Why did you attend Principia?
My parents decided and I said fine. There was a private school up the road that I liked better, but it was too far to commute and too close to board. I’m sure that my parents liked the idea of the Christian Science community too. One parent had attended Prin as well, which surely impacted their thought process, and may have helped with financial aid. I visited as an 8th grader and had a pretty fun time. Living in a dorm seemed fun, but the thing that stuck with me was the school store. That tells you all you need to know about whether 14-year-olds can make good long-term decisions for themselves!
Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?
I’m sure it changed it some due to a wider range of exposure. I don’t think I grew closer to it or further from it because I attended. I could not have identified this at the time, but there were always people trying to pass judgement on me under the guise of Christian Science. This happened at home, at church, at Prin. So while Prin perhaps had an opportunity to help me like it more, they didn’t take it. As I became more broad-minded in college I realized that many Christian Scientists maintain their naivety, judgmentalism, and prejudice through the religion. At the same time, there were good people practicing it too, so it just felt like a normal cross-section of the world at the time.
If you had a ‘do-over’, would you attend Principia again? Why or why not?
No, because it kept me from critical family events of the time that I did not know were coming. Of course, that may have been part of the reason that I was shipped off. Not accounting for that facet, and IF I knew then what I know now, then maybe the Upper School only. Living in a dorm was indeed fun, and I had a vast number of experiences that I never could have had at home–participating in productions in an auditorium of a quality that few high schoolers enjoy, sneaking out of the dorms at all hours, eating meals with friends three meals a day. I’m sure a therapist could help me make a long list of traumas and disorders stemming from living in a Christian Science bubble 24/7, but I’d say that the damage that caused is probably no more or less than the damage I would have sustained going to high school as the lone Christian Scientist. In most ways it was a relief at the time. College, though, is too important a time to waste hiding in a bubble. It’s when young adults should be turning outward to the real world.
Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?
I’ve gone back and forth on this many many times since graduating, for a different reason each time. But in the end, the most major consideration is the lack of security in health and safety available in a Christian Science community. One student died in the dorm when I was a student there. He had a heart problem of some kind or another … We got no more information, and I’m not sure there was much more to be had. Would he have survived at another school? His chances would have been a lot better, anyway! Many Christian Science parents go out of their way to ensure that if anything happens, an ambulance is NOT called for their children. This just isn’t where you want to send your kids, or where you want to be, when it hits the fan. If you’re an 8th grader contemplating Prin, just remember that at your public school you can probably get to the hospital before your folks find out. It may save your life.
One positive experience & one negative experience.
Having a huge campus as a 24-hour playground was a positive. I never injured myself, but I did face major disciplinary action a few times. A negative was the ignoring of the students’ emotional health by houseparents, teachers, administrators, everybody. High school is a period of huge growth in a child’s life, and I had family and other situations that made my progress difficult in many ways. During my time at the US I had a couple people who were helping me by playing the long game, but no one who I really thought cared about my day-to-day struggles. I turned in a couple pieces of work that would probably have gotten me sent to the school psychologist in a public school, but which were completely ignored at Prin–not as much as a line from Science and Health offered.