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Harry's Gang: Parents create royal dilemma

There seems to be a cultural crisis facing Barnum that threatens the very existence of the city and its high school.

The crisis? Kids at the school this fall elected two boys as the top homecoming royalty.

There’s been no such thing as a homecoming “king and queen” in Barnum since 2019, when the annual tradition morphed into “royalty,” rather than kings and queens. Now, the students vote for a slate of popular kids and the top two vote-getters are the royalty of the homecoming court. No kings. No queens. Just royalty.

Changes in tradition are hard for those who still revel in the old ways. For kids, though, it’s no big deal. The first year, the top votes went to two girls; the past few years it’s been a boy and a girl. No one complained. But this year, when two boys were voted in as royalty, parents filled the school board meeting to complain.

Notice that it was the parents who complained. No students attended the meeting, according to my friend John Peura, who substitutes at Barnum and attended the meeting, like he often does. John told me that kids in the school barely give a second thought to the idea of two male royalty.

“The kids don’t care. It’s the parents, and really just a small subset of them, who complain,” he told me.

Kids nowadays. Why can’t they be just like us when we were young? I heard some smart guy talking about it. “Children today — they have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for elders and love leisure in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room, they contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers. Children are now tyrants,” he supposedly said.

That smart guy was Socrates. He said that around 4000 B.C. Some things never change.

But some things change a lot. We can’t expect kids today to “hang up the phone.” Or, “roll down the window.” Most of them don’t know what a typewriter is, and when I tell them that “cc” stands for “carbon copy,” I get a blank stare. No longer are girls allowed to be only cheerleaders while the boys play sports. Girls play hockey; boys play volleyball. What is the world coming to?

I understand when parents complain about change. Change can be hard to swallow, and we know that some politicians and media love to churn up their followers, and make everything into a Big Conspiracy. Two boys as royalty? Pushing a woke agenda. It never occurs to these people that, since they were in high school, people have evolved. It’s fear, really — fear that the kids today may grow up to be the adults of the future. Trust me when I tell you this: that’s going to happen no matter what we adults try to do about it.

There was a riddle, years ago: A boy and his father were in a car accident, and the father died. The boy was rushed to the hospital for surgery. The surgeon walked into the operating room and said, “I can’t operate on this boy. He’s my son.” Back when I was a kid, no one could answer it. When I tell the riddle to third-graders today, they look at me and say, “Maybe the doctor is the boy’s mother?” as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s no riddle to kids today. Things have evolved.

And the parents who are worried that having two royalty of the same gender will somehow impact their own children’s sexuality? I’m not sure how that works. Fear that there is someone different from you in this world is a bit naive. Everybody is a little different. I, for one, applaud kids for recognizing that old-fashioned stereotypes and assumptions are outdated. That there’s no reason to fear people who are different than you are.

Peura tells me that the Barnum royalty are active, respectful and honorable students who are busy with school activities. Just like royalty should be. The kids who elected them know this. If only the parents could see that, too.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News and an attorney in Esko. His opinions are his own. He is willing to speak at your meeting or event; contact him at [email protected].

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