In Franz Kafka’s parable, “Before the Law,” a man seeks admittance to the Law and wishes to gain entry through a doorway. The Gatekeeper, a formidable guardian with a “big, sharp nose and (a) long, thin, black Tartar beard” tells the man that he may not enter at the present time. The man asks if he will be allowed in later. “It is possible,” the Gatekeeper replies, “but not at the moment.” Years pass and the man grows old and childish. He tries to bribe the Gatekeeper with gifts, sacrificing all that he owns. But always the Gatekeeper remarks, “I am only taking it to keep you from thinking you have omitted anything.” At last the man’s eyesight begins to fail, and he does not know whether the world is growing darker or if his eyes are only deceiving him. In his dying moments, the man brings himself to ask a question that has never occurred to him before. “What do you want to know now?” the Gatekeeper asks, “You are insatiable." The man asks: "Everyone strives to reach the Law, so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admittance?" The Gatekeeper knows the man has reached his end and bellows in his ear as the light fades: "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."
We encounter many gates, and for that matter, many gatekeepers, throughout our lives. During the college application process we students also seek admittance to the “Law.” Sometimes, our gates can literally be gates. If you want to go to Harvard or Cal you must gain admittance through the legendary Holyoke or Sather Gates. If, for example, you view going to college as a rite of passage to the larger world, then the gate can also be figurative.
Gatekeepers can appear in many forms––whether they be our friends, teachers, or college admissions officers. Oftentimes, our parents can seem the most powerful guardians of all. Especially in this community, parents tend to become heavily involved in the application process. For some college applicants this level of parental involvement can be beneficial. Some students are already burdened by schoolwork and extracurricular activities so their parents step in to help with deadlines, financial aid, and other forms of planning.
Inevitably, though, there are some parents who overdo it. While parents should be helping with things like financial aid, they should not be writing college essays or picking which schools are right for their child. This is not parental involvement but intervention. At this point, parents are not good gatekeepers because they are showing us exactly how to walk through the door.
The man in Kafka’s parable did not take responsibility for his actions. He chose to wait for acceptance into the Law. Though we are comparatively fortunate to have parents so invested in our futures, our parents cannot be responsible for the education meant for us. We spend a good deal of our time waiting to be admitted, to pass through some door. Beyond the gate of college stands a still larger gate, and beyond that gate there is yet another. And although we have college on our minds today, someday we will need to learn how to be good doorkeepers ourselves.
Ultimately, our Gatekeepers are not there to stop us from crossing the threshold. Gatekeepers only show us that the door exists. We alone must choose to step through.
The Teen Wire provides a perspective on today's youth, in the face of a changing world. Daniel Morizono, a senior at San Ramon Valley High School, news editor of the Wolfprint, and managing editor of the SRVHS International Studies Academy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.