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The Milton Measure

Admissions Paints a Cleaner Picture by Censoring Student Art

by on Friday, April 14th, 2017

in for the night, students went to dinner, and then attended the keynote speaker, Mike Webber, who has previously spoken at C2R about what it means to be a leader.

Webber spoke about “silent leadership,” highlighting that being a leader does not necessarily mean running for head monitor or for captain of a sports team. Leadership can just mean sitting with new people at lunch or engaging with those around you in a different capacity. Webber also did a few exercises with the audience to show how easy it is to influence a crowd, as well as to demonstrate how people subconsciously calculate risk before they act. The speaker was generally met with positive reviews.

Dylan Volman (II), who was on the planning committee for C2R, says that “Webber was awesome. The stuff he said about high school social dynamics was very true… he felt very real and he understood a lot about high school kids.” Caroline McCarthy (II) said she “learned about what it means to lead and that just because someone has a title doesn’t mean they’re capable

The Milton Administration prides itself on the motto, “Dare to Be True.” However, on last week’s revisit days, the school seemed to display the opposite sentiment. In preparation of receiving revisiting students, the Admissions Office instructed Mr. Torney, the Head of the Visual Art Department, to remove some of the “I, too, am Milton” portraits from the walls in Kellner. The drawings were made for a Studio Art class assignment modeled after a project started at Harvard University; it is a series of self portraits, in which each person is holding a sign with a quote or saying that somehow describes, influences, or means something to him or her.

For example, my sign read, “Wait, you have two moms?” to convey the confusion that some people experience when they first learn my mothers are gay and married. Last year, Sophie Clivio (II) wrote, “But, you aren’t really black.” As illustrated in these examples, this project serves to confront prominent issues for students on campus. For the Student Art Show in Kellner, every student in a visual arts class chose a piece from his or her portfolio, and many of us chose to display our “I, too, am Milton” creations. Apparently, these personal pieces were a side of Milton the Admissions Office would rather hide.

As a way to avoid “offending” visitors or portraying Milton negatively to revisiting families, the Admissions Office wanted to take down specific portraits. Although they did not remove all of the pieces, they targeted individual ones that draw attention to important issues such as racism and identity. One of the portraits taken down was Sophia Li’s, which read, “You’re like a banana: yellow on the outside, white on the inside.” Yes, initially, this statement makes people uncomfortable. And yes, the Milton community certainly wants to make a good impression on prospective families. Why scare away the revisitors, right? Wrong! Milton, like any other community, is not perfect, and the Admissions Office’s deliberate “hiding” of our truths prevents students from seeing what might actually draw them to Milton: our willingness to engage in difficult conversations.

Part of the reason Milton is such an admirable institution is because students are taught to “Dare to Be True” – to value integrity over all else. Teachers often encourage us to engage in civil discourse, a kind of discussion that isn’t always easy but is meant to be productive and to contemplate serious topics and issues. Prospective families should know what they are signing their kid up for; if these topics are too hard for their children to handle, then, honestly, maybe the child shouldn’t be going to this school. Ultimately, these portraits represent the diversity of Milton’s student body, and censoring this self-expression to attract incoming students sends a message that is counterproductive to the goals of the institution. It’s one thing for a Milton student to lie on his tour and say that he loves Flik food, but it’s another to hide drawings that students so thoughtfully completed. Artwork is a creative process and something student artists are proud of. One cannot simply take people’s work down because it’s embarrassing or controversial – the pieces all represent a type of expression.

At Milton, classes promote discussion. We pride ourselves on being open to conversation, but where does the line get drawn between acceptable and inappropriate topics to discuss? At least Milton teaches us to be aware of these issues. By putting these drawings up, we are recognizing the immorality of the statements. We note the corruption in society and say, “Hey, let’s talk about this since it’s not okay,” especially because quotes can have colossal impacts. Innately, when we read a statement such as “You’re like a banana: yellow on the outside and white on the inside,” we become hyper aware of how truly racist and discouraging it is. We begin thinking about how we ourselves could never utter such an appalling remark: we become largely attentive to never act in such a hateful fashion.

These posters not only serve as beautiful works of art but also as reminders of what Milton Academy strives to teach us each and everyday: Dare to Be True. So, Admissions Office, please leave our artwork up next time. If you truly want to show prospective families Milton, let them see all of it.

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Posted by on Apr 14 2017. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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