Does Head-Royce Condition Us?
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As I near the end of my final year at the School, I often find myself reminiscing about my childhood, most of which was spent on this very campus. We lifers began this journey way back in 2003 as tiny kindergarteners, eager to learn and make new friends. The curriculum in the Lower School – though nothing compared to that of the Upper School – was fairly substantial, covering everything from pilgrims and Native Americans to long division. After getting over the initial shock of receiving homework, we pushed on through Middle School, dissecting sheep hearts and learning how to write an essay along the way. Now, practically at the threshold of college, I look back at my years at the School and realize that the School has given me so much more than knowledge of facts and formulas; I truly believe that the School has served as the foundation for many of my ideas, opinions, and perhaps even characteristics.
We often believe that our families are the people who influence us the most. There are so many expressions – such as “like father like son” – that directly suggest that children take after their parents. But there are no expressions – such as “like teacher like student” – that suggest that teachers have any impact on their students, at least none that I can recall. Yet students spend around seven hours with their teachers five times a week, which is a substantial amount of time. Personally, I always viewed my teachers as parental figures when I was in Lower School, likely because I interacted with them more than with my own parents. Even in High School, I look to my teachers as role models, and I am even close enough to some of them to seek out their advice on personal matters. There is no doubt in my mind that my teachers have partaken in my upbringing.
In addition, the School does a good job of fostering an atmosphere of acceptance and community that has changed me for the better. I have found that the School strongly promotes justice, tolerance, and empathy as early as kindergarten, although that opinion is certainly up for debate. The School encourages its students to be kind, thoughtful, and independent individuals, which goes beyond the classroom and seeps into our daily lives. In a way, I feel that the School has strongly shaped my morals and principles, which are essential parts of who I am. Thus, I honestly believe that I can attribute my personality and value system to the School.
But these are just my opinions. To get other perspectives, I asked fellow lifers to what extent the School has conditioned us. On the subject of personality, Senior Clara Maxim said, “Personality is sort of ingrained. It gets ingrained more by your family and your experiences than by your school. But [the School] has influenced which parts of my personality I show based on what’s acceptable here.” Maxim also commented on morals and values: “My parents have very different values and views of what’s right or wrong than I do, so [the School] probably is the main reason for that. Also, generation gaps are a big factor.” Maxim brings up an excellent point, which is that the attitudes of our generation strongly influence us. Thus, our peers can influence us more than the institution of our school.
When I asked Junior Harrison Harvey if the School has influenced his morals, he replied, “[The School] has done a good job of exposing me to different types of people, but I don’t know if it has affected my morals. It kind of has because I gained my morals from experience and family, and [the School] has put me in situations where my morals are tested; so then I develop them further. But I don’t know if I always follow all the morals that [the School] has told me to.” Many students at the school can agree with Harvey’s main point: the School has influenced our morals through exposure, not through compulsion. It provides us the opportunity to learn how to act, but does not force morals down our throats.
Not everyone feels that the School has had a profound impact on who we are as people. But many others and I believe that the School at the very least provides us with the opportunity to grow. I personally feel grateful for the School because I think it has been an essential factor in my development. Yes, I owe a lot of my growth to my family and experiences outside of school, but my school environment provided me with friends and role models that have greatly influenced me. In just a few months, I will leave this place forever changed by my experiences here.