Is Vandalism Really Shocking?

Lily Botelho

AnyAn old political comic depicting a vandalized school houseone who has been into one of the school bathrooms this year has probably noticed either a missing or broken soap dispenser at some point. This is all part of the larger “devious licks” trend that has been circulating Tik Tok for the past month. In this trend, students are encouraged to steal items from their school and film whatever it is they have taken. The perceived goal of this is to have stolen the most impressive and ridiculous item in order to get a more popular video. Some proclaim this trend as proof that this generation is hopeless, but is it really that out of the ordinary? There has been evidence of school vandalism all the way back to a 1,700-year-old drug reference scrawled on the walls of an ancient Egyptian school. If graffiti and vandalism have been a part of public schools for as long as they have been around, what makes this trend so different?

Periods of political strife in America have increasingly seen bouts of vandalism in public buildings as people take their frustration with the government out on the closest target available to them. According to an article from Process History, there was an account all the way back in 1897 of schoolboys tearing books, breaking desks, and punching holes in the walls after William Jennings Bryan lost to William McKinley in the presidential election. The boys are even recorded as having written “we are Bryan men” all over the hallways and door frames. Even though that school had no control over the outcome of the presidential election, it was the closest thing they had as an outlet for their frustrations. Although the “Devious Licks” trend has no direct ties to civil strife, 2020 and 2021 have not exactly been harmonious. In just over a year there has been a global pandemic, civil rights protests, a tense presidential election, and continued debates over public health policies. Tension has been felt across the country and teenagers, from any generation, have never been known as the best at controlling their frustrations and impulses.

This isn’t to say that vandalism is an acceptable activity for teenagers to be engaging in, but just that “Devious Licks” is not out of the ordinary at all. Breaking a soap dispenser in the bathroom for Tik Tok produces the perfect combination of adrenaline and social acceptance that could motivate an already stressed out teen to do anything. Vandalism is a crime, but it’s a crime that has transcended generations of students across the world. Every person that proclaims this trend as proof of this generation’s stupidity should think back to their time in high school. And if somehow, over a thousand years of history, they went to the one school with no graffiti in the bathroom stalls or gum on the bottom of desks, then maybe they’re right.