Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reaction to xkcd 703, "Honor Societies"

Here's an idea: how about you stop being such a stuck-up douche, join the damn honor society like all the rest of your peers, and try to make the most of it. I understand the honor society situation is really just a lead-up to the tautology joke, but it exposes an ingrained and infuriating pattern that's shown up in some recent xkcd comics.

I have very little patience for this sort of xkcd. The Holden Caulfield-esque, "let's pretend we're precocious even though we're really just rebellious," "I have noticed an inconsistency in the system, therefore I am allowed to flout the system," "I am so extraordinary that the rules do not apply to me" mentality is tiresome at best and dangerous at worst.

But it's with this mentality, and characters who have this mentality, that loyal xkcd fans identify best. It's especially prevalent among xkcd's high school characters, and therefore the high school fans of the comic. 519, "11th Grade" strikes me as an egregious example. I've made my feelings toward 588, "Pep Rally" abundantly clear. There are probably others.

As I mentioned in my discussion of "Pep Rally", teaching math and science and history and language is but one of the tasks of primary and secondary education. The other, equally necessary, side of the coin is to socialize. The education system is as much about preparing children and adolescents for their careers as it is about preparing them to exist in society, to follow the same norms and mores as those around them, to sign the same social contract as everyone else they'll be dealing with once they're out in the "real world".

The characters in these xkcd's don't seem to have gotten the message yet. The behavior of these xkcd characters, and those hypothetical high schoolers who act the same way that these characters do, only reinforces the need for that socialization. Granted, rebellion is an integral part of the teenage experience. Virtually every teenager rebelled against something at some point in their teenage years, some more aggressively, or loudly, or destructively, than others.

And virtually all of those rebellions were ultimately fruitless. That's an important part of both socialization and the teenage experience as well: gaining the understanding that just because you find fault with something doesn't mean it's without value. It's a lesson that xkcd would do well to learn.

Currently listening: "Born for This", Paramore

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