What’s With 8th Grade Proms & Glamorama Tween Diva-ization?

graduationApril 3, 2009 “Myths & Realities of Eighth Grade Graduation/Dance: Students may wear something nicer than normal school clothes. However, we strongly discourage formal dresses and tuxedos.”

Well, it’s too late for April Fool’s, so I’m guessing this very surreal statement is indicative of the point being made in Newsweek’s recent article, “Are we turning our tweens into Generation Diva?”

Age compression keeps dialing down the demographics for “aspirational” marketing, so it’s no wonder a dance is viewed more as an 8th grade prom, especially when media tells us ten year olds fling around terms like “dating and going out,” and the whole KGOY (kids getting older younger) dynamic is fast-forwarding beyond entitlement and “Affluenza.”

Newsweek observes, “This, my friends, is the new normal: a generation that primps and dyes and pulls and shapes, younger and with more vigor. Girls today are salon vets before they enter elementary school.” Does it have to be? Or is this media driving behavioral change in me-too-ism?

I could cluck about the NPD Group stats of 8-12-year-olds spending more than $40 million a month on beauty products, and teens spending another $100 million; but industry is strategically creating that demand by selling  insecurities in the first place.

But when SCHOOLS  perpetuate the acceleration of childhood and wealth over health message, it’s over the top. The prize for top student magazine sales at our public, NON-exclusive-by-any-means middle school? A limo ride…(total irony since our public school was raising money due to lack of funding for basic supplies!) ‘Teach your children well’ is a bit of a challenge with that fiscal hypocrisy in play…


Call me a killjoy, but when pink slips are flying and parents are being strong-armed time and time again for ‘voluntary’ donations ($300 to uphold PTA programs,  zero funding for sports/athletics,  teachers posting ‘wish lists’ for supplies every year at back to school night, and universal pauper outcries from a very broken educational system) it just doesn’t seem like we should be asking for fluff-n-stuff to the tune of close to $100 a pop for middle school ‘graduation’ instilling the ‘partay’ cues of ‘grown up’ entitlement to boot…

This is 8th grade, people, not “MTV Sweet 16″…

mortar-boardOf course, you wouldn’t know it by the rental of the city’s performing art center arena, polyester cap-n-gown keepsakes, professionally produced yearbooks, year-end amusement park sprees, dress rehearsals and ‘what am I going to wear’ hypefest…

Since when did school transitions become such an ostentatious “rite of passage” anyway? Admittedly, leaving preschool behind and ‘graduating’ to the K-12 scene was a cute chubby cheeked cherubic photo opp…but these other ‘milestones’ feel a bit bogus to me…

Okay, make that a lot bogus.

Here’s a great article on ‘anti-stuff’ to combat the ‘more, more’ Consuming Kids culture of commodification…

rollercoaster-3I can do without 8th grade ‘proms,’ theatre rentals, and rollercoaster rides, as the entire middle school sojourn has been one of those for me.

Seems to me education should be the ONE realm where kids shouldn’t have to buy into the consumption-driven lifestyle cues dividing the haves and have nots into a public school version of a caste system beyond the already obvious brandwear and peer pressure.

Yet from field trips to big bucks expenditures, the one-upsmanship of ‘who’s going, who’s left behind’ is a demarcation that’s unnecessary and awkward…right up there with the ‘what kind of cellphone do you have’ status symbol behavior that runs so rampant in ‘consuming kids’ school environs…

applauseThen, of course, when our child-centric culture marks every miniscule accomplishment with full regalia, pomp and circumstance despite the inverse power of praise showing that’s not necessarily the way to go, (thanks, Carol Dweck and Columbia Univ.) it seems a bit obvious that gratuitous rewards sans colossal effort can stagnate kids into ‘fixed mindset vs. growth mindset’ complacency with a false sense of need.

The flyer wraps up in bold print stating in big blocky type that in order to participate in this fun fest,

“Any student cannot receive more than two F’s for their 4th quarter academic summary letter grades.”

Gee, harsh. Party on, graduates.

Welcome to a generation in desperate need of school reform. Kids deserve better…note I did not say ‘more.’ There’s quite a big difference these days.

Visual Credits: Applause sign-magic.org, rollercoast-coolclips.com, istock.com, Newsweek article by Jessica Bennett: Generation Diva graphic and links below

Photos: An Artist Looks at Cosmetic Surgery Offices


  1. Different mom, same school says

    Hear, hear. I couldn’t agree more! Just the other night I asked J, “are we expected to buy her a ‘graduation’ gift?”

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