High School Stereotypes Get Shut Down

Anna Sampson, Staff Writer

Once upon a time, in the land of Salt Lake City, there lived a family made up of the most extraordinary people. In this family, there was the eldest child, Olympus, who was the most successful and wealthy out of all of the siblings, which caused the rest of the family to hate them. There were the twins, Highland and East, who, despite being identical, were sworn rivals. There was the forgotten child, West, who really wasn’t that significant. And there was Skyline, the random rich cousin that the siblings hung out with on occasion. 

Or at least, that’s how people thought they were. 

If you live in the Salt Lake area and attend one of these five high schools, chances are you’re aware of the stereotypes surrounding these schools. Without even having to think about it, all of us have this innate, agreed-upon perception of the different types of students that go to the different schools. It’s a known fact that Olympus is well-funded and great in nearly sport, and that East is sometimes referred to as the “ghetto” of the schools. It’s also a known fact that these stereotypes have a lot to do with race, as schools like Olympus and Skyline are around 83% white and schools like East and West are 34-38% white, showing a lot more diversity. But the question that not many people stop to ask is where do these stereotypes come from? And are they really true? 

According to Highland teacher Marcus Frazier, these stereotypes are not the making of the students attending these schools themselves but are the making of the generations before them.  

“I think that’s where some of the perception comes from, is the way things used to be,” he said. 

For people like Frazier who graduated from high school 20 years ago, their high school’s population probably looked a lot different than it does now, and even more so for the generation before that. As time goes on, demographics change, but sometimes, the stereotypes stick.  

Older generations are not the only group responsible for contributing to these perceptions, however.  

“I think that people who haven’t been apart of our schools think of East, Highland, Skyline, and Olympus as all sort of upper east side, Caucasian kids with endless resources, and I don’t think that that’s necessarily the case. I think that we have a really diverse population.” Frazier said. 

Frazier, who taught and coached for 6 years at East and is now on his third year teaching and coaching at Highland, has seen this diversity firsthand. According to statistics on School Digger.com, East is 41.6% Hispanic, 38.0% white, 7.5% Pacific Islander, 4.6% African American, 4.4% Asian, and 3.9% other, compared to Olympus, which is 83.6% white, 8.2% Hispanic, 3.4% Asian, 2.8% African American, and 2.1% other. Some, like Frazier, would say that it is this diversity that makes Highland and East so great.  

“The ability to coexist and get along and have a peaceful academic environment is something that we should be proud of,” he said.  

However, just because schools like Olympus and Skyline are less diverse does not mean that the stereotypes surrounding them are true, either. Highland sophomore Ava Ransom, who attended Olympus her freshman year and switched to Highland her sophomore year can attest to this. 

“There is a big majority of people who are more privileged, and it’s mostly just white kids, so I can see why people would think that, but at least half of the kids are just middle class people,” she said. 

However, Ransom also went on to comment on the differences in social classes between Olympus and Highland. She described her experience at Olympus, although fun, to be a lot more “cliquey” than at Highland.  

“People (at Olympus) think they’re better, and at Highland I’ve noticed that more people will say hi to me in the halls and it’s not weird, but at Olympus, it’s a big deal for some reason.” 

Taking this information into account, it may seem that the stereotypes that have accompanied these schools for generations are, in fact, true. While this may be the case for some select groups of students, the truth is that high school students are not defined by the schools they attend or the backgrounds they come from. To stereotype these students based on these old-fashioned perceptions is to restrict them to a box that no longer fits in these changing times.  

So the next time you judge someone based on their school’s stereotype, stop and think about where it came from, and whether or not its really true.