A senior figure at a prestigious Catholic school has launched a scathing attack on high school balls for sending teens the message that materialism and debauched behaviour are the values they should be living up to.
Aquinas College spirituality director Andrew Kania, writing in the Catholic newspaper The Record, questions why school balls and leavers’ week have become the main rite of passage events for young people and what they learn from them.
He said parents should help schools set higher standards, instead of allowing students to turn up drunk to school balls, spend huge amounts of money on hiring limousines and wear ball gowns that are too revealing.
“Hundreds of dollars are thrown away in an inane show of pretentiousness,” he said.
“Our children ape the trashy rich.”
Society should find rites of passage that upheld spiritual values, such as volunteering for community service, instead of letting teens think that all there was to being an adult was “a good time, materialism, intoxication and the objectification of the human person”.
Dr Kania stressed that none of his observations related to Aquinas. They were a combination of his 20 years of experience in different schools and what colleagues had told him.
He said the amount of money spent on dresses, shoes and hair for just one evening kept on rising.
“The most expensive dress that I can recall was one that a young (lady’s family had paid $5000 for,”
he said. “The rule of thumb being that the more money one pays, the less material in the garment.”
And while dancing was once a social skill to be learnt, it now relied mainly on “the ability to free oneself of any inhibition and gyrate to the rhythm”.
Dr Kania also questioned why 12 years of schooling should culminate in leavers’ week antics that had nothing to do with education.
“Can it really be that the recompense to society for academic attainment are the actions of drunken louts, who may have an entry pass into university but have not learnt kindness, patience, temperance or self-control,” he said.
Wesley College principal David Gee said school balls had changed since the days of the traditional debutante ball, “because society has changed and kids have changed”.
He said Year 12 at most schools featured a range of symbolic elements, including the school ball, valedictory day and speech night, that were part of a total process of progression towards adulthood.