Evolving Social Norms At Deerfield


4 thoughts on “Evolving Social Norms At Deerfield”

  1. Deerfield lost what made it special when it became co-educational. Frank Boyden recognized this and that is why Deerfield stood out among the rest of the prep schools. It was a commraderie and special feeling that could be found nowhere else. Gender concerns, gender differences and activities have replaced the core school values, structures, principles, philosophies and school spirit that was once the foundation of this institution. Deerfield used to exemplify what made attending, and graduating, an exceptional and highly regarded achievement. Rigorous academics, physical development through athletics, a Spartan living and learning environment that required a formal dress code along with all of the social norms and manners that went along with it, a place where boys could be boys without the specter of political correctness or gender bearing down on them. A place where adolescent boys grew into men which fostered student bonding regardless of background. By becoming co-educational, Deerfield lost the core of its value by trying to become everything to all students. It lost its exclusivity by becoming overly inclusive. This only serves to weaken the school along with it’s time honored traditions. Over modernization and a drive to resort-style development changes the very fabric of this institution and weakens the historical roots and core that made this school stand out from every other. By trying to cater to everyone, you lose yourself. Mr. Boyden knew this. He realized that the optimal mental, physical, emotional, social, and academic development of young men was best achieved through an all male student environment that Deerfield espoused. The same could be said about all girl schools. Boys and girls are different and should be treated as such. If you are looking for co-educational schools, there are plenty of those schools around. There is no need to compromise Deerfield’s value by making it like those others. I believe that co-education at Deerfield is a mistake. You gain very little, if anything, but lose so much. If there is an inherent need for girls in prep school, then build one for them. However, do not compromise the institution that Mr. Boyden worked so hard his entire life to build only to destroy it from within. I believe that he would be turning over in his grave if he could see what has become of his school. It’s too bad that there are no more Frank boyden’s around. The education system, and Deerfield in particular, could use him.

  2. As a side note: The premise of the above comment is to show that what solidified Deerfield as one of the top prep schools in the country, and what made Mr. Boyden’s leadership so valuable and important to this end, was to allow boys to develop to their fullest without being encumbered by the myriad of problems, and rules, that accompany co-educational environments. He realized that at that age, boys and girls develop differently, and in order to allow each student to develop each get the most out of his abilities, a single gender environment without the distractions involved with co-education, was the best way to do this. He found that boys immersed in a single gender environment were more engaged, and had more of a connection with the school in spirit and in it’s curriculum and activities. A greater sense of commraderie developed. Today, it seems that the school has been pushing so many activities in order to keep students occupied that it has really detracted from this. It has turned into more of a caterer than a school. This is probably due to concerns involved with co-education: How do we keep everyone busy so that they don’t get into trouble. And therein lies the problem. By forcing, or scheduling, so many activities you decrease the value and excitement of them. Like having Christmas everyday, pretty soon it gets old. Boys will be boys, just as girls will be girls, and they need to be able to have the freedom to relax, develop, and express themselves in an environment unencumbered by social gender norms, and to develop and implement activities that are important to them. Boys develop optimally under the guidance of strong, confident, and compassionate male leadership in an environment that fosters this. The same can be said for girls with female leadership and environment. This brings about the development, comradiere and cohesiveness that cannot be found in co-educational institutions. In my opinion, the drive to co-education and to make Deerfield reflect every other prep school only undermines its value to each student, and the institution itself. It undermines those core principles that made it special. Excessive rules and political correctness only exacerbate this. Mr. Boyden understood this when he changed the school to a single gender institution. Although he did not have many of the social and political problems we do today, I believe that he would not have changed the school very much from what it was then. The foundations he laid out are just as, if not more, important today as they were then. His vision for the school and it’s traditions transcended his time. I just hope that the Board does not lose sight of this.

  3. Also: In my opinion, there should be a very little of any, television available to students at the school. There definitely should not be any in public places at all like the bookstore, student union, or any other social gathering place including corridors or dorms, especially for underclassmen. Television, is the biggest deterrent to the normal social, academic, and psycological development of the individual. It turns into a poor replacement for true social interaction between individuals. It is an easily accessable visual stimulant that is a constant flow of marginal entertainment value that requires little to no effort to obtain. This is especially true for social media. This social mechanism just serves to isolate an individual from his surroundings and detracts from the social cohesion and bonding of the students. How can this be of benefit to an individual’s connection and interaction to his fellow students when there is constant contact available to individuals outside of the school? You might as well just issue cell phones to each student because there is really no difference between the two. The reliance on technology for social, entertainment, and educational fulfillment sets a poor example and can be a difficult habit to break. Technology, in all forms, should be used as a tool and not a crutch, especially in social situations. As we plow headlong into the future, I hope that the values and foundations of the past are not buried in the technology of the times.

  4. One more thing: I truly believe that Deerfield Academy has lost a sense of itself, and a part of its soul. In these changing times, consistsancy and stability should be some of the cornerstones of any institution. This rush to change, and to accommodate any and all perspective students only hurts the school. Frank Boyden and David Pynchon guided Deerfield through the turbulent times of the last century by sticking to the core values, programs, and philosophy that made this school exceptional. Deerfield not only survived, but thrived by never wavering from these values. Deerfield does not need to bend, alter, change or expand in any way physically, philosophically, morally, or academically in order to attract prospective students. It succeeded by providing a firm foundation from which students could build upon academically, physically, and morally. Students accommodated to the school, not the other way around. The further away from these principles this school gets, the more it loses that sense of itself, as well as a part of its soul. The basic spirit and pride will remain strong and cohesive as long as the school does not waver from these principles. The above comments, although unnecessarily redundant, try to make this point. That is why I believe that the best way for Deerfield Academy to move forward is to move back and embrace those ideas and principles that made this school successful not only academically, but socially, morally, spiritually, and philosophically. It should get back to that country school that Frank Boyden envisioned and promoted all those years ago, including single gender education. Not only will this protect its heritage, but it will also ensure its role as a place where the physical, academic, and moral development of each student is acutely nurtured and promoted.

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