Editorials and Opinions

Opposing Viewpoints: Living in a material world? Con: The Uggliness of materialism

By Alice Lee and Kyle Remy
Published: November 2008

Materialism is one of those words that people throw around nowadays because it’s more than seven letters long and ends in “ism. People say that America is materialistic. Our generation is materialistic. South is materialistic. Is it really true that the majority of the student body puts physical, worldly matter, above all else?

From an abstract angle, materialism is hard to appraise in regards to our school, if you follow the dictionary denotation of the word. According to Merriam-Webster, the term applies to people who preoccupy themselves with material, as opposed to intellectual or spiritual pursuits. How do we apply this definition to a school, a large body of people?

A population that is 100 percent uniform in any one doctrine or opinion is extremely rare. It isn’t fair to lump together all these various groups under one label: materialistic.And it can’t even be said that the majority of students falls under that category.

Sure, there may be certain materialistic contingents in the school, but that label can’t be slapped across the student body as a whole. There are some who insist on only wearing the top designer labels, and who drive to school in pricy new cars. But these students are only a small slice of the whole.

If it really was the case, as the decriers of South’s materialism would claim, that the majority of our school falls under the above description, the student body would be a lot more homogeneous than it is now.  An  Ugg-clad, North Face-sporting school, would be detrimental to  individual expression.

Furthermore, there are many others who actively push materialism out of their lives in exchange for intangible rewards. Not only do they not fit Merriam-Webster’s definition of the term, they contradict it. For instance, many South students have exhibited disregard for material things from an early age. They disregarded the usual trick-or-treat bags for Halloween and instead went from house to house clutching UNICEF donation boxes. They gladly came home with money for charity, and not a single Kit Kat or Skittle to munch on.

Now, many students participate in summer community service trips, both in the U.S. and abroad. Still more reject material greed in their every day lives by initiating eco-friendly projects. As an example, one South student recently collected recycled Capri-sun juice pouches and Starburst wrappers from members of her church. Bypassing a trip to the mall to replace her worn leather belts, she used the pouches and wrappers to redecorate them. She frequently wears these environment-friendly accessories to school.
Within the school itself, students resist the materialistic urge. Last year, several homerooms, when choosing their field trip plans, rejected such plans as shopping and going to the New England Aquarium. Instead, they chose to perform community service in jails and in soup kitchens.

Many South students have traded in the tangible for the intangible rewards, materialistic desires for selfless aspirations; the school population can’t be stereotyped as materialistic. While there are admittedly some who orient themselves in a money-dominated direction, there are others who see more than what money can buy.

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