Editorial: We are LM

LM has a long history and esteemed reputation, but has that reputation marginalized groups and spread antisemitic tropes?

TSA takes first place in an event at Nationals. The soccer teams are both able to take the Central League Championships. Players puts on three full-length productions. We send fifteen kids to Penn. We call it a year. 

This is LM. We are, without exaggeration or vanity, a community of excellence. The joke about LM goes that before you graduate you must create at least one club.  Being a school which enshrines post-secondary matriculation, this ever-demanding environment and the burnout it creates is simply part of the game. Located in Ardmore not four miles from Philadelphia, LM is uniquely situated between two very different strains of fierce ambition: one against the systems that sandbag disadvantaged students; the other, equally aspirational, towards their offices. Because of this, it could be easily argued that we share the same societally-replicative makeup of Philly-area public high schools like Upper Darby, Overbrook, and Roxborough. It too could be argued that LM is fundamentally no different from the latter: well-endowed schools like Baldwin, Shipley, and Exeter. Far too often we find our sense of identity clinging to the image of excellence we strive to emulate, but is that really how we’re perceived?

There are many ways in which LM differs from the average Pennsylvania public school. 

One of which is having a district with a larger than average Jewish population, leaving LM subject to the ills of antisemitism pervasive to both PA and the country as a whole. This is a truth that most students, even those who don’t subscribe to the faith or aren’t ethnically Jewish, have had to grapple with and defend. When you go to LM, you learn firsthand how antisemitism can manifest itself in subtlety; specifically, how it veils itself in assumptions of uniform economic status among households. The assumption that we all reside in sprawling mansions and have parents in the 1% is commonplace. Yes, there are kids with these resources at LM; however, this is not every student’s reality. For the 15% of the kids in school everyday who are economically disadvantaged, this distortion of reality can be somewhat alienating. 

Additionally, this assumption is disproportionately applied to LM, something that raises red flags. LM is a wealthy district, and our funding as a school is egregious and nationally significant. However, LM isn’t the only affluent public school district on the Main Line. Oftentimes, these targeted assertions are rooted in antisemitic tropes—namely ones that paint Jewish people as financially manipulative.

This trope has made its way from biblical origins, presenting itself in a multitude of both covert and explicit ways, but the primary association remains with perceived greediness. In the Middle Ages, church leaders associated Jews with Judas, who notoriously betrayed Jesus, in order to portray Jewish people as deceptive and scheming. At the time, working with money was considered a dirty, undesired, sacrilegious position. Marginalized Jewish people would then be subjected to or assigned with working in high-interest crediting roles that Christians were barred from fulfilling. Clearly, this relationship to finance as a career is historically nuanced, something that antisemites capitalize on to create an image of greed. This trope has survived for centuries, and still has implications on Jews today.

Therefore the scrutiny we receive can’t be effectively dismissed with DAWGMA trophies or AP test scores, because it’s not really about the value of the education provided in our buildings, the funding appropriated per-pupil each year, or even the average
household income of LM students. However, presuppositions about wealth in LM from neighboring communities like Haverford and Radnor aren’t the worst of it.  It was once said to an Opinions editor: “Well, you know how it is in Lower Merion. Those people know how to move money.” It was most extremely evidenced when the basketball team ventured to Haverford High School last year and fans were spit on and called antisemitic slurs. Adding insult to injury was the phone call the next day from their principal regarding the “disgraceful” behavior of LM’s student section. 

Yes, we are an affluent community. Yes, we have extremely competitive academics and extracurriculars. But to assume all students share that wealth is inaccurate and plays into centuries of stereotypes. Thus, the narrative needs to be rewritten. 

Unsigned editorials reflect the general opinion of the staff and not the opinion of any single editor.

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