Letters to the Editor

Letter from the Associate Head of School

To the Editor: Last week’s All-School Meeting speaker hit a home run. Shawn Achor was interesting and well-spoken and left us with several useful tips. He advised that in the pursuit of happiness we should begin each day by listing three things we feel gratitude for. Among the things for which I am most grateful each day is the privilege to work and live at Phillips Academy with a range of talented and thoughtful individuals. This fall our community has been abuzz with debates over everything from real estate (study areas and student centers) to privacy (one-card system) and identity (sexual orientation and race). We have had petitions, Philo forums, Phillipian Commentary pieces and letters to the editor. Many students and faculty have taken the time and energy to engage in discussion regarding issues that affect them, hoping that they might bring about a better outcome. One might say that we are living the section of the Statement of Purpose that promotes the value of “thinking critically, creatively and independently.” An educator friend of mine wrote that “Schools do not exist in a vacuum but are extensions of the society that creates them. They impact and are impacted by the world around them.” This maxim has never been more true than it is today. At Andover, just under 1100 students and more than 500 faculty and staff are gathered from around the world to live and work in close proximity for weeks at a time. We may get so caught up in our day-to-day lives of classes, sports, extracurricular activities, work duty, meetings and personal relationships that the Andover Bubble seems to isolate us. But no matter how long we stay here or how acclimated we become, we each have had a life before Phillips Academy and we maintain links to our other life during our precious free time and during breaks. That outside life shapes our world view and develops our personalities, making us the complex, sentient beings that we are. The Andover Statement of Purpose reads, “The Academy is committed to establishing a community that encourages people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to understand and respect one another and to be sensitive to differences of gender, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation.” In this laboratory of living and learning, we are called upon to share our beliefs, and, as a result, we frequently encounter disagreement. Sometimes our differences are purely philosophical and abstract; sometimes they are intensely personal. We will never see eye-to-eye on every issue, and yet it is important that we take the risk of examining our divergent opinions with one another in a civil, respectful and responsible manner. One more thing I am grateful for is the opportunity this dialectic gives us to grow intellectually and emphatically, even as uncomfortable and, dare I say it, unhappy as we can be in the midst of the exchange. Sincerely, Rebecca Sykes Associate Head of School