SHS Students Have New Reality in #metoo Era

SHS survey indicates some division among students

Michael O'Connell, Staff Writer

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As America learns the political ramifications of the #metoo era, High School students, in the case of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation process, saw a public figure scrutinized for the choices he made as a teenager. Furthermore, President Trump stated that the power of allegation and accusation make it a “very” dangerous time to be a young man in America. Donald J. Trump graduated from High School in 1964, when the societal role of women was largely limited to that of domestic service or professional assistance to men. Trump sees the #metoo era from an unusual perspective, both as a powerful man who has been accused of misconduct by various women and as someone who has lived to see the role of women change from that of housewives and secretaries in his youth, to major party candidates for president today. Despite having a life experience nothing like Mr. Trump’s, many young men and women of Scituate High School agree with his views or are as equally passionate in their disagreement.  

Young people are paying attention. Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process was acutely relevant to the lives of teenagers, with hours of the Senate hearing spent scrutinizing his character and behavior in high school. Kavanaugh had to explain away claims that he regularly behaved inappropriately while intoxicated. He assured the American people that he is not the shameless, sexist manipulator that his opponents describe. For young people, the Kavanaugh scandal has sounded an alarm, warning those who may be behaving irresponsibly to change quickly and drastically. In effect, a question has been posted to young people: should (teenagers) change their lifestyle to be in accordance with the expectations of the adult professional world?  Teenagers, and scrutinized people like Judge Kavanaugh, respond by asking a question of their own: why should adults be evaluated on the misguided choices they made as teenagers?

According to a survey of SHS students conducted by the Scituation, 51 percent of Scituate High School students do not think that employers should be able to research what job applicants were like as teenagers. This may lead some to think that young people want to be able to act inappropriately without facing any repercussions, but that is not the case.  Of the survey respondents who divulged their use of alcohol or drugs, 44 percent of them—the largest minority—think about the impact decisions like these can have before making them. Most said they do not use alcohol or drugs. Students are confident and unconcerned about the choices they have made in recent years, with 53 percent of survey respondents saying that they could not think of a time they second-guessed their decision making.  

Although most Scituate High School students are making conscientious decisions, and are mindful of the way that their behavior can impact their future–a mindset that Brett Kavanaugh arguably did not have in high school—many were quick to defend Kavanaugh, and agreed with the president’s notion that it is a dangerous time for young men in America. One student said, “Women are more often believed more than men, and they are shown as victims even if there is no proof they were raped or assaulted.” One female student said, “Women are suddenly bringing up past events and ruining peoples lives. They expect to be believed, and I think it’s ridiculous. Just because Dr. Ford is a woman, all women seemed to defend her, and they think that women can do no wrong. It’s unfair and unethical. I do advocate for the equality of women; however, treating a woman as if they’re better or different than men because of their gender is just reverse sexism.”

One student agreed with Trump saying, “I believe in the right to a fair trial, and the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty is very important.  When people stop believing these things and don’t listen to all of the facts it is a dangerous time for not only young boys but everyone in America.” Another student added, “I think the fact that any random person can come out and say you did something to them—even if you didn’t—and have your reputation ruined, is very messed up.”

To characterize the school as “Pro-Trump,” or as unequivocal supporters of Judge Kavanaugh, would be inaccurate. That being said, the president’s message is resonating with many young people who hold the sanctity of their reputation in high regard. Using Trump’s logic, it is understandable to see why many innocent young people and men are second-guessing themselves, while also becoming paralyzed in paranoia that false allegations could ruin their lives.

Some Scituate students do not appreciate the president’s opinion. One student said, “Trump was born rich and is rich. He has gone through his life not thinking his actions have consequences, just because of his socioeconomic status. This mindset is destroying our country.”  Another stated, “The fact that he is sympathizing with men who are finally facing consequences for gross misconduct shows that he has little sympathy for the women who were on the receiving end of this misconduct.”

Generally, students believe the accuser over the accused.  Many see the actions Kavanaugh has been accused of as indefensible and completely his fault.  As for the opinion of the president, most students indicated that they perceived it as his way of “covering” for a man who has also been accused of wrongdoing.  It’s unclear where students develop their opinions; some may follow the opinion of their parents, others may speak more for themselves. Either way, a radical change is taking place in the conscience of America, and how young people will navigate through it is still unknown.  

For those who hope to see a more progressive future, the returns of this survey should reassure them.  While the nation is run mostly by white men like Trump who grew up in starkly different times for women, Washington’s future will undoubtedly include more women and men shaped by the #metoo era. To some, this is a dangerous time in America, but to most this is a time of reckoning and even confrontation.  In 50 years time, when the Trump presidency is but a distant memory, so, hopefully, will be sexual misconduct, and for that, all young people will play a pivotal role.

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