mention how they catapult undeserving people into the spotlight. But instead, I’ll just focus on one criticism: how these “programs” glorify classic high school behavior.

I have done everything I can to draw a veil over my high school years, but apparently this desire is not universal. The popularity of soap-opera-style “reality” television — the shows that glorify conspicuous wealth, dramatic handling of interpersonal relationships, and ignition of metaphorical (and possibly literal) fires — confirms this for me. This might explain why, even though my secondary education years are in my rearview mirror, I still see recurring elements of them in the interwoven halls and classrooms of the University of Washington Tacoma.

Okay, part of the problem is my framing. I admit that. I came to UWT from Pierce College, which has a significant number of Running Start students. Plenty of my classes were more than three-quarters Running Start (as in, high school students given clearance to attend community college classes). Sometimes, I could feel myself sliding back into puberty. In one English class, my voice fluctuated five times when the professor called on me.

Even though Running Start doesn’t extend to UWT, the trend continues in other ways. For ease, I’ll list them.

  • In high school, guys told mean jokes and acted like grade-A A-holes to attract the attention and approval of girls. At UWT, this strategy still works. The same people who are unlucky in love are the same people who were unlucky in love in high school.
  • That extends to friendship, too. Were you cool and popular in high school? Congratulations — you still are today. Those of us who were eccentric are still out of luck.
  • In high school, there was always that group of girls who communicated through drama and gossiping. As in, those were the only two methods they had for interacting with others. At UWT, these women are still around.
  • In high school, laptops were a distraction. At UWT, this is still the case. (I know this one firsthand.)
  • In high school, the wealthier students had nice cars and nice equipment  – be they phones, computers, whatever. Having these goods was a symbol of status. That’s still true at UWT.
  • I can remember very  few high-ranking students in high school coming into class without their obligatory cup of coffee. And thanks to Starbucks, Anthem, and Metro, that’s even more likely at UWT.

Okay, I’ll be fair. UWT is not totally like high school. There are some more mature people here — tragically, usually the older folks who have opted to go back to school, rather than those in my age bracket. Sometimes, the classroom conversations are more sophisticated and coherent (I have to say “sometimes” because I still hear the frequent “businesses are rich; they should have no problem paying $15 an hour”). And moreover, unlike high school, I’m afforded a wide range of classes to take and support services to call on.

But I’m not going to pretend that the baffling recurrences of my adolescence don’t still creep around on at least an occasional basis. I guess I think about it quite a bit because I was nowhere near competent in high school, so I feel frustrated that the promise that “the drama of high school will go away after you leave” hasn’t been fulfilled.

Maybe it’d be fulfilled if I went to graduate school?