Andover: Where Fun Goes To Die

For all you new students out there, welcome to Andover, the place where fun goes to die. A few nights ago, I was sitting in the library enjoying my newfound status as a Senior, talking with some friends as I trudged through my Econ reading. Soon enough, our group of four turned into a group of ten, and we were, I’ll admit, doing less homework than socializing. But isn’t Andover about more than just homework? The most enriching experiences I’ve had here haven’t involved a textbook, they’ve been late-night chats in my dorm or the newsroom; casual, yet meaningful conversations over meals in Commons, or discussions with students and teachers in class. The librarians soon showed up to put an end to our merry little gathering. According to new rules this year, students are prohibited from moving furniture in the library. That means you can’t rearrange the chairs in the Freeman room to work together, or pull up a seat to work with a friend on one of the computers in the lobby. So, I went back to my dorm, Foxcroft, to study. Compared to my dorm last year, the rules in Foxcroft are much stricter. For example, our house counselors took away my roommate’s video game system, saying it was prohibited by The Blue Book (it’s not) and that it would “detract from the academic environment of the dorm.” Now, I think there’s something wrong here, and not just because we can’t play violent video games, or socialize in the library. To me, there is something more fundamental about this. Andover prides its students on being mature and intelligent, yet in many instances, the school treats us like children. The administration acknowledges that all students are different. When we arrive on campus for the first time, we have diverse backgrounds, varied interests, and widely dissimilar levels of preparation. Not all students are created equal; this fundamental truth makes our school a better place. According to Dean of Studies John Rogers, “Andover students decide where their priorities lie.” I choose to spend upwards of 35 hours a week working on this newspaper; as a result, my grades and sleep patterns have undoubtedly suffered. Yet, I wouldn’t trade the experience of The Phillipian for the world. I’m grateful to Andover for giving me the ability to make this choice and determine where my priorities lie. Life here at PA is a tough balancing act between reaching your true potential and having an easy time; doing what you love and doing what you must. Let’s say that one new Lower in my dorm has a problem staying away from the Xbox. He plays video games until late every night, neglecting his homework and arriving in class the next day tired and unfocused. I believe that after one or two subpar test grades, our hypothetical friend will realize that he needs to settle down and work if he wants to succeed here at PA. The learning curve may be steep, but in my opinion, the lesson is worth it. Unfortunately, this is too rarely the case. I understand many of the school’s concerns – after all, we’re only high schoolers. It isn’t as if we’ve gone off to college, with all the freedom such a transition entails. Though Phillips Academy is about finding the healthy balance between work and fun, the school has an obligation to its students to point them in the right direction, but not hold their hands from orientation to graduation. This is the reason for many of our school policies. As Juniors, we have a lighter workload and spend a lot of time in meetings to make sure we’re doing OK in our new environment. As we earn more and more respect and get older and wiser, the rules are relaxed, until, as Seniors, we don’t have 8 p.m. sign-in and are generally left to our own devices academically. There’s a reason Senior electives have less class time and more homework than other classes: we have the ability to make our own work schedules, to know when we are individually most productive, to decide between “The O.C.” in Ryley and a looming English paper come 8 o’clock. We attend a second chance school; the administration realizes that teenagers make mistakes. Ask any student who has been placed on Probation: when you screw up here at Andover, the biggest thing is taking that experience and turning it into something positive. So Andover: let us go out on our own. It’s a big world out there, and there is a lot of unfamiliar territory to be explored. We won’t always have Lights Out to ensure we get enough sleep, or study hours to make sure we do our homework, or even advisors to help us guide our lives. Let us take these baby steps, so we can walk tall as educated global citizens once we leave the Hill.