No New Friends

 

September 21, 2018

Upperclassmen, scroll back through your Instagram tagged posts to your freshman fall. Chances are you have that one picture where you’re brace-faced and cheesing on the Quad with a group of people you’ve barely spoken to since freshman year. New students, you’re currently in that very phase: the strange, all-consuming first few weeks on this campus during which you search frantically for a group of friends that’ll offer you security while you still don’t know anyone and while no one really knows you.

You may have even begun your hunt before orientation, ‘directory-stalking’ your grade or following your soon-to-be classmates on Instagram. You created barely informed, distorted opinions about people you had yet to meet, all in the hopes of finding a group of friends when you first start out here.

It’s all part of that distinct, new-student urge to find and then cling to a friend group—any friend group. When we are new and trying so hard to find our space at this school, we search for groups we think other people will want to be a part of because, in our eager minds, these groups will somehow solidify our “belonging” status. As a result, many of us find ourselves surrounded by people with whom we don’t necessarily have too much in common, simply because they were the first people we latched onto.  Many more new students will feel like drifters, lacking a “group” and therefore feeling somehow inferior. But none of these factors speak to the real issues with rushed friend groups.

The fact is that these groups will transform ten times over before you, dear Reader, truly find ‘your people’: that elusive crew of homies you began searching for the second you stepped foot on this campus. Though it may be hard to recognize it now, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by approaching random people in your grade rather than limiting yourself to one group. Use your first year here to talk to everyone. Freshmen, take this as your trial year. Embrace the fact that you’ll make plenty of embarrassing missteps—so many, in fact, that everyone will forget about them almost immediately. It may feel like your first impression matters immensely, but, in reality, you’re going to be so different by your junior or senior year that this impression holds little meaning at all.

If anything, take solace in the promise of the friend-group-switchup. If you’re not entirely comfortable with your current group, trust that in a year or two you’ll find one that’s a better fit. If your network of friends changes during the year, don’t feel anxious that you’re losing friends or haven’t found stability yet. You can move on from these people without harboring a grudge or feeling a gaping loss.

Embrace that initial confusion and awkwardness, because if you get comfortable in a group too soon, you’ll shut yourself off to all the other relationships you could also build. TMP sees the beauty in being a floater, unconnected to any one group—someone with the freedom to roam around and make eclectic connections. The obsession with finding a friend group in your first year can be limiting and, ultimately, boring.

In a few years, you’ll likely move on from that first group of “friends,” who were really just acquaintances. Still, you’ll have an unspoken connection with those people who gave you comfort and belonging when you were only just learning how to feel like a part of Milton. Even if you barely speak to each other by senior year, you know that that connection helped make you who you are today—and hey, they’ll always be on your Instagram feed.

 

DC Inequalities

 

September 28, 2018

Every disciplinary system struggles with the fundamental question of how to equally punish all those, and only those, who deserve punishment. However, this idealistic system is almost impossible to implement in reality. At Milton, and really everywhere, this fact is inevitable: the distribution of punishment is often unjust.

Milton’s claim that it bases the Drug and Alcohol policies around student health and safety is obviously a valid motivation for disciplinary policies. Issues arise, however, when our disciplinary system fails to actually deter students from using harmful substances and instead simply punishes students who, out of the dozens who regularly use substances, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. These students will be forced to miss classes and will fall behind on work, while others with similar infractions will skate by unscathed.

Every student reading this could probably list off multiple people who they know abuse substances regularly and will never get caught. On the other hand, certain students are more likely to get caught for drug or alcohol offenses than others. Day students, for example, are almost immune to these DCs as they’re able to use substances off campus and away from faculty.

In short, the system doesn’t punish students for breaking the rules; it punishes us for getting caught. If anything, our disciplinary system reflects the harsh realities of the real world; even outside Milton, the punishment almost never fits the crime. Milton will never have a perfect disciplinary system, but we need to rethink the one that’s in place now.

Milton claims to care deeply about our health and safety, but its everyday practices don’t encourage healthy lifestyles in its students. If substance-related disciplinary processes really centered around health, vaping offences would have the same penalties as marijuana related infractions do, if not stricter ones, as vaping is well known to be far more addictive. In fact, Milton doesn’t have systems in place to manage how much its students (don’t) sleep; despite recent SGA efforts, Milton’s climate is still inconducive to students’ mental health; the school doesn’t even work to encourage students, particularly boarders, to eat breakfast on a regular basis. Our campus is undeniably unhealthy and destructive, and drugs and alcohol are barely the reason why.

Therefore, the message that the administration sends to the student body—however unintentionally—becomes “don’t get caught” instead of “don’t do it.” At the very least, the widespread perception amongst students often amounts to “everyone does it, and most people get away with it, so I just need to be smart about it.” DCs may be preventative in theory, yet in practice, they fail to prevent students from abusing substances. In any case, fear of punishment shouldn’t be the reason why students avoid substances. Rather, the school must pivot towards practices which focus on getting students help—beyond the existing Sanctuary and Outreach programs—and on creating a more thoughtful campus culture surrounding drugs and alcohol.

We’re not calling for the school to discipline the majority of the student body; that would be chaotic and painful for many. Neither are we denying the fact that every high school requires an system to penalize drug and alcohol offenses. We’re arguing, instead, for a meaningful restructuring of the current system.

We’re aware that it’s incredibly difficult to create a fair and appropriate disciplinary system, and that the administration has been trying incredibly hard for the past few years to do just that. This is a really hard issue to discuss, and we’re aware that we’re criticizing this system without offering an entirely improved one to take its place. TMP believes that because substances penalties are inherently unequal, Milton should prioritize prevention and recovery over harsh punishment.

We’re not here to diminish an exceptionally complicated decision-making process. We’re simply here to tell you that something’s broken and that we’ve noticed.

 

Institutional Change: Impact vs. Instant GratificatioN

 

October 5, 2018

Milton prides itself on ubiquitous campus dialogue, and for good reason; we, the students, constantly aim to to address any issues we see here. Unfortunately, given that most of us spend only four years here, it often feels impossible to create meaningful change in the short timeframe we’re given.

Many of us, TMP included, will often bemoan the administration’s apathy towards our complaints; after all, it’s their job to make change. What else are they doing all day? Students with this mindset should step back and understand what a small frame of reference we have. Think of all the teachers commemorated on the walls of Wigg—the Milton staff members who have worked at this institution for upwards of a quarter of a century. These teachers have been on this campus more than three times as long than our “lifers” have. Compare their perception of change at this school with ours; to us, the institution is remaining frustratingly static, but in their scope of twenty-plus years, it’s transformed immensely.

Institutions evolve at a glacial pace. Milton Academy, like any storied prep school, will take years to fully consider and implement any meaningful change in its policies. But while this transition period is minute in the scope of the school, for students, this uncertainty constitutes the majority—or entirety—of our high school careers.

This discrepancy causes frustration and leads students to overlook many small victories. Two years ago, the SGA got rid of rules that had required the election of one male and one female student, and replaced these rules with more includes ones, that allow non-binary students to hold SGA positions. Last year’s head monitors established delayed start days in order to create a climate more conducive to students’ mental health. This summer, Milton established at least one gender neutral bathroom in every campus building. Milton recently removed gender from all academic transcripts. After years of Muslim students’ requests, we now finally have a prayer room in the student center.

Many of us may feel that despite constant dialogue on this campus, this school isn’t getting anywhere. It’s easy to feel impatient in the moment and feel like our concerns aren’t being visibly or immediately acted upon, but if you take even a slight step back, you can appreciate how even in the last few years, this institution has made some radical changes.

We expect such immediate, impractical change because our society has grown accustomed to instant gratification. In this case, the mindset is not “I want food, so let’s go to the bookstore,” but instead “I’m protesting, so where’s the change?” Meaningful changes, however, are slow, because it takes time to make change that will last.

Because of the quick turnover of students in a high school, those of us at the front of a given movement are likely never going to receive recognition when all our hard work finally comes into fruition. Students have, for example, been criticizing the Student Center’s structure and its reinforcement of predatory behavior for years. Upperclassman may recall how, in the Spring of 2017, a “Project Story” class performed an expository piece dissecting the pernicious impact of the Stu’s architecture.

In a few years, when the revamped stu finally sees the light of day, all of the students involved with this project will have been long graduated. Their work, however, had real impact; it contributed to the administration’s effort to redesign the building at the center of student life. Our activism is amounting to something, but we most likely will never see the fruits of our labor. It’s a realization that's both painful and comforting.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push constantly to improve this school. Work to make Milton a better, more inclusive place. Fight not because you expect to see the effects in your own high school career, but because you know your work will benefit the generations of students who will come after you.

 

Improving Parental Relationships in our Intense EnvironmenT

 

October 19, 2018

Parents, you get the worst of us. The Milton experience can often be draining and excruciating, and our parental relationships bear the brunt of that constant anxiety.

Earlier this week, TMP sent out an anonymous poll to the Upper School asking “If you could say one thing to your Parents right now, what would you say?” Several of the responses we received offered an apology for neglecting parents’ affections or not showing enough gratitude. One student said “I know that outwardly, it doesn't seem like I appreciate you guys, but deep down, I always do,” while another said “I'm sorry I'm mean to you when I'm stressed, I feel bad that I take it out on you both.”

Parents: we know that we can often seem rude or ungrateful. Day student parents see us in the morning while we’re rushing out the door, already late for assembly, and then again in the evening, when we’re deep in our daily panics about how we’re going to finish all of our homework. Boarding students’ days are so tightly scheduled that we struggle to even find a time to call our parents, and when we do, we’re exhausted, stressed, or both. Milton sucks us dry of every last ounce of energy, and as a result, our parental relationships can suffer.

It’s telling, however, that by far the most popular response to our poll was “I love you,” followed by “Thank you.” Though in our snarkiest, most stress-addled moments, we may appear unaffectionate or ungrateful, we recognize how much you’ve done for us and, above all, we love you. Still, our intense environment cannot help but foster a divide between students and parents, and TMP would like to take a step towards bridging that gap.

Our parents can sometimes disregard the constant dialogue and student activism on campus, because in their eyes we’re here to learn. While that’s true, of course, we’re also here to discover our own perspectives and build our worldviews. Our education relies on every conversation, club meeting, and peer interaction. To its’ students, Milton is so much more than the classes we take and the grades we get; the people we become by our senior year will have been moulded in large part by the discourse at Milton.

And yet, we can feel often as though our parents overlook the many ways in which we contribute to the community outside of the classroom. It makes sense: our parents sent us to Milton to get a great education, and some may think that begins and ends in the classroom. In reality, however, Milton students rarely get to school at 8am, move through their classes, and call it a day at 3pm; this school is all-encompassing, and so many of us spend our entire days here, practicing on sports fields, rehearsing at a cappella practices, editing during publication meetings, or simply working in the library, collaborating with our peers. Therefore, TMP asks parents to value even those qualities that define our Milton experience outside of our coursework; when parents are connected to the non-academic elements of our school lives, the parental relationship will be infinitely stronger.

We know we’re asking a lot from you, but please, bear with us when we’re being cranky, uncommunicative, or withdrawn. Yes, it’s annoying to hear a bunch of privileged, prep-school teenagers complain about how hard their lives are—in fact, it can come across as downright bratty—but the fact remains that being a student at Milton can incredibly difficult, mentally, emotionally, and physically. We can only survive here if our parents truly comprehend that and meet us where we are.

 

Improving the “No Homework Weekend”

 

October 26, 2018

Chances are that this past Tuesday your classes were filled with complaints about how ‘no-homework weekends are fake!’

Earlier this week, TMP collected over 240 responses in an anonymous poll that asked upper school students about the recent “no homework” weekend. The results indicate that 80% of students did some amount of homework over the weekend, with 52% spending between 1-4 hours doing that work. This trend of working over “no homework” weekends seems to stem from teachers assigning lengthy, time-consuming work that’s due any time after the Tuesday students return; on paper, students technically have no homework, but still feel an expectation to work, regardless of the “no homework” label. For example, 88% of respondents to our poll had between 1 and 4 major assignments due this week. One student commented, “I feel bad for my parents who traveled all this way here to watch me study for a test that is basically most of my interim grade.” Situations like these not only undermine no homework weekends, but also drive a rift between teachers and their students.

The very existence of “no homework” weekends is positive; Milton is incredibly taxing, and these brief interludes allow us to recuperate. Breaks like these weekends—or last year’s one-off no-homework-Wednesday—can only effectively address stress if teachers and students alike respect this intended break.

The widely held student opinion about these weekends is that teachers are unfaithful to the expectation of no over-the-weekend assignments. In response to the question “Do you think teachers respect the no homework weekend?” only 23% of respondents said “Yes”;  65% said “Partially,” and 12% gave a flat-out said “No.”

This weekend follows a long-standing pattern: the calendar boasts a No-Homework weekend, but because of a combination of teachers’ assignment habits and students’ self-induced stress, these weekends still contain large amounts of work. As one student put it, “It’s never truly a no hw weekend.” Respondents to our poll overwhelmingly lamented the creative ways teachers schedule due dates of major assignments shortly after no-homework weekend:

“They try to get away with it by assigning like essays due wednesday and stuff. tests too.”
“I feel as if the teachers give you an unfair choice that really isn't a choice .”

“they say you don't HAVE to [do homework] but they encourage it”

“like assigning work on thursday Mostly they’re all like oh you’ll have a weight 3 test and an essay due on Wednesday, so pretty much assigning homework. Or they’ll be like okay you have to complete this packet that will take you three hours by Wednesday”

The inefficacy of the “no-homework” label also exists largely because we students put pressure on ourselves to be productive, regardless of whether or not our teachers expect us to do work. 47.7% of poll respondents answered “yes” to our question “Do you feel pressure to do work this weekend?” Milton both attracts and breeds the high-strung, self-motivated type of student who sets incredibly high expectations for him or herself, and this unrelenting work ethic makes us feel guilty if we don’t “take advantage” of our limited free time. The competitive way we brag about how much work we’ve completed only fuels this self-imposed expectation to work during even the fleeting moments in which we don’t need to.

No-homework weekends can only address their purpose—to offer a much-needed break from our hectic schedules—if both students and teachers commit to them.

Clean Up After Yourself: Every Action Matters

 
 

November 9, 2018

Milton students do a good job of discussing large-scale social issues and inequalities. We try, through our conversations, to consider how we can have a positive impact on the world. And yet, while we do so, we disregard our immediate community and fail to be conscious citizens in our everyday lives.

At any given point of time, you can find half-eaten snack-bar food or empty iced coffee cups strewn about the Student Center. We leave the janitorial staff to scrub away our sticky soda-spills and wash ketchup stains off the walls. “It’s their job”, we often say, but it’s really not. A janitor’s job is to throw out trash and clean up a general area, not clean up the messes we should be taking care of ourselves. It is your duty and your duty alone to throw out your soda cans and leave a space how you found it.

Our selfish attitudes abound every day during lunch periods. We get it: lunch is only forty minutes long, the lines are ridiculous, the food is often underwhelming, and it’s always humid and boiling, no matter the weather outside. Nonetheless, these factors should not determine how you treat the servers. When we finally make our way to the front of the line, plate in hand, we take our food and leave the cramped area as quickly as possible. No “Thank you!” or smile to the servers; few of us even know their names. We grab and go. We may not think this is a big deal, but this lack of consideration speaks to our (lack of) values as a student body. We are so used to getting what we want that we take the people around us for granted.

This sense of citizenship also translates into sports teams where many would think the culture of being a team player is more evident. However, just as in Forbes, it often lands on the same few people to constantly clean up the bus after a far away game, bring the gear out to practice, fill up the water bottles, and do the small things that everyone should be doing. Still, being a conscientious team member often goes unnoticed and only a few members really go the extra mile to help out.
Maybe some people think its below them to pick things up if they are an upperclassman. Maybe some people assume others will do it. Regardless, this entitled mentality permeates campus life.

We strive unfailingly to stretch ourselves in our academics; Milton students are self-motivated, conscientious to a fault, and we feel disappointed with ourselves when we don’t push ourselves to our full potential. Why can we hold ourselves to such high standards in our academics, and yet fail to do the bare minimum in our everyday interactions?

In fact, TMP isn’t even asking you to go above and beyond: we’re just asking each student to fulfill their basic responsibilities as a community member and human being. You could make the argument that we’re here to learn, and so, while it’s critical we challenge ourselves in the classroom, how we conduct ourselves outside of academics doesn’t matter in the same way. And yet, if we want to thrive—or even survive—in this world, each of us needs to do a better job of being a community member. Forget the Milton bubble: in any given school, workplace, or social space, it is considered disrespectful and entitled for you not to clean up after yourself in the most basic way. By keeping our campus spaces’ clean and treating everyone around you with a fundamental respect, you develop habits that can help you survive in communities for the rest of your life.  

We have a big picture mindset when it comes to changemaking, but our efforts become empty when we disregard our own community. Our concern for major issues is vital, but, if anything, we can have a more tangible impact with our everyday actions in the Milton community because we have more control in these situations. Simple efforts—like keeping the Stu clean or saying good morning to someone—can accumulate over time and improve our community in meaningful ways.

 

Scheduling Mayhem

 

November 16, 2018

In the past two weeks, we’ve had four abbreviated schedule days, one for a delayed start, one for the Defamation Experience, one for the Milton/Nobles Pep Rally, and one for a Veterans’ Day assembly. Also in the past two weeks, students received interim grades, there were two mass shootings, and we all learned the results of the U.S Midterm elections.

The Defamation Experience, while moving, arrived at Milton at an incredibly fraught time. Not only was the news cycle filled with reports of hate crimes, but the pivotal Midterm elections took place only one night before. Had, say, Massachusetts citizens voted to repeal transgender protection laws, students would have been extremely raw when faced with the assembly’s complex questions.

In any case, the assembly also ate up advisory time that would normally have been used to distribute and process interim grades. Freshmen, for example, received their first ever grades from the Milton Upper School—not a joyous occasion for most of us—without any official space to process them with their advisors. The advisory setup usually allows advisors to discuss with new students the difficult transition to high school, the usual learning curve, and other important issues, but this year, vulnerable new students received grades without room for guidance.

The collision of the Midterms and the Defamation Experience—each extremely emotionally and intellectually potent—also left us, in the following days, with simply too much to talk about. Milton students already have a tendency to overlook tragedies like the Pittsburgh and Kentucky shootings and the California wildfires because we’re so consumed with the grind of life at Milton. Unless the school carves out a specific discussion time, the student body can overlook important, yet timely events. Finding class time to discuss assemblies or pertinent issues can already prove difficult, but when in a given week when we’re flooded with the topics of the elections, Defamation, shootings, and more, no topic can be effectively unpacked.

The Defamation Experience was thought-provoking, but such programming can be impactful only if each student finds a space to process them. The lack of advisory following the assembly left no designated time for people to process, so some students may have discussed the assembly in five classes and then again with friends while others may not have had a single conversation on the topic.

We understand that Milton planned the Defamation Experience months in advance and aren’t suggesting the school should have moved it because of the shootings or another unforeseeable factor. The school did, however, know about the Midterms and about grades well in advance and could have planned accordingly. Even assuming the timing was unavoidable (which it likely was), the delayed start could have easily been scheduled for a week in which we didn’t already have an extended speaker and a Pep Rally. Instead, last week featured only two regularly-scheduled school days.

TMP isn’t here to mindlessly complain: we understand that scheduling can be extremely complicated, and when we’re offered two extra hours of sleep on a Monday, we’ll happily take it. Unfortunately, the overabundance of adjusted schedule days hinders teachers’ ability to organize classes and creates an even more imbalanced workload for students. Teachers meticulously plan their syllabi, and have to get through a certain amount of material every semester; successive abbreviated days can seriously disrupt their planning. While students may momentarily rejoice at a shortened class-period or a late start, we find eventually that whatever material we haven’t covered in class, we’ll inevitably have to cover during homework time.

The solution isn’t to sacrifice a delayed start day or an important assembly, because these events leave an overall positive impact on our community. Rather, the Upper School Calendar creation process needs to become far more cognizant of colliding events—in and outside of our community. Adjusted schedules, the impact of a meaningful speaker, the Pep Rally, or any other event can work effectively only if we space them out.

 

IAs and Financial Accountability

 

January 11, 2019

It’s no secret that many of us use our IAs recklessly. We often fail to attach real monetary value to that magic slip of plastic that can seemingly buy us whatever we want while we’re on campus.

Earlier this week, TMP conducted an upper-school poll about IA usage and found that 79.9% of respondents described it as their primary payment method at the snackbar or bookstore. 92.2% of students use their IAs to buy food at least once a week, with 24.7% of students using their IAs two to four times a week, and 37.7% of students using it more than four times a week. Despite this ubiquitous and frequent expenditure, most students do not feel they monitor their IA usage well; only 24.3% of respondents feel in control of IA spending. 45.4% of respondents feel somewhat aware of their IA spending and 30.3% “barely keep track” of their IA spending.

Most of us have seen a friend steal from the snackbar or bookstore, a trend that, especially when perpetuated by students with financial means, reeks of entitlement. Better yet, you might have seen students playing “IA Roulette,” a game in which a group of around six people convene at the snack bar or bookstore, each person grabs a snack and throws it into the pool, all the IAs are set out upside down in a line, and one is picked at random to pay for everything. Not only is this flagrant display of wealth detrimental to the students throwing their money around, but it also creates a toxic campus culture. It’s irresponsible, it’s classist, and it’s dangerous for our community.

We use our IAs recklessly in part because its easy usage allows us to spend money without confronting how much money we’re letting go. The same phenomenon holds true with credit and debit card usage in the ‘real world’. A July 2018 Forbes article, for example, cites a number of studies carried out over the past decade which indicate that people spend up to 100% more when using a credit or debit card to pay instead of cash.

This trend can be explained in part by “coupling,” which describes how people are less willing to make purchases with cash because they immediately need to confront how much money they’re letting go. With a piece of plastic, however, “shoppers can focus on the benefits of the purchase instead of the cost.” Many of these same thought processes run through our heads when we use our IAs, and the result is that students throw their IAs around like they’re playing with monopoly money.

We develop such lackadaisical attitudes with our IAs partially because of Milton’s culture of avoiding talking about money. Though we as students and faculty make meaningful efforts to discuss race, gender, sexuality, and other issues, we rarely discuss class on this campus. Even when the seniors spend their fall completely consumed with the college process, the senior grade fails to discuss scholarships and financial aid in the same way it does other aspects of applications.

The prevalence of wealth here can make money appear a non-factor on our campus. Nonetheless, many students here don’t have access to that level of privilege, and all of us, regardless of our financial realities, need to learn how to handle money responsibly.
TMP proposes that the feature to monitor IA spending on the Parent MyMilton portal be extended to the students’ portal. A setup with which our IA usage can only be monitored through our parents only perpetuates the damaging attitude that we’re not responsible for our own financial choices.

A Rise in Self-Censorship

 
 

February 15, 2019

The TMP Board had a blast this week compiling our annual “Archives Issue” by rifling through The Paper’s archives, which date back to 1979. These previously published articles offer a fascinating insight into the ways in which Milton has changed (or remained largely the same). At the risk of becoming too self-congratulatory, we’ll say, too, that these archives exemplify how an uncensored student publication can change a school’s culture over time; articles describing opinions that seemed radical in the 1990s feel commonplace now, and it’s easy to see, in hindsight, that every time a student put a risky statement out there, the resulting dialogue propelled our school forward.

We also noticed that TMP has, in the past, published these so-called ‘radical’ viewpoints more consistently than it has recently. Perhaps we, as a student body, have shifted towards a more homogeneous set of opinions, to the point where most student viewpoints do not make anyone in the community uncomfortable—the bar for what’s “radical” increases when you’re in an echochamber.

One obvious culprit for this decline in risque writing is an increase in administrative censorship. While it’s hard for us to offer a meaningful insight given that each of us only spends at most four years in the Upper School, we at TMP do worry about a push from the administration to produce content that is palatable to parents and alumni. Nevertheless, The Paper remains relatively uncensored, and it would be irresponsible of us to point a finger at the administration and blame them for a decline in controversial articles. We choose to look instead at the widespread tendency among students to censor themselves, due in part to an increased prioritization of political correctness.

In May 2010, The 28th Editorial Board published this note in response to administrative concerns about its back pages:


[Faculty] asserted [that] The Milton Paper reaches a much broader audience than our immediate Milton community. Parents, Alumni, and professional publications have access to everything we print. Therefore, our words can be misconstrued by those who lack our perspective, particularly when referring to illicit activities, such as sex and drugs. They believed that the implications of the back page were substantial enough to warrant censorship. However, we disagree...TMP 28 believes that these beliefs, while founded, do not constitute a legitimate argument for censorship. We believe that while we should not be deliberately malicious, we should not live under constant fear of offending a minority” (The Milton Paper, Vol. 28, Issue 10).


TMP 36 does not entirely align with TMP 28; the climate at Milton has shifted greatly over the last nine years, and while the idea of “offending a minority” was once written off we are now wholeheartedly committed to producing content that makes every student on this campus feel safe. The concept of political correctness revolves around a desire to eliminate offensive rhetoric, and in an ideal society we would do just that. PC culture at Milton—symptomatic of PC culture in the Northeast and country at large—is necessary in many ways.

But while we support political and cultural sensitivity, it is impossible to ignore that such a climate breeds students who are uncomfortable—and perhaps even unwilling—to take risks and stand by their opinions. Students at Milton often subscribe to the ‘one-strike’ mentality that’s so prevalent across progressive communities today; if a student says or writes something risky, they worry that said statement will follow them around for the rest of their high school career. Accountability is crucial, but so is the space for a student to publish a ‘radical’ opinion without fearing total social ostracization. Our culture has, in many ways, made us unable to stand by our opinions.

We at TMP 36 cannot claim to endorse every opinion that has ever been published in our paper. We do, however, stand firmly by the right of every student at Milton to be heard in this community. If we don’t give students the space to publish potentially risky opinions, we make it impossible for students to develop a genuine sense of ownership over their views. Additionally, we close off the possibility for community-wide dialogue that could potentially result in change, social or administrative.

We hope that, in reading some of these articles of yore, you’ll grow more inclined to write something that matters to you, even under the looming fear of backlash. TMP hopes that this year, and for years to come, we can continue to provide a space for you to publish your riskiest opinions.

 

Respect our Speakers

 

February 22, 2019

You’ve seen students rolling into the ACC, baseball caps in hand, prepared to cover their faces and take a nap. You’ve seen students braiding each other’s hair, snapchatting, and otherwise perfunctorily paying attention. You’ve heard your class deans continually lecture you about how disrespectful this behavior is; still, the same attitudes prevail week after week.

We’re completely desensitized to the concept of an outside speaker coming in and challenging our beliefs. We see, for example, sixteen speakers during second semester alone. Those of us who’ve been here for three or four years have seen over fifty incredible speakers, each at the top of their respective field. Our lives are almost oversaturated with meaningful speakers, to the point where we’re numb to what they have to offer us. As a result, we show up to Wednesday assembly unwilling to give the speaker our attention.

This behavior is often concentrated in certain sections of the bleachers, and we can therefore surmise how intensely our social groups dictate how we behave. If all of your friends are cynically writing off the assembly, you’re going to be more inclined to sneakily use your phone during those forty-five minutes instead of simply listening to the speaker in front of you. Any change, therefore, needs to come from the students themselves because no teacher or administrator can change the culture of an entire friend group.

Not only do we largely fail to offer our baseline attention to speakers, but we often promote a strange culture of trying to prove, somehow, that we’re above it all. We often search for some minute aspect of the week’s speech to criticize, and we expect every speaker live up to our overly high standards—God forbid that they mention how they went to Harvard one too many times. Even with our questions, some of us are trying to prove that we’re somehow more knowledgeable than the speaker themselves. Last year, during the Conservative Club assembly, several people asked questions so pointed that they almost seemed to be asked with the intention of spurring conflict, regardless of what the speaker had to say.  

It’s hard to offer solutions to a problem that’s largely self-perpetuated. Asking for fewer speakers feels horribly entitled when we’re privileged to be privy to all the information we’re privy to. TMPcould advocate for mandated advisory-based seating to force students to model better behavior for one another, but none of us really want that. We’re not children and we shouldn’t need assigned seating in order to behave respectfully. The onus is on us to treat our speakers with basic respect and appreciation.

An Editorial Rewind

 
 

March 1, 2019

Each week, TMP’s Editorial Board discusses prevalent campus issues and crafts an Editorial outlining the issue while also providing a solution. We value our Editorials as platforms for affecting true change: we hope that teachers, administrators, parents, trustees, and other community members—in addition to students— can use our them to better understand and respond to our concerns. We often worry, however, that at times we’re writing into a void. It’s easy for us to shed light on a different issue every week, but it’s harder to ensure that we spark a commitment to actually address those issues. This week, we want to recap some of the solutions we’ve proposed throughout this past year in a bid to spur concrete action.


  1. IAs and Financial Accountability: We propose that the feature that monitors IA spending on the Parent MyMilton portal be extended to the students’ portal.

  2. DC Inequalities: We advocate for prioritization of prevention and recovery over harsh punishment. We’re pleased to see how the new Disciplinary Review Committee has identified a focus on restorative justice and has been looking closely at these issues for the past several months.

  3. Improving the “No Homework Weekend:” Department heads should more closely monitor teachers to ensure that faculty as a whole are truly respecting the “No Homework Weekend” and are not trying to find loopholes around it. During these weekends, students must also commit to carving the free time out for themselves instead of intentionally burdening themselves with extra work.

  4. Scheduling Mayhem: The Upper School Calendar creation process needs to become far more cognizant of colliding events both in and outside of the Milton community. Adjusted schedules, special events, extended speakers, etc., should be spread out over the course of the year in order to preserve some levels of consistency.


On the other hand, many of our proposals also revolve around the idea that we students need to enact changes in our own behavior; we need to change student culture from the bottom up. Examples include simple efforts like keeping the Student Center clean and listening attentively to our Wednesday Speakers. TMP has also noticed a rise in student self-censorship because of a climate that enforces a one-strike system, and we encourage students to take risks in their writings and conversations. These cultural shifts can and must come only from us, not the administration.

 

Faculty and Students: A Two Way Street

 

April 5, 2019

The Milton Paper’s annual Faculty Issue aims to cultivate in us students a deeper appreciation for our teachers. That appreciation can take many forms—maybe, after reading about your teacher’s insecurities in your classroom, you’ll pause before thinking your next snarky thought about them. Maybe you’ll continue to view them the same way you always have, except now you’ll be aware of the internal monologue running through Mr. Robson’s head every time you use “momentarily” the American way.

At Milton, we often discuss how our various backgrounds color the perspectives we bring to the harkness table. In classroom discussions, we make an effort to acknowledge those points of view. Nonetheless, because our teachers serve not as contributors but as moderators of these discussions, we rarely consider their backgrounds. Many of us may not even know much about certain teachers beyond the subject to which they devote themselves and their morning coffee habits. This attitude towards teachers isn’t necessarily an issue; in fact, one could argue that in order to fully support every student’s experiences, a teacher cannot highlight their own experiences in the same way.

Still, Milton fosters a level of unavoidable closeness in student-teacher relationships that cannot possibly be achieved in different, less all-consuming school environments. In many cases, our math teachers are our soccer coaches, and our history teachers are our dorm parents. Most Milton teachers take on many additional roles in this community, and after years of close contact  we can form incredibly close relationships with them.

These unique teacher-student relationships can be difficult to navigate. It’s one thing to cry in front of your teacher (we’ve all been there), but is it inappropriate for a teacher to cry in front of you? Getting to know the adults while also carefully maneuvering any blurred lines can be challenging, yet all relationships, even teacher-student ones, require a two-way level of sharing in order to achieve real meaning. TMP’s Faculty Issue might be able to help. Here, teachers can, on their own terms, share aspects of their lives that they ordinarily wouldn’t in class environments.  It’s so easy to slip into a mindset where you view your teachers as teachers and not as people, even in a space that encourages close relationships with them. We hope these pieces will help us reconsider.

 

Getting Real about Rejections

 

April 12, 2019

Many of you won’t read most of the contents of this issue or even read through the end of this Editorial. Many of you will throw this issue into the recycling bin before heading to your next class. You will, however, pause as you walk across the English hallway to take a second look at TMP 36’s “Wall of Shame.” Intrigued, you’ll pore over the many taped up college rejection letters because—let’s face it—we all want to know who got rejected from where.

Don’t feel ashamed; we’re all curious. TMP sets up its “Wall of Shame” because we know you’re curious, and we would rather bring that curiosity out into the public than leave it to manifest in sneaky conversations where you try to parse out who got rejected from x Ivy League institution. Year after year, Milton students gossip about college in hushed tones and with a general air of secrecy. TMP hopes that a little bit of honesty and humor can make the increasingly toxic college culture just a little bit healthier.

We hope seniors find it empowering to take control of their rejections by choosing the information they’re willing to publish to the world. Once you post your rejection letter up on a English hallway wall, that sadness ideally becomes a little less crushing and easier to laugh at. Most importantly, we want to highlight just how ubiquitous rejections are, even among the inordinately talented students who go to this school.

Still, many vehemently object to our “Wall of Shame,” and with good reason. Some worry that in jokingly displaying our rejections, we minimize an extremely complicated and emotionally charged process. Around revisit day, some faculty feel that the wall makes the school look bad to prospective students—though TMP argues that, if anything, these students would benefit from seeing current Miltonians exhibit a healthy attitude towards academic setbacks. Others point out—rightly so—that it facilitates gossip in a campus culture that already fixates on where so-and-so did or didn’t get in. The “Wall of Shame” has been controversial since its inception, and yet, aware of all these grievances, TMP 36 still chooses to offer it to the Class of 2019. We want to see Milton students grow more frank in our discussions surrounding college and what it means to not get the news you so desperately wanted and deserved.

College conversations can seem hypocritical or short-sighted. For example, when we returned from spring break with the Varsity Blues scandal fresh in our minds, we were quick to denounce the celebrities implicated and to bemoan the broken nature of the current admissions process. Many of us fixated on how a system that benefits those bribing their way into college inherently hurts those students who’ve worked hard our whole lives (re: Milton students).

It’s true that we all work incredibly hard and, in an ideal system, would have our pick of colleges based on our merit. It’s also true, however, that many of us also benefit from admissions processes that favor the wealthy. Many juniors spent their spring breaks jetting around the country to tour colleges; many more will work with standardized testing tutors in the coming months in order to maximize their test scores. These aspects of the college process are only available to a small subsect of American high school students with the means to travel, pay for tutoring, etc. Most Milton students have a leg up in the admissions process because of their financial statuses. We don’t lie and cheat in the way Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have, yet we still profit off of our collective wealth. It rings false to discuss unfair admissions processes without acknowledging the many advantages we have over other high school students just by virtue of attending this school.

We don’t want to negate the genuine merit possessed by every single Milton student; we only want to encourage more honest conversations about an inherently dishonest admissions process.

TMP 36 is truly in awe of the senior class and of each and every student that attends this school. It’s that very awe that inspired us to set up the “Wall of Shame” two weeks ago. We are all so very deserving and hope the wall allows us to see rejections for what they really are: slips of paper that say nothing about your worth and academic ability.

 
 

What is Leadership?

 

April 26, 2019

Milton students have spent the last two weeks voting for next year’s Senior leaders in positions ranging from Head Monitors to Boarding and Dorm Monitors. TMP celebrates campus election season and values the role of the SGA in Milton’s community; however, we know that leadership on this campus does not begin or end with official titles.

Leadership isn’t a title, but an attitude. The Class II Retreat, or C2R, stresses the idea that the Senior Class as a whole, regardless of who holds official positions, can set a positive or negative tone for the rest of the school. Seniors are usually leaders in official capacities—Dorm Monitors, club heads, team captains, Editors-in-Chief—yet, we’re repeatedly reminded that each and every senior, regardless of position, will lead the student body. We’re told that upperclassmen should be good mentors to underclassmen, because younger students inevitably look up to older ones. Still, the idea that the school is largely led by seniors seems quite missguided.

Most often at Milton, seniors end up with all the titles and less of the attitude of leadership; for the first half of the year, we’re absorbed by the all-consuming college process, and in the spring we have one foot out the door. By the time second semester rolls around, we’re mostly thinking about what we want our post-Milton lives to look like. Of course, that’s not to say that seniors aren’t effective leaders or that we don’t care about this institution; if anything, our impending departure can make us care more about this place, because we’ve gained perspective that allows us to see the school’s strengths more clearly.

Conventional wisdom suggests that leadership positions should naturally go to seniors because at this point we’ve amassed the experience and maturity to take on such roles with care. Conveniently, we’re also the ones who must fill out the leadership tabs of The Common Application. Nonetheless, TMP wonders if our community should rethink these ingrained ideas of what Milton leaders look like and begin advocating that positions like club-head, team captain, and editorial board member go to more juniors.

Of course, juniors—like seniors—must manage demanding workloads, but a junior’s mindset is usually different from a senior’s. juniors are often much more present in the day-to-day of Milton; they’ve had enough experiences here that they know the ropes and can make informed decisions, yet they’re still far enough away from graduation that they can fully commit themselves to the ins and outs of Milton extra-curriculars.

We’re not arguing for a complete reallocation of these positions, but rather for a reconsideration of the idea that seniors are automatically the most deserving for leadership roles.

The concept of a strong senior class leading the school year can underestimate the role other grades take in ushering the Upper School forward. In our experience, it’s often sophomores and juniors who do the most creative work to create change in our school. The graduating Class of 2019, for example, sparked massive dialogue our sophomore year with leading roles in the spring protests, as well as the privilege posters and widespread discourse that preceded them. At that point, most of us weren’t heads of culture clubs or figures on the SGA. Rather, we had important things to say and found ways to say them loud enough for the rest of the student body to hear us.  

This year, the current Sophomore class, the Class of 2021, has led the way as leaders of several new campus initiatives, including the Disciplinary Review Committee, which seeks to reform a flawed DC system, and the conduction of a successful GASP Ally Week. These younger students may not have the same influence over underclassmen that seniors do, but they’re usually the ones leading campus dialogue and searching for innovative solutions. Is this not real campus leadership?

This is our last issue as TMP 36. Today, the eight of us on the Editorial Board say a bittersweet goodbye to our roles as leaders of the publication we care so much about. As we sign off, we urge you to reconsider what you want your leaders to look like, and to appreciate some of the younger members of this campus who consistently drive us forward without formal recognition. We hope we have served our readers well and done justice to this publication. Thank you for letting us be leaders, if only for a short time.