Were You an Indifferent High Schooler?

mean-girls-quotes-highlightWhen you were in high school, how much effort did you expend to seem indifferent, even when you were learning something exciting?

Over the last 6 months, I’ve had two opportunities to teach high schoolers. One was at the high school I attended, a magnet school (a total of 4 sessions). The other was over Skype a few days ago with a small class studying board game design.

Across all 5 sessions, the vast majority of the kids tried incredibly hard to be indifferent. It seemed like something they were doing because of the presence of their peers–they didn’t want to look excited, because that would be bad for their social status. Because it’s not cool to be excited about learning.

Granted, I’m making some assumptions here. It’s entirely possible that some of the kids weren’t actually excited at all, and thus they weren’t faking it. I’m sure their everyday teachers can tell the difference. But as a guest speaker, I had no idea.

It made me think back to my days in high school. Did I do the same thing? Was indifference the norm? I don’t remember acting that way. Sure, I wasn’t equally excited about every class, but even for the subjects that weren’t intriguing to me, the challenge of succeeding was fun.

I genuinely wanted to know more stuff, and I wanted to be good at knowing stuff. I didn’t hide this from my peers, and most of them didn’t hide it either.

Was my school an anomaly? Or has something changed in the last 20 years?

2 thoughts on “Were You an Indifferent High Schooler?”

  1. I went to two high schools.

    The first was a traditional rural high school, with less than 400 students in the entire school. For most classes everyone was indifferent. At least on my side there were not many “nerds” in my class.

    Sometime during my sophomore year I heard about the Indiana academy, similar to https://cegs.org/missouriacademy . It was a state magnet school for gifted students. There it was 150 kids per class, and while there was sometimes indifference to a subject, there was more enthusiasm. we had debates over philosophy readings, Utopian novels, and people were actually interested in the science labs.

    Then I’ve also been in college, A community college and a University. There has been a mix of people in classes, some being indifferent to particular subjects, while many during an non interactive lecture, I think its more boredom, then indifference.

    I think it would very from school to school, and the subject matter.

    For instance if you spoke to an entrepreneurship group or board game club, I would expect them to be less indifferent, than most regular high school classes.

    • Perhaps the difference is kids who would choose to go to school if given the choice and those who rather would not? I’m sure there are kids of both types in every school, but a magnet school is more likely to have more of them (same with kids who have opted into an entrepreneurship group).


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