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Balancing Tradition and Progress

Deerfield is steeped in tradition. Even our motto, “Be worthy of your heritage,” is draped in implications of adherence to old ways. Without tradition, we would be an indistinct institution. What would Deerfield be without Choate Day, cheerleaders, sitdowns, dress code, and school meetings? Tradition must be acknowledged as a major facet of campus life—a part of what makes Deerfield unique.

However, it is paramount that we do not lose ourselves in the changing present as we cling to traditions. As the years pass, we must inevitably yield to the demands of an adapting world. This willingness to change and temporarily disregard tradition is crucial to the success of the school.

We would be straggling today had we not chosen to abandon the all-boys approach and turn co-ed in the 1990’s. At the same time, we are branded with the golden quality of age in our continued observance of traditions, which fade into a collection of venerable schools. These time-honored customs should not and do not singularly define Deerfield, yet they should prevail as an innate part of our identity.

Tradition is truly a thriving aspect of life at Deerfield, shaping the spirit of our code and conduct. In our motto, our rules, and our habits at DA, we express reverence for older values. The school continues to honor the figures that epitomized these values—the esteemed Frank Boyden and the quintessential Deerfield Boys.

As we remain moored to these traditions, the new and the old must blend, striking a balance in principles. We will best preserve  our “days of glory” when the school bends to the needs of the student body while holding fast to certain customs. Compliance should not be absolute or stifling, as treating tradition in this way would diminish the merit of the school.

When applied in heedless practice, certain traditions at Deerfield begin to feel hollowed. I would not necessarily advocate for us to eliminate any traditions, but rather to find some way to reiterate their importance. Many of these practices seem to become so engrained in our routine that their importance subsides.

One distinct and long-standing tradition that seems to have become rather unappreciated at DA recently is sit-down meals. While we are set apart from other schools for giving the community this block of time to eat together, within the school, the meals have become empty.

We have lost touch with the tradition and the purpose of this time, rushing sit down lunches into twenty-minute blocks. Many of the tables seem to dwell in a perpetual state of awkwardness for entire rotations, hardly even knowing each other’s names.

I love the idea of sit-down meals, but I think because of our busy schedules and multitasking ways, they have lost their value. Noticeably, students seem to appreciate sit-down meals more in the doldrums on winter, when we have regular sit down lunches, but only a single sit-down dinner per week.

Perhaps if we were to keep this schedule throughout the year, holding sit down meals on more sparing occasions, they would be better appreciated. If the school were to enact this schedule, sitdown meals certainly wouldn’t be as eagerly anticipated as our annual Choate Day, but there might still be a shift in perception.

Tradition is not a constituent of this community that must be constantly pressed upon us, but rather something that should be observed moderately.

It is instead an element of the school that defines conduct and character in what we keep and what we efface. Just as we are “bound by song” in the final verses of the Evensong, we are tethered to Deerfield and its legacy through our lives because of tradition.

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