Conform to the Report, Lose Our Identity

Upon reading the Pace of Life Committee’s daunting report, a few things caught my eye. Most notably, many of its recommendations are so obvious that, in fact, I wonder why it took two years to get on paper such common sense as “our Juniors require a supportive structure in order to develop the study habits they will need to be successful at Phillips Academy.” For the most part, the report is pretty reasonable. Nevertheless, there are a few things that need to be addressed further. The new schedule, a direct result of the work of the Pace of Life Committee, has some minor issues. However, I am not the first person to say that, frankly, it is not too bad. The real problems come on Monday and Thursday nights, where kids have the possibility of having 5 or 6 subjects of homework. Later in their report, the committee suggests that each class assign about 4 or 5 hours of homework per week. So, that means that, if you take 5 intensive classes (most Uppers), you are completing, or, more likely, not completing, your 6 hours of homework on those nights. I can’t say for sure, but I would put my money on the fact that most kids aren’t going to feel that their pace of life has improved after doing 6 hours of homework on a Monday night. Most notably, the Pace of Life Committee states that “[they] do not believe there is a credible argument for maintaining unlimited access to the Internet…” and so it “should be shut down from 12:30 a.m. until 5 a.m. each night.” While I wholeheartedly disagree with their statement, I am almost as disturbed by the fact that they couldn’t find any credible argument against their statement, especially given their new schedule. Here’s one: on a Monday night, a student with 6 hours of homework, even if only 2 of them require the Internet, would have to rush through his work so that he can get online before 12:30. Frankly, that doesn’t sound too bad, until you look at the fact that the average PA upperclassmen doesn’t go to bed before then. Here’s another credible argument: a Senior in his fall term is working diligently on his work for the night when, after he has completed his homework, he decides to look up information on the colleges on his list in order to help him focus his college essays. But, it is 12:31: sorry , kid, but you don’t have access to the World Wide Web Minus Phillips Academy after 12:30. Instead of giving students a more stress-free pace of life, shutting down the Internet at any time would merely cause students to be more anxious in completing their work as to finish it before the blackout. And, because during the time I have written this article I have found two valid arguments against the committee’s recommendation to shut down the Internet, I am perplexed by their statement regarding the incredible lack of opposing arguments. I wonder if student input was taken seriously in this report; or at least if any faculty who actually interact with students in dorms, classes or athletics were involved. Ultimately, the problems with the Pace of Life are solvable under only one condition: Phillips Academy loses what makes it so special. Choate shuts off its Internet and phones during study hours; Exeter does the same. When you ask a Phillips Academy student why he wanted to come to Andover as opposed to one of its counterparts, the responses are usually: there is something about Andover that makes it better than the rest. That something, in fact, is that Phillips Academy is unique in its goal to allow students to pursue their own interests and grow as individuals. But, when we propose things like “vast Internet shutdowns,” the policy that all the private schools of our nature have implemented, we lose the sense that, at Phillips Academy, you are learning and doing things in a way that no other students on the planet have the opportunity to do so. The problem at Andover stretches further than the boundaries of the pace of life issue. The saddest thing that I have seen throughout my years here at Andover is occurring as we speak: the greatest high school in the world is turning into an institution, and is no longer a unique community. From the fanatically strict policy for locks on the doors in the basement of Morse Hall to the notable absence of that perennial student favorite, the under-the-tent welcome back dance, Andover is losing its status as the unique and amazing place where students form their own educations and life experiences.