Dear Castilleja Board of Trustees,
I apologize for the imperfections of this letter; I want it to be perfect, polished, and precise for maximum impact - to somehow express all my sentiments and all the truth. But it is not. I have to focus; all I can do is ---
I will say my story and express my voice as I have been taught.
I graduated from Castilleja last year having first entered campus as a sixth grader - that is the year I met Bear Capron. I was one of his 60 most recently acquired "nieces." This, in fact, doesn't matter. I was going to mention how Uncle Bear opened the stage for me (for me and countless others) - how he unlocked the gates to a limitless world where I could be whatever I wanted, care for whatever character I was portraying, believe in myself, believe in my classmates and cast mates, respect others, voice my opinion -- but --------
By now I'm sure you have ample evidence of Mr. Capron's "positive" (it is too weak a word) influence - his centrality to all the students lucky enough to have learned from him, whether formally in a class, extracurricularly in a play, briefly in a senior talk rehearsal, or, most critically, as a role model and friend. All these examples - these "whether...or...or...or....or........" are insufficient -
Here, then, will be my focus. I want to share an essay I wrote for my application to Castilleja as a fifth grader. Here is my response to the last question, in which we were asked to explain which of the 5 Cs (which the prompt described were "as important today as they were when Castilleja was founded") we believed was most important in our school or community:
Although it is hard to choose which C is most important, I think courage is the most important one.
At school, it takes courage to learn because if you want to understand something, you need to ask questions. But raising your hand in a classroom takes courage. Once I asked a question to which everyone else knew the answer (or seemed to know the answer). Although I wanted to understand, I was afraid to ask because I feared that my peers would tease me later on, and that the teacher would be annoyed with me for asking and not knowing.
It also takes courage to challenge what everyone else believes and to pursue new ideas. Darwin, the famous scientist, questioned the belief that God created people. After exploring the Galapagos islands, Darwin concluded that animals and plants had evolved because of their environment over millions of years. At the time, most people, especially very religious ones, rejected his discovery. Galileo was also very courageous when he claimed that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Before him, people believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
Both Darwin and Galileo believed in their ideas. They were determined to find the truth even if people hated them for their new thoughts. They dared to be different thinkers.
Sometimes, I have noticed that some people think that boys are better than girls. For instance, one time we (the girls) played basketball at school, a girls' team against a boys' team. At break time, we heard the P. E. teacher (a woman) telling the boys to "play easy on the girls" although we were just behind by one point. I felt so angry. I wish I had had the courage to stand up for the girls' team and to tell the teacher that girls can be as good as boys, in sports or other things. Anyway, we played even harder and we tied.
Again, I apologize for how disorganized my thoughts are - I will proceed nonetheless with the hope that my sincerity, at least, comes through. The first thing that strikes me as I read this letter is that, while somewhat increased maturity (for which I can, for a large part, thank my time at Castilleja) would now prevent me from audaciously summarizing such generally known concepts as Darwin's theory of natural selection and Galileo's theory of a heliocentric universe, the "point" of this letter - and that of all the letters you have been receiving so far - seems to me to be as equally well-known and appreciated. Recognition of the centrality of Bear Capron to Castilleja, of his inspirational leadership, teaching, advising, and creating - is unquestionable. How, then, is he gone? How can Castilleja exist without him? Where do the planets go when the sun is removed?
Again, again, I apologize for how dramatic this sounds - you could, after all, dismiss all our outcries as the complaints of "drama" queens (ha ha). But this would be an unforgivable insult to the man who to me represents the school I loved and love and whose best interest you are supposed to protect. It would insult the school whose values have made us learning, leading women.
Here is the real point -
It is time for courage. As I once earnestly wrote, if you want to understand something, you need to ask questions. We need to understand why - and how - a teacher can be removed without explanation or justifiable reason. By now (I hope) you must be familiar with the facts (albeit concealed at first and never officially disclosed or confirmed - this in itself is incomprehensible) of this situation.
You, the Board of Trustees, have to have the courage to question the decision that removed Bear Capron from Castilleja. They - whoever they are - have done the unquestionable; more than ever, then, must we question them.
So: I am begging you to have the courage to question, and thus understand and right the wrong that has befallen our community. Unlike the girl who "felt so angry" but remained silent eight years ago, I now have the courage to speak up when I believe something is wrong. In the past two years, I have undergone a few instances with this school that have made me question whether the 5 Cs I defended in my application are in fact "as important today as they were when Castilleja was founded in 1907." I do still believe courage to be this school's most important founding principle; without it, one may lack the nerve for charity, conscience, character, and courtesy.
I know the last paragraph had no conclusion; I feel this letter can have no conclusion. I simply have to end it. Courage and trust are very related: we believe in what we believe to be right, and we believe to be right what we believe in. Perhaps naively, I still believe in Castilleja's ability to fix the grave mistake it has made, to make it once again the Castilleja I so longed to be a part of eight years ago.
Respectfully but urgently yours,
Class of 2009
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