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The Problem at Prep Schools

Prep schools have a multitude of problems. As Twines and Vines has become a figurehead for prep school, we feel a sense of responsibility to speak up on the injustices happening not only in the real world, but more specifically in the “bubbles” back at all of the schools we call home. These injustices might not be nearly as obvious, but that should not discredit their existence. The larger prep school community, for years, has projected a culture full of white, overly-preppy, privileged teens, despite the increase in diversity that has swept over the prep school landscape. When you think of prep school, you think of a white, suburban teenager wearing salmon Vineyard Vines shorts and a polo. Every time someone sees your school as this stereotype, they’re ignoring the many students of color working hard to create an inclusive and welcoming community. While it appears schools have worked to change this, they are simply not doing enough, and it starts at the top. If we want anything big to change at prep schools, we have to change the minds of not only the students, administrators, and heads of schools, we have to reach the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees. This is where the real decisions are made, and it’s also where the problem begins. For starters, look at the respective boards of your own schools, how many people of color do you see represented? Not enough. The astounding lack of diversity on these boards shows how slowly prep schools have adapted to the time. For example, at Phillips Exeter Academy, despite the student population being only 58% white, the board is composed of 2 Asian people, 4 African Americans, and 14 white people. Somehow, that’s pretty good compared to Canterbury, which boasts a total of zero people of color on their board. While the student body at our schools has become more diverse, somehow the most important positions have not, and the schools themselves are not being held accountable.

If we want this to change, it’s up to us, the students. Check Instagram, you’ll see thousands of stories from people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and while speaking up and educating yourself helps, you can make an even bigger difference just within your own school. The systemic racism in the United States is largely to blame on the education we’re given, and as students, this is something we can change. Please, don’t let the power of your voice start and end on Instagram or Snapchat, carry it with you when you go back to school. Speak up and consider how your black classmates feel in the same environment as you, learn how they feel out of place, quieted by the majority. Notice how, despite the diverse student body, the things you learn in history and english are still dominated by largely white figures. Notice how your white classmates will show up to cheer at basketball games, but go silent and disappear at the idea of a diversity club meeting. These things may not be huge, but each one compounds the larger problem at our schools.

Every one of us is a member of the community at our school, but also the community of prep schools. If we all come together to give a voice to the unheard, if we put pressure on the real decision-makers at our schools, we can make a difference. Walk out of class, stage a silent protest, refuse to play, do something that forces the school to listen, and don’t let it be simply a publicity stunt they can use. You may be asking “What difference will it make if the board is more diverse?” and there are many possible answers. While the board controls the major decisions in regard to the direction of the school, they can, for example, go need-blind in admissions, hire more diverse faculty that cultivates a community of inclusion, diversify the curriculum to become less Eurocentric, and that’s just the start. Instead of using the schools’ huge endowments to build a state of the art indoor rowing complex, they should allocate a larger amount of their cash to support scholarships that will increase the heterogeneity of prep schools. Just like colleges in the United States, the ability to pay shouldn’t be a factor in your admissions decision. We need change, not only for just the black students but for minorities as a whole. If we all speak up for the students that schools choose to ignore or listen to when it’s convenient, we can make the prep school community more accepting, more diverse, and most importantly, stronger.

-Twines and Vines

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