Monday, November 23, 2009

Acceptable Stereotypes? Since When?

I can remember one time I have admitted my high school and not gotten a reaction along the lines of how I must be a rich, snotty brat. It was about ten years ago when a woman in the city we lived in at the time was researching Utah schools because she knew that the secondary education in our area wasn't stellar. She wanted to move where her kids would have a good high school.

We went walking on a track one morning, and she asked where I'd gone to high school. I hesitantly admitted it. Her reaction almost had me stumbling in shock off the pavement.

"No way! You are so lucky. Wow. You must have had an amazing education."

You know what? I did have an amazing high school education. But no one else in the general Utah area knows that. All they see is the reputation my school has for wealth . . . a reputation that is not even founded, as only a small percentage of the student body had money, and even fewer were snotty. (I knew plenty of poor, snotty students, and one of my best friends was rich but one of the sweetest people ever. It can go both ways.)

So here is my "confession," if you will:

I attended and graduated with honors from Timpview High School in Provo, Utah.

When it comes to education, Timpview really is one of the best schools in the state. In some surveys, it's ranked as one of the top two high schools in Utah. I got one stinkin' good education. From a parents' point of view, I'd love my kids to go there. (I'd just hate for them to get the same backlash I've endured for over twenty years.)

The reputation is based on the rich kids who live on a hill next to the school. That hill includes Osmond Lane. (Yes, those Osmonds, although none of them live there anymore.) In my time, the hill also had families whose fathers were plastic surgeons and so forth. So yes, THS had some (I stress some) very rich students.

First off, they were not all snotty (although granted, some were). And second, I'd guess that a good 85% or so of the student body were not on the hill, not rich, nor anything like unto it.

The school boundaries cut Provo in half vertically, so there were plenty of students nowhere near the hill. We ran the gamut of the economic spectrum, from mansions to tiny apartments.

Even though my family lived in northern Provo, our house was off the hill, not on the rich, east side. I am the child of a linguist. (Not exactly a wealthy profession.) When I was in grade school, we had a truck that was so rusted and ugly that my mother was humiliated to have it parked in front of the house.

Other families in our neighborhood got really good at fixing things with duct tape. Most relied on canning fruit from their own trees to get by. My mom sewed all our Sunday dresses (back then, before WalMart, sewing clothes was cheaper than buying them). Not exactly Beverly Hills.

Why was THS so great? A good percentage of families living in our school boundaries had BYU connections, including parents who were professors, so education was important to them. The culture of the area had parents who were active in their children's education. They made sure their kids did their homework. They stressed getting into college and taking advanced courses.

As a result, Timpview was (and is!) an excellent high school. I got a fantastic education that put me miles ahead of my fellow freshmen at BYU. I still credit virtually all I know about grammar and punctuation to Miss Drummond, my love and understanding of history to Miss McKay, and any music skill I have to Mr. Larsen.

But . . .

Even now, whenever someone finds out where I went to school, their first reaction is, "Oh, so you were one of those rich, snobby kids." Or some variation on that theme.

A few years ago, those exact words came from a woman I worked with in the Young Women program, of all places. I knew she'd attended Spanish Fork High, which had a reputation for being filled with nothing but illiterate, tobacco-chewing cowboys.

After she'd lambasted me with the Timpview stereotype, I had half a mind to reply with, "So you were one of those tabacca chawin' hicks?" I refrained, trying to be the mature one and knowing full well that just as I didn't fit my stereotype, she didn't fit hers, and I wasn't about to throw hers in her face.

Tears pricked my eyes anyway.

How old were we, for crying out loud? We were the adult leaders, sitting at the church, planning an activity for our youth (one that was to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, no less), and she had to bring up old rivalries and assume I'm a stuck-up, rich snob? Really? What had I done to deserve that?

Last Friday, Timpview won Utah's 4A state championship for football, and I was darn proud of my Thunderbirds, especially since my nephew was on the field as one of the players. (Go, #24!)

During and after the game, there was a minor rivalry in my neighborhood via Facebook between a couple of Timpview graduates and some graduates of the team Timpview beat.

It was all in good fun, but it still hurt when I got the same old stereotype thrown at me. This time it was couched as, "Well, we can't all attend Osmond High."

Ouch. I know the person saying it was joking, but it still stung. I could have thrown their high school's stereotype back at them (I won't mention it here, but it's an exceedingly ugly stereotype). I didn't do that. I'm going to assume it's inaccurate and that saying it would be both mean and demeaning.

I've purposely never thrown such a stereotype at someone else, because I know from experience that 1) most likely, it's wrong and 2) it wounds.

I don't know why these kinds of minor jabs are acceptable in our society. It's like Lord of the Flies in miniature. I believe that while this particular issue may seem small, larger issues grow from it like mushrooms.

If it's okay to look down on someone because they attended this school or that one, what other silly reason do we need to look down on another human being? I thought we could joke around and tease about a simple football game, but it quickly turned into name-calling.

In today's society, race, gender, and religion are big issues. If we can't handle something as tiny as an alma mater, how can we handle the meaty issues, let alone properly teach the next generation to face them?

That's a dismal thought for the country and the planet.

At this point, I know there's nothing I can do to change anyone's perception of Timpview. The only thing I can hope to do is instill into my own children the understanding that it's never okay to lump a group of people together like that, to assume you know who they are and what they're like, especially when the stereotype is negative.

If I ever hear one of them say, "I can't stand X school; they're all snobs," they're going to get a serious earful from Mama. If they ever say anything similar about any group of people, no matter who they are, they'll get a similar lecture.

There are no acceptable stereotypes.

So here I am today, standing up for the first time probably ever with no hiding, no shame, no mumbling, and no apologies:

I am a graduate of Timpview High School, class of 1992.

The truth is, I'll always be a T-bird at heart.

I'll even don orange, white, and blue to prove it.


Fight on, you Thunderbirds, wherever you may be.
Fight on, you Thunderbirds! Fight on to victory!
Battle to win with glory, honor your name.
Courage will tell the story, bringing you fame!
Fight on, you Thunderbirds
Who wear the orange and white.
Higher and higher you'll fly.
Now and forever let us fight with all our might.
Fight on, Timpview High!


Kristina P. said...

We get a lot of kids from Alta High in our facility, for truancy. The teacher here always can tell when the "Alta" kids get picked up. And truthfully, the Alta parents do rescue their kids and pick them up immediately.

Oh, and I went to Provo High, you rich snob. :) Go Bulldogs!

Jami said...

Well put, Annette! There are no acceptable stereotypes.

Cheri Chesley said...

so I've got a year and a half to move my kids down to the right neighborhood in Provo. :) Just kidding. Kinda. I had a horrible education at my high school (not in UT so I don't have to name it lol). I actually graduated feeling dumber than I did going in. I want the right schools for my kids. And you are so right about the stereotypes. There are no acceptable stereotypes!

Anonymous said...

I'm not naming my HS. Sorry. I still get crap for it too. As for Timpview, a good friend of our family went there and played for the football team and I think he not only got a great education, he made a lot of excellent friends who helped encourage him to go on a mission.
I don't care for stereotypes either. I was labeled as a stuck-up rich kid (and my parents are fairly well-to-do so I felt like I was attacked for something I had no control over. Thankfully, the new "hot spot" has moved from where my parents lived but for a long time, I never told people where our house was because I got that same rigamarole.
Thanks for standing up for this, Annette. It means a lot to me.

InkMom said...

This kinda makes me glad I'm from a small enough town that socio-economically, all four high schools in this county are pretty much the same.

Speaking of petty rivalries . . .

I have watched with some amusement a Facebook battle afoot amongst my husband, his brothers, and some cousins of theirs that are from Boise and, therefore, are convinced of the superiority of BSU football, especially over BYU. (I suspect sports trash talk is one of the main reasons anyone male signs into FB. Ever.) My husband has historically observed in tacit amusement, but this weekend, one of his cousins called him out by name. "I'm playing the trump card," he told me and then posted this little gem: "You don't have to like BYU. Just keep paying your tithing. I thank you, and the Cougars thank you."

Sometimes, it's just too much fun to hold back!

Anonymous said...

I worked for twenty years in the high schools in Utah Valley. Never at Timpview, though I did interview there once for a position that wasn't really in my field. In all my years working with High School kids and competing fiercely against kids from Timpview, never once did the stereotype of "Rich Kids" come up. And trust me, I was in a number of activities that would have fostered all kinds of jabs and polks and name calling. Not once. In fact, I worked with some kids from Timpview who, with their wonderful families, are some of my finest friends. Simply outstanding people whose father was a VP at BYU and oversaw the Jerusalem Center and hosted mayor Ed from Jerusalem in their home.

The only stereotype I ever remember hearing or holding myself, was that lots of BYU professors' kids went to Timpview so the teachers there were fortunate enough to have a lot of kids who came from families who valued education and who were, likely, more disciplined in their approach to education. Which allowed those teachers to actually spend time teaching rather than spending their day discipling half the class and keeping order until the bell rang.

I wonder why I never knew, in all these years, that kids from Timpview were rich snobs? I never equated the Osmonds with Timpview. Never thought the kids on the hill were any richer than the kids in some neighborhoods south of Mountain View, on the hills above Timpanogos, in the hils above Pleasant Grove, around the AF temple above AF high, in the posh Bear Ridge one acre estates above Spanish Fork, in the new, rather swanky, developments north of Orem High around the old Osmond Studios and on the ridge overlooking the Provo River bottoms in the same neighborhoods with the Ashtons of Thanksgiving Point fame, in the golf course canyon retreats east of Springville High or in the exclusive Alpine Cove beyond Lone Peak. Never thought that Provo High was disadvantaged. Heck, did you see their new remodled school? It is state of the art. Impressive. If anything, its the Provo kids who are snobs. In fact I worked with a lot of Provo high kids. Great students. Hard working. Bright. Talented. And they never once, in twenty years of competing with the Timpview kids, ever called them rich kids or snobs.

I wonder why?

Maybe its because I know enough really amazing kids from Timpview that I never heard the slurs, never felt the steretypes. It may have never occured to me that anyone would think anything but the best of those kids. Maybe.

There could be another reason too. You Timpview Graduates aren't snobby or rich. Just a little sensitive? Maybe?

Teri said...

Well put! I went to Layton High, many eons ago and had a lot said about the "Air Force Brats" that went there. I personally wasn't part of a military family, but had a lot of friends who were fantastic people and didn't fit the 'stereotype'. It is sad that in this day and age, we automatically put people into these boxes of predetermined size. Perhaps we will all learn our lesson someday!

Helena said...

I think I went to a concert there once.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

We lived right by Timpview High for several years not long ago...I had no idea it was considered snotty.I knew it was highly recognized as a great school all around. I wouldn't have even known to react badly.

amelia said...

Whoa anon comment.

This could be the exact same story for my high school in California. We also didn't live on the hill.

Don said...

As a Kahuku Red Raider 4 Life, I know all about high school stereotypes. However, we've never been accused of snobbery.

Thugary, maybe.

I honestly don't know anyone could stereotype an entire public high school as "rich snobs." Private school, maybe - but not public, and certainly not in Provo. There just aren't enough rich people in the whole valley.

Lara Neves said...

Having married a Timpview grad and dated a few others, I whole-heartedly agree with you about the Timpview stereotype being 100% wrong. Although, I did have a few run-ins with one Timpview girl who I certainly felt fit that stereotype (at least the snobby idea of her economic status) and she was so mean to me I will never forget it. But, whatev. I'm not going to judge the entire high school on one person. There were plenty of people like that at my own high school, too!

And to anon: I think attending the high school and working in them has got to be different. I attended Mt. View, and there was a very real stereotype about Timpview. And I'd say Timpview had it worse than any other school in the area as far as stereotypes go. The other schools may have had them, but I don't really remember them. Not even for my own alma mater. But Timpview? That I remember very well.

Stereotypes stink. Great post.

Annette Lyon said...

Wow, Anon. That's quite the comment. I'm really glad to hear that the students don't rant to their teachers.

But just because the adults don't hear it doesn't mean that they don't say it to one another.

Even my really sweet nephew who attended Provo High would rant to my face about the rich snots at Timpview--knowing full well I went there and his cousins standing in the very same room did. He's now in college and decided to go off about how Timpview's seminary building is so much better than Provo's--as if Timpview's students had anything to do with the Church's decision THERE.

I was on the drill team for 3 years and went to competitions were we'd pass other teams in the hall and have them cat call nasty things to our faces as we passed--because of our school. I don't think any other school had their crowd egged at basketball games.

There's a famous blogger (I won't say who, because she likes to stay anonymous) but she's blogged many a time about "snob hill" and the reputation surrounding the school.

I blissfully went into high school without a clue that I'd be lambasted at every turn for it. I don't imagine the looks and the tones I STILL get. "Oooh, you went to TIIIIIMPVIEEEEW," said with raised eyebrows and a knowing look.

Yes. Yes, I did. It's an awesome school. What of it?

It's not a sensitivity issues. I'm not imagining it. If any other T-bird read this, speak up and let me know what you think.

(Blondie, I know you often read my blog. Is it all in my head? Or have you been able to proudly proclaim your alma mater all these years without getting the look?)

Annette Lyon said...

Lara, I replied before reading your comment. Thanks for the support! You're the perfect person to know, having attended high school in the same valley AND having known several Timpview graduates (and MARRIED one!).


Anonymous said...

Ouch! That's so weird. Maybe I was just lucky enough to have missed it. Or I was totally clueless. Or both.

It could be worse. You could have graduated from Alta.

Right, Kristina P?

Amber Lynae said...

While I think it is great to have a good known for good academics I agree that it is completely unfair to assume all those attending said school fit into a stereo type.

I think sometimes the need to focus on stereotypes may be from jealousy. At least when they are used in such rude manners.

I hope my baby girl gets a good education.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I want to applaud after reading that. Well said!

Jessica G. said...

I haven't lived in Utah longer enough to know which alumni to snub. But I agree that there are no acceptable stereotypes!

Erin said...

Ugh, I just wrote this great comment and then it didn't go through.

Anyway, my husband went to Timpview his sophomore year, which was your senior year. I just looked up your picture in his yearbook and you were so cute :)

Stereotypes are generally started by people who are jealous and/or ignorant, and continued by people who are jealous and/or ignorant. I say we should be proud of our education rather than looking down on others for what we deem to be something negative.

(This comment sounds dumber than the one I wrote before. Oh well.)

Cheri Chesley said...

Just one more thing: Years ago on his TV show, Bill Cosby said this when one of his kids on the show complained about coming from rich parents, "Your mother and I are rich. You are not." :)

tammy said...

I graduated from Alta and would get the same thing, and my parents weren't rich and I wasn't a snob. We never wanted for anything, but weren't spoiled. (And I never ended up at Kristina P's : )

But, I didn't even know there was a east/west side thing going on until I graduated and started working on the west side. Then I heard it all the time from the westside people. They all thought we were rich and snobs and it would make me mad when people would make assumptions about me, because I wasn't judging them by where they lived.

Rebecca Irvine said...

Stereotypes can be painful, whether about high school, college, professions, or other things in life.

Cranberryfries said...

I went to Hillcrest so honestly I never heard anything of the schools down in Utah County.

The one thing that stuck out to me in this post though was the comments about the parents being concerned of their kids education because it's proximity to BYU.

My hubby has been working with some kids at a VERY small elementary school and it's completely opposite of this. The teachers can't even sent homework home because they know it'll never return. (And they have to remind the kids every day to wear long pants or coats so they dont freeze at recess) The students are all behind years of where they should be so the teachers of the 'grades they teach' are really teaching lower grade material. There is no PTA and hasn't been. It's amazing to me that things really run the full gammet (sp?).

I'm on the PTA at my daughters school and have been since she was in kindergarten. I remember the other PTA moms were so in awe that I'd care to be on PTA even though she was just starting at the school. I wish more parents would get involved in the schools so their kids could all have a great education!

Sherrie said...

I hate stereotypes. In Salt Lake it was what side of State St. you lived on. East was the snobs and West was the hicks. I lived on the West side and glad I did. I even went to a High School that still gets stereotypical comments from many others... I want to Cyprus High School in Magna, UT... Oh my! :) Glad I did! Great comments... Thanks for sharing!

Carolyn V. said...

My mom used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." It's too bad many of us forget and are quick to judge others. I've had the same problem with the schools I've gone to, people I hung out with, the clothes I wore. I'm trying to change how I perceive people and just like them the way they are. It's a good lesson, thanks Annette! =)

Cynthia said...

My high school had a great mix of students. We had the well-to-do, many 'average' folks and some very poor kids. I LOVED that! Not being from your county, I have little knowledge of all of that stuff. Still, hasn't Timpview been toppled from that spot by Lone Peak? I thought THAT was the 'well-to-do' sterotype school now.

I think sometimes we all need to remember the saying "You wouldn't care so much about what other people think of you if you realized how seldom they do".

When our school district split, a friend of mine was substitute teaching one day in an East Side High School. They were discussing the issue and a kid in one of her classes said "Well, I think it will be great because then our district can offer more of the college prep classes WE need and THEY can have more of the vocational education programs THEY need." Ignorance is largely learned at home and knows no socio-economic boundaries. Some of the LEAST educated people I know have the loudest opinions on the subject (obviously I'm not talking about you! LOL!)

Annette Lyon said...

Lone Peak is definitely getting that reputation, unfortunately. (No clue whether Timpview's reputation has changed, though.)

I've heard kids in my neighborhood refer to students from LP in eerily similar terms as I heard about Timpview, and it makes me want to take them aside and give them a talking to!

Cheryl said...

Awesome post. Call me guilty for one of those people who thought Timpview students were all rich snobs.
My apologies.

I think the only reason I've always felt that way was because I dated a guy who went to Timpview who ended up being a real jerk (huge jerk). Thus the prejudice was born! Then add to it that all the kids in my neighborhood go to Provo and they were beaten for the 20TH TIME! in the football game last month. *sniff

It's not fair, though. I love how you said "There are no acceptable stereotypes." This is so true. I need to remember this! I hate it when people assume all marching band kids are geeks, or all kids from Idaho must be farmers. It goes so many ways...thank you for the reminder!

Heatherlyn said...

I'm not from Utah so I can hardly sterotype the schools there. I went to BYU so obviously some of my fellow students went to high school there but I thought nothing of it.

Stereotyping is hurtful. I don't think I do very often, if at all. People deserve to be taken for who they are. Stereotyping gets in the way of actually getting to know a person.

You wouldn't have been out of line to just respond with, "for real? Hardly anyone I knew at that school was snobby" when the YW sister made her comment. Sometimes people just say things thoughtlessly and they don't even really believe what they are saying.

Sher said...

Wow, YOU went to Timpview? You must be rich!

Ok, really that means nothing to me. I know nothing about schools in UT county. I grew up in Davis county, and of course Northridge is the most awsomest school ever up here!

* said...

My nieces and nephews currently attend Timpview HS. They are not rich. They are lucky. :)

And I served my mission with One Amazing Elder (Brandt Anderson, maybe you know him?) who was filthy rich and happened to go to Timpview HS. But also he was one of the nicest Elders in my mission. True Story.

Outside of the UT area, I don't know how much people really know about Timpview HS. I think the stigma attached to living in a certain city or state might be stickier to deal with, but probably just as painfully stereotyped.

Like the "Utah Mormon" stereotype, I'm sure you've heard plenty of times. A few narrow minded LDS Utahns give the rest a bad name. Sad but true.

I never viewed Timp as a rich school, but more of a lucky-to-be-so-close-to-BYU school. But I'm a Vegas girl, so go figure. ;)

Yeah, my city has a very ugly reputation. Almost every single LDS person I know outside of my city has something negative to say about it. Like "how can you live there" type of thing. It really bugs. Like there isn't a drop of honest blood among the 2 million of us here? And like the Lord wanted a temple here, too, doesn't that count for something?? Not much, I guess, when people still assume you're a trashy gambling stripper! (sigh)

I had college roommates (from Los Angeles area no less!) who pointedly told me they never stopped in Las Vegas, even for gas. "Too scary." (Wha???) I was offended then. Now? I just hope to help change some people's narrow minded notions, a person at a time.

(Sorry so long! Great post!!

Meggen said...

Go T-Birds! Great post, Annette! Yep, I definitely get that reaction all the time from people who find out I attended THS. And it's generally grown, mature, supposedly adult people who give it! I definitely was from the "wrong side of the tracks" at THS, but it's funny how people just assume. Still, we got one of the best educations around, and I will never be ashamed of that!

Karlene said...

When my youngest daughter wanted to play lacrosse, PG High didn't have a team so they assigned her to play with Timpview. Almost to a girl, they were sweet and kind and very accepting. And yes, some of them had money (one had her own mini Cooper) but most of them were average income. They were a great group of girls and my daughter had to think hard when PG finally got a team--she didn't want to leave her Timpview friends.

Haylee said...

I graduated from Timpview a couple years ago and have to say that I completely agree with everything you said. I too get the "oh, you went to Timpview?.." comments way more often than I'd like (especially from my cousins friends who went to Springville) but honestly they have never bothered me that much because I KNOW that they are false because I saw it first hand, you know? Sure there were maybe 5 stuck-up rich kids but they were by far in the minority and really doesn't every high school have that? The rest of my grade and school in general were AWESOME. I will never regret going to Timpview both because I feel like I got an amazing education and because the people I went to high school with seriously rocked. And for that I will forever be proud of my school.

Annette said...

Thanks for your comment! I'm sad that the stereotype hasn't gone away for recent graduates (dangit).

I'm as proud as ever of Timpview. A friend posted this video make by the class of 2013--you may appreciate it!

Annette Lyon said...

Haylee, Thanks for your comment! Too bad recent classes are still getting the dumb stereotypes. I'm as proud as ever of Timpview!

A friend recently linked to this awesome video made by THS class of 2013. You may appreciate it. :)

Haylee said...

haha that was awesome!!! Thanks so much for sharing that Annette.


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