Free the Students!

The basic principle behind a boarding school is not unlike that of a prison. The purpose of these institutions is to keep the inhabitants in a relatively compact area and regulate their activities to achieve some goal. In the case of the prison, the idea is to address a moral or legal transgression and help the prisoner to find a better lifestyle. The purpose of a boarding school is to prepare its students to go into the world by enriching their talents and instilling strong moral values. Both the boarding school and the prison have the same motives; to make their inmates ‘better people.’ And both institutions go about doing this in similar ways. Granted, students are given more freedom than high security criminals, but the school is the dominating force in their lives. The boarding school tells them what to learn, where to sleep, when to sleep, where to be at certain hours, what to eat, when to eat, how to occupy their time, and in some cases, what to wear. At Phillips Academy, we live in a very controlled environment. The Blue Book, which outlines the most basic rules, cannot be an accurate depiction of the amount of structure that this school puts in our lives. Nearly every aspect of your life is controlled or affected in some way by school. You wake up in the dorm that you were assigned to. (Deciding that you wanted to spend the night in Gelb would be out of the question.) You sleep and live where the school says you must. You go to breakfast and eat what the school serves you. Then you spend the rest of the day in class because you are at boarding school. After class, you go to sports. Not an athletic person? Too bad; you are required to do a sport anyways. You eat your dinner in Commons, return to your assigned dorm, and start your assigned homework. Freshmen, do not forget about lights out. The school says that you have to be in the dark after 11:00. Upperclassmen still have sign in. Authorities must know where you are and where you plan to be until you return to your dorm. You can stay up as late as you want, but whatever you do, do not download any movies. The school says that you cannot go over bandwidth. Clearly, this is not the case with most high schools. Students that attend day schools have an entire life outside of the classroom. They eat, sleep, and live at home, and on the weekends, they usually do not go within a mile of their school. It is the basic principle of boarding school that relates to the invasive role that Andover has. This is not a revelation for anyone. Rules, restrictions, and regulations are given for our own benefit. We are required to do a sport to ‘expand our horizons.’ We are mandated to sign-in to ‘establish a healthy work and sleep schedule.’ Almost every limitation has a justifiable explanation. But it is the nature of ‘limitation’ that is aggravating for many students, especially seniors. Living beings, human or not, do not appreciate limitations. If you coop a wild mouse in a cage, the mouse will become furious and agitated. If you try to contain a shrub by pruning it, it will only blossom back with more intensity. The longer an individual is subjected to restriction, the harder it may fight for freedom. Fall term is coming to a close, but many students are already waiting for summer. Seniors who have spent the last three years on this campus, who have watched three classes come and go, have every reason to be sick of this Academy. There are many things to be learned on this campus, and it is impossible to learn everything that this school has to teach, even if one spent an entire lifetime here. But there is only so much information that a certain individual can absorb. A career at Andover is not an easy one. We undergo oppression; we forfeit many of our rights as we come through the door. But we learn to cope with what we have and we learn to use our voices to make our lives better. Not only that, but we learn to make other people’s lives better as we come to see how lucky we really are. We learn to deal with adversity and we learn how to fight for ourselves. We learn who our friends are and who we are. We see that not everyone can be trusted, so we learn to cherish the people we can trust. We learn so much more beyond the classroom. As we try to make this school work, we get a glimpse into running the world. Sometimes a glimpse can spark a fire, and as we begin to see that there is life beyond Andover, we yearn more and more to become free. Looking at and applying to colleges is often the instigation that rallies students out the doors. As we plan for our future, we become caught up in what lies beyond Friday’s math test. We want the rest of our lives now. As Uppers and Seniors make pivotal decisions about the kind of people they want to be, the rules and regulations seem pitiful and annoying. Our futures are limitless! Why should we subject ourselves to the trivial details, like sign-in and car permission? The cry across campus is resounding: Get me out of here! It’s tough, but we have to remind ourselves that the rules have and always will be here for our own good. The hardest thing in the world to do is the one thing that will make us better.