The prom invitation from hell has the students at John Burroughs School in St. Louis a bit overheated.
The junior class, which hosts the prom, voted for the Seven Deadly Sins as its theme. The invitations calling all “sinners” and beckoning them to “hell” went out about three weeks ago. The invitations feature illustrations of the various deadly sins (the one for lust has a buxom woman in a long red dress) and a fiery pentagram. It states: “Let the Sin Begin.”
It looks to me like a flier for a cheap nightclub.
Andy Abbott, who will take over as head of school this summer, admits there was a lapse in judgment by the adults in the party-planning process who approved the invitation.
“I think it was a mistake,” Abbott said this week. “There are some things on those invitations that have offended people’s religious observances, and I don’t think they were intended to. We are very sad that it has offended people, and we regret that they went out.”
But besides those who may have taken offense for religious reasons, many were upset that one of the area’s finest private schools seemed to be striving for a “Gossip Girl”-worthy prom. Taken at face value, the invitations seem like a celebration of teenage debauchery.
“I think the school culture at Burroughs is exactly opposite that,” Abbott said.
In actuality, the prom at Burroughs is deliberately more low-key than those at most high schools. It is held inside the school — not at an expensive hotel — and students help decorate.
“The whole idea of our prom being held on campus is to fight against that impulse to celebrate wealth,” Abbott added. (Tuition at Burroughs nears $20,000.) He suggested that this image is so far removed from the reality of life at Burroughs that the invitation may, in fact, have been an attempt at irony.
I posted pictures of the invitation on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s parenting blog last week and asked whether they were appropriate for a high school prom. Some readers chastised me for doing so, saying that a private school should be off-limits for comment by anyone other than those attending it. But private institutions are part of our community and make news all the time. And a school that prides itself on developing critical thinking skills for the leaders of tomorrow might want to encourage a larger cultural debate — even one critical of their school. No institution is above reproach.
I think that’s what they call a teachable moment.
Here are some of the comments from STLtoday.com/parentstalkback from those identifying themselves as either JBS students or alumni:
— “Even many right-wing fundamentalist parents will gladly fork over 20k a year to send their kids to this godless place as long as 30 percent of each class still winds up headed for Ivy League university.”
— “Look at the college attendance rate, which colleges are being chosen by Burroughs grads, SAT/ACT score, accomplishments … then you will see a true reflection on John Burroughs.”
— “The main voices going against the theme are coming from public school parents wanting to justify their own greed by not putting forth the effort to secure the highest education for their children.”
— “Stop embarrassing yourselves, have kids, send them to Burroughs and let them get a good enough education so they can make logical and sound arguments for you.”
— “These responses are the feeble attempts of parents to justify their poor choices that lead them to sending their kids to mediocre public schools.”
— “This all simply stems from jealousy. Perhaps your kids didn’t get in/perhaps YOU didn’t get in 30 years ago.”
— “(JBS students) will be scoring in the 99th percentile on the SATs and getting into the top schools in the country.”
— “John Burroughs’ students routinely place in the top ½ of 1% of academic achievement in this community. Don’t they deserve a night to kick loose in between their acceptance into the Ivy Leagues?”
— “Except for the MICDS kids that couldn’t didn’t get into Burroughs, NO ONE will deny that Burroughs is the best high school education offered in St. Louis.”
— “Inevitably, it will be these same students who designed this ‘Horrific and satanic’ invitation who will be well-regarded members of society and will be paying taxes that go towards your friend’s wellfare (sic) allowance 10 years from now.”
My take: Arrogance is a weak defense.
—By Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch