By Maryam Pate '20
If you’re a student on the Close, chances are, in the past week you’ve probably been stopped by a teacher or administrator who waved at you, asked how you were doing or inquired about your personal life. These common interactions are indicators of a privilege we all receive as students on the Close, and a privilege that we cannot feel entitled towards.
One might struggle to find the significance in such a mundane interaction, or think, “they’re teachers, that’s their job,” but therein lies the problem: we are so accustomed to behaviors of adults on the Close and the immensely privileged environment we exist in, that we begin to undervalue and feel entitled to the strong forces silently shaping who we will become.
NCS and STA fulfill their missions of shaping women of “excellence, service, courage and conscience” and men of “achievement, leadership and service.” These traits are cultivated in all parts of our journeys on the Close, most visibly through things like foreign exchanges, rigorous English departments, and fellowships. But there are quieter forces at play that shape us beyond our academic identities.
We have exceptionally strong relationships with adults on campus and are constantly reminded of the web of support that exists for us at school. Whether they be teachers, college counselors, or advisors, we are surrounded by adults constantly reassuring us that we have what it takes and that not only can we succeed, but we will. There is a cushion that exists beneath us that allows us room to take risks with the knowledge that there will be someone there to protect us. In these formative relationships, we develop greatly and gain confidence and self-worth, but at what cost?
These privileges transform the role of schools in our lives. Private schools often advertise their emphasis on nurturing the whole child, and Close schools are no exception. For some, school is even another home, and Close institutions are fundamental parts of their identity. But there is a danger in attaching our identity to something so infused with enormous advantage over others.
As recipients of these advantages, we must ask ourselves, what have we done to deserve this? The answer should be not much. There is very little that entitles us to the education we receive. Private school is just a good in the education market, and that is exactly why none of us are entitled to it. This consideration does not negate the efforts of those who contribute to our education, nor does it negate the struggles we have faced in these challenging environments. Rather, it shifts our attention to our responsibilities as privileged individuals; we have to see and act on the privilege within ourselves. It's in how we speak, relate to our peers and teachers, conduct ourselves, and how we expect others to behave. We have to live cognizant of the fact that the advantages set before us have created uncommon and extraordinary environments very different from those of “the real world.” Even more importantly, we have to know that they are not who we are.
Particularly as some of us prepare to move on past the Close, we have a responsibility to deepen our self-awareness and rectify the distorted expectations we might have. While we might be used to positive reinforcement at every corner, in truth, nobody really owes us that or much of anything. We shouldn’t expect all our future communities to be our havens; we should prepare ourselves for lives enriched by our positive experiences on the Close, but not defined by them. We can seek to recreate such positive community experiences without feeling entitled to them. After all, there is so much more to us than our privilege.