Opinion editorials, reviews and personal essays
By Amy Yang
Last Sunday, while I took a break from AP Econ reading, I laid out an outfit to start the new week off with. I don’t usually do this; organization is only necessary when I want to wear something complex (in this case, sweater cardigan, shirt, skirt, and knee-high socks). But when I loaded the Schoology home page later, I saw the Student Council announcement: it’s Spirit Week.
Begrudgingly, I considered putting all of it away, and going with the easy outfit suggested by StuCo: pajamas. School Spirit is important, right? I should at least make an effort. I care about SAS.
In past years, I mostly followed along with Spirit Week because dressing up in strange outfits seemed like a fun thing to do. Yet when I looked at my skirt that’s laid over my chair, and at my pajamas sitting on my bed, I found it hard to see how choosing one outfit over another benefits the school.
As someone who has never went to school in the US, the idea of Spirit Week was actually quite foreign to me when I came to SAS in eighth grade. In my first year here, I staunchly resisted any opportunity to show spirit—mostly because I didn’t want to transfer to SAS. Since then, I have changed a lot, and have grown fond of this community. It played a big role in shaping who I am. I’d love to show my appreciation—but is wearing pajamas really the way to do it?
As someone prone to overthinking—after all, the unexamined life is not worth living—I decided to examine the concept of School Spirit. Wikipedia isn’t much help. Its definition reads quite vaguely: “school spirit is emotional support for one's educational institution.” (The sidebar shows a photo of cheerleaders and the caption: “Cheerleaders are an important part of the expression of school spirit.”) I do emotionally support SAS—but is that all there is to School Spirit?
Another description lies in the description of the SAS Senior Awards in the Student Handbook. With the scholarship of $1000, “The SAS Pudong Spirit Award is presented to a Senior who has demonstrated through his/her extra-curricular activities an attitude of enthusiasm and support for the greater good of the school body.” (“The greater good” is ambiguous; I assume that it means the good of the entire student body in contrast to the good of oneself.)
Ironically, nowhere in the award description is school spirit events mentioned. According to the handbook, spirit is showed through the “participation in or attendance at a wide variety of sports and fine arts events.”
I don’t entirely agree with this definition—watching sports and practicing arts don’t necessarily contribute to the good of the entire student body. By no means do I oppose Spirit Week. Themed dress-up days sound fun. It shows unity and creativity of students. How does it bring good to the student body?
Spirit Week takes something profound and dumbs it down to wearing pajamas, like measuring love by counting the number of flowers one sends. Flowers are nice, but they are, after all, superficial. We should recognize that Spirit Week is not a real measurement of each student’s contribution to the school.
How should we measure school spirit, then? Actions speak louder than words. “Participation in or attendance at a wide variety of sports and fine arts events” is one way to show spirit, but I think it goes beyond that. School honor seems to be a big deal here, but when I brought home APAC trophies with the table tennis team, I could not see how that was for the “greater good of the school body” rather than a temporary glory of the team.
Instead, “enthusiasm and support for the greater good of the student body” brings to my mind the students who went out of their way to improve the school. I think of the students who founded a club to teach our faculty Mandarin to get around Shanghai. Yichen, who volunteered to create a club matrix for every club’s benefit. Last year’s StuCo execs, who transformed the organization’s role into something more meaningful.
The first step to celebrating school spirit is recognizing what it is. The above is merely an incomplete list of what I think embodies school spirit—it is way more than screaming and cheering during sports and spirit events. I have no qualms about not dressing up for spirit week, because I know that’s not what really matters. I do hope that one day, Spirit Week at least attempts to honor those who bring good to the school.