Thanks to the hard work of the Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK) Day Planning Committee, the workshops scheduled on MLK Day always cover a variety of important topics. This year, Andover students had the opportunity to learn about the use of the n-word, how to be an ally, socioeconomic “passing,” and beauty standards, among other subjects. Though conversations about such topics have increased in dorms and classrooms, the MLK Day workshops are one of the only required times for the entire student body to engage in presentations and discussions about identity in intimate yet focused, intellectual settings. It is easy to zone out in an hour-long All-School Meeting (ASM) while your stomach grumbles, but it is much more difficult not to engage in small discussions or animated lectures.
It is a shame that students ended up choosing between so many valuable options: workshops were scheduled throughout the day and open to the student body, but students were only required to attend one and many were not aware that they could participate in multiple workshops. For many students, MLK Day became attending ASM, an hour and a half long workshop, and then spending the rest of the day studying, napping or hanging out with friends. Twenty-five years ago, Andover held classes and an ASM after school on the national holiday. This limited celebration prompted Brian Gittens ’89 to protest to bring about more recognition and celebration of the day. Students and faculty often boast that Andover takes a “day on” for MLK Day, but is one workshop and an ASM such a departure from regular classes and an ASM?
To truly embrace the spirit of taking the “day on,” we hope that in the future, the workshop schedule will be designed to provide more students more opportunities to engage and learn. As it is, one day to attend workshops about race, class, sexuality and other aspects of identity is hardly enough. Rather than overlapping workshops, we propose that the workshops are spread out from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. so students can easily attend more than one workshop. In addition, more than one session should be required, in order to help engage students who otherwise might not participate in such discussions. Learning how to live and work in a diverse community is not an option for those part of one; it is an obligation.
It goes without saying that MLK Day should not be the one day in the year where we take time to learn about and reflect on identity together as a school. But even such small changes on this one day can make a difference in the discussions that we engage in and our cultural competency throughout our time at Andover and beyond.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipan Editorial Board CXXXVII.