It’s Complicated

How many Andover-critical editorials are too many Andover-critical editorials?

At Andover, we’re surrounded by opportunities, privileges, and hardships that we largely might not be exposed in other educational settings. In the newsroom, however, we’ve found ourselves facing a conflict—how, when we have just one opportunity per week to publish our collective opinions, should we adequately balance gratitude and giving voice to the hardships we experience?

Expressions of gratitude feel particularly relevant around this time of year, when members of a newly admitted class decide to #SayYesToAndover. The revisit days, which took place earlier in spring term, are a supposed opportunity for admitted students to experience the real Andover. But while revisit students do attend real classes and have conversations with real students, many hosts adjust their actions to portray Andover in a more positive light, often inadvertently. Smiling tour guides are better tour guides, we’re taught, and we should aim to keep in mind that “a comment or two about stress, for example, may leave the student feeling that students don’t enjoy being at Andover,” according to a list of guidelines sent to every spring visit host in an email.
“A comment or two about stress,” however, should arguably be included in a ‘realistic’ portrayal of the Andover experience. We will inevitably be stressed, and it’s not reasonable to assume that Andover students can and should only focus on gratitude as a means of ‘self-reflection,’ as we’re often encouraged to do (our year-long theme is, after all, gratitude).

But as important as it is to remind ourselves of what we’re grateful for, it’s also equally as important to not feel guilt or shame when reckoning with what we could do without—to validate our own struggles and concerns as we navigate Andover. Andover shouldn’t have to be portrayed as stress-free, especially when potential students come along, because we have more genuine things to be proud of or grateful for.

We’re grateful for embarrassingly late night (early morning?) conversations in the common rooms of our dorms, essay prompts that make us think a little too hard, lawning, pop-up a cappella performances, cookies under the cherry tree in the spring, memories from freshman year we’d rather forget, visits from inspiring alumni, Andover meme accounts, the view from the Sam Phil steps, Nestor making stir fry, and the dip in the stairs in Commons. We’re grateful for the Newsroom, for countless clubs, for the niche terminology that only ‘Andover’ kids will understand—310, HOSD, 4×5, EBI (PACE?), and for the space to find ourselves as individuals, even if it feels like we grew up too early sometimes. We’re grateful for the people, perhaps above all– meaningful, laughter-filled, emotional relationships built up by and in spite of adversity. And, finally, we’re grateful for the hard work of the individuals that make up what can sometimes feel like a removed and hazy ‘administration.’

Ironically, we might even owe gratitude to Andover for our critique of Andover—by challenging students to better themselves, this place makes our dissents stronger and attention to flaws sharper. Because we are ‘learned’, we have the capability and the resources to question the institution in which we have learned.

Ultimately, just about all of our stress can be turned into a criticism of ‘the administration.’ This criticism, however, does not mean that we are ungrateful for all the administration has done for us; rather, that we’re grappling with what it means to live the Andover experience and represent it—what it means to honestly express our gratitude in times of genuine need.

This editorial is less of a clear-cut advocacy and more of a confused confessional—a mashup of opinions from individuals in the Newsroom who, on some angles of this issue, genuinely disagree with each other. Maybe that confusion speaks to why we’re writing this now, though—maybe Andover is at its best when it gives us the space to disagree.

This editorial (attempts to) represent the opinions of The Phillipian, vol. CXLI.