Dear my fellow students,
What did you write on that application essay, when you wanted to get into the most prestigious prep school in the United States? What did you say to the admission officer, when he or she asked why you wanted to come to Phillips Academy? “I want to learn,” I claimed as a bright eyed eighth grader, “I want to be in an environment where I can be challenged and I can be surrounded by people who enjoy learning as much as I do.” Though during the rigors of Upper spring it’s hard to recall, most of us came to Andover to face a rigorous academic workload for perhaps the first time in our lives.
The one thing that Phillips Academy teaches us, even if it doesn’t mean to, is how to take it: how to take those long nights, those grueling tests, those pop quizzes, even the papers due next week that we should get started on earlier. We learn to take it. We learn to beg for extensions, to cram, to read everything the night before–maybe right before the class–and let information ooze out of our ears afterwards. Sometimes, we even learn to get our work started early so we can finish on time (gasp). But we learn to take it. If we need help we go in for conference. If we don’t know the answer to the problem, we collaborate with our peers. But rarely should we fight for less work and later due dates.
So why is it, that in the past four days, classmates in two of my classes have managed to either squeeze out free cuts or eliminate assignments from their workload? Why is it that right before a class with a substitute teacher, I hear mutterings about lying to the teacher about what we have and what we have not learned, and what assignments we have or do not have? Why is it that a week before every major assignment in history class we spend an entire class period arguing to reduce the assignment or push it back? Why is it, that for a paper assigned nearly a week in advance, students have still not started it by the day before. How and why is it that we managed to convince our English teacher, that we need an extra class period to work on a paper assigned a week in advance? Why are we even bargaining-what gives us that right? Why are we griping and complaining and why the hell are we pushing around the teachers as if we own the place?
Why don’t we pull our act together academically? We are rarely on the receiving end of verbal punishment. We are spoiled. We can complain, bash teachers, make disingenuous assertions, and snide comments about instructors we do not like. And yet teachers rarely call us out on it. They do not point out our flaws or our hypocrisy.
Yes, people are busy. We live busy lives, with all of our extracurricular activities and our sports and commitments. That’s what makes Andover such a great place. Our best and brightest are also brilliant athletes. However, above all, we are still a school, and academics must come first. In spite of the tough life we choose to live, or maybe because of it, we have to always shoot for the best, shoot for perfection, unattainable as it may be.
Maybe that means planning work out over the course of a week, or dropping some of those time-consuming extracurricular activities. But under no circumstances should we engage in collective bargaining with our teachers and be unwilling to give something up ourselves. We made the choice to come here, and unless we give it our all, how can we prove that we deserve all our privileges?
It’s time for us to shape up! We came here to learn. It’s time to live up to what we wrote on that application all those years ago. Prove it to your teachers and to yourself. Learn your lessons, put your all into that assignment you have and maybe, just maybe, be a little curious about what you learn. We’re supposed to be the best and the brightest in the country. Maybe it’s time we started acting like it.
Greg Zhang is a three-year Upper from North Andover, MA.