After reading the press regarding the lawsuit filed this week against Miss Porter's School, I am rendered slack jawed in shock. I will remain tight-lipped about the claims the Bass family makes in their suit until all the facts are presented on both sides, but I cannot remain silent about the horrible, unfair way the media has portrayed my beloved alma mater. The unfounded and un-researched claims made by various news outlets enrage me and leave me feeling the need to defend the very school that was a fundamental part of helping me become the successful, strong, dynamic woman I am today. Traversing the tumultuous waters of the teen years is difficult no matter who you are or where you go to school, and everyone's experience is different. No one experience can define a place or a time- yet I feel that the media is allowing this one story to describe Miss Porter's as a school, the student body and alumnae as a whole.
Miss Porter's is a magnificent place to be educated. Steeped in history and a long- standing pillar of the same-sex academic community, it practices what it preaches which is to produce graduates that will help "shape a changing world". I arrived at Miss Porter's my junior year and was immediately embraced by a caring staff and community in which I felt safe, respected and free to figure out exactly who I was and who I wanted to be. I was pleasantly surprised to find a teaching staff so invested in our learning that they would invite us into their homes for dinner and extra study sessions, as well as a group of students that were the most dynamic, smart and welcoming girls I'd ever met. Overlooked by many of the reports in the press is the fact that 40% of Miss Porter's students are on some form of financial aid and come from 22 states, 10 different countries and 23% are non-Caucasian. It is not a homogeneous place of "mean girls", but a diverse community of respectful women dedicated to their education. Miss Porter's has a wonderful set of traditions that date back to the beginning of the school in 1843. Some of these traditions have been amended as time progresses, the "Oprichniki" (called "The Keepers" as of 1998, a fact omitted by the press) being one them. It is not a "terror squad" as reported, but rather a group appointed to actually raise school spirit and make sure everyone participates in traditions. Miss Porter's will have to continue to keep a vigilant watch over such traditions and make sure that they remain a special, positive part of the MPS experience, as they have in the past.
Among the most offensive of statements made by the media is that a Miss Porter's diploma is a "golden ticket" to the Ivy League and a life of wealth and privilege. I must have been absent the day these "golden tickets" were handed out, because I certainly did not go to an Ivy League school, nor did a majority of my classmates. It is especially offensive to those girls who worked tirelessly and endlessly to be accepted to schools like Brown and Yale. They certainly did not get in because of the Miss Porter's name on their transcripts and it is horrifically belittling to these women to make such claims. We are not a group of "spoiled, rich girls" who only look forward to getting our "MRS degrees", we are women who want to go out and make an impact, and Miss Porter's taught us the importance of that. MPS graduates have gone on to be screenwriters, lawyers, AmeriCorps teachers, scientists, surgeons, professors, entrepreneurs, Naval officers, mothers, authors and the first female to run for the U.S. Senate. Not exactly a group of pampered princesses by any stretch of the imagination.
I know that fellow alumnae the world over are writing letters and stories just like this in voracious defense of our school, and that knowledge only reinforces the kind of place Miss Porter's School really is. I am blessed to have been able to become a member of the MPS community and from that I have a support system of friends for life. As I go about my day today and field questions from people interested in this sensationalized story I will be repeating some of the words of our school song in my head and in my heart:
...Years may come and years may go,
future all unknown,
but we girls will always say,
Farmington's our home.