20/22 Hindsight


Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

One of my first memories of Parker is Mr. Drury writing “there” on the board three times, in three different places. Somewhere in between the adverbs I saw progressive education. I came in the sixth grade, so I’m not quite a 14-year-gang cult member. But I still became a person here, and for a while I thought of myself as a John-Dewey-Flora-Cooke-Colonel-Parker poster child.

Most Parker students love our mission statement and mottos like sixth grade me did. Even more, we love quoting that mission when Parker falls short. The gap between the real Parker and the ideal Parker used to hurt me so much. I remember looking around a room of freshman classmates and declaring that we were proof of the mission, of Parker itself, even if some adults couldn’t be. Now I know mission is marketing. You can only say, “but what about everything to help, nothing to hinder,” so many times before you realize pointing out hypocrisy doesn’t stop any hindering. Other times I think that the mission worked for me after all. To me, the logical conclusion of a progressive Parker education is to doubt Parker. If you have spent time here observing, analyzing, and questioning like you’ve been asked to, you’ve probably stopped to think about why private education works the way it does, who it works for.

When I talk about the consequences of private education, I’m thinking about the examples of culture-shifting — or rather, culture-revealing — Parker moments on @fwpanonymous, whose existence, I admit, I have tried to reference in as many “Weekly” articles as I possibly could since summer 2020. The account exemplifies the Parker cycle in times of school crisis: gossip-then-silence. A teacher once told me that at Parker, we love to drop bombs and leave everyone reeling but not rush in with resources or restoration. There are these big things that happen to us here, that we can’t stop talking about until one day, suddenly, no one ever mentions them again. That doesn’t mean we stop carrying them with us.

That same teacher told me that kids here are often expected to solve adult problems. If I could tell my freshman self one thing, it would be that before you can be a “citizen of the world,” you must be a citizen of the self. Maybe I didn’t always have to rush to monologue or change the school or lead, per the mission — maybe the adults in charge owed me that.

There are times, that I’m unable to talk about in print, when both the institution of Parker and its adults have failed me — maybe there are times when Parker has failed you. But it’s still so easy to fall back into this place, in its blue-tinted familiarity. We’ve all seen the teachers and coaches and principals and parents who re-enter, who probably have good reason to do it. But returning is still a choice, as much as it can seem like a guarantee.

The calls asking me for donations, an appearance at Career Day, or an Alumni Morning Ex are coming soon. So I need to start thinking now about what I’ll say. The other day, while writing this piece, someone asked me about the kind of Parker I’d like to see “when I come back.” The better question right now is if I come back at all, after seeing just what this place can do.