In Defense of Tradition

Luke Stone ‘20

Tradition. Camaraderie. Brotherhood. Sealed by friendship’s tie. What do all of these buzzwords have in common? They are all used in material written by the school to explain what Woodberry is like to the outside world. Most importantly, all of those words describe what pep rallies are like here. They are tradition, they build camaraderie, and they cement our brotherhood as an institution. Pep rallies should not be further restricted because they are not intended to be malicious, they maintain the social hierarchy, and they are a rite of passage.

Pep rallies and their content ought not to be further restricted because they are not intended to be malicious. One year removed from the Woodberry New Boy experience, I don’t recall ever feeling legitimately threatened or intimidated by the presence of the Cheerleaders, even before the pep rallies were reined in after the first few weeks of school. Even several boys who were called up at the pep rallies last year came to their defense. “I didn’t feel like there was a malicious intent [to my getting called up]. I kind of egged it on, and I knew I egged it on,” Luke McNabb ‘20, who was called up multiple times last fall, said. “No, they should absolutely not restrict pep rallies because they are a part of the tradition here. I don’t know why they should change something like that.” Kirk Yarbrough ‘20 made a similar point, saying, “No, I don’t think that getting called up was a personal attack. I didn’t at all feel threatened by the presence of cheerleaders or by the pep rallies.” Of course, there are going to be jokes about beating up New Boys at a pep rally whose theme is “Fight Night”. That doesn’t actually mean that one of the Cheerleaders is going to go and knock some New Boy senseless on Taylor or Turner Hall this week. And if such an event did occur, it would be properly handled by the school’s administration, and the restrictions on the pep rally would be utterly irrelevant in determining the boy’s place at the school.


New Boys making torches for the Bonfire 2016.

Pep rallies shouldn’t be restricted because they maintain the social pyramid on campus. Some might argue that there is no social hierarchy on campus because we are all expected to take care of each other and respect each other. But, if there is no social hierarchy, then why are sixth formers permitted to have gaming consoles in their room? Why are sixth formers allowed to give demerits? Why do fifth formers get air-conditioned dorms? Why do fourth formers have a later lights out than the third formers? All of these questions point to one conclusion: There is an institutional hierarchy on campus that promotes the idea of being rewarded as you become older. In fact, the Blue Book itself promotes that hierarchy, saying in regards to cell phone use during study hall, “On fifth- and sixth-form dorms, usage times are more flexible. Consequently, students are charged with abiding by the spirit of this policy and the high standard of personal behavior and responsibility expected of all members of the Woodberry community.” If the Blue Book, whose sole purpose is to demonstrate how Woodberry operates, acknowledges a hierarchy, then clearly there is a hierarchy on campus that is being maintained by the existence of pep rallies. Both McNabb and Yarbrough said that they understood what the true purpose of their getting called up was. “The point of having pep rallies is to show [the New Boys] their place in the school,” McNabb said. “I understand why they call people up.” McNabb’s views show that in hindsight, he understands, as do most boys after one year on campus, that the purpose of pep rallies is to demonstrate Woodberry’s social pyramid. Yarbrough echoed these views, saying, “Pep rallies are a great way to keep New Boys humble. A lot of kids coming into the school can have a big head and feel like they own the place.”


New Boy Tie-Cutting Ceremony 2016.

Furthermore, participating in pep rallies is a right that is meant to be earned, not given. Much like all of the Junior and Senior privileges that boys earn after two years on campus, after their first year on campus, boys earn the right to participate actively in pep rallies. Without the presence of pep rallies, and without the presence of the Cheerleaders, New Boys would have no incentive to show deference to upper formers, and no deterrent from being disrespectful to Old Boys who can’t stick them. Just last week, the topic of pep rallies came up in my advisory group, and the seven Old Boys all agreed that having to endure the New Boy experience made being an Old Boy significantly more enjoyable and much more of an accomplishment. If the pep rallies continue to be restricted and softened, being an Old Boy, getting your tie cut, and being allowed to cheer at the Bonfire would become increasingly meaningless. The beauty of pep rallies lies in their capacity as a right of passage, a test which all New Boys must endure if they are to call themselves Woodberry Boys.

Teenage boys are going to be teenage boys. In other words, the existence of rules and the threat of demerits are only so much of a deterrent from making poor decisions. The presence of pep rallies (and Cheerleaders) creates social consequences for inappropriate actions. In a teenage mind that places favorability among peers as more important than favorability among adults, the threat of social consequences is weighed significantly more than discipline based consequences. Regardless of whether or not the teenage mind’s aforementioned priorities are in the right order, there is no conceivable, earthly way to change thousands of years of evolutionary psychology between the start of school and Thanksgiving. If there are an institutional hierarchy and a Woodberry brotherhood, then continuing pep rallies in their current form help to maintain both.


The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the author. Writers are often asked to argue for positions they do not espouse. 

The views expressed in this article do not, in any way, represent the views of the editorial board, our faculty adviser, Mr. Guldin, nor the opinion of The Oracle as a whole.

Categories: Opinion

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