The PA/AHS Dilemma

For the majority of my life, Andover, Massachusetts has been my home. I went to Andover public schools from kindergarten to eighth grade and most of the people I met and befriended continued to Andover High, while I wound up at Phillips. For townies, the two schools in Andover aren’t Phillips and Andover High; rather, they are PA and AHS. To this day some of my closest friends are students at AHS, yet students from both schools have always had an awkward relationship. They share the same town but come from different backgrounds and have very different living experiences. AHS kids are accustomed to driving cars, going to parties, working jobs and having much more free time compared to PA kids. PA kids come from around the world and most of them live in dorms where life is controlled to some degree by the Academy. As a form of entertainment, some AHS kids drive around PA playing pranks. Some involve shouting obscenities or throwing projectiles such as water balloons, but as of late, the most popular thing to do is to call PA kids “catboners”. “Catboner”, now what does that refer to? An erect feline penis? A person who engages in sexual acts with cats? What does that have to do with Phillips students anyway? Most AHS kids I know agree that “catboner” is nonsensical; its beauty lies in the fact that it is so random and that there is no suitable comeback for it. Responding with an expletive or a middle finger sounds pretty weak. Andover is a large, upper-middle-class suburb with a mainly white population. Of the towns in the surrounding area, Andover has a reputation for being the rich and snobby one. Instead of realizing the inaccuracy and pointlessness of stereotypes, AHS kids commonly stereotype PA students as well. They believe that Andover kids are wealthy, preppy, arrogant idiots or socially-retarded brainiacs. Since being the “spoiled rich kids” is a touchy subject for the AHS reputation, it is easy for them to target PA kids as being even more spoiled than they are. Being nerdy has long been associated with being uncool in high school. Andover High is a great school, but its academic curriculum is considerably more laid back than Phillips’. These are some of the main factors that create tension between the student bodies of both schools. This tension, combined with teenage thrill seeking, has lead to the catboner phenomena. Very few AHS students actually go out of their way to catboner PA students, but if they are in the area it is hard to resist surprising a lone student trudging along Main Street holding a large stack of books. I will be the first to admit that surprising people by shooting things at them out of cars provides a simplistic pleasure. Some PA students get rattled and offended by this. I can understand anger if the proclamation is malicious or racially charged, but a simple catboner is harmless and funny. With friends at both schools, I believe that on many levels, both groups of kids can relate to each other. Part of the reason animosity builds between the schools is that we generally take catboner too seriously here. If we begin not to be offended by the entire catboner phrase, it will most likely die away. Another possible course of action would be for PA students to come up with a similar prank of our own to play on AHS kids. I feel that most AHS students would appreciate it and it could even bring the schools closer together, because PA and AHS students don’t really know each other. Knowledge is currently restricted by broad stereotypes and chance encounters like catbonering. Some sort of mutual event would be productive in fostering a bond between AHS and PA similar to our relationship with other prep schools. There is the possibility of creating a friendly rivalry with Andover High that produces friendship rather than hostility.