The 14 Year Experience

The Bright Side of the Moon


The college process is – unfortunately – the second school search I’ve gone through, the first one being my lower school search. Fresh out of preschool, my parents dragged me from school to school engaging in interviews and knowledge tests. Fortunately, I don’t have a singular memory from this search. All I remember is that I went to preschool one day and then went to JK the next day (that statement was hyperbole). 

Though I don’t have any memory of this process, my parents like to tell their whirlwind stories of it. From the countless interviews they had to schedule to the conversations they had with admission officers about a four-year-old, that process was arduous. Now, they love to tell me about my interview at Parker and their first experience at the school. 

By the time I was scheduled to interview at Parker, I had already interviewed at Latin and Lab; both of them being at the top of my list. They tell me that their first experience walking into the school was confusing. They were told to meet at the admissions office, however, the brown, endless hallways gave them a spin. They tell me that they first ended up in the old cafeteria and library before finding the admissions office. Once they got there, they sat down and started to feel the ambiance and environment throughout the school. They told me that it felt like a feather started to fly, like the beginning of the movie Forrest Gump. At this point of the story, I think I’m with my parents but I have no idea. 

After talking with the admission officer, they (or maybe we? I’m not sure. I’ll say we) were escorted to one of the JK classrooms. I stole this line from my parents for my college essays to my top schools, but they described it by saying, “they could see me in the classroom with other students exploring the nuances of the world, society, and humanity.” In the classroom, my parents and I were put through an intense interview process. They asked my parents questions about their professions, lives, childhoods, and intentions for the future. They asked me the same questions just dumbed down for a four-year-old. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What is your favorite toy?” “What is the largest number you can count to?” The usual questions. Unfortunately, for those who are gearing up for the college process, the interview questions are a bit harder than that. For example, in one of my college interviews, I was asked, “What is the funniest joke you know” and “What is one of your biggest regrets?” Unfortunately, I’m not Ethan Silets, so I didn’t have a good joke on hand, and I was taken aback when she asked me the second question. Anyways, the interview in the classroom lasted for about an hour and then we were escorted back to the admissions office and then out to the front entrance. My parents told me that when they left the building, shook the admission officer’s hand, and walked down the steps into the blinding sun and cool Chicago breeze, they knew that Parker was the school I had to go to. To this day, they tell me that it was an epiphany. A realization so clear that they thought they got slapped in the face. They tell me that they could visualize the person I would become if I went to Parker. The community I would build and the knowledge I would gain. They usually lecture me on how a parent’s job is to set their children up for success, and they knew that Parker would do just that. Before they left Parker’s compound on that day, they knew that Parker was the place for me. 

Everything you just read was a lie. The specifics from that anecdote are false. Made up. When I asked my parents to tell me about the interview process at Parker, they said that they went in, listened to Parker’s presentation, left, and then applied. Fortunately enough I got in and they enlisted me. The reason for the anecdote is to show you readers how believable that sounded. No other school – or place for that matter – would sound that real. If I had written that anecdote about Latin or Lane, no one would’ve believed it. Community at Lane? “They could see me at Latin”? That just doesn’t make sense. The purpose of that anecdote was to show you the power of Parker’s name and to unlock your deep understanding of the Parker school. This is a long article, so unleashing that faith in Parker at the beginning is a good idea. Now, people may hate Parker for numerous reasons, but you can’t deny that they prepare students for success in their own, unique way, and is one hell of a school. 

This article is something I wouldn’t have considered writing about when I was offered the opportunity to write a column for the prestigious Weekly. When I curated “The 14 Year Experience” and pitched it, I promised that I would bring some needed entertainment to “the Weekly” while also covering Parker’s most apparent shortcoming that only a 14 year student would know. However, this article will break that promise (the last article kinda broke that promise too, but I had some criticism in there as well). Today, I will write about all the positives of Parker. Hence, the title “The Bright Side of the Moon.” While there are many dark spots of the Moon and sometimes the moon is covered in darkness, it is also there and there is always a bright side even though it may not be visible. This article will be stepping out of my comfort zone so please excuse any language, sentence structure, anecdotes, or messages that just don’t make any sense. Also, since this is a longer article, Google Docs gave up on picking up grammar mistakes and spelling mistakes, and I doubt that anyone is crazy enough to read the article in its entirety so please excuse any of those mistakes. But anyways, we have a lot to cover so why delay any longer. 

Many people wonder what embryonic democracy really means. While there is no definition for the term embryonic democracy, there are individual definitions for both embryonic and democracy. The official definition for embryonic is “in a rudimentary stage with potential for further development” or “relating to an embryo.” The official definition for democracy is “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.”

Before writing this article, like the amazing writer I am, I did some research on embryonic democracy. To my bewilderment, the first link that popped up was a link to an article of the Parker Weekly. A Joke Issue no less. So, not off to a great start. It isn’t always the best sign when you look up a definition of an imperative aspect of one’s school and the first thing to pop up is a Joke Issue from that very same school. . But after doing some more research and digging in the deepest corners of Google, I was able to gather enough information to give an accurate description of what an embryonic democracy is. The answer is a bit more convoluted than one would imagine. 

On the surface, an embryonic democracy can be defined – using the two individual definitions – as “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state that is in a rudimentary stage with potential for further development.” In short, that practically means that an embryonic democracy is a system or society that has potential for further development. In the lens of Parker (or any school for that matter), an embryonic democracy is a great descriptor. Parker is a network of students, faculty, staff, and administrators who all work together as one to strengthen our own Parker community along with trying to raise and educate the next generation of global citizens. The school has its own democratic aspects and terms as well: high school student government (kinda), a transparent system, openly available administrators and teachers, and a representative and liberating space for all identities. However, as highlighted in this column and by many other students as well, Parker has its faults. Hence, the embryonic term. Parker has the potential to grow, to progress, to be better, and resolve its own faults. No school – or system for that matter – will ever be perfect. But, the ability to progress and improve effectively and efficiently is an imperative skill all systems should possess. Parker does a great job of inhabiting that skill and does an above-average job of improving itself whenever possible; hence, the word embryonic. And of course, Parker will never be perfect – no place will ever be – but the way they are able to realize that reality and attempt to progress with an ever-changing society is the best any place will ever do. 

However, an embryonic democracy – in terms of Parker – goes deeper than that. The definition of a democracy is fairly simple. It’s just a system where the members are unequivocally represented no matter what. It is a just, fair, and legitimate system where no one person can control the others; where every person has the ability to better themselves and the community that surrounds them. Where the phrase embryonic democracy gets iffy is in the word embryonic. Normally, the word embryonic can be found in biology and that field’s lexicon. However, we find ourselves talking about it in the context of a school. An embryo is an unborn specimen that is in the process of developing. We can hone in on this. Parker can be seen as an embryo. While in reality, Parker is old; it is still in the process of developing. An embryo can only grow based on its surroundings. If the mother is an avid smoker, it can cause harm to the embryo’s developing lungs and brain. If the mother isn’t active or doesn’t stay healthy, that reflects on the embryo and increases its chances of SUDI (sudden unexpected death of an infant). 

The most apparent concept throughout Parker is community. There is a famous saying that goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” That can be seen within Parker’s community. Though Parker praises community and the whole, Parker also focuses on the individual. Each individual person a part of the Parker community must be strong because we as the collective are only as strong as the weakest person. When someone is down, we pick them up. When someone is struggling, we help them with their issues. That is why Parker’s community is strong. We can recognize when an individual is down and we help them get up. It’s all about the surroundings. That can be transitioned back to the embryo. Like an embryo, we have to watch what our surroundings entail: how would this action harm the embryo? How can we keep the embryo safe and healthy? Our actions as an individual in the larger community, no matter how small or large, ultimately impact the embryo of Parker. Whether that action is picking up a piece of trash on the ground or giving a fellow student $20, that action will impact the ever-growing and ever-developing embryo. While our community is large and spans a wide range of places, ethnicities, sexualities, and identities, we must focus on the individuals. So, the more thorough definition of what an embryonic democracy really is “a representative and open community where each individual has the responsibility of bettering themselves and the overall community to help it continue to develop and progress into a more rounded, inclusive, impactful, and stronger community.” 

During our numerous MX’s, we have the privilege of staring at the big white letters that overlook the audience: “A school should be a Model Home, a Complete Community, and an Embryonic Democracy.” Now, we come to ask ourselves, what do those phrases mean? Well, we just described and unpacked what an embryonic democracy is so we got that down. Next, we can tackle the definition of what a model home is. The phrase that watches so elegantly over the audience is very different from the quite controversial committee of Model Home. The phrase isn’t as complicated as embryonic democracy, but we can still break it down. 

“The Titanic,” written and directed by James Cameron, is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time. The movie grossed over 2.2 billion dollars and is a hallmark of the film industry. However, we come to ask ourselves, why is “the Titanic” called a love story? Why isn’t that when you think about the movie, you think about the lavish and irresistible story of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt rather than one of the most popular disasters of our time? Why do we think about whether or not Jack could have fit on that door rather than the thousands of people who drowned? It’s all about how we portray ourselves, our perspectives, and what we decide to do with our surroundings. 

That is the same as Parker. Now, when someone thinks about Parker they don’t think that it’s a school. Now, I know that out of the fifteen “Weekly” readers and the three of them that read my column must be thinking to themselves, “No, I think about school whenever I think about Parker.” If you are thinking that, well you are either wrong or have no life at Parker. Let me explain. 

What is thinking? Well, it is most often described as a cognitive process and tool that our brains use to make sense of the world around us and decide how to respond to it. We are always thinking, whether consciously or not. Thinking can come as thoughts, reasonings, or even just everyday movements. Thoughts and reasonings come from real-life experiences and knowledge. 

When one thinks about Parker, sure school is in there, but your real thoughts come from the real-life experiences we’ve had within the walls of Parker. So that time you cut the cafeteria line and got caught, that time your teacher canceled class ten minutes before class started, or that time you watched March Madness in Spanish class come to mind when you think about Parker. And if you haven’t had those experiences or you don’t hold any fond memories above the thought of school when you think about Parker, well, you should probably get a life. 

Parker is like the movie “The Titanic.” On the surface, they can both be described using one word each: “school” and “disaster.” However, when we explore the details of them both and get to take a deep dive into them, we see they are so much more than just a school and a disaster. Parker can even be described as a model home. A place where people can come and be welcomed and feel safe. It is more than just a school, but rather a home. A model home if you will. 

The model home descriptor wouldn’t work without the tightly-bond community Parker has created. Though the anecdote at the beginning of this article was fake, the reason it sounded believable is because Parker really does treat everybody as a special human being. Whether you are an official student or an applicant, Parker understands its duty to give the same opportunities to everyone and that every person in the halls is a human being with their own issues, problems, and idiosyncrasies. From the four-year-olds in the atrium barely able to eat carrots to Mike Mahany, everyone is treated with dignity, respect, and worth. It is a complete community. A model home. 

It also wouldn’t work without the type of students that leave Parker. I can guarantee that when the senior class transitions from Parker students to Parker alumni, they are model students. Parker has created their curriculum and journey so that every single unique student will graduate the school with a distinctive personality and perspective on the world. Through the tumultuous Parker journey, students will see the world through a progressive lens and leave the school with a vision of prosperity and equality for all. 

Symbolism is all around our world. Everything can be described as having a deeper meaning. For those of you who haven’t made this realization yet, take a moment and reflect on your life, the objects within it, and the ideology you hold. Once you’ve done this, you will see that your life is shrouded in symbolism. One pertinent example of symbolism in my life is on the walls of my bathroom. There, I have four superhero posters hanging: Superman, Captain America, Batman, and Iron Man (My parents bought them as a set when I was very young). Now, do I like superheroes? No, not really. I only watch the occasional Marvel or DC movie. However, those posters aren’t just metal plates with our generation’s most prevalent superheroes on them. They are symbols and constant reminders to me whenever I use the restroom. Superman is a symbol of strength and motivation. He is there to remind me to be strong and push through the obstacles in my life. Captain America is an inspiring memento of hope and good; a symbol of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Batman is a reminder that sometimes the best decisions aren’t the most popular ones. Iron Man is a show that hard work, intelligence, and dedication is rewarded. Those are symbols and a true aspect of symbolism. Parker is just the same. 

Parker is a true symbol and follows that rule of thumb: everything is symbolism. If this article hasn’t taught you that, I have failed (or you can’t read). Parker is a symbol of hope and light. It is a school that shows students that the world and our society can be improved. They show students that we are that change and we have the power and capability to do so. Parker is a beacon of the future – the next generation. A progressive institution that reaches beyond the known and into concepts and ideologies that don’t even exist because society isn’t able to comprehend them. People don’t just stop to look at Parker because of its weird building, but because they can feel the light and hope that it emulates from the classrooms onto the streets outside. We are the next generation, and Parker makes sure that every student realizes that and is given the opportunity and ample knowledge to become global citizens. 

Though Parker may not produce the most athletic students or the most intelligent students, their students are the most hopeful, the most innovative, the most creative, kindest, strongest, the most caring, loving, soft-hearted, and the most empathetic students. Even if I don’t remember or had any power in my decision to go to Parker for 14 years, it was meant to be. And even if I did have any say, I would want to go to Parker. I’m glad I did. 

Well, that was quite a long article. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, this was a step outside of my comfort zone. Not only did I not really get into specifics about Parker, but I was also very nice. This article was also more of an analysis and an exploration of Parker rather than just ranting about it. If you are still confused about what you just read or if you just decided to skip to the end and read this conclusion, just know that the main point of this atrociously long article is that we are truly lucky to be going to a school like Parker. It gets a lot of hate and many of the unique and great aspects of the school are saturated, Parker still stands out as a model home, a complete community, and an embryonic democracy. We are lucky to be going to this school and be given the correct resources to thrive in this society. Never forget that. 


With light, 

Ben Rachel