Cookies Canceled

Long-Standing Tradition Falls Through


Photo credit: Jacob Boxerman

Rocket makers stand proudly at the last in-person Cookies during the 2018-19 school year.

Cookies this year at Parker were canceled due to a shortage of valid course proposals. Cookies is a Parker tradition that offers students two days in early May without classes to have fun, educational experiences outside the classroom.

In years past, Cookies featured sessions ranging from building rockets to food tours of Chicago. But this year the administration canceled this Upper School tradition due to a lack of “valid proposals,” according to Student Government’s Curriculum Committee.

“From the point of view of the administration, we didn’t get enough viable proposals from students,” Curriculum Committee co-head Johnny Mansueto said. 

Curriculum Committee co-head Sadie Gallagher clarified the challenge the committee faced. “There was a gap between the Curriculum Committee heads and the administration about what needed to be in proposals,” Gallagher said. 

Out of 46 proposals submitted by the student body, only eight were accepted by the Administration. One rejected proposal obtained by “The Weekly” aimed to “spread awareness of Asian hate” by watching the Kung Fu Panda trilogy on day one and eating Panda Express on day two.

Upper School history teacher Dan Greenstone said that, “it is very hard for me, a teacher, to create a full day of class. It is almost impossible for a student to create a two day class without training and supervision from a professional educator.”

The Curriculum Committee heads wrote an additional 25 proposals based upon approved proposals from previous years of Cookies. The Administration rejected additional proposals stating they were “not student led.” Later that week, a faculty advisor informed the Curriculum Committee Heads of the decision to cancel Cookies prior to the official announcement.

After hearing Cookies would be canceled, the committee scheduled a meeting with Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno. In this meeting, the Curriculum Committee was told an alternative Cookies plan would be possible if they could create eight educational proposals by the next day. The Curriculum Committee created 18 proposals based on proposals approved in past years, and emailed their faculty advisors, Rolanda Shepard and Kevin Colnlon, along with Bruno, at 5:25 PM, less than six hours after the meeting. 

Conlon and Shepard explained in an email to the Committee, prior to Upper School Head Chris Arnold’s announcement email to the Upper School, that “very few contain enough educational content to warrant being out of school for the day” and thanked them for their hard work.  

On the condition of anonymity, a member of the faculty told one of the Curriculum Committee heads that there was nothing they could do, as they were “set up to fail” because the faculty “hates Cookies.” The teacher added that there had been a movement for years to “kill Cookies.” 

Conlon disagreed that there was a movement, though he said that teachers have noticed Cookies “degenerating” from passion projects and enriching exploration into two free days off of school that students often schedule over with appointments and college visits. “Faculty feel that if it’s just like a fun day or two days,” Conlon said, “then it’s taking away from learning.”

Educational Cookies are achievable, Conlon said — he’s advised them. One he remembered as especially educational was the “Experience of War” Cookie, where students spoke with World War II and Vietnam war veterans.

Next year, Conlon hopes to revisit the original mission of Cookies: student empowerment and participation. “I didn’t want it to be, let’s do Cookies for the sake of doing Cookies,” Conlon said. “You got some work to do to bring it back up and running again.”

The Curriculum Committee heads requested a meeting with Arnold, Student Body President Eli Moog, the Senate Heads, and Bruno to discuss the cancellation of Cookies. Arnold listened to the concerns and advised that the matter would be addressed again following April Recess.

After another follow-up meeting with Arnold, Shepard, and Conlon, the Curriculum Committee worked closely with Bruno on a proposal to move Cookies back to May 31 for a one day activity. The faculty voted to reject this proposal on Friday, April 29. 

“It just seemed too uncertain and amorphous and too late,” Conlon said. “It’s not that there was thumbs down and boos all around. It was like: ‘at this point, I don’t think we should do this.’”

“There’s a gap between what education is because they [teachers] want it to be physics equations,” Gallagher said, “whereas I think that learning to play golf is educational even though it’s not part of your five class curriculum.”

Gallagher acknowledged that writing an educational Cookie proposal can be difficult. “The educational aspects of Cookies had faded away,” Gallagher said, “and people previously were using it for two days to play video games or something like that.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2022 is the last group of students to experience Cookies. None of the outgoing committee heads have ever participated in the event. Next May, there will be no students in the school who will have experienced Cookies.

During debates for the Curriculum Committee head position, all three candidate groups stressed their commitment to reintroduce Cookies and start the process earlier to ensure an adequate number of valid proposals. They also all recommended creating time for training on how to write a Cookie proposal and what makes a good Cookie.

Mansueto thinks that “it will be even more difficult to happen in the way it has happened in the past … for Cookies to happen again it’s going to be reformed and different from what it is now.”

Conlon looks forward to reforming Cookies if he returns as faculty advisor. “Teachers don’t want to kill cookies and drag a stake through its heart,” Conlon said.

“Mr. Bruno very much supports it,” Gallagher said, “but I think that it is up to whether or not we can get the faculty and the rest of administration on board.”