Tag: social analysis

The Nature of the High School Hierarchy

By James Sweet III | United States

Hierarchies are naturally occurring, but the values that determine an individual’s placement in that hierarchy varies. The most peculiar of social structures is the one formed by the youth, whose brain is still developing. In high schools, students are often associated with groups, and those groups are placed above another group. These social structures vary according to location, like most social structures. Unlike other social hierarchies, this one is not reliant on wealth, race, or gender. Rather, the high school social hierarchy focuses on the acceptance of others.

The Structure

PBS compiled and analyzed research to determine what a high school social hierarchy typically looks like. The following is what they believe the average high school social structure looks like.

  • The “Very Popular Kids”: The athletic “alpha males” and the “queen bees”. They often have social skills and looks that make others more attracted to them. They are usually physically stronger than other students of their respective gender and may be more aggressive.
  • The “Accepted Kids”: The majority of high school students fall into this group. They are considered well known or popular and are smart and outgoing.
  • The “Average or Ambiguous Kids”: While not popular, they are also not unpopular. They are very common in friend groups.
  • The “Neglected Kids”: These students are often well-behaved students and achieve good or average grades, causing teachers to not give them special or extra attention. However, it does take them much longer to make friends, and they often do require or wish for some kind of attention from parents and teachers.
  • The “Controversial Kids”: They often have a mixed, mostly negative, reputation to their name. They may be nice with some weird habits or be bullies to kids while making others laugh with their sense of humor.
  • The “Rejected Kids”: These students are at the highest social risk. “Rejected Kids” are either submissive, meaning they withdraw themselves from social activities so as to not receive any attention, or aggressive, meaning they purposely act up or emotionally blow up if they are teased too much.

The Line of Acceptance

A student that belongs in any of the first three groups finds themselves above the “line of acceptance”. They are mostly accepted by their peers or are at least not considered unaccepted. Any students one of the last three groups are below the line. They are mostly not accepted by the majority of their peers.

The line is drawn between the “Average Kids” and the “Neglected Kids”. If you are on that line, you are, theoretically, perfectly balanced between acceptance and its opposite. The line is the halfway point towards total acceptance and domination of your school as well as complete isolation and “undesirable” status. One question arises from this: What causes one to rise or fall in this social structure?

The Aggressive Social Climb

As previously stated, the students at the top of the high school social hierarchy are likely to be more aggressive than their counterparts. In fact, a student is more likely to be aggressive if they above the line of acceptance and submissive if they are below the line of acceptance.

While you can have bullies that are beneath the line of acceptance, they are often found above the line. Some students below the line of acceptance undeniably are victims of bullying by either students in their same social status or by those above them. Those at the top of the social structure, however, face bullying and/or aggressive actions more commonly than one typically thinks.

In schools, students are taught that bullies are insecure or are mimicking their home life. This isn’t entirely true for all bullies. It may apply for the kids that are in the “Controversial” social status, but it likely isn’t the case for bullies that are on the top. Researchers from the University of California at Davis and Pennsylvania State sought to uncover the motives of bullying and found a possible answer.

Students at the top of the social hierarchy are aggressive and competing to become the king or queen of the school. In a conflict that occurs over the social climb, neither student is willing to back down. Students at the top of the social structure have more to lose than the average student. After all, a group of friends may revolve around one person, and they are very likely to defend that status as the center of their group, meaning that conflicts are usually started by those in the center and that the friends in the circle back up their “leader”.

Assuming you fit the social norms, the risk of victimization increases with your social status. Being at the top makes you a target. If you’re taken down or outdone and do nothing about it, that’s a guarantee that you are going to lose social status and your rival will gain your former place. If you continue to fall down the social ladder, there is less of a reason for those wishing to climb up to bully you.

Once a student is threatened, they are likely to undergo radical personal changes, either to prepare for the fall to the bottom or to prepare their retaliation. This conflict at the top does spill out to the social groups below them. If an aggressive alpha male drastically drops in social status, they may take their anger out on some submissive, lower status student who wishes no harm. There is little to gain from this, but it serves as an emotional vent for the fallen.

The Lesson

High school has a very tense environment. Students compete for grades and social status. So how does one ensure that they are not trampled during the stampede for the top?

One thing should be clear: do not change who you are as a person. You are a unique individual, and trying to conform yourself to the masses is a way to erode your identity.

It comes down to being able and willing to fight back. Do not initiate conflict, but do not avoid it if it comes your way. If you are willing to defend your own status, not only are you ensuring that you will stay at your current place in the hierarchy, you are also making it possible to shut an aggressive bully down and climb the ladder yourself. As Dr. Jordan B. Peterson said: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”


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From the Editor: The Title “Cultural Critic” Is Meaningless

During my time writing with 71 Republic, I’ve been called many things by my peers at school, by family members, and by people familiar with my writing. I’ve been complimented on giving solid social commentary and giving decent positions on psychological issues, which is nice. There’s one title, though, that I’ve gotten, that I want to disavow vehemently, and I never want to be associated — I never want to hear anybody ever call me a “cultural critic” ever again. The term is utterly useless, pointless, and a breeding pool for incredibly toxic virtue signaling. Here’s how.

The term cultural critic is a wide-spanning term that fits a lot of people under its tent, but a generally accepted definition is somebody who specializes in critiquing societal and cultural theory, sometimes on a rather radical scale. The tent is quite large, too, encompassing popular television personalities like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ann Coulter, and the like — talk show hosts who point out perceived cultural and societal flaws and discusses how to get rid of them or improve upon them. Also among this group are the political commentators and writers like Nate Silver, Nick Gillespie, Ariana Huffington and the like; journalists that have a rather large sphere of internet influence and that draw a large amount of support, quite like the aforementioned television personalities.

From an intellectual point of view, they’re often harmless enough; most of the so-called television cultural critics generally load their discussion with a fair bit of bias (which doesn’t render the facts they cite their arguments with invalid, just as a rule of thumb) to try and reaffirm their viewer base and belief systems, which is standard human behaviour at best and mildly harmful at worst. Cultural critics like these people are incredibly influential in modern society and can inspire monumental acts of collective activism; take John Oliver’s fascinating battle against net neutrality, for example. People such as this aren’t problematic in it of themselves, but no matter their views they all fall under the same groups; social critic, social commentator, cultural critic, et cetera. The term is incredibly wide used; so wide used, as a matter of fact, that the term has lost the little bit of meaning it once had.

This is a problem. Tomi Lahren, in all of her hyper partisanship, faulty logic, and truth-bending, is best known by populist conservative groups as a cultural critic. Milo Yiannopoulos, who’s most defining trait is having the audacity to be conservative and gay, is an incredibly influential cultural critic. John Oliver, who’s arguments can almost all be boiled down to “But it’s the current year!” is an incredibly influential cultural critic. Even Filthy Frank, a fictitious Internet character made with the sole and express intent to offer shock humour, has been genuinely brought up on Internet discussion boards as a cultural critic.. There is a serious problem when Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and published author, can be put under the same blanket as the plethora of armchair social analysts that plague the Internet at any given point in time. If Peterson is a cultural critic, and Dave the extremely outspoken and somehow oft-viewed liberal blogger at your high school is also a cultural critic, does the term really mean anything?

Anybody can call themselves a cultural critic, because the term is meaningless. Literally anybody who is capable of giving somewhat of an informed opinion on modern events can call themselves a cultural critic, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The very concept of cultural criticism is something that should be undertaken by a majority of people participating in the culture they’re critiquing; it should not be something unique to massive personalities, because then the culture won’t really accurately reflect the ideas of the people in it. Assigning the title of cultural critic means nothing because almost everybody is capable of critiquing culture.

You could make the argument that people like Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, and other modern intellectuals are academic cultural critics and can be called that correctly, but the expertise they have and the ideas they espouse are from the academic backgrounds of established branches of studies like psychology, sociology, social engineering and social analysis, and what have you. Their cultural criticism is secondary to their actual professions and fields of expertise. Their social commentary is secondary to their work in academia. People who are known solely for cultural criticism can’t claim that. At best, the contemporary cultural critic is an informed, extroverted individual with a platform on which to espouse their ideas. At worst, and what is becoming more and more common, the contemporary cultural critic is an egomaniac anti-intellectual who uses logical inconsistencies and fallacies to push their agendas onto other people. I’m not that. I’m a journalist, a writer, and a proud student of academia, but I am not a cultural critic, and neither are you.