“Debate, 4:30, Pérez.” Such is Miles’s wonderfully pointed and predictable refrain in recess, a glimpse of his efficient, effective leadership on the Debate Team and indicator of his precise way of examining the world, whether it’s noticing the absorption spectra of stained glass or when the temperature of a wood stove is in a state of equilibrium. Get to know this Commonwealth junior from Westwood, Massachusetts, who relishes challenge, whether he finds it in the classroom or on the debate stage.
Getting to Know You
What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?
My favorite book would probably be John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty.” I think that Mill makes an admirable attempt at balancing the rights of the individual with the prerogatives of the state. There’s plenty to critique in his essay, but also plenty to learn from it.
What do you think is the most intriguing paradox?
Zeno’s paradox of the arrow is an underappreciated but very important one. It asks how motion is possible given that nothing can move over a zero-length interval of time. It actually took more than a millennium for Zeno’s query to receive a proper answer, which was only made possible by the discovery of calculus.
What are your favorite comfort foods?
There’s oatmeal for one. I also have a soft spot for chili.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
Mr. Sherry’s Calculus Advanced was pretty great. Let’s go with that.
Pen or pencil?
I was a hardcore pencil user until last year. I’ve since switched to using only pens, and I have no intention to go back.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience?
When I was first getting to know Commonwealth, I had heard that the classes were hard and the teachers assigned lots of work. I’ve found that both of those statements are true, but that isn’t such a bad thing. Yes, there is a lot of homework, but the burden isn’t outrageous; I still have plenty of time for sports, extracurriculars, and leisure. The work is even less burdensome because I almost always find it to be relevant and appropriately calibrated in difficulty.
What has pandemic learning experience been like?
I’m just grateful for the chance to be back in the building, even if it is in a strange and limited capacity. I was really starting to miss 151 Commonwealth, and I think it’s good for my general energy level to get up and go somewhere in the morning.
What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
I have never been and am not now a super sporty person—I’m thus slightly surprised by how much I have enjoyed fencing and cross-country. Talking about student clubs, I’m also one of several co-leaders of the school philosophy club; we take a pretty casual approach, talking about anything adjacent to philosophy that the club members find interesting. I dabble in math team as well. But I’m deeply involved in debate.
That’s a good question. I didn’t do debate in middle school, so I’m not sure exactly what drew me to it in high school. I have a pretty strong interest in questions of public policy, so I guess that inclined me toward debate. It also just happened that my freshman Spanish teacher (Mr. Pérez) was the debate coach; that might also have played a role. I’d say that I’ve stuck with debate because I love the challenge that it presents. In parliamentary debate we’re constantly asked to look critically at a proposal and then to defend or critique it in a way that is logical but also persuasive. Impromptu debate presents challenges of a slightly different sort: it asks you to see connections between different ideas and topics, to associate them with each other, and then to explain those associations clearly. I find both events to be difficult and rewarding at the same time.
How has your Commonwealth experience colored the way you look at the world?
The Commonwealth class that’s had the greatest impact on my perception of the world might be Chemistry. I now think of vapor pressure when I see towels drying on a clothesline. Admiring stained glass makes me think about absorption spectra. I notice when the temperature of my wood stove is in a state of equilibrium. As for my future plans, I’ve grown more convinced during my time here that I want to study somewhere within the domain of science after high school. Surely part of that is due to the classes I’ve taken here.
What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
I would recommend Commonwealth to a student like me but also to many students who are quite unlike me. I have friends in my classes with totally different personalities and interests. In spite of our differences, we all appreciate what we’re getting out of our education, and more importantly, we find our work enjoyable in its own right.