Comments On The Decline Of CTY

Written as an e-mail message to the LLRT list

The phenomenon of the "Decline of CTY" has been seen at a lot of sights and sessions. Discussions a lot like this one occurred after CTY '97, about Carlisle and Saratoga, and were sparked by Matthew Belmonte's Essay, about CTY as a whole. A lot of things were said. A couple of people worked for change. Some people decided not to go back as a message to the administration. But a lot of CTYers didn't know about that. My younger brother went to CTY in 98. The only thing he knows about the "decline" is what he heard from me. And CTY was still good enough to make him want to go back.
In fact, I'm sure CTY has "declined" many times. What signals a decline? Good staff members leaving? My '95 RA spoke of a Saratoga site director, named Bob, who left in the early '90s. I'm sure wonderful RAs and teachers and TAs have left for various reasons; you've find few teachers who have been teaching CTY from the first day, much less RAs. New, strict rules? In early Saratoga, you didn't have to go to activities, and years ago, CTYers were outrages by the "Veil Law," the rule which states that students can't be on opposite sex floors (it was called the Veil Law because the Admin were going to make all the girls wear veils next.) Lack of former CTYers as Staff? I'm sure the percentage of staff who are CTY alumni is about the same as it was 5 years ago, and definitely more than it was 15 years ago, when there *were* no alumni to RA. The decline of discussion group? That was also hailed as a sign of the end at CTY '97 in Carlilse (it was banned for the last week of second session because it was "being used as forum for 'administration bashing'") But it came back, as good as new, in 1998. These are the most common things sited as evidence of the "decline" of CTY, and as we see, they do not signal the end of CTY as we know it. Despite the fact that it is continually "declining" CTY still seems to be thriving in a lot of ways... new traditions are being started, new people are finding friends through CTY, and new lives are being changed. And CTY is still accomplishing what it set forth to do in it's mission statement. I think "changing" is a better word than "declining"
Sometimes, the continuing complaint of decline is blamed on the short memory of the CTY community. And for the most part, the CTY community *does* have a short memory. How many of you knew about Site Director Bob or the Veil Law? I only know about them because I happened to have a former CTYer as an RA who told me these things, and I've been on the CTY-L list for about two years. It's not a problem with younger CTYers caring less, or being dumber, or not holding CTY as important; it's simple lack of information. There isn't a history book of CTY; it's all oral history. And it isn't given in a lesson- it is picked up here and there, wherever it can be found. The internet and outdated web pages are making something of a history text, but it only goes back a couple years. Despite this imperfect system of communicating, some things do manage to last- American Pie, Passionfruit. And though the new rules pinch, especially to the older students, young students still find enough of the CTY magic to come back. The fact that each year of CTY is not exactly like the last is probably a GOOD thing. Change can be good.
I don't mean this to say that CTY tradition is not important. It is. I think this lack of communication between generations of CTYers is a serious problem. Though the traditions should be able to change with time, younger CTYers should at least *know* of the traditions of the past, so they can decided if they want to discard them.
Yes, there are problems with CTY. Yes, they desperately need to be fixed. But simply talking about them isn't going to fix them. Deciding not to go back in protest isn't going to fix them (There will always be more students, and you are only cheating yourself.) There are ways to fix them, though. Talk to Baltimore and say what you feel (hopefully, the new and improve Alumni Association will help with this.) Go back to CTY and carry old traditions with you, if you can and wish. If CTY calls you asking for donations, and you have specific grips, tell them that is why you aren't donating, and you would be willing to donate once these things were fixed. There have always been problems with CTY, but they are not deadly, at least not yet. They can be fixed. One of the reasons for the "decline" in Carlisle '97 was a bad Dean of Res. Life. He did not return the next year, and was replace by the very cool Kim. Problems about not listening to students, and silly rules, and such, are being addressed with Baltimore, and I get the feeling changes are being made. This is hope yet.
A side note on "CTY Gurus" or whatever. My roommate from CTY '97 was SarahT, and was described by a number of people as epitomizing CTY. Pierre is probably the most famous CTYer I know. Wolfgang sand songs about food in all the talent shows, and Jeffrey Morrow wrote The Things That Aren't Sexy Song and achieved his own fame through improv and EmCeeing. My sister, SarahT, and myself started a tradition that seems to be holding up. These people, as well as a number of others, are probably the people who would be most likely to be called the "Gurus at the end of the Golden Age of Carlilse." But the end of the Golden Age has been heralded before, and I'm sure there were CTYers who were just as worthy of Guruhood, who were nomores before some of us were born. So on the Gurus, a quote from Robin Bose's Stairway to CTY "The scariest part of being a NoMore is probably the thought of being forgotten. But you don't have to be remembered to be known. Think back to your first year. Though you didn't remember passed NoMores, and maybe only vaguely aware that NoMores existed. But you HONORED them, and their living, and enjoying, and reveling in your newfound friends. The joy, the pain that you felt there kept all past CTYers alive, and kept hope for the CTYers to come. Likewise, Future CTYers will keep our memory alive, by reveling in CTY....and in each other. And us. They don't have to remember to know."
The best example of this is LLRT and it's cousins. Basically, the forming of these groups are inherent in the program, and they epitomize the spirit of CTY better than SarahT ever could. They existed in Carlilse, and to a lesser extent in Saratoga and Clinton. They didn't have names (well, Carlilse was the couchers, but that is a controversial term. And there were the brAss Monkeys there too, but they died out quickly, and were later incorporated as part of the Couchers) but they were there. And even as the old school CTYers leave, and certain groups wax and wane in influence, the basic center of the "hardcore CTY" is still there. Though LLRT, as a group, may disappear, there will always be people like the LLRTers, and there will always be a LLRT-type group, as long as CTY exists. (And I don't see it going bankrupt anytime soon.)