o captain, my… whatever

11/18/04

Tessa and I were talking about high school today, a subject that has come up a lot lately, but in all honesty, I didn’t mentally breach the subject of “high school” for about a decade. It is a place I had written off a long time ago, even though untold wonders were opened to me because of it.

To hear Tessa describe Choate, it sounds a little “Dead Poets Society” with some anorexia mixed in. The kids in her class, when they weren’t doing blow or getting drunk on stolen bourbon, actually lusted after literature and had impromptu gab sessions about Theodore Dreiser. She said she could actually feel her own mind expanding as she and her best friends became more culturally literate with each gasping paragraph.

It also helped they were an hour from New York City, so a quick trip with a borrowed car could be arranged, and days filled with museums and nights filled with underage debauchery would be pursued. The pace nearly killed her – she graduated a year early just to get out – but Choate (also the prep school of JFK) was an exercise in Anything Goes

0 thoughts on “o captain, my… whatever

  1. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Interesting post today. You know, as a parent, the idea of boarding school scares the hell out of me. I always wondered: what are parents thinking when they send their 13 or 14 year old kid off to boarding school? Is the prestige factor so important to parents that they are willing to bid adieu to their children at the age that they are most vulnerable so that they can be raised by their peers? Or do they just not want to be bothered with the daily grind of parenting? I don’t get it. I can’t imagine sending my daughter away at such a young age, no matter how bad the teenage years get. I want to be there for her and be with her! The eventual separation at college comes soon enough.
    I don’t mean to knock Tessa’s experience. . . it is the whole concept of boarding school that I have trouble with. I wonder if it really was all that “Dead Poets Society” at the time, or if it is more so in retrospect. Many of my college friends went to boarding school, and the stories I heard of drugs, drinking, eating disorders, and girls charging abortions on their daddy’s credit cards were all very depressing. I’ll take my run-of-the-mill suburban New Jersey public high school experience over all of that any day. Oh, and I ended up at Carolina as well. . . the public high school route!

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  2. Andy

    Love the fake ID picture. Are you actually sporting the lady-killing “argyle sweater vest/hooded zipper sweatshirt” combo???

    Reply
  3. scruggs

    Laurie from Manly Dorm always seems to cover my thoughts as we seem to be at similar points in life…carolina grad, young child, cubicle life, and now public high school pedigree! Though as you’re from NJ, I applaud you not getting sucked down the pipeline to Dook.
    From what I’ve gathered from pals who attended Andover, Exeter, etc., I’m sure the intellectual horsepower at elite New England schools is top notch. That students draw upon it to create a climate where topics of discussion move above Teen Beat fodder and foster a burning quest for knowledge is impressive. Of course, the proximity to vibrant NY and Boston and their offerings just intensifies the experience. This environment or opportunity is for such a small percentage of mostly elite folks and demand an exorbitant price. I can’t imagine there’s not a focus on future there and on which Ivy League you get into, as well. Also, rembember, for every Tessa there’s a George W. and students concerned with social/familial ties rather than academic pursuits.
    But the life at these schools is what I would more describe as COLLEGE. You speak of “being there and young,” but I don’t consider boarding school with the alcohol, drugs, money, (I know beer, coke, and cliques permeate any school but at least there is hopefully some parental involvement and you’re not completely on your own) and spending weekends in the city necessarily a youthful experience. Its just college accelerated.
    I went to “one of the best” public high schools in SC. Some individual teachers made an amazing impact, but intellectual utopia it was not. And Columbia is pretty much a boring hole. I sympathize with you. But I look back with fondness at a such a carefree time where I was well prepared for Carolina while still being a kid and being with my family. My husband got a fantastic experience at a Westchester public school and had the city at his doorstep. We want our son to get an incredible education but want to be involved in that process, not completely defer to an institution. That and I don’t have $40+ grand extra a year to spend!
    I’m not ranting at all or feeling like you were attacking public school; that just happens to be my background. It was indeed an interesting post. So, high school sucked for you, but its never guaranteed that any other place would have been exactly what you’d hoped. You definitely made up for it in college and beyond. You demand this intellectual environment everywhere you go, and make it happen. Now enjoy it.

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  4. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hi Scruggs. You made me laugh. I was accepted at Duke, but opted for Carolina instead, much to the bewilderment of my Jersey classmates. By the way, I just re-read my entry, and boy, do I sound like a critical jerk. Sorry, Ian! After all, it is all relative, isn’t it?
    I don’t make much sense myself. . . while I wear my public school background like a badge of honor, my daughter is in kindergarten at a private Catholic school. Finances willing, we hope to keep her in the Catholic school system from K through 12. Apparently, I am at the other end of the spectrum from the boarding school parents that I just raked over the coals. . . I am trying to shelter her from the real world for as long as I can. Which is worse? Which is better? Who knows. While my daughter hopefully won’t be exposed to all the excesses that are available at boarding school, she may just go berserk when she finally breaks free and goes to college. Good grief! I can feel my hair getting grayer with worry! I better take my Lexapro and get back to my cubicle work. . . .

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  5. Salem

    My freshman roommate at Carolina had an experience similar to Tessa’s at Phillips Exeter and he is as stable and knoble an individual as I have ever known. What did rub off on him was a passion for the extraordinary. A sense of how much bigger the human experience can be. He was surrounded by exceptional individuals from extremely diverse backgrounds. As a parent, I guess we are either praying that our prep schooler is not going to do bad acid at the Guggenheim or our homeschooler doesn’t drink a six pack and be crushed in a creek by their four-wheeler. I can’t help but think the friends from the Guggenheim would give a better eulogy.

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  6. scruggs

    I think my tone above now seems a little nasty, though my mood was not. It was just a flow of views over my morning coffee (I need to switch back to caffeinated, by the way). It was not my intent to attack boarding school grads as it was to ultimately say: for me and mine, though it is important to us to ensure our kids are intellectually stimulated and encouraged, there is value to enjoying these years as a family before college and adulthood and not cut them short. And those years are part of their overall education.
    Laurie, the whole public vs. private is indeed a tough issue. It is something we are struggling with now, even though we

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  7. flaco

    don’t forget Hamptom Colsuem :-)
    first time I was in that area I couldn’t believe the ugly density of the commercial district, a DeLillo
    novel incarnate!
    Loomis Chaffee baby!!
    judges!???!!, we don’t need no stinkin judges!!
    hate to hear about the chaste years Ian
    NA sounds dreadful, tuck it back away in a
    cravass in your grey matter asap
    our friend moved to Tucson and joined the church
    of peyote, if’n you need stronger catharsis we
    could contact her
    pathos on baby!

    Reply

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