Principle for a Day: John Stuart Mill

Hollywood Arts High School from Nickelodeon show, “Victorious”.

My high school experience was far from typical. Upon entry into the school, which by the way is by audition, each student has to choose a major/art area for which you spend your four years of high school focusing on. We didn’t have a football team, and there was no such thing as homecoming. Instead of having jocks and nerds, we had theatre kids and hipsters. The ratio of guys to girls was 1:4, and due to being immersed in an “artsy” atmosphere with no dress code (and warm weather all year round coming from FL), kids came to school in just about anything. I clearly didn’t have the type of high school experience that is depicted in sitcoms on TV.

Although I sometimes wish I had a more “normal” high school experience, the lesson that I’ve taken most from it all was the concept of individualism. For most kids, I’d say that high school is a time where peer pressure and conformity defines their attitudes, behaviors, and actions. That’s because most high school students want to fit into the mold–because obviously being an outsider is social suicide, duh! At my high school, where pretty much anything goes and the personality types were so diverse, you had no choice but to discover who you are and truly find yourself.

In hindsight, I’m truly thankful for this experience because it gave me the ability spend my high school years developing myself into the person I am today. This means thankfully avoiding the identity crisis most students go through when arriving at college. In high school we were also taught the importance of the arts, a concept very much neglected in our society, and the idea that it’s completely okay to follow your dreams however crazy and irrational they may seem. This mindset, one that’s very different from what society tells us, lends into the idea of individual expression and creativity.

One could say that my high school is John Stuart Mill’s theory put into real life form. In “On Liberty”, Mill strongly advocates for individualism as he believes that individuality is essentially the “cultivation of the self”. The biggest problem that society faces, according to Mill, is the idea that being one’s own self is problematic and invaluable to the the well-being of humankind. He argues that while a young kid should be taught a standard form of knowledge and moral principle, they should be given the freedom to express themselves and act upon individual decision making as adults. These ideals align directly with the values of my high school, because in a world where people choose jobs solely based on the pay-off rather than the passion, my high school advocates for the latter.

Individuality: You laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you’re all the same.

Mill hated conformity, as does my high school. He believed that the only way for social progress to be made was through a means of liberty and diversity. From Mill’s perspective, and the perspective of my tiny little arts school,”Genius can only breathe free in an atmosphere of freedom.”