Mountainview High School: Sociology & Outcasts

Mountainview High School is an odd place. It feels like a prison. The kids are nice though and the teachers are very supportive. The first thing I heard as a walked in the door was: “It doesn’t matter as long as you love him.” I think I gasped audibly while thinking: “don’t go to a teen-ager for relationship advice–they learn everything they know from places like reality TV shows.”

Picking up the pace, I hurried to the admin office and picked up the keys, rolls and emergency procedures and ran off trying to avoid anymore ghastly teen-agery.

The classes I taught today was about being an outcast. The teacher left a video and questionnaire. The questionnaire was very detailed and took the kids an hour to do. The video was a fifteen minutes long section of a National Geographic episode. It showcased a guy who was partially covered in tattoo of a lizard-man motif. Here is a small snippet. I didn’t find the guy all that shocking. I know a guy with aspergers syndrome who used to work at the Lindon, Utah Wal-Mart who was covered head to toe with tattoos of Disney characters. Every inch. Still, the tattoos were supposed to set the guy apart from society.

The reactions were predictable ranging from shocked to jealous. Many of the kids in class already had tats. Some of the gangbangers were only too happy to show me theirs. I tried to point out that tattoos don’t really violate the rules of society. Tattooing is the rule society allows one to safely rebel from society while still being a part of it. I didn’t go too far into my conversation though. We didn’t have time and I don’t think identity politics is something parents want in eleventh grade classrooms coming from a substitute teacher.

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13 thoughts on “Mountainview High School: Sociology & Outcasts

  1. I think I’ll stick with ‘The Illustrated Man’. First read it at age 10. Only thing I got out of it was I’ll never get a tattoo. Have read it several times since then and even inspired(?) an English teacher to use it in an 11th grade lesson but didn’t fully understand or appreciate it until a few years later when I read it again while in the hospital for a month after a motorcycle accident. I don’t care about tattoos or other decorations one way or another and there is some interesting body art being worn. Still don’t have any tats, just a few hundred scars from staples, sutures and other wounds from over the years. The 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s was quite the ride!!! I still sometimes wonder how i made it. One big lesson…An 850 Norton Commando and a 6’3″, 240 lb. person won’t slide under a guard rail with the rider still on the seat without consequences. Believe me!!! Thank goodness for helmets. Sorry, way off topic. You are probably right about the parents. Unfortunately, substitute teachers don’t always get the credit and respect they deserve. There are a couple of subs in my family and my wife’s mom was a full time teacher. Kudos to you!!!!

    • Thanks man, I appreciate it.

      You know, I remember the illustrated man. I wonder if the teacher is going to go in that direction. It would be an interesting direction.

      Utah, like many states, is stuck in how it deals with issues like this. There was a good point in the NG video. The tattooed guy talks about the myth of normal. No one is normal the only problem is that so many people hurt themselves mentally, spiritually and often physically trying to achieve the idea that there is “a” normal. I hope the kids heard that part of the video.

      • Kids can be pretty sharp. I think that everyone has their own ‘normal’. I think you’re right about people hurting themselves. Upbringing, maturity and the willingness to see and appreciate the bigger picture of the world around them without compromising themselves has a lot to do with it. I think people like the tattooed guy more interesting than odd. And usually interesting to talk to. As for the “myth of normal”? Maybe that’s a “myth”? 🙂 Please, don’t think I’m making light of the subject but this is one of those subjects that works better face-to-face. I hope you understand what I mean? See? Just like that question. I guess what I’m saying is that it sure is easy to come across wrong online. I do want you to know that I think that your students are lucky to have you as a teacher and I like the updates.

      • I like your reversal. I guess a possibility could be: “The only normal is that no one is normal.” Social standards and norms are hard to teach knowing every kid in class is somehow a violation of said norms and standards.

        The same is true for adults. When the tattooed guy video wanted to depict normal people it showed suits. Businessmen in a business district. The truth is, these guys might be and probably are in some way complete freaks, but in their own way. One might be a cat lover with ten Siamese cats in a one bedroom apartment. One guy might be the head of a World of Warcraft guild with three hundred members raiding Thursdays and Sundays. The permutations are infinite and yet these guys are normal.

        The then question is: if everyone is freaky in one way or another, how does one rebel? Barthes said he liked to see the slightly exposed, but almost invisible fringe of undergarments in society. Saying this as if this is where true creativity and unique personality existed. If this is true, is it even possible to rebel or is one only going from one state of social existence to another with in the parameters society has set?

        I think if one truly rebels, then society finds no place for you except to put you physically is a “special” place like mental institutions and sanitariums.

  2. This is an interesting post, Aaron. Having worked with pupils in different areas of Scotland, I find it really interesting reflecting on the different things that shock them or, indeed, what they actually take in their stride. 🙂

  3. Now that I’m watching the video, I don’t understand why he’d want to ruin his teeth and his tongue this way… I think your teeth are really important, especially as they don’t grow back!

  4. I like your reference to Barthes. The secret to staying out of those “special” places is to hover along the fringe without the falling off of the fringe. Juuust enough to keep people off balance. And the occasional fall to keep them honest. 🙂

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