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Prom Royalty: An open letter to OAHS from Mr. Gelotti

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There has been a spirited debate this past week over the tradition at Orcutt Academy of naming a prom king and queen, and as someone who attempted to usurp the prom-queen title last year (there is photographic evidence of this), I’d like to add my comments.

I propose that the entire practice be eliminated, along with the best-of section in the yearbook and the homecoming court. I do not hold this opinion because I think everyone is (or should be) equally beautiful and/or equally popular; rather, I believe that Orcutt Academy and its staff, representing an institution of learning and moral advancement, should be discouraging superficial values, not celebrating them. We have a duty to you, the students, to remind you to place value on things like achievement, ethics, and compassion—not on being concerned with who has the best clothes or the bluest eyes.

If you are beautiful, you know who you are, and so does everyone else. People complement you every day. They complement your outfits and your hair and your eyes. They like your photos and shower them with praise. They tell you that you are cu-ute! Every day you are recognized for your looks and you have your reward.

If you are popular, you know who you are, and so does everyone else. People follow you in both the physical and virtual worlds. There is a competition to be your best friend. Your secrets are treasures, and you get invited everywhere. Every day you feel the desire of others to be close to you, and you have your reward.

Considering the constant daily recognition of the popular and the beautiful by their peers, is it really necessary for the school itself to have the practice of making their beauty and their popularity official? Do we really need to offer up an election, a trophy, a place in the yearbook, and a literal crown to those who figuratively wear one every day?

The job of educators and student -leaders is to remind everyone to strive to a higher ideal. It’s our job to push for the recognition of the otherwise unrecognized—the poet, the engineer, the essayist, the humanitarian. In a world that so often celebrates the superficial, it is our job to try to diminish its importance, not institutionalize it.

As Piggy might say, it’s time we stop acting like a bunch of kids and do what grown-ups should do and stop handing out prizes for the winners of beauty pageants and popularity contests that are orchestrated and sanctioned by those who should know better.

For anyone who may agree with me on principle, but is saddened at the idea of losing a tradition, I’d like to remind you of a tradition that’s even greater: examining our traditions and our values and adjusting our practices accordingly.

Thank you for reading and thinking.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Prom Royalty: An open letter to OAHS from Mr. Gelotti”

  1. Staci Tilley on April 6th, 2017 9:07 AM

    In my own opinion, I would love to see Orcutt Academy provide equal opportunity for a student to be apart of the prom royalty. Instead of Prom King and Prom Queen I believe Orcutt Academy should push for just Prom Royalty rather than actually dividing the ballot by female and male. Not only would this no longer push the outdated gendered tradition but this can also eliminate the most popular ‘power’ couple of our school.

    [Reply]

  2. Michael Shaw on April 6th, 2017 11:14 PM

    How do you feel about the Most Likely categories? Also, how would you feel if the school redefined the Best Of Categories to showcase accomplishments and passions? (We already have things like Most Spirited and the like.)

    [Reply]

  3. Graham Culbara on April 9th, 2017 1:43 PM

    A brief analysis of the term prom and how it has changed over the years.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/06/19/prom_language_history_of_the_word_from_promenade_to_hashtag_prahm.html

    I am a little perplexed at how you could transform an event anchored around introducing young people to the concept of formal dinner parties and aristocratic social graces into anything but a popularity competition that reinforces antiquated norms surrounding gender, dating, wealth, and beauty. I mean, in recent memory, we still had segregated proms and schools that wouldn’t allow same-sex couples at prom.

    [Reply]

    Graham Culbara Reply:

    I guess what I’m trying to say is – I’m not quite sure how you transform prom into something that celebrates the poet, engineer, essayist, or humanitarian. It’s an event that emphasizes dating, formal attire, and formal etiquette. It’s training for going to formal events or weddings.

    I guess you could dispense with the prom court tradition, but I don’t think it really matters. Let it adapt to reflect modern dating norms (which it will) and be done with it. Do you really expect an event where people get dressed up, have a fancy dinner, and dance to be anything but superficial?

    [Reply]

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