Mason transcends Midwestern stereotypes

Janie Simonton | Staff Writer

Cow-tipping, Republicans, NASCAR and farmers. According to Sam A. Winter, a staff writer for The Harvard Crimson, Harvard University’s student newspaper, all of these are common Midwestern misconceptions that other regions harbor.
Mason, on the other hand, acknowledged and then disregarded this stereotype, according to MTV’s High School Stories, a show that describes “scandals, pranks and controversies” that occur in United States’ high schools. When it relayed the story of Mason’s infamous livestock senior prank of 2003, it portrayed Mason as “a small farm town that suddenly exploded into a rich suburb.”

A rich suburb isn’t synonymous with cow-tipping and farmers, but according to Maya Roney of Business Week, the whole Midwest isn’t full of rich suburbs, but “has its fair share of economically depressed cities, and it’s certainly not crime-free.”

The Midwest also enjoys sleepy villages, according to Dick Allen, author of the poem “Sleepy Old Towns,” who lists “Winesburg, Ohio” and “Hannibal, Missouri” as “towns that never flourished…where everything lingers too long.” This is why freshman Randolph Anderson said he thinks that the Midwest lacks excitement.

“[It’s] not as up [to date] as New York and California,” Anderson said. “It’s not really a place you would want to visit for vacation.”

Junior Chad Oswalt, who moved to Mason from Japan in August 2008, said he thought the Midwest would be very agricultural. “[I thought] it was going to be completely farmland,” Oswalt said. “[I wasn’t expecting] really any cities, [but instead] lots of farms [and] corn.”

Senior AJ Schappacher, who lives on Schappacher Farm on Route 42, said he’s living proof that the agricultural side of Mason still exists.

“I’m involved in 4H, [which is a lot of] agriculture and raising animals,” Schappacher said. “My whole summer is…the fair [and 4H;] I’m a camp counselor for 4H.”

According to Schappacher, the life he leads is more reminiscent of older Mason, back when it was much smaller. “My dad [has told] me how Mason used to be: [he said] Mason-Montgomery [was] a two-lane road and he actually grew up where Procter and Gamble is now,” Schappacher said. “Places [that] he used to farm are now subdivisions and golf courses.”

Another new student, sophomore Melissa Iannuzzi, who hails from California, said that her expectations for Mason were far different from what she has experienced.

“I thought it would be a little less diverse,” Iannuzzi said. “There are a lot of people [who are similar to each other,] but they’re more like everyone else than I thought they would be.”

Oswalt said that most outsiders have false beliefs about what the Midwest is like.

“My friends that don’t live in the Midwest [will say things like,] ‘How’s the farmland goin’? Raisin’ your cattle and all that stuff?’” Oswalt said.

Although Anderson’s opinion of the Midwest overall is that it is a region that lags culturally behind other areas, he said he believes the stereotype for Mason is quite different.

“[People see us as] preppy, just rich and stuck-up,” Anderson said.

Oswalt said that people he works with tend to view Mason as a rich area.

“[When] people at work [asked me] what school [I] go to [and I said I go to] Mason, [they had responses like,] ‘Oh, one of those rich kids?’” Oswalt said.

But that’s not what residents of Mason think of themselves, according to Anderson.

“If you live here, you don’t really see yourself as stuck-up or rich,” Anderson said.

This stereotype can be attributed to the sense of entitlement and privilege most Masonians enjoy, Anderson said.

“Most people outside of Mason are not as privileged as we are,” Anderson said. “So, they see us as rich.”

And Mason could easily be called financially privileged; according to LocalSchoolDirectory.com, the Mason census reported the majority of households earning between $75,000 and $100,000 annually, which is far above the 2008 average of $61,620 for all fifty states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, according to an average conducted based on numbers provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“[Mason is] more advanced; there [are] a lot more people,” Anderson said. “[Plus,] we have one of the biggest high schools in Ohio.”

Junior Rachel Larson said the size of Mason can actually have its advantages.

“I think because we have such a diverse school, we realize that not everyone here is stuck-up,” Larson said.

Oswalt said Mason’s qualities make it a role model for other Midwestern towns.

“I think Mason’s a good example for change that’s [going to] occur [in other towns],” Oswalt said.

When he gets stereotyped, Anderson said that the names he hears are not of the Midwestern persuasion, but specific to Mason.

“Maybe [people will call me] a snob, but not really a farmer,” Anderson said.

Want to see this in print?