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Keep your friends, but don't give up your identity

October 10, 2006|by RYAN WILLARD

Imagine walking into school, not wanting to be there. All you want to do is get to your locker quickly and get to first period. You get to the main hallway, and guess what? You can't move. Heck, you can't even breathe. Random clots of students are in the middle of the hallway. Like a school of fish, they weave back and forth. You play a complicated game - if you make a wrong move, you are bombarded by football players or hassled by skaters.

Finally, if you're lucky, you make it to your locker and get your books. From there you either go to class or to the lunchroom with your own group - which in my case is the drama group.

School cliques aren't a bad thing just because they clot the halls. They also produce stereotypes, lack of originality, and a desire to do what the group does. It creates a hierarchy within the school, an ongoing struggle to have dominance over everyone else.

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So why is everyone in a group?

In theory, school cliques are a rather nice idea. For one thing, you start to get into groups when you are a freshman at high school, a time when you feel friendless. Also, you usually become part of a group because you like to do the same things (football, skating, drama or even smoking) as other people in the group. So, by joining a group, you get the feeling of being safe in numbers and being with people that do the same things as you.

But that's where the good themes end. As you become part of a group, individuality ceases to be a part of your priorities, and you do what the group does. It can become all-consuming, and maybe people who do not share the interest are brushed off.

It's too bad that a stupid sport or hobby might separate one person from another. But being in a group puts chains on your legs, immobilizing you to find out whether you actually like them or not.

In theory, becoming part of a group is a good thing. You cease being lonely, and you have a life during weekends. But at what cost? To put shells over your eyes and not do what you want to do?

It comes down to hope - hope that people will realize they can be in a group and also be themselves.

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