A quarter of a century ago, Harvard School for boys and Westlake School for girls merged under the founding principle that boys and girls learn better together. Students and parents were, at first, enraged, but when fall came around and it was time to come together, tensions fell to a simmer.
But that is not where this story ends.
Though we share a campus, it sometimes feels as if boys and girls attend different schools. The fact that senior girls felt the need to create their own Girls of 2017 Facebook page to discuss issues important to them is evidence of this. Repeatedly, conversations about gender issues spiral into inflammatory comments that polarized the student body. Whether it’s about Fanatics equally promoting sports of both genders, a La Femme bake sale that brought attention to the wage gap or arguments about whether or not there’s a double standard in our school dress code (see A1 for more details on the policy), male and female students cannot seem to find common ground. Additionally, a feature on C7 highlights how these divisions translate into the classroom.
In her tenure here, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts has worked to lessen these differences, especially through encouraging gender balance in STEM fields. Even though she is leaving, we must continue to strive towards her goal.
Next year, all of the school’s administrators will have known the school as Harvard-Westlake and not as Harvard and Westlake. It’s time we start acting unified.
As of press time, the La Femme club was set to hold a town hall meeting Tuesday to discuss the implications of the dress code. This would be a perfect opportunity to have a discussion outside of the sometimes destructive social media environment. We all need to start making a conscious effort to avoid generalizations about gender because they only serve to divide us further.
We all need to forget Facebook comments from a year ago that hurt our feelings and start realizing that everyone makes mistakes, which are often amplified and perpetuated by social media. Boys and girls alike need to be willing to respectfully listen to every idea, even if they don’t agree with it or with the way it was presented.
The administration needs to help us in this struggle and realize that every action they make is amplified by each side and used as fodder. Change should be enacted through the faces we see every day. Our deans and teachers should be used as tools to help us understand why the administration makes certain decisions. We know they are always there to talk, but we should not always be the ones taking the initiative on these matters.
We should see the diversity of ideas at our school as an advantage and a result of our school’s emphasis on free and creative thinking. We should be glad to go to school with people who see things a different way than we do and take every day as a chance to reevaluate our opinions. Our school isn’t a patchwork of ideas, with sharp borders and distinct lines; it is a mosaic with different parts that work together to create one beautiful image: a group of students prepared for life because they have learned from the school and they have learned from each other.