Our Extracurricular Education

Phillips Academy’s current policy of rarely granting permission for off-campus trips that would require students to miss classes deters students from pursuing our passions. The school should encourage these pursuits, not advise against them. Some teachers and administrators fear that extracurricular activities that interfere with the typical academic schedule will cause students to fall behind. As a result, many students feel our ability to take part in endeavors outside of the walls of Phillips Academy is limited. These missed opportunities detract from the broader education Andover claims to both offer and champion. The Blue Book states, “The Academy considers its program to be a student’s primary obligation and therefore rarely will grant permission to miss scheduled Academy commitments to participate in events not sponsored by the Academy,” and “students will be allowed to miss Academy commitments to participate in non-Academy-affiliated athletic events only if the competition is at the national or international level,” among other conditions. Commitment to Andover’s program is valuable, both for the material it has to offer and, well, to graduate, but The Phillipian holds that this program is secondary to the cause of receiving a well-rounded education. The Phillipian hopes that the school will reconsider its current policy, and alter it in favor of a more flexible approach to allowing trips that would enrich the curriculum with outside experiences. Last week’s Model United Nations trip to Washington, D.C. is one example of how these trips can be carried out successfully. Students and chaperones agreed the trip was worthwhile and enriching, despite concerns about missing class. Some students have abandoned certain pursuits since coming to Phillips Academy, as a result of the school’s policy of discouraging trips during the school year; for example, some have not attended debates they would have otherwise. Others decided to no longer ride horses or downhill ski competitively. Granted, these activities offer a different kind of education and experience, but one that is no less important than academic learning. And academics need not suffer as a result of these other pursuits. The terms “extracurricular” and “academic” are not mutually exclusive. Many extracurricular activities have substantial academic value, ranging from strictly academic clubs like Math Club to awareness clubs like STAND to clubs geared toward speaking skills, such as the Philomathean Society and Mock Trial. Phillips Academy gets it right with Independent Projects. With IPs, the school allows students to pursue their own goals on their own time. With this policy, the school trusts the student to be responsible, to accomplish something worthwhile, independently of the required program. Phillips Academy should apply this spirit of promoting independent study to requests from clubs for school trips as well. When one looks at education with a broader, open mind, it becomes clear that Phillips Academy students learn just as much, if not more, from their extracurricular activities as they do from ones within the curriculum. Lessons about independent thought, about leadership and about adapting to new situations cannot always be taught in Samuel Phillips Hall. Trips, competitions and experiences at other schools, in other states, even in other counties are valuable and supplement a well-rounded education. Phillips Academy should support and encourage student pursuits and passions both inside and outside of the classroom.