By Jewels ’11
It feels like I’ve been huddled in the door frame of adolescence for a long while, one foot safely inside the chamber of The Past, another dangling over some toothy, fog-filled expanse, generally christened The Unknown. Now, I’m not sure if this is true for you, but I do not particularly enjoy cuddling up to The Unknown — it’s cold, it’s ambiguous and it’s not a puppy. However, this Unknown, or the obscure future looming outside Marlborough School (yes, it may be hard to believe, but there’s a whole world out there), does lend itself well to some fishing around in the old think tank — so I say to you, what’s a couple crawfish between friends?
The country project, the “lowly” 4 on my AP French exam, SATs, ACTs, (de)merit slips, the beep test… all sit quietly in an earlier time, nestled comfortably in the recesses of my thoughts. And I cannot help but wonder: is it my perspective that shrinks these moments, or were they ever big to begin with? I can recall when every quiz point was do or die, each space on my report card read either “A” or “not A.” Yes, I was one of those girls, and to some extent I still am. There’s nothing wrong with a little ambition, but I believe this trait all too easily whittles a girl into a tunnel of self-deprecating anxiety. Does our school support the sacrifice of girls’ emotional health for what is academically profitable, or is it you, reader, who puts the pressure on yourself, outsourcing the blame to the institution?
Not a pretty thought, but one worth consideration — I honestly don’t know — after all, what is the best way to educate a young woman? Why do we even go to school? Such questions are quick to answer and slow to defend. School has obvious benefits, but I worry the frantic push to get kids through the educational system results in a total eradication of self-motivation inside the classroom. Students attend school “just because” or “in order to get a job.” Yet when I’m in the throes of academic discussion, a career is generally the last thing that’s on my mind where are the conversations about the miracle of mental expansion? Or the exact sensation felt when the cerebral floodgates finally spill open, grasping perspectives, breaking down barriers, mouthing the echoes of voices long past?
Learning is rare: I can see that now. And an education is a slippery thing — I can feel that now. Looking back on my high school experience, on that bright container of light, all I have to say is this: your parents may write the check and sign your name, and this might make you clever, but I can guarantee it will not make you whole. So, I urge you — resist the desire to lean back and be swept along in the current of scores, grades and qualifications, for these are all empty placeholders, placebos feeding in knowledge’s stead. Make Marlborough your conduit for success; don’t settle for being a conduit for Marlborough’s success.
This school has been my home for six fruitful years, and I am ineffably grateful for the gifts it has given me. All I have left in these final sentences is an idea, one I accredit to Marlborough, a place that has generously allowed me to criticize, to grow and question, to push the envelope: anyone can bend your mind, but only you can teach yourself to think.