Winter Blunderland

I’m enormously lucky to attend Lakeside. Naturally, I think very highly of it, as an institution, but mostly as a community. That’s something I’ve always known, but with the advent of senior year and the serious prospect of moving on to college, I know it with more conviction than ever before. I just wanted to say that before I launch into what might seem like an ungrateful complaint but is instead—as all of my articles truly are—a suggestion made for the good of the Lakeside community. Anyway, we need to completely overhaul the entire school-sponsored event system, starting with Winter Ball.

I’m anxious for three reasons, each more diabolical than the last. First of all, I’m wearing blue jeans. I’ve put on fifteen-buck black sunglasses to compensate, to ensure people understand that “I’m better.” But am I? Second of all, this is one of the very few times I feel like a true journalist; I have insider information that will soon complete its transformation into outsider information. Am I ready to see my child grow up? Much more pressingly, have I buried the lede by sitting on this story? What will people say when Tatler delivers them scathing critique, à la LoZone, after they’ve had a month to make peace with the subject of that critique? I play with my hands and then, ashamed, pretend to have been doing arm exercises. Third and final of all, my stalling has done nothing to prevent what comes next. Every pair of eyes in the room turns to it: the screen onto which the junior-chosen Winter Ball theme announcement is being projected.

Behind my shades, I’m a whirlwind of questions. What’s the actual function of Winter Ball? Is a video announcement really necessary? And how will the common people react to the coming announcement, in its redundant glory? (Let it be said I meant no disrespect by those questions. I was just being honest.) At the time, I’m without answers. Had I been told to devise some on the spot, I would’ve said: to offer a low-stakes environment where people can prepare for social rites that will become important later on; no, but it gives the junior class something productive to do; and not very much at all. Yet I wasn’t told to. All I could do was clench my abdominal muscles and wait for the magic words—“winter wonderland.” Suddenly, I hear them. I wait for a moment, stunned, almost ready to vault onto the gym floor. But wait—realization hits. Nothing is happening. Save a quiet laugh and some murmurs rolling through the stands, there’s no sign anyone here understands what they’ve just witnessed. Dang, I think.

Only now, in gonzo retrospect, can I offer some clarity on what happened. Simply put, the Lakeside student body has little patience for such mind games. This isn’t a generalization; it’s an inference from low participation across the board, even in something as vaunted as Winter Ball. This ties back to my question about what the “actual function” of Winter Ball is. Clearly, it isn’t any of that stuff past Lorenzo would have said. The truth is this: there’s no function to it. That’s right. Some people might use Winter Ball as a trial run for elbow-rubbing, but that’s not categorically, universally true. Let alone a truth inherent to the event. Really, I can’t confidently say, for every individual who might attend, what Winter Ball will provide or mean. All I can do is make a suggestion.

Find out what people value and give it to them in the form of Winter Ball. Take this example value statement:

“I value personal growth. When it comes to Winter Ball, I’ll only choose to attend if there are no other things I could be doing to experience more personal growth.”

Not preposterous, right? Going by that statement, let’s assess Winter Ball in its current form. While there’s some meaningful interaction with friends, you’re not making new friends (especially in different grades), and none of that interaction is unique to Winter Ball. You can dance, but most of the dancing is Lakeside-style jumping and headbanging, which isn’t discouraged by the music being played (years before 2000 and genres besides techno and pop exist). There’s some food (assuming that’s tenable under COVID), but not much, and the choices are much poorer than you would expect from a school with so much cultural diversity and so many talented gourmets. Finally, you’re making memories—but for the reasons I’ve just stated, they’re not memories most people will cherish deeply for decades. Overall, Winter Ball isn’t looking like something worth attending to the student who values personal growth.

For a successful event, you need participation, which means you need to align with people’s values, which means you need to know your people…”

I’ve done something here. Just by highlighting issues with Winter Ball, I’ve been able to propose more potential solutions to this problem—and ways to attract students—than I usually do in any of my articles. Why? Because I’ve finally broken the problem into its core parts. In total: you need participation, which means you need to align with people’s values, which means you need to know your people. And I’m afraid Lakeside sometimes doesn’t know its people. The blame for that doesn’t lie with any one party. Instead, there’s a fundamental disconnect: on the whole, the student body doesn’t communicate its values, and on the whole, the administration doesn’t provide channels for that communication. While I understand Stud Gov was created to address this kind of problem and serve as a liaison between students and faculty, there’s only so much one institution can do. More crucially, I’ve never seen the problem elaborated with as much precision as I have here—it’s impossible to solve a problem you don’t know exists.

By now, I hope I’ve made it clear that Lakeside events are languishing. Lakeside events have been languishing. What a pity that is for a community of such good people. Now comes the hardest part: solutions. Speaking of, what are the solutions to this problem? Well, think back, ever so long ago, to my point about the function of Winter Ball. Again, there is no function to it. What I didn’t say explicitly is this: all there is to Winter Ball is its individual participants and their values. An event is nothing without attendees. An organization is nothing without members. A school is nothing without students and faculty. Because all of this happens at the level of the individual, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription I can give. Maybe that’s why I’ve had so much trouble, in past issues, actually coming up with potential solutions. I’m working from my own perspective when all other students have their own, too.

What we need are open fora and free discussion. If anyone who wants to speak is given the liberty to speak, only then can they introduce the wider community to their individual perspective and increase Lakeside’s understanding of its people. For all of the vital discussion Lakeside has encouraged and facilitated in the past, I don’t remember a single example of the kind of free forum I’m describing here, where anyone can join and contribute to a shared understanding. Call it whatever you want (preferably starting with Lion) and make it available, and boom. I can guarantee, on my stake in the Chatler podcast, that a legion of issues facing Lakeside will disappear. So will much of my future material, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay for what I feel is an actionable and promising policy. If I have one impact on this school, let this be it. Actually—never mind. If I have two impacts on this school, let them be this and Anime Club.