Should We Keep 6-5-4?


By Erin Dollard ’20

In today’s world, the unjust vilification of institutions and traditions is all too common. Groton is no exception: over the years, 6-5-4 has been misrepresented time and again. We must defend the institution of 6-5-4, which is integral to the character of the School and honors the hard work, dedication, and leadership that seniors have demonstrated over their years at Groton.

It is important to note that 6-5-4 can be misused and does not denote priority over faculty members. I do not intend to defend the use of 6-5-4 for bullying or harassment. I only maintain that, at its best, 6-5-4 actually improves the school community and constitutes an intrinsic Groton tradition. 

Sixth formers have extra responsibilities, and therefore they should earn extra privileges. Because the Sixth Form does so much in service of the school, more is granted to them. 10-12 is just one example of an extra benefit that the Sixth Form receives for all they do for the school. 6-5-4 should also be allowed under this logic. It is a privilege to not wait in lines, to sit in the best sections of the schoolhouse, and to generally get “first pick.” 

This privilege is not simply granted to the Sixth Form by virtue of age; instead, it is given as a reward for all of the work and dedication that the form has shown throughout their years on the Circle. Just as the Sixth Form gets the best seats in the Dining Hall or St. John’s Chapel, 6-5-4 rewards their hard work at little inconvenience to others. If a sixth former wants to sit at their favorite table in the library while writing college applications, they should have every right to ask a second former to leave. 

Underformers who balk at being expected to honor 6-5-4 overlook the fact that respecting your elders is expected in just about every culture around the world and in the workplace. In many cultures, elders sit in places of honor, are served their food first, and are generally shown deference. 6-5-4 is not some cultural abnormality unique to Groton; the idea exists around the world under different names. 

Cultural expectations aside, most Groton graduates will end up in a formal workplace of some type. There, the same privileges and respect are granted to employees who have worked at a company for longer and move up the “ladder.” Just as you would not go into your boss’s office and sit in her chair, lower schoolers should not come and sit in the senior section. Sixth formers are “elders” not in terms of age, but in terms of experience, and therefore deserve more respect. 

People who don’t support 6-5-4 often say that it fosters inequality in the school. What inequality? If equality is what the administration of this school wants, then anyone from any form should be a prefect. Lights out and check-in should be at the same time for every single student. All dorms should have full walls. 

Obviously these suggestions are not at all realistic or good. They only serve to illustrate the point that equality between forms at Groton doesn’t really exist and it’s not just because of 6-5-4. Listening to the arguments of those who dislike 6-5-4, it becomes very apparent that the criteria by which they judge 6-5-4 to be bad are not applied to anything else at Groton. 

6-5-4, at its best, is a fundamentally beneficial thing for the Groton School. Those who maintain otherwise either don’t understand the true purpose of 6-5-4 or rail against “principles” that they fail to uphold elsewhere. 6-5-4 honors and rewards the commitment of the sixth formers to the school while incentivizing the younger students to make it to their Sixth Form year and preparing them for the real world. Don’t be misled by those who misrepresent 6-5-4 because they do not understand its true purpose. 


By Zhining Zhao ’23

In Headmaster Temba Maqubela’s Convocation speech, he said, “If you still believe in 6-5-4, get a life.” While many in the school, particularly in the administration and faculty, work for the abolishment of 6-5-4, others, especially sixth formers, argue for the survival of the system.

The underlying gist of 6-5-4 is maintaining respect and seniority within Groton. It’s about respecting wisdom, hard work, and creating an environment where those who have gone through more and have worked hard can reap rewards for their work. That’s motivation, respect, and tradition. That’s what 6-5-4 is, and that’s why it should remain. 

While many argue that 6-5-4 denies access to the library for lower schoolers, this is misguided because lower schoolers are allowed in the library. And how many seniors really cut lower schoolers in the lunch line nowadays? 

The truth is, 6-5-4 is no longer what it used to be. Most seniors are nicer and friendlier to lower schoolers these days, treating many of them as friends. Today, 6-5-4 is often just a piece of social etiquette one has to follow at Groton, a basic sense of respect that one should maintain both for senior students as well as their peers.

It is even the school’s tradition to respect seniority. Some senior sections in the school are specially constructed for seniors, such as in St. John’s Chapel and the Dining Hall. This is a clear indicator of the school’s respect for seniors’ and their privileges. 

But why should seniority be valued? Seniority is not only about age or experience. It is because at Groton, seniors are systematically put in positions of responsibility. Seniors are being systematically portrayed by the school as people to give advice to younger students, sharing their experiences and acting as examples to emulate. Moreover, it is important to realize that authority from the seniors is essential for them to perform the duties that the school has given them, such as maintaining order as dorm prefects.

In the long run, the system of 6-5-4 is actually beneficial for lower schoolers. As a fellow third former, Jaden Adinkrah ’23, commented, “6-5-4 is something that people like when they are higher on the ladder.” Indeed, when lower schoolers become seniors, they will be role models whom the younger forms should respect, not undermine. 

6-5-4 is not the toxic culture many think it is; instead, it cultivates an environment that values respect to elders as well as to each other. Let’s keep it this way.



By Elizabeth Wolfram ’23

“It’s social suicide! You’re gonna get hazed!” These are some of the things I heard when I said I was going to study in the library, and again when I told people I was going to write this piece.

First of all, it is important to break down what “6-5-4” really means. 6-5-4 is a social hierarchy at Groton that refers to sixth formers having authority over fifth formers, fifth formers over fourth formers, and so on. 

The key feature that distinguishes 6-5-4 from other hierarchies at Groton is that it is based solely on age and has little relation to seniority or leadership. This is the major flaw of 6-5-4 and ultimately demonstrates that it should not remain a part of the Groton community.

The aspect of 6-5-4 that most egregiously crosses the line is the practice that lower schoolers are not allowed to study in the library. While most upper schoolers are not actively kicking lower schoolers out of the library, some have pointedly asked younger students to leave and many more agree that the library should be reserved for older students. Technically all students are allowed to study in the library, but not all students are welcome. But the purpose of a library is to be a communal place where people learn. For, as Cicero says, “To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.” In the case of Groton, the McCormick Library gives Groton its soul. How can a school such as Groton deny access to the soul of its campus to almost a third of its student body? 

Some argue that lower schoolers would be too loud if they were allowed to study in the library. However, upper schoolers are often loud in the library as well. A better approach to the library would be for students to ask peers to leave if they are being loud, regardless of their form. 

Others say that even though lower schoolers are not welcomed in the library, they already have their own place to study in the Schoolroom. This argument is flawed, for the Schoolroom and library are entirely different spaces. While the Schoolroom gives students desks of their own, it lacks all of the resources, space, and atmosphere of the library. 

At Groton, there are many kinds of social hierarchies that work. However, 6-5-4 is not one of them. It is founded on simply getting older rather than leadership. Social hierarchies require a balance of power and responsibility. Prefects, peer counselors, and clubs all display this balance. In clubs, younger students make a commitment to the clubs that they join and respect the older members in the clubs. The older members in turn take responsibility for the clubs and for the younger students. In these examples, the power granted to older students is earned through hard work and leadership, not merely through age and experience. 

The library, however, is not a good example of this balanced hierarchical system. The upper schoolers have no added responsibility when it comes to the library, yet the lower schoolers are denied access to it. This is simply an arbitrary display of power.

Furthermore, the argument that 6-5-4 helps to foster a sense of seniority in students is not well-founded. 6-5-4 teaches people that leadership is something simply given by the passage of time. A better view of leadership is that it is something which is earned through hard work and responsibility. 

Upper schoolers should feel justifiably proud of all of the hard work that they have done. They have earned many kinds of leadership and a great deal of respect from the entire school. But 6-5-4 does not contribute to this respect. Rather, its arbitrary nature weakens it. Groton does not need 6-5-4. We would be a better, closer community without it.