One of the things that sets Harvard-Westlake apart from almost every other school is its unbelievably safe environment.
You can leave your laptop or phone unattended with full confidence that it will be there when you return. You can save a seat in the library by leaving your backpack there. Most lockers do not even have locks on them.
I think in part because most people at our school have so much, stealing is not in our culture. When owning a MacBook is the norm, why would someone steal anyone else’s?
I think most students fail to appreciate how unusual this is.
At other schools, careless behavior like leaving electronics or backpacks unattended would be reprimanded.
But at Harvard-Westlake students are actually encouraged to leave their belongings unattended, such as when leaving their after-school sports equipment by the gym on their way into school.
In some cases, Harvard-Westlake actually enforces rules that leave students no choice but to leave their possessions unattended, such as leaving backpacks outside before entering the cafeteria.
Harvard-Westlake is supposed to prepare you for the real world beyond high school, both academically and emotionally.
And I worry that by creating too safe of an environment, the school is missing the opportunity to teach an important lesson.
Theft is prevalent. The outside world is not as safe as Harvard-Westlake.
We should be learning to care for our belongings and to consciously think about keeping them safe.
It’s a real luxury to not have to constantly worry about someone stealing from you.
At my old school, students would take money out of unattended backpacks. No one brought laptops to school, for fear they would be stolen.
We have a luxury that often gets taken for granted.
The real world is not as conscientious a place as Harvard-Westlake.
I received a rude reminder of this a few weeks ago when my brand new jacket went missing.
While I was at swim practice, I left my new puffy jacket hanging on a hook in the Pool House bathroom, where the other girls and I had been hanging our jackets every other day that month without any problems.
Because it was the norm to leave jackets unattended, I assumed that mine would be safe.
That day, however, a visiting high school team was sharing our bathroom.
By the time practice was over and I had returned to the bathroom, my jacket was gone.
I had grown so accustomed to the feeling of safety that it hadn’t even occurred to me that someone might steal something that didn’t belong to them.
My first thought was to blame the other team. People at Harvard-Westlake don’t steal. That’s below us.
But I have no way of knowing whether or not the culprit was from our school or from the visiting team. It may have been just a coincidence that the day my jacket was taken was the day the other team was sharing our bathroom.
Either way, I have since learned my lesson about taking better care of my things.
Being at Harvard-Westlake we forget sometimes that the surrounding world is a very different place.
It’s nice to have the luxury to forget this fact, but it also concerns me for when we enter the real world upon our graduation.
The attitude that many of the students at our school carry toward their belongings is not reflective of that of the rest of the world.
The safety of our school—while being one of its best qualities—is also one of its worst qualities.
It builds a feeling of trust within the community that does not actually exist beyond our campus.
We need to be more aware of the bubble of safety we live in and that we cannot be as trusting of the outside world as we are of the community we currently reside in.