Moving Beyond “Townies”

I first heard the term “townie” when I entered Phillips last year. To be honest, I laughed at the irony. The word “townie” evoked images of uneducated hoodlums. My suburban town of soccer moms and Girl Scout troops could not possibly be a town full of delinquents. As a day student, I am split between these two worlds. While I definitely consider myself to be a student at Phillips, I am undeniably a resident of the town of Andover. This talk of “townies” refers to the kids that were in my kindergarten class. Yes, I may have been naive in elementary school, but I have to admit, I see little difference between my current classmates and my classmates of the past. As I assume the rest of the school was, I was very proud when I read in Boston Magazine about PA being the number one prep school in the Boston area. However, if anyone bothered to turn a few pages, they also might realize that Andover High School, the educator of our “townies,” was also credited in the section on schools that offer “educations to rival their private counterparts.” Phillips is most definitely a bubble. Yes, we neither are allowed to really leave the immediate surroundings of our school, nor are we able. But if we just took one step further out of our compact world and mindset, we might just realize there is a little more. Often boarder friends will ask where I live in town. “Do you live on the bell tower side of campus or on the chapel side?” I live in neither direction. The town of Andover is far larger than my fellow classmates seem to sense. Many do not realize that the 31,000 plus residents of Andover do not revolve around the 1,000 or so students. The biggest complaint that I have heard from “townies” has been the sense that Andover students feel that the town revolves around them. We have the idea that the entire economy of Andover revolves around our couple of lattes at Starbucks. When we call Phillips “Andover,” we give off more of this egotistical vibe. I understand that is what we call Phillips, but even referencing Phillips as Andover can lead to discomfort. We need to realize and show that we understand that the town of Andover is more than our elite institution on the hill. Sometimes this idea of “townies” manifests itself in other ways. Peers will talk about how “quaint” the town of Andover is. Andover is a very lovely New England town, but the word quaint has some serious patronizing undertones. Other students justify our sense of superiority by referencing times when “townies” have thrown things at them, yelling profanities. In no way do I approve of this; however, the percentage of actual Andover High School students that partakes in such actions is minimal. While I do not justify that behavior, we need to know what it stems from. As students of Phillips, we must know that we are extremely privileged. We are privileged to receive the educational experience that we do. We are also seen as being indulged and obnoxious. We must break that stereotype to limit negative interactions between Phillips students and “townies.” Every time we go into town, we need to positively reflect our school and ourselves. The students who attend Andover High are actually very similar to us. Many will go on to be professionals just like most of us at Phillips aspire to become. Many will go on to be just as intelligent and successful as we think that we are. I am proud of being a student at Andover; however, I realize that my school is not the world. I think all of us need to open up ourselves and be a little more respectful to our “townie” counterparts.