Sunday, May 8, 2011

10 Things I Learned about High School from YA books

Obviously, I’ve never been to high school in America. So all of the knowledge that I have about American high schools comes from books, and movies. And most YA books appear to perceive high school through remarkably similar lenses. And so, without further ado, I give you an outsider’s perspective on high school in America!

The Cliques: Whether you study in a huge school in Los Angeles, or a tiny one in Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming, one thing your school is guaranteed to have is The Cliques. And not just one clique, either. Every school has Jocks, Cheerleaders, Nerds, Geeks, Losers and The Outcast. While the Geeks, the Nerds and the Losers do exist to pad the ranks of the school, they are generally not worth paying attention to. All the drama, action and attention is always focused on The Cheerleaders, The Jocks and The Outcast. The Outcast is not really a clique, but more on that later. No school can function if its social strata are not predetermined by clothes, looks and extra-curriculars.

Blonde + Vicious = (Inexplicably popular) Cheerleader: The Cheerleaders are inevitably blonde— sometimes naturally so, or sometimes out of a bottle. Skinny, mean and rude, they are all clones of each other and share a brain amongst the lot. If your name is Mary, Jane or Martha, you can forget about being a cheerleader now. Only people naturally gifted with names like Tiffany, Brittany, Courtney or similar cutesy –ie names can be True Cheerleaders. You can also forget admission to this clique if you have a GPA of higher than 2, or recognize the name Hemingway. Essential character traits for belonging to The Cheerleader Clique are innate viciousness, an ability to confidently pull off little checked skirts, a passion for gossip and the ability to be popular while alienating everyone around you.  Athleticism and team spirit are optional, but a hot jock boyfriend is a must-have accessory.

Hot + Built = Jock: Jocks in US high schools can be one of two types. Either they’re wide-necked, small-brained cheerleader accessories who live to eat and play football, or they’re mysterious, popular, much sought-after by girls of all cliques and destined for the Ivy Leagues. All jocks, however, are obscenely rich and good-looking, and throw keggers on a regular basis.

The Stupid Jock likes to make cheap bets involving sex and women’s underwear. He’s generally ignored except when he’s being a champ on the field, or when his cheerleader girlfriend needs him to drive her places and spend money on her. He’s the kind of guy who’ll trip up the new kid, torture the geeks and loudly make fun of the quiet-and-non descript outcast girl.

The Popular Jock is one who plays football like God and writes poetry like Shakespeare. He is much deeper than most people give him credit for. He is also much kinder than the rest of the Popular People. He rescues the victims of Stupid Jock’s pranks and keeps the mean cheerleaders in line. He might, on occasion, date the blonde cheerleader, but the shelf-life of this relationship is limited. The Popular Jock can only find true love with the plain-Jane girl next door.

Lonely + Friendless = The Outcast: The Outcast is one step down on the social ladder from the Losers. (S)he never has more than one friend, maybe two, but most often, zero. The Outcast gains his/her status through one of the following means:
a.       (S)he is new to the school, and socially awkward
b.      (S)he did something to piss off The Cheerleaders or The Jocks
c.       (S)he has some freaky paranormal ability that forces her to distance herself to Protect Her Secret
The Outcast roams the halls of the school like a ghost, barely noticed, until something strange happens, and she draws the attention of Popular Jock. Then, of course, The Cheerleaders and The Stupid Jock all hate her and pick on her and make her life miserable. Her best friend is generally fat and either stupid or uninteresting. Despite her position at the bottom of the ladder, all The Outcast wants is to be a Normal Girl who can be free to love Popular Jock.

Assignments: If your teacher suddenly decides to allot assignments out of the norm i.e. allots names when (s)he usually lets you pick, or shuffles partners when you generally use alphabetical order, etc, you can take that as your cue for war.  Either you’re going to be paired up with a hot guy who’s never really noticed you before, or a hot guy who’s potentially evil, or a hot guy who’s about to find out your Paranormal Secret. Either way, you can rest assured that this is one assignment you’re probably going to fail, either because of relationship drama, or because you are too busy saving the world to pay attention to your grades. And never forget, these unusual assignments cannot be worked on separately in homeroom or in the library – they are so unique and unusual that it requires profound personal interaction between partners and several meetings outside of school. After all, what’s Biology class, if not a speed-dating service?!

Cafeteria food = Baaaad! Whether you go to an expensive prep school or a public high school, it is pretty much guaranteed that the cafeteria food is the next best thing to poison. So if you’re a foreign exchange student visiting US for the first time, listen to me and stay away from the food! The only reason people eat at the cafeteria is so that they can clearly demonstrate the lines (or tables) dividing popular from unpopular. And as for The Outcast, (s)he better find that abandoned stairwell or auditorium quickly!

Prep School— Poison for Poor Kids! If you’ve gotten a scholarship to an expensive prep school, DON’T GO!!! You should know that all kids in prep school are rich brats with no heart. They are all glossy and well-dressed and mean as a rattlesnake. They will invariably turn their nose down at your chain store wardrobe and play evil pranks that revolve around your locker and your intelligence and possible sense of humour will melt their stone hearts not a whit.

Homeschooled = Socially inept: Under no circumstances must you allow your parents to homeschool you. Homeschooling is just an evil way of making sure you have no contact with other kids your age at all, ensuring that your first day in a regular school will find you badly-dressed, socially awkward, unable to connect with the in-thing of the moment and the object of widespread ridicule.

College? Who gives a sh*t! When I was in senior year of high school (the Indian equivalent) we were all really stressed about our grades, and homework, and preparing for college. Apparently, seniors in US high schools are more worried about finding the love of their life, going to prom, being named Homecoming Queen and, well, finding the love of their life. I mean, who has time to do homework and work on SAT essays and college apps? If you have a 4.0, it just happens naturally – you don’t have to dedicate hours after school to keep up your grades or complete your assignments. You can just go out and meet boys, or lie in bed and worry about your tangled love life... Harvard’s got the red carpet out and waiting for your arrival anyway!

Parents don’t care about school: This is perhaps the most puzzling aspect of going to school in YA book world. Are all the stereotypes true after all? Is it only Asian parents who worry about their kid’s grades and their future? Is there some reason why parents in YA books never seem to want to know why the heroine vanishes mysteriously every evening when she’s supposed to be doing homework? Why they never want to know what her grades are, and where she’s going to college? Why their child is apparently in AP classes, but without the corresponding work load? You’d think parents would at least ask a question or two about how school was, but I could count on one hand the number of times the question has come up in relation to studies, instead of their outcast daughter’s social life!

So basically, high school in the US, according to most YA novels, is a nightmare socially, and a cakewalk academically. But what I’d really like to know, being as I said, an outsider, is how much of this is fact, and how much the product of well-worn Hollywood tropes? Is high school in the US anything like this? Let me know!


  1. Oh goodness, Vinaya, you gave me a good laugh, especially with: "After all, what’s Biology class, if not a speed-dating service?!" I haven't been to (a US) high school in a couple years (thank god for college), but I can tell you one thing on the list that's true: there were cliques, and pretty bad ones in the school I went to -- and, I was one of the losers! Anyways, high school as you've described sounds more like Glee mixed with a bit of post-Twilight PNRs: the worst, over-exaggerated high school experiences combined with the biggest escapist fantasies.

  2. LOL I love this post! I found myself nodding along with every point you made. Being from the UK we don't really have cliques, well not the jocks and cheerleaders anyway which is why the movies I've seen based on these cliques have always interested me and made me wonder if this is how things go down in America, I'm curious too! :)

  3. All of this is so very true about YA books -- and it's sad, very sad.

    My high school experience probably wasn't even close to the norm because I went to a private school where the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes probably comprised about sixty students altogether and we didn't have a cheerleading squad OR a football team. However, there is one thing I'm certain all high schools have: cliques. Walk into any cafeteria in any school in the United States, and you will see the dividing lines of social status just by looking at who sits at which tables. YA books do often get that little detail right, though.

  4. I've never been to highschool, but I can say that the only thing on your list that rings true is the cliques. Middle school cliques are basically high school cliques without drugs and sex. Wannabe stoners hang out with fellow wannabe stoners. Wannabe cheerleaders hang out with wannabe cheerleaders. Jocks hang out with with jocks. Luckily, as the token black kid, I had a VIP pass to hang out with all the cliques. Tokens have these special privileges. In the real world the token characters on Glee, eg Mercedes, Tina and Santana, would be popular beyond belief.

    Now I know a lot of socially awkward homeschooled kids that wouldn't survive in a school environment, but I'm not one of them.
    I think it depends on what type of homeschooled you are. Anyway, good post.

  5. YEP! You've got it all down! Vinaya, you're ready to be an American :DDDD!!!111apple111!!!!

  6. LOL. I would love to know the answers to these questions too. And about the bullying which according to YA novels happens left and right. My HS experience was completely different inbeong, clique and drama-free way.

  7. I KNEW it! Biology IS a speed-dating service! Why else would "Wings" get physiology so damn wrong!

    Being an outsider as well, I don't know how much of this is true, but this is the exact perception I get from YA as well.

    Power to you, sweetheart! Awesome!

  8. This summed up what I've learnt from books and movies too.

  9. I think it depends on the size of the school and town. I went to two rural high schools, and we didn't really have cliques. We had popular kids of course, but it was too small to be jocks vs stoners vs drama club etc. And although jocks and cheerleaders were popular, neither stereotype was really all that accurate. And yes, most parents do care about school, as do seniors. Although by my senior year I was burned out and so sick of high school that I was ready to drop out, which I had never understood how anyone could do so close to graduating until I got to that breaking point. Luckily I had enough high school credits that I was able to work out a system and go to the community college half a day and the high school half a day, still graduate and save my sanity.

  10. Senior year is, in fact, often treated as sort of a farewell tour of adolescence. Most of the homeschool kids I knew were pretty cool (though, to a man, they were remarkably hyperactive), but the normal ones are probably just floating around books without making any waves one way or the other. I've occasionally tried to write a normal home-schooled kid into a book, but invariably you get halfway through and realize there's no real point to having them be former home-schoolers in the first place, except just to do it. When they're weirdos, more often the fact that they were home schooled is just incidental to having been raised by agoraphobic nuts.

  11. I was also one of the smart nerdy losers (band geek, anime nerd, and honors student, triple nerd threat) that was pretty well known, but not popular. My school was too big to have cliques or maybe I was too lame to care, but I do remember people worrying more about their love lives than going to college. I'm so glad high school wasn't really like a YA novel, or we'd all be screwed.

    And I agree with the bloodfiend, as the token black kid (at least in the parts of the school I hung out in), I had the opportunity to drift from one group to another and always just be "that black girl". I usually hung out with the Asian Pacific Islander club most of the time.

  12. Hilarious post :-) and here's a way-too-long answer:

    It's a been a long time since I did my year in a 2700-student strong US High School as an exchange student, but if things haven't changed much you're spot on with a lot of things.

    Cliques - oh yes. Most often decided by what extra-curricular activities you did. So much of your high school identity seems to be in these things. Very strange for someone from a country where High School is your school and your teams, bands, clubs and so on are not school related.

    The jocks: I noticed them, but was more amazed by the girls wobbling around in higher heals than they could manage when the end of the week approached, it seemed to be some sort of weird dating game that I never understood. A few years later I came out as a lesbian, that probably explained a bit. The thing I really noticed about the jocks was that the number of neck-braces kept increasing as the football season went by (I was in band, so we played at the games. I was known for reading books, finding American football dull as s***, and having to be nudged to remember to play whenever we were celebrating a home run)

    College: There's certainly a lot of people who think that's important, I guess that's the people I hung out with, if they were in band (cliques). And classes came from too easy to very hard. You can go through high
    school doing a lot of fairly easy courses, but you can certainly be
    academically ambitious too.

    Parents: All sorts, mine (host mother, love her, miss her after seeing her only a couple of weeks ago) certainly did care.

    Cheerleaders: Oh yes, but several of them were very nice, and certainly not all blond. And some of them thought the jocks were downright stupid. There were also some smart jocks around :-)

    Teachers: Like at home. Some good, some bad, some funny, some passionate, some looking forward to retirement.

    Cafeteria food: BAAAAAD!

    Homeschooling: Can't remember meeting anyone who came from that kind of background, so I really don't know. My impressions these days is that homeschooling quite often make you into a religious nutcase (I know there are exceptions, but many seem to homeschool because of religion).

    Lonely and friendless: Yes, they were there. They are everywhere. We had the ones that I never noticed, you can really disappear in that big a school, and the ones on the fringes, accepted but never included.

    I don't thing the YA books from anywhere gives full credit to what high school (or the local equivalent) is really like. Schools are different,cultures are different (even within countries) and people are different.

  13. Agreed. I went to a French "private" school in Canada and although there wasn't really any cliques, there were certain groups of people who hung out with JUST their friends. As the first black and the youngest kid to ever attend that high school, I was given that oh-so-special VIP pass as well. To be honest, the cafeteria food really is bad on our side of the border. I'm not that sure about America on the other hand. But the assignments, I don't know, I've seen some guys be mightily swayed by the wit of our cheerleaders ...

  14. I just got out of high school last year, and I can say that I never encountered any of these things. My parents were all over me about homework and getting ready for college; my cafeteria served some of the best food around; weird assignments were just weird and could usually be done at school; I was home-schooled and hopefully not socially inept; there were absolutely no cliques at all; one of my friends was a cheerleader, and she was a shy brunette named Anita who was fairly athletic but had issues with her weight, and I'm pretty sure she never dated a hot jock.

  15. You brought a smile to my face with this post! I totally agree - US high school appears so stereotypical and totally brutal. I can't imagine how characters actually manage to survive such torture :) Loved this post! You were right on the spot with the consistencies!

  16. This is interesting to see, since right now I'm homeschooled. I certainly don't think I'm socially awkward! A few of my homeschooled friends are, but they are just naturally shy.

  17. It's kind of sad, but I think that most of the YA stereotypes are spot-on, minus the whole paranormal powers thing. The cliques are all there, the lunch tables divided by status, the cheerleaders really are mostly blonde, mean, and somehow beloved by everyone, and, other than kids in AP classes, senior year isn't very serious academically. Everyone laughs and jokes about senioritis and teachers know not to give super tough work in the spring. I even encountered the issues with teachers making awkward assignments with random guys.

  18. -Jocks and cheerleaders didn't make fun of me because a) they didn't know who I was, and b) they had more interesting things to do (or so I imagine.)

    -There were enough honor students that they mostly had their own cliques. There were cheerleaders in some of my honors classes. People in the honors classes had the exceptional ability to do their homework and still have a social life.

    -Half of my group projects were done on AIM. The other half we did together after school or at someone's house, but this never resulted in make-out sessions or discovering that my partner had magic powers. (Damn, now I feel cheated.)

  19. Pretty much all of these things are true about my American high school experience -- except for the cafeteria's mini-pizzas on Fridays. Those things were like crack. Especially if you lucked out, and got one of the pizzas where the cheese was burnt. Om nom nom!

  20. Yes, these things are exactly what I learn about high schools in US from YA books. In my country we certainly don't have cliques so I'm very curious about that. So, mean clique who antagonize and make fun of others really do exist? Seriously? Isn't that a bit childish and kindergarten-ish to be done when you are a senior in high school? Whoa, brutal!

    One more thing, is there cheerleaders in high school that read YA books? Aren't they offended by the description of a typical cheerleader in high school? I was a cheerleader captain and I was - still am - offended when I read books that give such a negative image of cheerleaders. It's like, it's just assumed that the 'popular' group in real life will not be reading books. You know, more of often that not, the main female character in YA books is an outcast wants others to acknowledge her as more than meets the eye but she, herself never takes the time to extend the courtesy to others.

    The outcast and assignments thing gets old really fast too. I feel nauseous reading bout the whole pairing-up for assignment deal after reading Hush, Hush. But not so much for Nevermore. Haha. Ok, perhaps it's the book not the assignment thing. Who knows

  21. Home-schoolers kids are normal, well at least in my experience. I've gone to Virtual High School mainly because no one at my old school wanted to be my friend and I was...well a loner-type. But every few weeks I would go to the school where the Virtual High School program is at and take a quiz along with the rest of the kids that were enrolled into Virtual, and they appear normal. Unfortunately, in my case they were still the same-type of kids at my old high school.

  22. That was fantastic! I have to say I've received much the same view of life in YA America as you have, so it's quite an interesting (and clear) message being sent by these authors and books.

    One thing that always amused me, as an Australian, was the way kids in US movies or TV shows would always just get up and walk out of class whenever the bell rang. I couldn't imagine doing that! We always waited until our teacher dismissed us and we most certainly didn't walk out while they were talking. I know books and TV don't necessarily represent the real world, but this happened all the time.

    It makes me wonder what sort of image is being painted of my own country through Australian YA fiction.

  23. I have read a few Australian YA books and the image I have in my mind is that HS-ers are mature young adults, there is no bullying or clique-ishness and alcohol laws are much laxer than in US.

  24. Ah ha ha! This is awesome! You're totally right. I was actually writing a Twilight spoof at one point for fun, and I hit EVERY ONE of these stereotypes. Apart from the heroine's best friends, who were awesome, because I just couldn't bring myself to write the kind of 2D characters that make me die inside. Fail! No wonder I never finished!

  25. Cliques: Yes, they totally exist. In my high school we had jocks, preps, nerds, stoners, losers, drama geeks, Jesus freaks, band geeks, freaks, goths, sluts, cheerleaders, wannabes, cowboys (I grew up in Colorado so my school had a few cowboys), and so on. That said, while those labels were pretty much set in stone, no one would really use them after getting out of Jr. high. For example: no one went around identifying themselves as jocks or preps or any other label. It just wasn't done.

    Everyone knew where everyone else belonged because cliques are established within the first few weeks of our freshman year or junior high, or even as far back as elementary school. A lot of the kids who were popular in my elementary school were popular throughout Jr. high and high school. It was possible to belong to more then one clique, and of course there were those who were universally liked so they floated from clique to clique pretty freely.

    It was possible to elevate your status for any number of reasons. Like I had a friend who was a complete nobody her entire academic career until she became a Pom (stands for Pom Pons or whatever. The Pom squad was our elite dance squad and they were ranked nationally because they were ridiculously goooooood). The moment she made the team at the end of our Junior year, she really did live the fantasy though she didn't go through some physical metamorphosis to get there. She looked exactly the same: cute (-ish). She didn't cut or color her hair, get a boob job, preform some amazing act of sluttish proportions. She didn't even wear makeup on a daily basis. But her stock shot straight through the roof; every guy wanted her and every girl wanted to be her.

    One thing that really bugs me about how high school is portrayed in media is that they make it seem as though everyone cares about who the prom/homecoming queen is. Please understand when I say this: no one cares (for the most part). Maybe the really popular girls who definitely have a chance in hell of being elected and their wannabe minions. But otherwise? Not so much. Most people I knew didn't even vote, myself included. Also, PROM QUEENS DON'T GET UP ON STAGE AND GIVE THANK YOU SPEECHES. That doesn't happen, ever.

    Also, most people don't care which people are dating and they usually don't care about who is sleeping with who. But if a particularly nasty rumor is going around everyone will know about it. Though in any average size HS, the rumor would have to be insanely bad in order for it to make the rounds. Something along the lines of: drunk/high girl getting completely naked at a party or student/teacher relationships or whatever.

  26. Wow I remember High School and I have a love-hate relationship with it, mostly dislike. I remember the Cliques very well. I also remember the Outcasts. I love how many YA Novels are portraying Outcasts now as people who are just like anyone - and more often they end up becoming desirable (Opposites Attract). That is my favorite thing that YA Novels portray about high school - however, I don't think they portray the truth about every stereotype, but some. Great post!

    <3 Happy Reading!

    Patricia @ Patricia's Particularity

  27. I went to many schools growing up, including 3 high schools. The biggest way fiction always seems to get it wrong (to me) is that inevitably, the most popular girl in school was popular because she worked very hard at multiple extracurricular activities and was inevitably kind and generous.

    Sure, there were other girls who were more of an obnoxious queen bee-- but the girl everybody knew and loved? Always earned it. Saw it in multiple different schools. It depresses me that YA is encouraging people to hate those in positions of popularity, rather than looking at the reasons they got that position.

  28. Thank you - you practically took these words right out of my mouth. That popular girl you just described? My high school best friend. She was a perpetual overachiever, worked her little butt off to get the best grades possible, complete every extra project and participate in every school event. She was always cheerful and kind to everybody - like they say, proof is in the pudding, and she wasn't afraid to befriend a token troublemaker like me ;) There was this one time when we got into really serious trouble (we got a substitute teacher to smoke a cigarette with us on school grounds and somebody saw that) - and my friend the honor roll student took the whole blame upon herself, insisting that it was all her idea, and that I wasn't even there when she and the professor were getting their nicotine fix (if not for her, I'd have probably gotten expelled faster then you could say "What the hell happened?"). I think YA books need more stories like ours - there have to be at least some authors who have good experience with popular girls and do not believe they're evil incarnate.

  29. I live in Canada (Ottawa, Ontario) and my high school is completely different. For one thing, with don't have football players or cheerleaders. The popular kids here are mostly the druggies, and most of the school isn't in any clubs. There's sports teams for both boys and girls, but most people do sports with a club rather than through the school. Rather than cliques, my school is divided into "gifties" and "non-gifties" (gifted kids are basically honor role) and also, no one hangs out with people outside of their grade (i.e. if you're in grade 9, all your friends are too). University in definitely important and my parents/ my friend's parents will kill us if we don't have an 88% average or better.

  30. I think my reaction is different from most of these comments. I find most depictions of high school, both in books and movies, to be largely exaggerated. There are cliques but the cliques are mostly focused on internal activities, gossip etc, not what somebody completely out of their circle is doing. I suppose that may come off as brutal but it's really more of a case of indifference than all-school fueling often depicted. There is a group for everything (sports, religion, newspaper, drama, choir, ROTC, mechanics, band, languages, manga, outdoor types, computers, AP/Honors, and the general party crowd skating by). These groups often cross as well. Basically, anybody except the most determined loner will find somebody else even if it's only to complain about the rest of the students. Of course, I went to a largely middle-class, suburban, somewhat racially diverse, 2400+ person school and I mostly stayed with the 200 person AP, drama, environmental club group. Obviously things are different elsewhere.

    Basically, I would like a YA book, especially PNR, to show some version of high school where the students don't absolutely hate each other.

  31. This sounds like a really accurate summation of American high school as seen through media... which isn't anything like the one I went to at all. 

    I went to school in a dense, urban environment, to an academic magnet... public school, funded by the government that still requires applying to the school like university. Most people at my school were (and still are, probably though I haven't looked at the numbers recently) of East Asian (mostly Chinese) descent. 

    So the jocks were... Chinese (and black and Latino and white) The cheerleaders... actually were mostly white, but we had other cheer type squads (Song and Letter) which were mostly Asian. 

    Cliques are a bit strange at a magnet school. There's an assumption that you must be smart to get in - so everyone is considered a nerd, it is simply what level of nerd. I had a friend who spoke in Japanese every time he could get away with it... he's white. Even the football players took Advanced Placement (university level) courses. 

    We never had much group work. Though often they were picked randomly... and I think one of my friends did meet her boyfriend that way. *sigh.

    I only ate cafeteria food rarely since my parents made my lunch. I thought it was fine. Not horrific, but not as bad as most people seem to treat it. 

    More interestingly, since we had multiple lunch periods, there wasn't the same emphasis on space that most high schools seem to have. Also, we had an open campus so we were free to go where we liked.

    I didn't know any home schooled kids.

    College - senior year was stressful academically, though I hadn't planned my college applications very well and I ended up going to jc first. School was stressful academically in general. People had serious issues with stress: to the point of getting sick. There were nights when I was at school at midnight (for the newspaper). And then I would go back to school at 7:30 the next morning. 

  32. Loved this post and reading the comments. I laughed out loud at several of your points because they are so spot-on about YA books. In terms of high school, most of the points you made rang true for my experience, especially the senior year "just doing whatever." We take our SATs junior year and apply to colleges pretty early in senior year--I'm pretty sure I spent over an hour a day playing badminton on the lawn with my friends senior year. Or skipping to go to the movies. And sure, some classes are harder than others but it is perfectly possible to take several AP classes and still put only the slightest amount of effort into the work. (As long as you are okay with a 3.5-3.8 rather than a 4.0+ grade point average...which I'm sure some people are not)

    There is a lot of crossing of groups, which doesn't come across in YA books too often. If there was a big party on the weekend there were always the people we knew would be there, the people who might be there, the people who showed up and that was totally cool, and the people everyone looked at like "WTF are you doing here?" There are always people who have parties every weekend and whose parents are never around...though that idea seems exploited in the genre. I think it is sometimes hard for parents to keep up with what all their children are doing, but that isn't an excuse for most YA parents who usually have only one or two kids. I mean, my parents both worked and they had 4 children who were, at most times, at all different schools. If you go to private school in a different part of the city, your friends are likely from all over the place. As long as your kids are not getting into trouble and bringing home  As and Bs, I can see parents not really knowing what was going on in their high school student's life in terms of academics. (or social life)