Really, We’re Modest

How many students does it take to change a lightbulb at Andover? One; he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.” You may recognize this quotation from the Facebook group, “Prep Schools and their ‘light’ problems…” Although the group doesn’t indicate whether an Andover student wrote this or not, do we want people to view our student body as arrogant and self-centered? This typecast is very far from the truth. It’s no surprise, though, self-importance is an the Andover stereotype. There is no way for us to fully deny this claim when, for example, just last week The Phillipian published an article in which Cammy Brandfield-Harvey ’11 wrote of herself and fellow new Uppers. “Each one of us has our own special interests and pursuits, but at the core, behind this curtain of individuality, we were all the best. We depleted the resources our schools had to offer us. Our wells had gone dry,” she wrote. This is a flattering portrayal of Andover students, but the superior attitude does not represent the majority of people. This superior attitude does not portray us as a modest group of students; on the contrary, seem like egotists. I certainly don’t believe that when other people see me they think with reverence, “she goes to Andover.” The writer also diminished the struggles of Juniors and new Lowers versus the plight of the new Upper. PA is a place where everyone is challenged to their limits. International students, for example, may have to adjust to a new culture, and Juniors have to deal with being away from home at such a young age in addition to attending high school for the first time. But I understand why Brandfield-Harvey wrote her article at such an early point in her Andover experience. Many students arrive at PA having been among the top students in their classes. At my school, I took classes in the “Advanced Learning Program,” so naturally I thought I was an advanced learner. My self-opinion was boosted when the math department placed me two classes higher than where I left off in 8th grade: I was practically a genius. All it took was a 36 percent on Mr. Barry’s first test to dash these opinions and modify my math placement. This humbling effect is one of Andover’s best offerings. To arrive here with some degree of pride and leave with the humility Andover instills is a huge improvement on our characters. That is why the arrogant stereotype is disappointing: the student body here is as humble as any. In such a talented and diverse group of kids, there will always be someone better than you at basically everything. This can, at times, be discouraging, and sometimes you want to stop trying because of the seeming futility, but it teaches something that teachers or textbooks can’t grasp. Gradually during the course of your time at PA, you stop thinking of yourself as “the best” and start to recognize others’ talents without bitterness and jealousy. You should become genuinely proud of your work when it’s good, because you lose the expectation that it will be good no matter what. You stop bragging since you believe others are just as great as you. The best part is, when you do score the winning goal in a game or get a 6+ on an essay, you don’t lose that modesty. The people I interact with daily never cease to amaze me with their relaxed attitude over their successes. Getting to school and realizing that you’re not the best writer or mathematician may seem brutal at first, but the humility that accompanies it is an improvement on character, and far more important than essays and tests. I’m more humble now and when I do succeed so much more pleased with myself. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but I am proud to go to Andover. Not because we’re the best, but because we know we’re not. Julia Zorthian is a three-year Upper and Associate News Editor from Greenwich, CT.