An Open Letter

By Grace Kew

Hello there, to whoever is reading this!,
This isn’t going to be a well-written story, or a pretentious one. This is just me, as a student, saying something that I want to say. Or rather, that I have a right to say, on account of free speech and all. This is simply meant as a message to whoever happens to be skimming this right now, no more, no less.
The truth of the matter is: we may be one of the best college-prep schools in the country, but we are all still hurting and excluding one another, no differently than in any other high school. All of those kids who get up on stage and talk about how great high school is definitely do not speak for everyone. Among the many factors that make high school so difficult, it is my personal belief that one of the issues that needs addressing the most isn’t just the workload, but how we treat each other.
If you were to take a walk around campus and through the hallways and observe, you may notice something particular about social groups. A lot of groups seem to form in distinct clusters, and if it’s a large enough group, there’s almost always someone on the outskirts of the group. If you watch for it, it’s very easy to see. This person is usually more quiet or reserved in the group setting (which is perfectly fine, by the way!), or is trying to join into conversation but is being ignored. It is things like these that worry me, people ignoring certain individuals or making them feel less important, and nobody doing anything about it. If we really want to improve the school and be “the best,” we should try to be more aware of how our actions might affect others. In said circumstance, this might involve bringing a more reserved person into a conversation (if they wish to join it) instead of ignoring them or using them as a power trip. If you are saying something and you have your back to someone, change your position to be partially facing everybody! Make a conscious effort to make eye contact with everybody listening instead of just focusing on a special few. It is tiny gestures like these that can really make a huge difference in someone’s life.
However, I acknowledge that we aren’t always aware that we are paying more attention to one person over the other, and we may not even know that we are making somebody else feel bad. There are also several actions we take that we are aware of that can find their way to hurting someone. One of said actions is using conscious preferential treatment. Preferential treatment is a part of life that we usually can’t get away from. It happens in every group setting, club, or major situation in life. We may not realize it because a lot of bias is unconscious, but it’s always there, and everybody is biased (yes, even you, the person who is reading this paper and deciding if it goes in your magazine or not!) We can’t escape this phenomena because it’s everywhere, but we can try to reform the system. One proposal that applies to the Finch Club is to read the writings anonymously, without knowing who wrote them, or have people put a number at the top of their submitted writings, and through that method choose whose pieces you want in the magazine. That way, we can eliminate the possibility that some people may or may not get a fair shake because of your personal feelings about them. [We agree, and we actually do take the names off of pieces when readers decide what pieces to publish. – the editors]
We are all exposed to preferential treatment all the time, and may even remember it throughout our lives. I remember always being picked last or being one of the last people picked during P.E. in elementary school. I felt so embarrassed whenever the group leaders would hesitate, see me as one of the last people standing, and call my name. It wasn’t the action, but the dread in their voice that made me feel so bad; I knew they never wanted me on their team. So what?! You might think. Well, it’s not a big deal, and I know it’s not, but sometimes you can’t help but remember those small events. Just because they are insignificant to you doesn’t mean it is the same for somebody else. Just because group projects don’t make you nervous doesn’t mean it’s that way for somebody else, for example. So, how do we improve the school? Reach out! We need to be aware of our surroundings, and realize that our world experience isn’t the same as the world of everybody else. Normally, I would just think “well, accept it, because it’s the way things are. It’s human nature to be unfair.” But if we pride ourselves on truly being a superior school, then we have to address all the problems of the institution.
I doubt anybody finished reading this, but for those of you who did, please take a moment to consider our situation. We have the privilege to go to an amazing school, have great opportunities presented before us, and live in a beautiful spot in the world. The least we could do is be more aware of our actions and try to be a little kinder to each other.

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