Gimme a C! Gimme an S! Gimme an I!

« August 2005 »

You know, we're never going to get rid of stupidity if we don't stop rewarding it. And we can't stop rewarding it if we can't even recognize it in the first place.

Take, if you'll pardon my side-trip into Hardy Boys land, The Case of the Crimestopping Cheerleaders. This happened on Friday in beautiful downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Some dipshit rear-ended a car at an intersection, and drove off. This is not particularly interesting, and happens all the time. Some bystanders took note of the license plate and gave the number to police. This is also not particularly interesting, and also happens all the time.

The bystanders were high school cheerleaders. This is mildly interesting, as it does not happen all the time. Specifically, the Lincoln High School cheerleading squad. In town for a four-day "Cheer Camp", a name which, while it brings to mind Orwellian behavior modification, is actually just a bunch of teenage girls jumping around and shouting.

Where it becomes interesting is in this one little detail. In order to ensure that they remembered the license plate number, the squad played to its "strengths", turned the plate number into a CHEER, and proceeded to perform that cheer over and over again until the police arrived. Using the number, the police were able to track down the driver, who may or may not be charged with leaving the scene.

Now please, don't get me wrong. It's fabulous that people got involved, and that this dastardly misdemean was brought to justice. But chanting the license plate? It would be clever and ingenious if it weren't for the fact that it was necessary in the first place.

It's like a bad joke. "How many high school cheerleaders does it take to remember three letters and three numbers?" The answer? Nine, but only if they follow it up with "We've got spirit, how 'bout you?" It's like a fucking Hanna Barbera cartoon about teens who use their cheerleading powers to fight evil. Mr. T and the T-Force without all the athleticism.

The news story about the incident claimed, in its opening sentence, that "They didn't have a pen or paper handy," but I'm guessing they didn't look real hard once the chanting started. But still. It's THREE LETTERS AND THREE NUMBERS. For nine girls. No child left behind my ass.

You could have given each of them one character to remember, and still had three cheerleaders left over to handle the checksums. They could probably have laid down on the ground, forming the plate number with their limbs. They could even have found a goddamned pen. And for fuck's sake, these were NINE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS. I guarantee you every last one of them had a cell phone. They could have stood in a circle, texted the license plate to the girl on their left, and had NINE COPIES of it handy. But instead, they chanted.

And it worked. I'm not knocking that it worked. I'm just worried about the message this sends to them. That they may decide that chanting in unison is a skill with even wider applications than lifting spirit and catching criminals. Which may hinder them down the road in their eventual careers in food service, modeling, or trophy spousehood. And it doesn't help when their "achievement" is trumped up by others. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Teamwork is what we're learning here and it took a lot of it very quickly to get him caught. I'm very proud of them" - Team coach Patricia Clark.

But that's the thing. It didn't require teamwork to get him caught. Or at least it shouldn't have. It required making note of three letters and three numbers, which is not that demanding a task, especially for bystanders of a minor accident. Throwing around words like "very proud" are just going to get these girls in trouble down the road. I mean, think about it.

What would they have done if the guy's license plate HADN'T started with 4-6-8?*

*Cheerleading joke. Not to be confused with actual reported fact.