Underexposing Students: Good or Bad?
City and Country School is known for its goal to maintain a students’ childhood innocence for as long as possible. This can be beneficial to a child because it can foster their imagination and creativity, and maintain their childhood for as long as possible. But at the same time, when students experience the outside world after being sheltered and kept inside of a bubble for so long, they will encounter situations that involve more adult topics such as substance use, suicide, and sex.
Because students at C&C are not often exposed to such matters, they are left with difficult decisions to make with little or no information to support them, which could lead to unsafe situations.
While C&C covers certain topics such as SexEd, cyber-bullying, and recently, vaping, there are many other serious situations that are either not discussed or discussed lightly.
The topics often discussed during Community Meetings are either watered down or the topics themselves are considered low-level, as Odessa Kanarick, XIsD puts it. She said that in her group, she thinks some of her classmates “feel like it is harder to talk about topics that are more mature.”
The most explored matter during Community Meeting revolves around bullying and body image. For the vast majority of students, addressing only these issues is not enough. Many students thought that they are not being exposed to certain relevant topics and therefore are not exposed to the ‘real world.’
Students in the Upper School shared opinions and thoughts about how C&C shelters their students from matters aimed toward a more mature audience. While some expressed their gratitude to this, others expressed that this could have a negative effect on students moving from C&C to high school.
Nuri Rahav, XIIsP, explained that “there are a lot of kids in my class who I cannot even imagine in high school because they cannot even think or process Juuls or drugs or anything else like that. I appreciate [being sheltered]. It’s a safer community where people can say what they are feeling and it’s a way better community than most middle schools. In some ways, you can never be prepared enough. You just have to go through it.”
Peter Bisbee, XIIsS, agreed with Nuri. “I definitely think C&C can become over progressive, and although it provides a positive safety bubble from the rest of the world, I definitely think that we should work on preparation and prevention for drugs, vapes...”
On the other hand, Jack Kolz, XIIsS, had different ideas. He said, “I think that it’s important to make sure that we do discuss these things ‘cause it’s not like people don’t hear about these things on the news, so there is no point of acting like it hasn’t happened.” What Jack claims has substantial evidence; there is a constant flow of news stories that explain in depth drugs and suicide. With faculty members of the C&C community ignoring these news stories, it is as if they want to portray these issues as unworthy of being discussed.
Odessa shared a contrasting opinion to some of the XIIs, by siding towards sheltering not being reasonable for Upper School students.
“I think that students in the Middle School could be sheltered a little, although when we get to the Upper School, I think that we should talk about topics in the world that are really happening,” Odessa said. She went on to talk about how she has experienced being sheltered in the classroom.
“I do think that sometimes teachers avoid talking about those topics. This year, I think that many people in my class have been seeing these topics in the news and in books and that has raised some discussions. Last year we also had a discussion on abuse because people were using [it] as a joke or in ways that [were] not right. I don’t think that any teachers have brought up any topics,” said Odessa. She said that she, as well as others in her friend group wish they did talk about more mature topics in their class.
Based on the interviews of Upper Schools students, although they would like to obtain mature information about adult topics, they prefer to maintain their sheltered environment. They feel that this environment is safe and a place where one can share feelings without being ridiculed or judged by peers.
For a better understanding of the issue, we decided to get the opinions of C&C alumni, as they have experienced the transition from C&C and high school.
Aiden Allard-Neptune, a former student at C&C, shared his thoughts on the topic.
“I think that City and Country definitely does shelter its students from certain adult topics. Discussion about drugs and substance as well as mental health and personal well-being were few and far between. Although the school has good intentions, sheltering its students from the real world does much more bad than good. In my personal experience and the experience of my classmates, the low levels of exposure made the jump to high school more than just a change of location. I believe that the lack of exposure to more adult situations makes City and Country alums more likely to engage in risky activities just so they can break the mold they feel the school has made for them.”
According to Aiden, more bad than good comes from under educating students. The jump from middle school to high school is stressful enough. The addition of being too sheltered from matters relevant to high schoolers makes the transition more difficult than it has to be. Additionally, students encounter more precarious situations, and are unable to set their boundaries.
The opinions and anecdotes of Upper School students and alumni show that sheltering students can be good and bad. But as many students pointed out, by not teaching children about worldly topics, students encounter onerous situations where making a decision is only possible with prior knowledge.
It is not the intention of teachers and faculty at C&C to put students in potentially dangerous situations, but this issue needs to be addressed as the XIIIs this year are preparing to graduate with few experiences of what life is like outside C&C.
Luckily, Michele Bloom, Director of Middle and Upper School, has begun a series of talks to ignite discussions amongst students. In addition to this, XIIIs group teachers, Ann Roberts and Trayshia Rogers encourage XIIIs to decide what they talk about during Community Meeting.
This has created a safe environment for XIIIs to discuss what they deem necessary rather than talking about mellowed-down topics. This will make the transition to high school easier than it would have been otherwise.