Campus Isms

Something I have never seen here at Andover is a student openly questioning the intrinsic lessons of Andover life. Certainly, Pace of Life, the DC system, and administrative polices have repetitively been hacked to pieces in the gladiator-like arenas of Student Council elections and magazines, but when is the last time someone has thrust the question into the spotlight: what are the underlying messages of an Andover education? First, conformity: as much as we think of ourselves as unique individualists, PA does teach a certain amount of uniform conduct. Despite their overbearing criticisms of issues like our policy toward Iraq, students rarely challenge authority. Although as freshmen we would fustigate matters like 9:30 dorm meetings, and grotesquely unfair collective punishments for the misdeeds of unidentifiable individuals, the weary feeling of futility bored itself into our minds as the year wore on. We would accept inequitably allocated tasks with merely a discontented grumbling amongst ourselves, except for a minor revolution every now and then that was quickly put down by the Prefects. And of course, it is all in the name of non sibi. Anyone who is not non sibi is non compos mentis. Second, sycophantism: it seems all too often that in certain classrooms, the student who wholeheartedly agrees with the ideas of the teacher is rewarded with the better grade, while the student who dissents is given a pat on the back for “interesting thoughts,” but is ultimately given the lower grade. Moreover, I have only once heard a teacher disagree with a statement in a textbook. An atmosphere of open, creative, and contrary thought is welcome on some topics, but closed on the ones in which the teacher asserts a strong opinion. However, teachers deserve some leeway, as multiple schools of thought exist on almost every subject, but are tough to tolerate in every classroom. Still, sometimes well-reasoned arguments can take you only so far at Andover. Third, specialization: although some of us deny that we are a school of specialists just yet, to some extent we already are, with our music, athletic and academic “recruits,” not to mention PGs, who typically excel in one field. Moreover, our Course of Study clearly indicates that a student needs certain grades and credentials to achieve placement in high level courses. Often, as in our Math-600 or Hist-340 course prerequisites, only the most elite students can qualify. Fives and sixes, although they are the pinnacle that most of us aspire to reach, are not always good enough. Of course, specialization may be advantageous, but it need not be denied. Fourth, seniority: observe, my name, as it appears at the top of the page, is not just Palmer Rampell; it is Palmer Rampell ’06, which, in my mind, almost implies inferiority to the blessed beings who are exalted with four or five following their aught. Seniors are given better course selections with better teachers, more independence in such areas as the removal of “study hours,” and the priority in room selections. And, it is Seniors who will be editing this article. Fifth, propaedeutic: the best thing I can say about Andover is that it, despite its flaws, is efficacious at preparing us for the real world. A certain amount of unfair issues such as seniority, conformity, specialization, and sycophantism are inherent in real world situations. Andover teaches us how to triumph over adversity and build overall good judgment. Thus, as our generation slowly learns to soar, its system will require an elite group of caretakers. We are they. And so after some bleak realism, I have some good news, the warm, vanilla sugar part of my article. As we are able to understand such pitfalls in Andover education, they become easy to avoid. I’d suggest five guidelines for starting the new year. Never do anything without questioning the reason behind your actions. Never agree for the sake of agreeing. Never deny yourself your talents. And, never feel put down because of your age. In short, never deny yourself your own identity, and you will be just fine.