Greasers: alive and well
One of the most striking differences between the high school where I currently teach and the one I attended (besides the fact that everyone at my school was white, we were rolling in money, and the students actually had some amount of freedom) is the subcultures. The groups of kids at the school where I teach are all but unrecognizable to me.
At my old high school, there were two main brands of cool kids: the athletes, and the music kids. The athletic presence at our school was toned down due to the lack of a football team, and it was the soccer boys who dominated that scene. The other, broader category of cool kids, which I reluctantly call the “music kids” for lack of a better name, encompassed a wide breadth of northern California hipsters: the folk musicians in tweed coats and unkempt hair, the skinny boys in neon hoodies, the stoners, and so on. This is the scene in which I was incubated, and this is the power structure that makes sense to me.
The cool kids
When I first stepped into a Los Angeles classroom this past summer, during my TFA training program, I was immediately struck by the continued vitality of archetypes I assumed were long dead. Metalheads still exist, apparently, as do Greasers – just 25 and 50 years past their prime, respectively – and all of them are Latino. It’s shocking enough to suddenly be the only white person in the room, but I knew to expect that. The massive popularity of swing music and Led Zepplin? Nobody warned me about that one.
There is one subculture, though, that’s instantly recognizable. The shaggy hair, the too-thick glasses, the wisps of mustache – this was familiar territory. Watching the gaggle of young folks at my school exchange hugs and talk endlessly about Xbox games fills me with nostalgia for my own not-so-distant high school days – Magic cards, girl gossip, hell, I even built an analog calculator with my best friend for a school project.
There are 10 kinds of people in the world: people who understand bina-- nah, I can't do it.
In my adult life, I have taken on what I like to see as an avuncular role for these students. On Friday afternoons, my classroom turns into geek central; a Wii is connected to my interactive whiteboard, games are played, and girls are scarce (although not, it must be noted, nonexistent; last week a few brave lady-souls showed up to ask if they could look at things through my microscope set). For a magical hour, I am transported back to my youth -- all 5 years ago.