By Aneesh Karuppur ’21
Pingry is known for a lot of things; just head over to a website like College Confidential or NJ.com and you’ll find many different opinions and rankings of the school. People always seem to compare our academics to Newark Academy’s, or our athletics to Delbarton’s, or the Pingry experience to the Lawrenceville experience, but Pingry’s broad variety of club activities are rarely mentioned. Why aren’t clubs more prominently featured? After all, any college counselor will tell you that colleges value extracurriculars in addition to academics or athletics.
Pingry’s profile on Niche.com, which features rankings and information about nearly every K-12 school in the country, tells us an interesting story. Pingry earns a high A in every category on everything except – gasp – clubs! Pingry’s clubs earn a mere, shameful A- according to Niche, but no reasoning or justification is provided. Are Pingry clubs really so much less impressive than the other things the school has to offer?
The answer is no. Of course not! Pingry’s clubs are certainly high achieving– Pingry’s QuizBowl team, for example, has more trophies than can fit in Ms. Smith’s room, and the Model Congress club regularly collects gavels during trips.
But the impression that Pingry clubs stink seems to come from people’s reviews of the school. According to one anonymous Niche user, “I was not involved in many extracurricular activities at Pingry. In my experience, clubs and organizations are put on the backburner and academics are more valued. It seems to me that if a student is looking for extracurricular experience, they will participate in something outside of school.” Ouch.
But this user is not the only disgruntled person who is unsatisfied with Pingry’s clubs: “Great if the school cares about it” says another user. In general, the consensus seems to be that Pingry doesn’t put enough emphasis on clubs.
In a sense, this is true. Many clubs in Pingry are essentially autonomous, meaning they run without significant intervention from teachers or administration. This is especially true with clubs that don’t spend too much money.
Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But, what ends up happening is that clubs are running completely on individual student knowledge and initiative, which makes it difficult for the club to grow together because students have many other responsibilities to tend to. After a certain point, students cannot offer the same amount of knowledge that a dedicated coach or advisor can. However, the club’s advisors often have other responsibilities as well: advising plays, teaching students, coaching sports, running publications, and a whole host of other jobs that make it very difficult for them to put in the time needed. It simply doesn’t make sense for the club to expect its already burdened advisors to develop a level of understanding that is sufficiently greater than that of the students and help the club to grow.
Ridge High School has one of the top forensics programs in the country, in part because it has a dedicated coach who visits weekly to run the club meetings. Without that kind of teacher intervention, students are less motivated to join and, without enough students, the cost of a dedicated teacher becomes too high. It’s a vicious cycle of stagnation.
Even from a monetary perspective, the “let the kids deal with it” attitude doesn’t seem to work well. Without sufficient support, clubs won’t be able to reach their potential or win accolades for the school.
Pingry definitely supports its clubs in terms of facilities. Clubs (usually) have the tools and equipment that they need to function, but what is missing is that last link of a fully invested, dedicated, single-job teacher that would allow Pingry’s clubs to be as successful as the sports teams, at least in the eyes of the administration. Some clubs are now defunct because there was no advisor to continue their existence.
It is quite likely that other members of the community have brought up this suggestion in the past. Nonetheless, the idea is intriguing for future implementation, and could move Pingry’s club score from an A- to an A+.