The Problem with Cynicism at Milton


I still remember my amazement as I stepped onto Milton’s campus last September. As my eyes fell upon its rolling green lawns and lofty brick buildings, I felt amazed by the fact that I had the chance to live in such an impressive environment. As the months progressed, however, the lawns wilted into listless brown patches before finally disappearing under a blanket of slush. The buildings were less spectacular when I had to trudge up four flights of stairs to get to my classes. What initially seemed wonderful became dulled by routine, and my gratitude at the experiences Milton had to offer evaporated.

This perspective seems to be shared by an overwhelming majority of the student body. As a whole, Milton’s population has a preference for cynicism rather than for optimism, choosing to deride rather than to respect. After assemblies, students mock the speaker instead of taking their speech seriously. During sit-down, everyone continually criticizes the food piled on their plates. Any student asked about their current workload will probably list off an enormous pile of assignments that need to be completed in an impossibly short amount of time, concluding with how incredibly stressed they are by everything they need to do.

None of these complaints are invalid. Hearing anyone talk for 45 minutes straight is a challenge, food produced for hundreds of people isn’t going to live up to food made lovingly at home, and the massive amount of homework that Milton students are expected to complete each night causes far more stress than is healthy to withstand. Faced with these conditions, it’s no wonder that students incline towards a cynical mentality; focusing on the negatives is much easier than focusing on the positives, particularly when the circumstances are not so positive.

“Positive” is still a relative term though, and the truth is that Milton, even with its unavoidable downsides, still provides students with a far better high school experience than most schools worldwide. My own initial awe at the grandeur of Milton’s campus was due to the sharp contrast that Milton presented against my middle school: aside from a dingy soccer field, my school had no grassy lawns to speak of, and had classes of at least 30 students that were taught by three to four teachers in each subject. The best school lunch I could hope for was five cold chicken nuggets wrapped in greasy plastic. It is natural that I would learn to appreciate Milton’s surroundings significantly more because of the comparison to the conditions of my previous school. For the first few weeks of September, when the memory of my middle school’s relatively mediocre surroundings remained fresh on my mind, I certainly did feel that appreciation. I was reminded of my privilege every time I stepped outside my dorm and saw Milton in all its glory. What I hadn’t foreseen, however, was how complacent I would become. Surrounded by Milton’s new environment, I found my recollections of public school were pushed to the back of my mind, and those memories never resurfaced as my routine at Milton became standard. As I became accustomed to Milton and all its idiosyncrasies, I began to find fault with it. My former appreciation for my privilege was replaced with cynicism as I lost perspective on my circumstances.

As we become more familiar with Milton, we tend to zone in on its imperfections. In doing so, however, we lose sight of how much we really have. Our pessimistic, cynical outlook not only impacts our mental health, but also causes us to appear entitled and unaware of our privileges. Of course, Milton does have its own set of problems, and I’m not trying to encourage being blindly unaware to its faults, but adjusting perspectives to be more appreciative can help us realize which issues, such as SAGE’s occasionally undercooked chicken, might not be so pressing. It may be hard to look on the bright side when climbing up the fourth staircase of Ware, but the view of the school through its top window is undeniably beautiful.

Mark Pang