gossipgirl.jpgThe CW series “Gossip Girl” has not only made sniping–among both the younger sexes–ubiquitous, but it’s glamorized it, too. It’s not that middle school and high school students never talked behind each other’s backs before, or but the internet has taken forums for this nasty behavior to a new level. And besides, “Gossip Girl” makes the popular 2004 teen film “Mean Girls” seem quaint–especially since the mean girls were the villains in the movie.

Now hoity-toity private schools (like those “seen on TV”) are finding they have to fight back against the popularization of peer-against-peer cruelty–especially post-bar/bat mitzvah weekend extravaganzas. In the New York Times article, “Gossip Girls and Boys Get Lessons in Empathy,” Winnie Hu writes:
“The privileged teenagers at Scarsdale Middle School are learning to be nicer this year, whether they like it or not…[T]o combat feelings of exclusion, the Parent Teacher Association is trying to curtail a longstanding tradition of seventh graders and eighth graders showing up en masse Monday morning wearing the personalized sweatshirts handed out to the popular crowd at the weekend’s bar or bat mitzvahs…Bar mitzvah sweatshirts emblazoned with the name of the honoree, the date and occasionally even the guest list are still commonly worn, if not on the Monday after, then on a Tuesday or Wednesday a month later. Otherwise, “what’s the point in getting them?” asked Jess Calamari, 13, an eighth grader who gave out blue hooded sweatshirts to more than 150 guests at her bat mitzvah last year. “I don’t want to offend people, but I like sweatshirts.”
Who knew that a traditional, Jewish rite of passage, could turn into a tool for flaunting who’s in and who’s not at middle schools? Granted, guest lists have always been a tool for exclusion, but shouldn’t the pain be over once the party is?

Though, not everyone throwing a big bar/bat mitzvah party is taunting their peers after the fact, with this new focus on empathy in some private school curriculums, some kids are foregoing the party favor:
“On the bar mitzvah circuit, students have started handing out alternatives like water bottles and pajama pants. Jason Thurm, 13, collected more than 200 of the personalized sweatshirts from his friends and donated them to a church; for his own party in November, Jason did not have favors, and planned to donate the money his parents would have spent on them to a charity.”

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