How American Popularity Stereotypes Impact Scottish High Schools

High school is a weird and complicated place growing up. Seeing American teen media such as ‘Mean Girls’, ‘The Secret Life Of The American Teenager’ and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ as a Scottish teen portrays high school in a completely different way as to how Scottish high schools function, at least on a surface level.

Although most high schools in Scotland don’t have bullying or cliques in the same sense as the previously mentioned media it still exists. Teens may not be having their head’s flushed down toilets and there may not be a cheerleading squad led by a rich girl obsessed with pink but these tropes exist in a smaller sense.

In Scotland there is a culture of self-deprivation, especially among friends. Many viral Scottish tweets that go viral for being funny or your own jokes tend to be about making fun of yourself. On a surface level there’s nothing wrong with these, the issue comes from these tropes being constantly seen within schools. More and more young people are diminishing their achievements or hobbies with the thought process of ‘if I’m making fun of myself for this then no one else can.’

All too often students would avoid joining clubs out of fear of being branded a ‘rid neck’ or as weird even if it was a club linked to their favourite hobbies.

In high schools it isn’t fully confirmed you will be made a fool if you enjoy your hobbies, it was your classmates that deemed how embarrassing it was depending on who you were and where you fit into the social hierarchy, this is where the American tropes come in.

Even if it went unsaid high school popularity played a major factor in opportunities, your intelligence and if you were seen as worthy of respect. Teachers also subtly take part in this culture. Far too often the same people would constantly be asked to answer questions or praised for the same answers you may have given that were brushed off or ignored. Teachers would also tend to award students from ‘desirable’ groups with more opportunities and academic awards even if those from the ‘undesirable’ had the same or better credentials.

A 16-year-old high school student from North Lanarkshire who wishes to remain anonymous said:”My school has the stereotypical popular girl group and the way they look down on people is awful. I did better than them in an assessment once and I got the highest grade in my class and as I walked past them to collect my paper they said ‘how did SHE do better than us?’ as if they were surprised that I could be capable of doing well.

“There was one time as well where my friend started seeing a boy in my year and these girls were saying she wasn’t good enough for him despite them not fully knowing her, they went as far as to follow her social media’s just to see her pictures to critique them it’s sick!”

A frequent scenario that plays out is that it’s only those seen as desirable that could do certain things. If they threw a Halloween party where everyone dressed up that was fine but if you were seen as not one of them and had one then it was embarrassing. If they passed their driving test or posted college acceptance emails they would receive countless well done and congratulations comments whereas if you did it people would say you thought you were better than everyone else and a show off.

This especially happened between girls. If a girl went to a party wearing something revealing other girls at the party would compliment her then the next day at school they would be slut-shamed and asked why they were trying to impress other girl’s boyfriends solely based on the outfit they were complimenting 48 hours previously.

It wasn’t uncommon either to hear girls ripping each other to shreds over their behavior and achievements even if they shared the same ones and many students tried to keep their smarts and abilities to themselves so they couldn’t be criticised for being too good or for being too bad at something or as an embarrassment. If people didn’t know anything about you then they couldn’t judge you… right? Wrong. Judgement would still be seen as you would be perceived as a freak for not talking or having no personality.

Scottish high schools have a massive us vs them issue that goes un-addressed out of lack of action from schools and the acceptance of that was just how things were. It is unrealistic to expect all students to get along 24/7 however, is it unrealistic to ask that school’s don’t partake in favouritism? or ask that they punish people for bullying instead of sitting them down and forcing them to apologise?

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