The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 20, 2003


There's more to life than "HYP"

David West's Letter to the Editor ("Is CCHS really one of the best?" in the June 6 issue of the Mosquito) has generated considerable discussion. He wonders why CCHS isn't up to other high schools in the area in getting their students into Harvard, Yale and Princeton (or, as he put it, "HYP.")

In last week's Mosquito, Carole Fiorentino responded to West in her Letter to the Editor, in which she writes, "A 'rigorous and stimulating' higher education can be achieved by attending a wide array of colleges and universities · not just the Ivy League schools."

To set the record straight, let me just say that four CCHS students, three Lincoln-Sudbury students, and two Wayland students were accepted at Harvard for the year 2003. This should answer Mr. West's concern that CCHS doesn't measure up to other local high schools. I don't have the numbers for Yale and Princeton, but more importantly, if one checks the list of Carlisle graduates of CCHS and the schools they will be attending in the fall (see page 11 of last week's Mosquito), it is clear that our students will be attending many outstanding schools.

Carlisle is a highly educated community, with parents who have graduated from some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and they have high aspirations for their children's education. But times do change, says CCHS Guidance Counselor Tom Curtin. There are many more colleges, especially in the Northeast, that are now considered to be among the best, and just as competitive as the Ivies.

Students are under enough pressure to perform well in so many ways. They don't need parents mapping out the road to an Ivy League education, but they do need support and encouragement to do their very best in school and pursue their talents and interests. By the end of the junior year, says Curtin, there is time enough for students and their families to start thinking of applying to college.

If parents could take some of the pressure off their sons and daughters and let them enjoy their high school years, especially when attending an excellent school like Concord-Carlisle High School, students will invariably find an appropriate college to attend. And who knows, it just might be Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

Stairway to heaven

For some years now, a majority of Carlisle sixth-to-eighth graders have gathered religiously at the school at 7:30 the first Friday evening of each month during the school year. Our involvement with this ritual began innocently five years ago when my then sixth-grade daughter attended her first Friday Night Live soon after we moved to town. We accepted this as part of the Carlisle package, along with a well, a septic system and a cranberry bog up the road.

As with many features of small town life (such as our fabled rurality), Friday Night Live (FNL) comes with a price: it cannot be taken for granted or it might disappear. This was brought home to me when I was eventually asked, along with a rolling roster of other middle-school parents, to chaperone.

My wife, Karen, had already done her duty a few times, enduring our daughter's entreaties to stay out of the dance room. Karen was amazed that dances in Carlisle at the millennium closed with the same song as had her school dances in the seventies, "Stairway to Heaven."

I showed up a bit early, as requested, to learn the ropes: no food in the gym (where kids play ping pong and basketball or just hang with their friends), no kids leave the building until 9:30 (unless a parent signs them out), and, as for dancing, "if it makes you uncomfortable, you should say something." What I observed on the dance floor, in addition to a generally congenial, well-behaved passel of kids, apparently quite comfortable in this setting, were boys and girls dancing together, as couples primarily during slow songs (one of every ten or so tunes played by DJs who are usually Carlisle middle- or high-schoolers themselves). The prototypical couple remains a foot apart, girl's hands on boy's shoulder, boy's on girl's waist, totally neutral expressions, no eye contact, no conversation.

A few couples whose bodies are seemingly glued together have brought forth a response from the Youth Commission (CYC) to codify the rules more specifically to disallow "making out." We (I progressed from one-time chaperone to full time CYC member, responsible for the monthly supply of chaperones) have even defined "making out" so that parents with different tolerance levels need not worry they are too prudish or too lax for proper supervision of adolescent interactions.

Now at the end of my stint on the CYC, I'm glad to have had this opportunity to observe our children developing a comfort level in this realm, much of it, thankfully, still subconsciously. The experience seems to start with trial and error, through hesitation and some false steps, to occasional frustration or disappointment, but no broken hearts. There is also joy joy at being asked to dance, joy when the askee says yes, joy (relief?) when first-time dancers survive the experience, and joy from just plain being among friends amidst a bustle of lively activity.

Kids flow easily from gym to dance room to hallway for chess or checkers. They line up eagerly when pizza and soda are served around 8 p.m. They aren't picky; for a nominal price, cold pizza and warm soda are provided to eager consumers. Then it's back to more fun and interaction with friends.

Next year, I'll chaperone one dance, leaving the observation of the rest of my son's final year of FNL to others. Today, as he becomes a teenager (Happy Birthday, Aaron), I thank past and present members of the Youth Commission (Nancy, Kathryn, Lynn, Kathy, Kim, and Karen) for providing him, in Friday Night Live, a comfortable venue for some self-realization before high school.


2003 The Carlisle Mosquito