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Secret Societies: All Talk and No Action?

A typical conversation about secret societies:

“Man, it’s so cool that Alex is in the Geese.”

“What about geese?”

“The Geese. Come on, it’s only the most exclusive secret society on campus.”

“Uh-huh. And how do you know Alex is in it, if it’s so secret?”

“Well duh, everyone knows who’s in the Geese.”

“Doesn’t that make it more of a society, then? Like, without the ‘secret’ part?”

“…”

“Anyway, what do the Geese do?”

“Well, in the yearbook, they all take a picture making geese noises!”

“… And?”

“What?”

“Well, what else do they do?” This is the point in the conversation when your friend stares awkwardly to the side, wishing that you hadn’t realized that, really, secret societies don’t do anything. In fact, as you watch your friend search for different ways to emphasize the importance of “exclusivity” and “secrecy,” you start to realize that secret societies are pretty pointless.

As I understand it, secret societies are elite clubs that pride themselves on choosing members of one race and socioeconomic class and supporting outdated Victorian ideals. Their initiation requirements, which change around every year, are generally juvenile and sexist. And no matter whom you ask, the importance of the secret society is always “its exclusiveness.”

Some Deerfield grads have described secret societies as preparation for college fraternities and sororities. That sounds true enough, except that secret societies don’t have announced events, a house or participate in community service, or offer mentoring. Plus, the Deerfield secret societies definitely aren’t exactly something to put on your college application.

So why even bother with secret societies? As far as I can tell, they only exist to give a small group of people an arbitrary reason to feel superior to the rest of the school. As a friend of mine concisely put it, “there are other ways to make lasting memories than being part of an exclusive group of people that really, in the end, mean nothing.”

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