The Case for Hierarchy

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Eli Aronson After getting let out of class at 12:06 and waiting in the lunch line for nine and a half minutes, you enter the main dining area of the learning commons. You look for the area that your friends are usually sitting at to find that a group of freshman is sitting there, in your spot, and the rest of your friends in your grade are spread throughout the room. Previously, students in the upper school have waited their two or three years to get the “best seating” that the cafeteria and library have to offer.  With the addition of the learning commons, faculty and staff encouraged students not to form a seating hierarchy in the new space. While it’s believed that this is the best way to utilize the space, hierarchy also has its benefits. “Hierarchies do provide us with some comfort” explained Ms. Metzler, one of the many faculty members who has been overseeing the learning commons. “They let us know where we’re supposed to be, so it was probably easier for freshman to find seating last year.” Everyone was once a freshman and likely understands how daunting it can be to be in the presence of upperclassmen — and that happens often. If, for instance, there’s a teacher sitting down where seniors like to sit, those seniors will sit where a group of freshman has been sitting recently because there are no other empty tables. What are the freshman to do? Questions like these leave students wondering if looking for seating within a set boundary would mitigate some uneasiness.Even some freshman who have nothing to compare the new learning commons to wish that there was structure to the seating. “Sometimes in the quiet area of the learning commons it can get pretty busy and filled with seniors,” said freshman Ascher Cahn. “It’s getting easier to find spaces to work quietly, but it can be difficult not wanting to interfere with other grade levels’ tables.” Freshmen are given freedom to sit wherever they please, but in a high school, there’s a lot more to finding a seat as a freshman. Seniors have eagerly waited for three years to get to reap the benefits of being the top of the hierarchy. “It is something that you look forward to. You feel like you earned better seats because you have been there for the longest amount of time” explained senior Max Norris, “It has nothing to do with disrespecting underclassmen. It’s just nice to have a place where you can sit with your grade.” The way traditional high school is portrayed in the United States is the way Max and several other seniors think about it: you live through the discomfort and simply wait for your time to be at the top.   While there is definitely value in using the learning commons to attempt a greater sense of inclusivity, one of the best parts about high school is growing up. As students begin to familiarize themselves with the commons, it’ll become clear whether or not hierarchy has made a return.]]>