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Brooks Shannon

Suzanne Oak

English 110, Section 5

October 1, 1999

Cliques – A Brief Glimpse

High school, for many people, was a great time. Wonderful memories were made there, just as were bad ones. These memories came from not only the day-to-day activities that school had to offer, such as the classes and time spent with friends, but also from grander happenings like asking that special someone to the prom. Cliques, and the interactions with them, were often integral parts of those memories.

Cliques are incredibly common in schools, especially in higher-level schools like high school. Primarily they are simply groups of friends or people with similar interests. Depending on the school, these groups may be passive, and let people associate with them, or they may be more hostile and violent. Some commonly known larger cliques are the jocks, who are the sports enthusiasts; preps, who seem to have a prissy, "too good for you" attitude; stoners and hippies, who usually partake in the use of illegal substances; nerds, who are mainly the smarter people; and hicks, whose main interest is the Western way of life. Smaller ones, sometimes just a small group of friends, may be seen as a clique but never acquire or give themselves a name.

Popular, contemporary culture portrays cliques in both violent and passive ways. The movie Varsity Blues, for example, shows the audience a clique of football players – jocks, in other words. This group tends to be more passive – they like to have their fun, which the town supports, but they don’t terrorize people the way other cliques do. However, the movie "Revenge of the Nerds", does perpetrate a clique of jocks to be quite violent and terrorizing. As the title suggests, the clique of nerds does indeed get their revenge later in the movie, through less-violent methods. Also, in Bryce Courtenay’s book The Power of One, the main character, P.K., gets assaulted and terrorized by a clique of older boys as a youngster in school. He overcomes this, but this terrorization comes back to haunt him in his future – when he grows up; one of the boys that was in that clique finds him unexpectedly again, on his work crew. Once this boy, now a man, finds out that one of the men on his crew is P.K., he tries to kill him. Lastly, one only needs to look at the occurrences dealing with the so-called "Trenchcoat Mafia" at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado to see what can happen to people driven to join a clique and take it too far.

A good deal of the cliques I’ve seen tend to be more like the jocks in "Varsity Blues". They keep more or less to themselves, but when interaction with different groups of people does occur, there’s no major tension. The high school I attended in Bismarck, North Dakota, had cliques of this nature. Even though there were quite a few cliques there, violence was never really seen. No doubt this was in part due to the fact that most people didn’t belong to a clique proper, but belonged to one main group of friends, and others on the side. I was one that fit into this category. I had my main group of friends – Dustin, Jason, Cody, Adam, and Miller. However, I still would associate with other friends of mine in different groups – Cj, Joe, Jyh, Jodi, Jenny, and more.

In Eureka, California, things were different. I attended a year and a half of high school there, and the cliques there tended to fall along more traditional lines. Most cliques were big, and kept separate from others. It was rare to see smaller groups, like in Bismarck, that mingled with each other and the other cliques. In Eureka, the jocks, hicks, stoners, and racial groups were the main cliques. It was very, very rare to see these main cliques, or any of the smaller ones, interact. When they did, violence usually erupted. I, personally, was never part of a clique in Eureka. I had a few good friends, and we just associated with one another. However, they were part of a clique, as they were members of the Navy ROTC unit at school. Since I hung around them often, I was in the ROTC area on school grounds quite a bit. Now, for as long as the NJROTC had been at Eureka High, the hicks had always had a problem with it. It was a sort of traditional thing, almost like a feud between the two groups, and I got sucked into it. Across the street from the ROTC entrance into the school was the senior parking lot. For a few years prior to my arrival at Eureka High, and the time that I was there, however, this lot wasn’t used by the seniors – it was used by the hicks. One of their favorite pastimes was to save various fruits from lunch, and throw them across the street, from that parking lot, at the ROTC cadets. I almost got hit a number of times by swift-moving apples and oranges because I had been waiting back there for friends to come out. My interactions with this ROTC clique didn’t always lead to violence – in fact, if just dealing with ROTC in itself, a good time was generally had by all. I met good friends there that I never would have met had I not interacted with the ROTC group, and they’re still great friends to this day.

In both schools, I personally tended to somewhat resist the cliques. Some might say that I was part of a clique in Bismarck, by Bismarck standards, but I feel I wasn’t. The main reason for this was that I didn’t partake in anything to make myself fit in or conform with the rest of my friends. I was able to be myself, and none of my friends cared. Also, I could have very well been in a clique in California – the Navy ROTC unit on campus. Many a time I was asked to join, but I refused. One reason was solely so I wouldn’t be forced to conform to a group’s standards. I truly value individuality, and I feel that the individual is the most important. Cliques are one thing in society that seems to dull one’s individuality; thus, throughout high school, I really didn’t want to be part of them.

No matter where you look in school, cliques can be seen. Their scope may vary, but the core idea behind them – similar beliefs, interests, and mannerisms, is the same throughout. Day-to-day dealings in the school social system would often bring one in contact with members of a clique. Sometimes they would welcome you, sometimes shun you, other times simply look the other way like strangers passing on the side of the street. Those dealings could lead to love, friendships, or violence; it all depended on which clique you were dealing with, who you were, and especially what school you were at in the first place. Northern California had many more sharply defined cliques than Bismarck, North Dakota did. Bismarck did have its share, however, but they were less defined. I tended to keep a neutral, individual standpoint regarding cliques in both places – I didn’t give part of myself away to join a group. I had a good number of friends, but did and still do value time to myself. That individuality I kept as clear as a winter morning’s blue sky by not joining a clique. Those memories from both places, though, and the people I dealt with, will always live on.