In Defense of the South High Colonel
One day, I walked into school seeing students wearing South High ambassador shirts. I liked the design of the shirts until I saw the Colonel was missing his revolvers.
The argument over our mascot only started before this school year. It did not start when it was introduced almost a century ago. Instead, it started on August 19th, 2022 when Vice President of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Karen Pelletier tweeted about her disappointment about the resurrection of a plaque that disappeared due to construction because a cartoon was holding guns.
The Colonel is important to South High, being a symbol that connects alumni. Let me tell a story – multiple stories – actually, that have similar storylines.
The stories go like this:
I am walking down the street in a South High shirt. It has the words South High and the Colonel on it. A passerby stops me.
“You go to South?” they ask.
“Yeah, I do,” I reply, and I continue the conversation, “What year did you graduate?”
“[Insert graduation year]”
“That was so long ago!”
“I heard there’s a new building. How is it?”
“Very big with actual walls!” I laugh.
The passerby laughs too, “I remember those dividers!”
There are multiple variations of this story that demonstrate the Colonel’s power. A passerby could read the shirt, but there are many South Highs across the country. There’s one in Newton, for example. Yes, this happens in Worcester, but they are probably not reading what my shirt says because I am a stranger. I am sure what gives the passerby the confidence to randomly stop a stranger and ask if they go to South is the symbolic Colonel.
I learned many things from these conversations. For example, Mr. Grady taught as early as the 2000s at South High. I would have not known that given I have talked to him less than ten times and will probably not have him as an English teacher next year.
Getting rid of the Colonel gets rid of the symbol of South High. The cartoon can identify current and former South High students. Modifications to this mascot will make it harder to recognize, and it will become harder to form connections with other South High alumni. More importantly, it will destroy the symbol that preserves the memories of the school with no walls.
There is no other South High symbol. We had a motto: No walls, no limits. Since we have walls now, we changed it. Alumni often identify with having no walls at South. What other symbol is there?
It’s the Colonel. With the old building gone, there are two physical remnants of South High culture: alumni and the Colonel, sources of fond memories. But people want to wipe out the Colonel because they disagree with the guns.
It would be wrong to say school shootings are not a problem in the United States. But it would be controversial to say guns are the issue. People often say guns do not need regulation because they are not the problem, or at the very least regulation is needed. This is not a black-or-white issue, but I am sure people would like to implement policies that reflect their views. This happens in legislatures like Congress which pass laws that represent what their constituents want.
But this is not Congress – where the point is to reflect constituents’ views in laws. This is a public school. Schools should not teach right-wing or left-wing values. Schools should only teach English, Math, and other educational subjects. Learning these subjects helps graduates make decisions as independent adults. Changing the mascot in support of gun control may be indoctrination. It inserts opinions, not facts, into students. In an institution of education, that is unethical.
Let’s think of another hypothetical. How much would it cost to change the Colonel?
There is a lot of merchandise with the Colonel on it. Do we stop selling the merchandise and lose out on money? The football jerseys also have the Colonel. Football is very expensive. It is expensive just to produce the jerseys. The tops are designed to fit the shoulder pads and the pants have padding in them. Being on the football team, I asked the head coach how much the uniforms cost. They were $15,000.
$15,000 can get us 75,000 pencils because students seldom have pencils on them that they need in math, art, and science classes. It can get us 1,500,000 pieces of paper for printing assignments, or 1,000 pieces of paper for a student in a year. It can help hire another bus driver because we lack those, creating the problem of late buses. $15,000 can get us 150 TI-84s so low-income students can succeed in advanced math and science classes.
However, this trivial matter somehow concerned members of the school committee. This means this historical mascot may be phased out of existence, phasing out the potential to make money and, most importantly, the memories of all South High.
If this comes to a vote, let us preserve the culture represented by the Colonel and the memories held by him. Keep the Colonel!