Presidential Prep

Superlative is a funny word. As Seniors begin to vote on who in their class is most likely to appear in Playboy, star in a reality show, end up on CNN, in the White House or take over the world, we also realize that this is not merely an intellectual exercise. Every day, students strive to be the best in academics, performances and on the sports fields. And PA graduates tend to follow the same pattern. Look around. Phillips Academy has hardly trumpeted the fact that U.S. President No. 43 was an Andover man, and with good reason. Still, George W. Bush ’64 attained the highest political office in the country, which is an achievement in and of itself — he’ll always be a distinguished alum. The school’s silence, then, is the result of what he did after January 20 eight years ago, proving that getting to the top in title alone isn’t worth much. So what presidential preparation does our prep school offer today? In President Obama’s inaugural address on Tuesday, we heard many of the values and principles that Andover also espouses — responsibility, a sense of service, concern for peace and security in other nations. Phillips Academy was founded for one main purpose — to educate the children of the first citizens of the United States to become leaders. It was one of the first institutions in this country dedicated to producing generals and lawmakers, those who could sway congregations or courtrooms, think deeply about theology and policy, or write with eloquence and erudition on the questions of their time — people who would shape the country and defend its citizens’ rights. Too often at Andover, we are afraid that students are short-sighted and self-interested. We all could cut fewer corners and muster more courage and conviction in all we do. While in recent years, an Andover education has begun to include more focus on “goodness” as well as knowledge — with an excellent community service program and speakers on human rights and global responsibility — it still lacks in other ways. As History 100 and English 100 have become, at least in part, pass-fail, as the American History course has lost some of its gargantuan depth and challenge, and as grade inflation rises, we fear that an Andover education may not focus or mold students as much as the students may mold the school. By the end of four years, many kids have narrowed their interests and finalized lists of activities and interests for colleges, packaging themselves and zeroing in on grades and recommendations. But is striving to be at the top of the list all there is to it? We should be looking at what happens along the way. We spend so much time celebrating ourselves and our accomplishments that maybe, sometimes, we lose sight of how much more we could expect of one another. No. 43’s journey undoubtedly looks on paper the way many of ours will, while No. 44’s books reveal a more complicated path to the White House. As we look at our own years at Andover, the school may shape our priorities and our passions more than ever, as we each strive to be a “superlative” person. But only if we let it. This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXI.