As I was having lunch with some friends, one of them told me how, at her son’s school, they have banned the celebration of individual birthdays. They have two parties each year that are designed to celebrate everyone’s birthday.
I was annoyed by that since I have fond memories of elementary school birthday parties. But, the message is clear: no one is special; you must assimilate.
You’ve probably encountered this mentality in your school and other organizations. For whatever reason, there is a strong tendency for institutions to demand total assimilation. You are no longer a unique person worthy of respect, but a number, a place in the collective who must conform to everyone else. Sound like your high school?
Bullies often target “different” people for this reason. However, the ones who do it the most are the adults in your life and the institutions they run. Look at the birthday situation. Rather than allow individual expression within reason, this school made sure that one size fits all, even though it really doesn’t. So, there’s no favorite cake, special tradition, or a chance to celebrate each child as an individual.
I understand that the school year is busy preparing for state tests (another issue altogether) and two general parties are better than none at all. But, this represents a disturbing trend in society as a whole: the need for total control. Rather than having individual rights and freedoms, we’re seeing a huge emphasis on going with the crowd at all costs. This kind of forced conformity isn’t good for schools and it’s not good for the United States.
I encourage you to be your best self. Don’t do anything to get in trouble, but resist the urge to always “go with the flow.” The most popular and successful people throughout history are the ones who start the trends, not follow them, anyway.