The infamous dirty dozen

Amidst the hysteria of “midtermgate,” I got a call from my mom telling me that someone from the Today Show was on the line. They had read my blog on the Chronicle Online and wanted me to come on the show and talk about the incident.

I could already see myself bantering with Matt Lauer in between the story about a 17-month girl who shocks her parents with her advanced reading skills and the story about a Nebraska man who lost 180 pounds by only eating Snickers for a year. They would give me a book deal that would eventually be made into a Hallmark Movie of the Week.

I was already on the phone with the Aston Martin dealership when the school asked me not to appear on the show. Respecting the school’s request, my 15 minutes of fame came to a halt. I was not going to be famous, but at least I wasn’t one of the infamous.

February 2008 will be a month that will live in infamy for Harvard-Westlake. Twelve students expelled, a handful more suspended and a firestorm of rumors that have plagued the school like locusts. What can we attribute this huge spike in disobedience to?

“This is not just a school issue, this is a society issue,” history teacher Francine Werner told me in an interview. Well, that never rang truer than right now. I flick on CNN and I see New York Governor Eliot Spitzer getting busted for hiring a prostitute multiple times. Yeah, the guy who was supposed to be Mr. Clean.

Although we haven’t busted any students for prostitution (yet), there is a similarity between Spitzer and those who stole midterms and possessed drugs: they had a feeling of invincibility, that they were above the law. This feeling was present when middle schoolers came to campus with drug paraphernalia and when sophomores conspired to steal Spanish and history midterms. They did it because they thought they couldn’t be touched and would never get in trouble. Little did they know.

Yet the untouchable feeling pervades. Shortly after the expelled students created a Facebook group entitled “H-W dropouts,” making fun of their own expulsions, some members of the sophomore class decided to wear armbands commemorating their “fallen comrades.”
So how do we force students to look past their cockiness and arrogance, and get them to decipher between right and wrong? It is the responsibility of the parents and teachers to instill ethical values in their children and students, but students who can see how egregious the actions of their friends are must find the courage to put a stop to such behavior.
Harvard-Westlake has spawned its share of fame. We’ve all heard the names — Shirley Temple, Sally Ride and pre-recall Gray Davis. Real fame comes from those who can transcend social pressures and do what is right.