It’s fun until you get herpes: students discuss schoolies
Dec 04, 2012 10:28AM |EMAIL|PRINT
The media portrays the schoolies pilgrimage as dangerous and debauched. But what do the students think? Melbourne secondary school teacher Chris Fotinopoulos asks his year 11 students.
With schoolies drawing to a close, it seemed a good time to ask some of my students what they thought of the high-profile rite of passage. Is it really the debauched, dangerous event shown in the media?
One female year 11 student told me there were idiots at schoolies who “do nothing more than get drunk and fall over, however people like that are found everywhere”. ”Besides,” she said, “do you really think the media would bother reporting on a group of teenagers sitting on the beach making new friends, talking and having a laugh?”
Over the last fortnight we’ve heard from educators, social commentators, parents, and politicians, but apart from a brief sound grab from boozed-drenched teenagers on the Gold Coast or Bali we rarely get to hear what teenagers themselves think. So I asked a group of year 11 students for their take on an event that has become, as the student welfare co-ordinator at the school I teach put it, “a rite of passage that most students feel pressured to be part of”.
We started out by checking out schoolies.com, which the students inform me is the official website. Images of teenagers dancing in nightclubs and frolicking in the surf tell a story of “fun without limits”, as the slogans that scroll across the screen say. A boy points out these wholesome images seem to be in stark contrasted with what’s on Facebook: “Nearly every schoolies picture posted on Facebook includes a drink and someone passed out on the sofa or the pavement.”
“Schoolies is all about getting drunk, popping pills and not remembering who you slept with that night, which might sound like fun — until you get herpes,” one girl said, adding “although I believe it’s over-rated I’m still planning to go”.
Her friend, a self-confessed seasoned partygoer, said she too was looking forward to “drinking, popping a few, throwing up and helping out mates in bitch fights”.
But don’t you think you should be focusing on your studies rather than planning a social event that is, according to the official countdown clock, 353 days, two hours 38 minutes and 40 seconds away? A girl who was trawling the site “for info” looked up, gave me one of those “what-ever” looks, and continued browsing.
Most of the boys were happy to leave it up to the girls to organise things. “They’re much better at planning parties,” pointed out a boy who didn’t seem enthusiastic about schoolies.
I asked how their parents felt about them attending schoolies. ”My parents are letting me go, but reluctantly,” said one girl, adding “as any caring and loving parents, they are quite concerned by the images we get fed by the news”. One boy didn’t seem to care what his parents thought. “I will be 18 by then and there is not much they can do to stop me.”
A student whose sister attended schoolies two years ago explained that her sister was particularly impressed with the way the police related to her and her friends: “The cops were quite different to how they talk to teenagers on any given Saturday night in Melbourne, they treated my sister and her friends like adults, which led them to behave like adults.”
So how do they explain the ugly side of schoolies? ”Of course there’s an ugly side to schoolies, there’s an ugly side to everything,” snapped one seasoned party-goer.
One girl described schoolies as “another Australian tradition, which has developed in the same way as Australia Day, grand final day and the Boxing Day Test celebrations … which is just another excuse to get drunk”.
“If I’m going to spend that much money on a trip, I’d want to use it as more than just an excuse to get wasted and throw up on myself.”
While some students didn’t want to miss out, they felt official schoolies events were far too costly. “I have a part-time job and I want to hopefully save up at least half of the money I’d like to spend for schoolies, which is roughly $5000,” one said.
One girl said she was not going to schoolies because “if I’m going to spend that much money on a trip, I’d want to use it as more than just an excuse to get wasted and throw up on myself”. Another girl was planning to spend her hard-earned money on partying with friends at a later date. And a couple of boys were contemplating a road trip with their mates.
The industrious types said they would be taking advantage of the summer break to increase their work hours to earn enough money for an overseas trip next year. A girl who enjoys live music said she would need every cent of her savings to see her favourite bands at summer music festivals.
There were a group of students who made it clear they would not be going anywhere near those who didn’t have anything do with them at school. As a self-described “nerd” put it: “Why should I join them on the Gold Coast, Byron Bay or Bali when they had nothing to do with me for my entire school life?”
The discussion ended with one boy predicting it “won’t be long before all hell breaks loose at these events”. Why? “Given that these ‘traditional’ celebrations essentially attract white Anglo-Saxon groups on a mass scale, it’s just a matter of time before we witness a violent ethnic clash reminiscent of the Cronulla riots.”
“Just wait ‘til large non-Anglo groups start encroaching on Gold Coast turf during schoolies,” added a boy who was from a non-Anglo background. I noticed a few of his friends nodding.
I found the students were just as interested in how older blokes like me celebrated the end of their secondary schooling. ”So what did you get up to, sir?” We played up a bit on the last day of school. “Did you get wasted?” Most of us drank at the local park throughout the night and played pranks on teachers and students the following day. ”What did you do after that?” Many of us caught up with friends over the summer break. But unlike you we didn’t have the option of attending official schoolies events.