By Anne Isman
Most of us agree: cliques and high school go hand in hand. Whether we think of a clique as a small group of friends or an exclusive group of people who won’t associate with anyone other than themselves, cliques are visible among all grades at Beacon. These cliques reflect self-segregation among Beacon students in more ways than one, and the culture of divisiveness they create can cause problems for the student body.
Unsurprisingly, Beacon students tend to make friends with peers of similar political ideologies, often more left-leaning and progressive. According to junior Sophia Aracena, “politics is a part of [one’s] lifestyle,” referencing that if a student expresses problematic beliefs or values, she “wouldn’t want to associate” with someone of views that so strongly clash with her own. Echoing Sophia’s sentiment, junior Elizabeth Stormant, who claims that her friend group is fairly progressive, believes that “political views are a reflection of one’s morals.” In other words, how compatible we are with a friend may be based on how similar our political beliefs are, leading students to seek out those of like mind.
Just as Beacon friend groups tend to share political ideology, they also tend to share racial identity. While the majority of students surveyed by “The Beacon Beat” responded that it is “by chance” that they are friends with those of the same race, Sophia explained that it can be difficult to expand one’s friend group at Beacon given that our school is “comprised mostly of white people who [she] cannot relate to.” With this in mind, is doesn’t seem so random that students gravitate towards friends of the same racial background.
This self-segregation could also be symptomatic of a lack of diversity in Beacon’s admissions process. Senior Isabella Bohner stated that Beacon “accept[s] the same type of people from the same schools,” resulting in a student body that shares similar lifestyles, mentalities, and racial identities. For students like Sophia who recognize these divisions, it can be alienating to be a part of a student body of which over 51% is white.
However, in terms of the economic makeup of friend groups, over half of all students surveyed claimed that as far as they knew, their friends were of different economic means than them. This indicates that while students may seek out friends who share superficial similarities, money and what one cannot necessarily determine from sheer observation may not factor as much into how we find our friends.
As mentioned earlier, many Beacon students hail from the same prominent middle schools, most notably Park Slope’s M.S. 51 and the Upper West Side’s Delta. Out of familiarity, students from the same middle school tend to stick together. Then, once friend groups are formed, they’re “pretty much set” according to a Beacon junior who requested anonymity. A sophomore, also wishing to remain anonymous, agreed: “People aren’t really open to including new people in their already-set group dynamic.” Comfortable with their routine, students may refrain from reaching out to new people.
However obvious they are at Beacon, clique culture is not unique to our school. Juan Zucchero, a new History teacher, weighed in on how he has watched his students sort themselves into various factions. While he sees “very typical cliques [at Beacon],” noting the “gender [and] race divisions” among the student body, Zucchero also sees cliques of “people who play sports [or] people that are musical.” This reflects students gravitating towards others who share their interests. By either standard, it’s not unexpected that in a school of over 1,300 students, people seek out groups of friends who they feel share some part of their identity.
Inevitably, this can also lead to exclusion, the main problem students have with cliques at Beacon. When asked if the administration should be doing anything about clique culture, junior Lauren Hay remarked that gradewide lunch bands feed into the formation of cliques, and that with grade-dispersed lunch bands–as Beacon scheduled two years ago–students would “be given the opportunity to stray from their typical friend groups and meet new people.” Students could forge new friendships with people they might never have interacted with.
Some students argue that it may be too late for the administration to eliminate Beacon’s clique culture. Sophomore Maeve McSloy affirmed that the problem “could quite possibly be out of their hands now,” given the pervasiveness of cliques and insularity of many friend groups. Others argue that it’s not the administration’s place to interfere with students’ friendships. According to junior Lucas Lovekin, “they shouldn’t do anything drastic…unless there is bullying.”
If cliques are more than simply human nature at work, we should consider why Beacon students have divided themselves so distinctly. We may want to reconsider how comfortable we’ve become amongst people so much like ourselves, and why in as progressive a school as our own, we fail to show diversity when it comes to our friendships.