Ban the prom

News & Politics

Ann Hulbert makes a compelling case to ban the high school prom:

These days, the prom signals, if anything, a regression to an immature mean. It is an orgy of consumption that entails abandoning the pretense to policing sex/booze/drugs, sustained over four previous years by parents, kids, and school administrators. High school�at least in middle-class places�occasions no end of hand-wringing by boomer parents and educators about that trifecta of perils (which boomers themselves of course sought out as teens and survived). Given their own wild pasts, parents find themselves trapped in the pose of earnest worriers, shying away from the hypocritical role of scourges. And so they lay down the law by citing the medical (not the moral) dangers of drink, etc., and their kids roll their eyes and break the rules. Come prom time, however, the compact is out the window. Then�to cite Eichner and Hoagland�"fathers [sign] the contract for Captain Jim's booze-cruise out of Huntington for an after-prom adventure," while mothers make motel reservations. And kids eagerly buy into the whole business. They rush out to spend their parents' money on clothes hyped at events like Macy's 1999 "It's Not Your Mother's Prom" fashion show. On prom night itself, they overindulge in drink, drugs, and sex, a first only in the sense that heretofore they've done so with the thrill of illicitness. Now they're partaking with parental approval.
I didn't go to high school in this country and don't have a strong opinion as to whether proms truly constitute a "flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake�in a word, financial decadence." But there's no reason why overindulging in drink, drugs, and sex should be quite so expensive. Perhaps they can get rid of the limos and the pricey couture and just go straight to the motel.

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