Among the many rites of passage of childhood – first steps, first words, first day of school, kindergarten graduation, etc. – one important milestone is often overlooked or minimized – the 8th grade YEARBOOK PAGE. Last year my son, William, was nearly deprived of his opportunity to express himself and display his strengths and interests in this unique medium through ignorance and misunderstanding. The following is the unabridged and unedited [although annotated] email I sent to my son’s class advisor setting everything straight. Take heed because this is the kind of stuff they don’t discuss in parenting handbooks.
Dear Ms. Zoe,
I am writing in an attempt to clarify William’s yearbook page predicament. I met with Jon [Middle School Director] and briefly with Jean [Principal] yesterday. No one asked William about his yearbook page and what he was thinking when he made it. Everyone, and by everyone I mean Jon and Jean, assumed the page was violent and angry and I was called in to discuss the “inappropriate” page and concerns about his “choices.” No one asked or talked to William about the page.
William had told me he used a quote from the movie “Stepbrothers” and blacked out what he thought would not be an acceptable word. Other than that I didn’t know anything about the page going in. Jon showed me the page [see above] and I didn’t see anything that bad, and by that bad I mean nothing worse than Laura [my daughter who is 3 years older, featured in “The See Through Dress” Aug. 2, 2009] did on her yearbook pages with [Marilyn] Manson quotes, etc. and nothing worse than what William had for a page last year when the page was returned to him a couple of times for redaction, and nothing worse than other pages I had seen in past yearbooks. I told Jon that William’s page did not highlight his best qualities, but it was his page – a snapshot of how he wanted to be remembered. I asked Jon if he had looked up what FTW meant. He told me he hadn’t but thought it meant F__ the world. I told him I didn’t know what it meant, but it seemed that the graphic was specific and might have some other meaning. I told him the first quote was from a funny movie (I couldn’t remember the title when I met with him), one of those male bonding ones that William is fond of. It was intended to be funny. I had not seen the other quote, but it seemed to me that the other one was also intended to be humorous. I asked Jon who would seriously fill a pillowcase full of bars of soap just to beat someone up? According to William the line is hilarious. However, Jon tells me the military actually does this and it was in the movie “Full Metal Jacket.” That was news to me, news to William also. Jon didn’t much like the picture of the poo either. Basically, the yearbook page was a huge FAIL, and by FAIL, I mean, when things go miserably wrong in a way you did not intend. Again no one asked William about his page or what he meant or about his “choices.”
In the brief meeting with Jean (she was in between things and had a couple of minutes) she basically said she hated all of it and FTW meant F___ the world. She did agree to allow William to do the page over.
When I got back to my office I looked up FTW. The FTW image William used is gamer for “for the win” http://www.bytelove.com/bytelove-clothes/oneliners/ftw/prod_127.html
Then the page made sense to me. It’s basically a review of the 2 video games – Modern Warfare 2 which is a great game and merits a FTW, and Call of Duty, Black Ops which is not a good game and is equal to a pile of poo. I don’t find anything shocking about a 14 year old boy making a point with cartoon poo. The new store Macro Polo next to my office in downtown Newburyport has a toilet in the middle of the store with plastic poo in it for $2.00 each, William tells me someone brought fake poo to a Yankee Swap. Poo is an understandable reference to Middle Schoolers, not a cause for concern.
In short William’s page is not offensive. It is not violent or angry. It represents him as a gamer and someone who likes funny movies. He was misunderstood, mainly because no one asked him about the page, and there were conclusions that were jumped to that in the end were not warranted.
Now, William is upset because he can’t have the page he wanted and because he was misunderstood, because everyone thought the worst of him and because no one asked him about the page, and because he didn’t do anything wrong, and because I had to go in and have a meeting and no one else did even though, according to William, other student pages were equally questionable. He does try to stay out of trouble even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.
I know you have a deadline for yearbook pages. I would like to ask if you could work with William so that he can have a page that represents him and is acceptable. I think the context of the quotes and references was and is important to clarify his intent for the page he submitted.
Thank you for your help.
Postscript: In my research I also learned that the term “for the win” is derived from the game show “Hollywood Squares” where at the end of each game a contestant would name a celebrity to play “for the win.”