I go to a very stuck up private school
that requires its student
s to attend a "non-denominational" Chapel
service every week. This requirement stems from the school's mission
statement, in hopes to nurture our spiritual
development along with the intellectual
Traditional Chapel speakers consist of *really captivating* members of the community, such as the school headmaster, alumni, and various priests and rabbis. Ever see the movie Rushmore? Well, it was filmed at my school; the Chapel scene was staged in the very church (St. John the Divine) where our mandatory service is held weekly. The attitude of the students in that film roughly echoes that of the actual student body, but keep in mind those actors were getting paid to be there.
Lately, the Chapel Guild has tried to make Chapel more than just a much-needed naptime by inviting slightly more exciting speakers, such as Mattress Mac, a local celebrity and founder of a Houston furniture store ("Gallery Furniture saves you MOOOOOOOOOOONEEEEEEEEEY!"), while also encouraging more students to speak. A few weeks ago, the administration received a nasty shock when a senior, who we'll call Robby for the sake of the argument, informed the entire student body that while our school provides a "good education," if any of us ever have to deal with "someone who's not rich and white," we're "screwed." He also revealed that he loves playing with people's minds above all other things. Hmm...
The students cheered. The teachers spazzed, to put things mildly. It seemed as though riots would break out; the school talked about nothing else for the rest of the day. What would happen to Robby? He had stepped boldly where only one other had gone before. In the end, he received only a mild punishment- his sign-out privileges were revoked. The teachers and administration were appalled because of Robby's lack of "respect," above all else, many argued.
But the revolution had only begun.
Fast-forward 3 weeks. It’s the morning of Senior Chapel, only a month before graduation. A few of the seniors are given one last chance to talk about how wonderful the school is, to thank the outstanding teachers, etc, etc.
Chapel is running pretty smoothly, aside from a few gasps when one girl (following Robby's example of cussing) said "hell" and "suck" at the podium. But then a group of 10 girls, all praising each other with inside jokes, inform us that they have "run all the way to home base" and found "other uses for Pop Rocks." There is a dull roar of disbelief and confusion coming from the balcony, where the parents sit. But before action can be taken, the "speech" (if you can call it that) is over. The girls sit down, and "Will" ascends to the podium. He embarks on a tale of his childhood "void," an emptiness inside of him that is filled when he came to our school in first grade. Suddenly, I catch sight of the Dean, who is very much incensed, storming down the aisle. He announces "Will, that void will just have to remain. Chapel is over."
The organ sounds, and teachers tell their students to rise and exit. But all remain seated, in protest. Although his mic is dead, Will continues talking. He's screaming now. Again, the Dean appears, this time grabbing him by the shirt, forcibly pulling him off the podium and chewing him out in front of everyone. Will's parents are in the balcony, his sister is sitting in front of me. Finally, we are forced to leave and go to class.
Frantically, all were trying to figure out why the Dean cut Will's speech short. Yes, the Chapel had run 20 minutes overtime, cutting into First Period, but shouldn't he have ended the Chapel earlier, between speakers? Rumors were circulating that Will was mocking a speaker from earlier in the year, but if he was, it was so subtle that no one to whom I spoke was actually able to pick up on it.
The student body was, and continues to be, outraged. Why should we be forced to sit through Chapel speeches when the school's administrators find it acceptable to cut off a speaker, mid-speech? How are we expected to respect speakers if the administration obviously doesn't? And if, as many of my teachers argue, this year's Chapel messages are not entirely appropriate for Chapel, why don't they provide us with an appropriate forum in which we can express our opinions? And how does such an episode help to enrich our spirituality?
Yes, Chapel has departed from its traditional path. But instead of becoming outraged, the administration needs to work with the student populous to find a solution, or at least a compromise. They need to learn to accept the rapidly changing needs of the students, rather than stifiling them.
For now, the incident remains another example of the dictatorial power of the school's bureaucracy. But we, the students, hope to grasp this opportunity to make St. John's a more peaceful and democratic place.