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The Milton Measure

Reflections on the Milton Academy Traditions

by Pari Palandjian on Friday, June 9th, 2017

Milton Academy boasts a number of different traditions. We give the last senior to receive his or her diploma a sock of quarters for waiting the while — a long-standing custom that can be deemed a pretty harmless routine. The summer reading book for incoming freshman has been East of Eden for as long as anybody can remember. We also have a school song, “Jerusalem” that we sing in chapel. Whether this song is unifying, as a school song should be, and represents the community is something that is definitely up for debate. So, why do traditions matter? Traditions are acts that have endured for long periods of time and that continue to be passed down, defining the institution, as one’s actions contribute to one’s character. Does the perpetuation of these traditions conflict with our need to progress? Furthermore, why do we have such a strong emotional attachment with many traditions?

In the case of the sock of quarters at graduation, tradition has no consequences. All that this practice does is reward (literally) the last student for waiting for his or her diploma. The sock of quarters is a fun, quirky custom that builds anticipation and excitement and gives the students something to laugh at. This tradition builds community and has absolutely no negative repercussions. However, this type of tradition is one that is becoming harder and harder to find as the flaws of some traditions are being brought to light.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is a book assigned as summer reading for incoming freshman every year and has been for multiple generations. However, the new freshmen will not be reading the daunting East of Eden this summer. The English department has struggled with this decision because even though a change is needed, it is an intimidating task to find a book that will provide as valuable of a reading experience as East of Eden had for so long. In an article describing this shift, Ms. Sabin promises to “insist on a worthy successor, a book that will continue to start Class IV with power, beauty, and grace. That part of the tradition we won’t let go.”

Although I do have immense respect for East of Eden and thoroughly enjoyed exploring it, the release of the novel gives the opportunity for freshman to read a book that prefaces the issues that we strive to discuss at Milton, instead of a book that alludes to the Bible and reinforces negative racial stereotypes. The tradition itself may be evolving with current times, but the purpose of the tradition will remain intact.

A tradition that has both negative and positive connotations is the alma mater of our institution “Jerusalem”. This song is very focused on the Industrial Revolution and England, but Milton was founded in 1798, 22 years after Americans claimed their independence from the British. Why is the song that is supposed to guide us based on British perspective and not the diverse perspectives that can be found in our community? As a whole, this song does not represent us, not to say that certain phrases are not encouraging. The overall meaning of the song conveys perseverance, and this trait is certainly one that we must aim to fulfill. As seen with the summer reading, traditions can evolve, but I wonder if our school song is truly doing that. The connotation of “Jerusalem” is something that remains open to conversation, as many other traditions do at Milton.

We must move forward and try our best to hold the positive values of traditions, while simultaneously being consistent with the times.

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Posted by Pari Palandjian on Jun 9 2017. Filed under 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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