The Melting Pot Dilemma

One of the first things I noticed about Exeter was the immense diversity within the student body. My classmates in prep fall English hailed from places as far as Hong Kong, England and Thailand. Exeter prides itself on finding and educating “youth from every quarter,” and by and large, we do a great job bringing together different people and cultures from around the world.

But does Exeter really recognize other cultures as much as it claims to?

On the surface, it looks like a school where everyone is accepted and all cultures flourish. Certainly it is true that the school does not actively discriminate, and the representation from other countries and cultures is great. However, within the school itself, the culture seems very much the same as countless other high schools around the country. It’s almost as if when the multitudes of international students arrive at Exeter, they are absorbed into the general crowd and don’t stand out as brightly as they should.

We all remember International Student Assembly. International students walked down the aisles holding the flag of their native country to the sound of K’NAAN’s hit, ‘Wavin’ Flag.’ It was a day for the Academy to remind itself that the students here aren’t all from Durham, New Hampshire. While I appreciated the message they are trying to send, and approve of the idea, it seems to me that the mere fact that this assembly was necessary represents our failure to constantly remain aware of the multitude of cultures around us. Together with international day in the fall, this seemed like a bid to remind the student body and the school at large of the diversity within it without actually doing anything to promote the cultures that are represented here. 

When we’re caught up in our 333’s and RALs it can be quite easy to forget some of the incredible things that are here at Exeter. Diversity of culture is one of those that often falls unnoticed or unrecognized. We need to remember that we represent a culmination of ideas and intelligence from all corners of the globe. We need to let other cultures be more prevalent within our school, as it currently appears to be a very stereotypical “American boarding school.” Walking around campus day to day, one would never know the wide range of ethnicities, religions, and home countries that are contained within our thousand students.

With our pool of students from all over the world, this school has a chance to be incredibly unique, not just because of the fine caliber of our students, but also because of the multitude of flourishing cultures that we are exposed to. But how can we distinguish ourselves by the diversity of our school when we fail to fully recognize it ourselves? Having youth from every quarter means nothing if that youth is absorbed into the lifestyle of an elite prep school the moment they step off the plane. We certainly need to do more to ensure that we allow all aspects of our diversity to come to greater light within our school.

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