Mind the Gap

The Phillipian’s annual “State of the Academy” survey is a sort of litmus test for the student body. Each year, we attempt to gauge this group of more than a thousand teenagers by measuring characteristics both serious and trivial to see how we measure up to years past, and where we are headed. Though the 17.5 percent of the student body which was surveyed represents a small proportion of the school, distinct patterns have emerged from that group. The most glaring trend of this year’s survey revealed that the Upper class seems to be the most discontent with their life here at Andover. They feel the most pressure to attend a good college, have the highest percentage who do not believe that an Andover education is worth $30,000 a year, and are the least satisfied with the school and their teachers. The survey also revealed that this discontent has led more Uppers to seek solace in various prohibited substances. Sixty-eight percent of the surveyed class of ’05 has admitted to consuming alcohol while on campus, also the highest out of all the grades. Are these changes a natural part of adolescent rebellion, or are the pressure of rigorous courses, college admissions and an intensely competitive environment ruinous to the health of our third-year students? Do the added stresses of Upper year lead students down a dark path of drugs and resentment? Perhaps even more startling is the gap between the Lower and Upper classes. Alcohol consumption tripled, and marijuana use doubled between the Lower and Upper respondents, compared to a decline in drinking and a mere 25 percent in marijuana use between the Upper and Senior classes. The administration in recent years has acknowledged the difficulty of Upper year. In order to prepare Lowers for a more rigorous Upper program, administrators have increased the requirements for Lowers. The once loosely scheduled second year now involves the obligatory Lower Program with additional History and Theatre courses imposed on top of Philosophy and Religion, Music, Art and Athletics requirements. This solution is attacking the problem from the wrong end. Students do not need an additional year filled with required coursework and restrictive scheduling. The administration should allow the students to have the time to pursue their own interests academically and extracurricularly before they face the daunting challenges of the Upper and Senior years. Out of the numerous Pace of Life meetings, surveys and discussions, the most compelling defense of our frenetic lifestyle was that those who choose to attend Andover know what they are getting themselves into. Taking more responsibility and learning to manage one’s time is a part of growing up – imposing structure on freedom-seeking teenagers will breed only more resentment. The administration should not hasten its students’ transitions from naïve youth to jaded adolescent.