For some students at BHSEC, weekly advisory periods can be a drag. For others, these periods are something to look forward to. They consider it a time to connect with fellow students and discuss problems with an ‘advisor’ who will help them through whatever struggles they may be having. This is what advisory groups were originally designed to be; a small group setting in which everyone was supposed to feel comfortable enough to discuss important issues. The original goal for the advisory groups has not been achieved in the past few years at BHSEC.
Last year, as many may recall, advisory groups met for a brief ten minute period every morning, between first and second periods. This system was used largely as a means of checking attendance and updating students on minor issues pertaining to either their grade or the school at large. Advisory groups were often unable to discuss broader issues troubling the students, nor were the students able to talk with their fellow advisees and form a sort of home base within BHSEC. The system was changed because, as BHSEC principle Mr. Ray Peterson believed, more would get done if there was one longer period in which advisory groups could meet.
In fact, the original concept behind the new advisory system was to have one period a week where all the advisories of a specific grade would meet. In other words, each grade would be meeting with their advisors for one hour, at the same time, each week. While it became impossible for the administration to coordinate this for the year one and year two classes, ninth and tenth grade students do meet with their advisors at the same time. This was designed in order to ensure more order in the system, to allow guest speakers to address a large audience or town-hall meetings to take place, without interruption of class time.
While it was originally believed that the one hour-period would allow for more to get done during advisory, there are still problems with the new system. As Mr. Ray Peterson says, “It was changed for good reasons, but I don’t think we’re following through to make the change justified.” In other words, while the idea for this year’s new advisory system is probably the best that we have had at BHSEC, there are still steps we need to take to make the system more effective.
There are many students who do not even attend advisory regularly. Some students feel that advisory doesn’t help them much. First year Lori Lee does not feel that advisory is of much benefit to her. “Students should be able to pick their advisor,” Lori says, “or at least have some sort of a request for an advisor of their choice.”
Yet other students, such as BHSEC first year, Ian Garvey, believe that advisory is helpful to them, and it does provide a place they can turn to for up to date information about the school. In fact, Ian believes that advisory “is an excellent way to spread information for the school and get personal one-on-one assistance. If students don’t wish to take advantage of what advisory has to offer, that’s their own problem.”
While, like Ian, first year Alexandra Jenik also agrees that advisory does help her, she does think there could be improvements. “It’s nice to have a period just to discus things happening in the school and getting help for classes,” says Alexandra. She adds, however, that, “It would be nice to have all our advisories at the same time, so that once a month we could have a town meeting to discuss what we think should be going on in the school.”
It does seem as though the system this year is working better than it has in the past. The longer period gives advisors more time to speak with students. In the past many advisors tried to schedule extra time outside of the scheduled advisory time, but as BHSEC math professor Dr. Rosenbaum noted, it is hard to coordinate. Dr. Rosenbaum believes that “if you want to make advisory effective, it takes a lot more than just a one hour meeting with everyone.” He states that he now uses advisory as a way of distributing forms to everyone, and while he believes this is okay, he also thinks that advisory should be more than that.
It appears that the opinions of students, faculty and administrators are not very different. The ideas behind the advisory system are valid, but in order for it to benefit a larger number of students a more organized system will have to be worked out and professors will need further training as advisors.
Superstar Alex Rodriguez strolled into the Yankees clubhouse showing off his latest fashion: Yankees pinstripes. An air of confidence surrounded him, a part of the new look the 2004 Yankees now favor. A-Rod, however, is just one of the many big-name players involved in big-name deals, and in an offseason filled with similar switcheroos, signings, and steroid scandals, the long-awaited baseball season of 2004 is about to begin.
It’s not as though the 2003 season was bad. Many claim it was one of the most exciting seasons of baseball in recent memory: the down-to-the-wire wild card race between the Marlins and Phillies, the down-to-game-seven Division and League Championship Series, Aaron Boone’s unforgettable walk-off homerun in an historic battle of the titans, and the little underdog team from Florida coming back again and again to win it all. 2003 was a great season for baseball, but 2004 promises to be even better.
Superstars Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield sign with the Yanks. Right handed dominator-extraordinaire Curt Schilling joined the Red Sox. Oh, and let’s not forget the apparent snub of the Yankees by Roger Clemens when he came out of retirement to play for the Astros.
But there is, of course, a world outside the AL East’s infamous rivalries. The Orioles have beefed up their offense with the signings of Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada, and Rafael Palmiero, but do they have the pitching to back up their offense up? The Blue Jays are as strong as ever, and the Devil Rays have added some talent and while they might not be a serious contender, they are still a presence. The focus on this division, of course, remains the rivalry of the Yanks and the Red Sox. Recently, Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner released one of his trademark blunt comments to John Henry, the Red Sox Owner: “We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction (of trading for Alex Rodriguez). Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston.” This kind of bitterness surely anticipates another contentious season for the two teams.
As for the AL Central, things are pretty open. The Minnesota Twins, despite having their bullpen decimated with losses of setup man LaTroy Hawkins and closer Eddie Guardado, seem poised to take it. Eric Milton, traded to the Phillies for a few bench guys, is also gone, yet no one else in the division seems to have the muscle to dethrone the 2003 AL Central champs.
As tight as the AL Central may get, however, the AL West seems poised to be even tighter. The flat Angels of last year return with newly signed stars Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, while the A’s, despite the fact that they still have a premier pitching staff, lack ‘oomph’ in their lineup after losing Tejada to the Orioles. The Mariners still remain a well-balanced team that is able to take on anyone. The Rangers? Hah. They still have no pitching, and…no more A-Rod.
The AL certainly is up for some tight division races, but the National League is home to some interesting turn of events. The NL East has been turned upside down, the reigning Champ Marlins and the newly-powerhoused Phillies are now clearly in control, and they have formed a new sort of rivalry after the down-to-the-wire Wild Card race of 2003. What about the Braves, you say? Oh, you mean the twelve-time NL East champions? Losing Greg Maddux, Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield, and a number of others, you can’t expect anything close to the successes of previous years. This is an interesting division, nonetheless, and if the Phillies can keep team leader Jim Thome and newcomer Billy Wagner together, they should walk away with this division. However, as Braves General Manager John Schuerholz claims, “How many times have they (pundits) predicted our demise? Yet how many times have we come through in the end?”
The NL Central is relatively sedate when compared to the NL East, but the rivalries have intensified. Both the Cubs and the Astros have beefed up their pitching staff, and while the Astros received both Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, the Cubs shouldn’t be counted out. They have an extremely potent staff comprised of Greg Maddux, Mark Prior, and Kerry Wood. The Cardinals haven’t improved much, but they did gain some sorely needed pitching from the Braves. They lost J.D. Drew but they still have Pujols. The battle for the NL Central could be, as it was last season, one of the most interesting in the majors.
Like the NL East in general, the powerhouse San Francisco Giants have lost quite a bit, but they still have Barry Bonds. They’ve lost starting pitching, but they still have Barry Bonds. They’ve lost they’re main setup man and closer in Tim Worrell, but they still have Barry Bonds. With Barry Bonds, the Giants seem to have the “oomph” necessary to take the division again, but the new and improved offense of the Arizona Diamondbacks might stand in their way. Having lost one head of the two-headed monster (Curt Schilling), the Diamondbacks went out and signed one of the best young sluggers in the majors, Richie Sexson. Can the D’Backs stage a surprise victory?
Every division in MLB this season holds surprises for fans. Considering the tightly competitive NL Central, the topsy-turvy NL East, and the eternal rivalry of the AL East, this will be an exciting season with new faces and new contenders. Play ball!
A Threat to All: An Editorial on Gay Marriage
In this presidential election year, Americans want the following issues to be addressed: economy (25%), health care (13%), and the war in Iraq (13%). Four percent of Americans want the issue of gay marriage to be addressed. With this said, just over half of voters, 52%, say they would consider voting for a candidate who did not share their views on gay marriage. Though many Americans feel that the issue of gay marriage is not as important as other issues, the stance politicians take on it might influence voters.
President Bush has already stepped up and said that he will support efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Some say that his motivation for supporting such an amendment is to put his “Massachusetts liberal opponent, John Kerry in an awkward position.” For the most part, Americans are split down the middle when it comes to gay marriage, but recently there has been a slight tilt towards those opposed to passing laws that would allow gay marriage.
The issue has been left to each individual state to decide. With President Bush’s push for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, however, politicians are being forced into taking a clear position on the issue, and much discussion has taken place over the course of the past few months.
At a White House news conference, Bush stated: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another.” He received praise from conservative groups and criticism from gay rights activists and Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry.
Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign is, “Very disappointed that the president is trying to further codify discrimination into law.” Senator Kerry makes the following point; “He’s doing this because he’s in (political) trouble. He’s playing politics with the Constitution of the United States.” He then said that “for two centuries we have left marriage up to the states.”
Conservatives offer many arguments as to why gay marriage should be illegal. They say that marriage is an institution between one man and one woman and that same-sex marriage would threaten the institution of marriage. As one Bard student anonymously commented, “I don’t have anything against gay people. What would you tell your little four-year old daughter if she asked you where she came?” Those who favor traditionalistic views on the issue of gay marriage believe that same-sex couples don’t create an optimum environment to raise children in.
The arguments the conservatives have made are ridiculous. When you look at the statements made by those who don’t support gay marriage the tone is aggressive and insistent. Statements such as, “It offends everything religion stands for.” and “Same-sex marriages would threaten the institution of marriage.” But under close scrutiny all of these arguments are weak and unformulated. The phrase repeated over and over again by those opposing gay marriage, “Marriage is an institution between one man and one woman,” is problematic because who is to say what marriage really is? Although federal law currently defines marriage as being a contractual bond between “one man and one woman,” this is simply prejudice written into law.
When people bring children into the debate, things get even more heated. It has been said that same-sex couples don’t create an optimum environment to raise children in, but many studies have shown that this is not the case. Both children in traditional marriages and same-sex marriages can grow to be well-rounded and productive members of society. Psychologists in a number of studies make it very clear that the gender of the parent does not matter. Loving parents create healthy environments, regardless of their sexual preferences.
Gay activists continue to fight for the right to marry. They say that it is very much a civil rights issue. Currently, if one of the partners in a gay relationship is admitted into an emergency room, the other partner may not get visitation rights. They may not receive money from health insurance companies if one of them dies. They may be excluded from the funerals of their loved ones and be denied the right to visit a partner’s grave if family members decide against it. Gay couples are denied these rights because they are not legally married.
In 1996, the U.S. House and Senate passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a bill that denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages and gave states the right to refuse same-sex marriage licenses from other states and deny benefits associated with marriage. So even if gay couples are married in a state that is different from the one they are residing in, the marriage will not be recognized in the state they reside in.
Some people say that same-sex marriages are an untried sexual experiment, but that is not the case at all. Gay marriage has been legalized in Denmark since 1989 and instead of leading to the “…destruction of Western civilization, it has been rather civilizing and strengthening, not just to the institution of marriage, but society as a whole as well. 72 percent of the Danish clergy were opposed to the change at first, but in 1995, a survey conducted deduced that 89 percent of the clergy now admit that the law is a good one. It has led to a reduction in suicide and promiscuity and infidelity in the homosexual community.”
Big Seminar Classes, Big Problems
If you are claustrophobic, beware of the seminar classes. This has been the case for two years at Bard High School Early College (BHSEC). The seminar classes which are the most important (since every student needs to have four semesters of seminar) are overcrowded once again. The ratio of student to teacher is way over the ideal ratio, which is 15:1. In six out of the seven first year seminar classes the ratio of students to faculty is 21:1 or higher. In a typical high school 21 students per class would be ideal but this is not the case at BHSEC. The overcrowded classes create many problems. Among those problems is the lost sense of community. The more crowded a class is the less intimate it becomes.
The initial idea behind the creation of BHSEC was to create an environment where teachers and students could develop a strong bound which would promote a more educational environment.
Many teachers are aware of the fact that the bigger the class the less one to one time they have with their students. When first year seminar instructor Dr. Bruce Matthews was asked, “How important is the size of a seminar class?” Dr. Matthews said: “The size of seminar is very significant. It affects the quality of learning tremendously. A small class creates an intimate learning environment where students develop deeper bonds with one another.”
However, the teachers are not the only ones who are affected by big classes. The students also feel “stressed out,” because most of them had to change their schedules to be able to be in a seminar class. One student who wants to remain anonymous said, “Seminar classes that were in the middle of the day filled quicker. If an elective is very popular they (the students) have to get into a seminar class before they can get into that elective. Juniors have less flexibility with their schedules, so they have to take a certain seminar. Seminar classes have to be much smaller, because discussions are not as engaging (in a large seminar class).”
There are many factors responsible for the oversized seminar classes. The students believe it is because of the electives. They say, “The way the seminar classes fill up has something to do with electives.” Many of the electives are during the afternoon hours, and some of the seminar teachers, besides teaching seminar, also teach electives. Therefore the students try to get into morning seminar classes and this causes overcrowding.
Possible solutions include the hiring of more seminar teachers or part time college instructors since there are only four first year seminar professors and seven seminar classes. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds because of the school budget. The school budget is not big enough for the hiring of more teachers.
Students are dreading the hot summer days to come, when they will have to sit near sweaty fellow students in a crowded seminar class. The teachers are trying their best to ensure a comfortable learning environment for the students. Moreover, the discussions amongst the faculty members about the size of seminar classes still continue. Therefore, there is no reason to give up hope yet.
Remember the day it was pouring rain and your umbrella just magically disappeared? Or, how about the day when you had that big math test and your calculator vanished? Many BHSEC students share these memories.
Here at BHSEC where the student population is relatively small we should not have so many “lost items.” Many students feel that their possessions are not safe while left unattended in school. Students also said that they do not trust fellow classmates to return lost items. When asked if they felt stealing has become a major problem in the school a majority of students answered yes.
In a school as small as BHSEC we should be able to misplace things and have them returned. Since BHSEC is a specialized school theft should not be a problem. The atmosphere at BHSEC has sunk to a new low because of the gradual increase in theft. All of us should want to bring back the atmosphere of the real BHSEC community: where you can leave your book bag in the library or cafeteria unattended without worrying about whether or not it is safe.
While speaking to a victim of school theft, I learned that their possession was removed from their bag. They explained to me that their calculator was in their book bag while on a table in the computer lab. They went on to say that after a short trip to the cafeteria they learned that their calculator was gone. Occurrences like this should not happen in our school.
If there are students who are unaware of the theft problem that is slowly but surely growing in our school, then you know that they do not check their BHSEC e-mail account. There are always several e-mails in which students ask for help locating their “lost” possessions. Most of the items that are reported missing are things we all can use. The list includes: watches, clothing, keys, etc. The most popular missing items are calculators and books. In a school where textbooks, reading books, and calculators are a necessity, the whole student body is suspect.
If we destroy the sense of community what good are we as a school? This school has not been around long enough for theft to be a major issue. Until we can learn to respect other people’s property the community and atmosphere at BHSEC is going to suffer.
What good is it to be enrolled in a specialized school when you can’t leave your book bag unattended for five minutes? What are we going to say to incoming students when they ask us about our school? In order to be in a school we are proud of we are going to have to learn to respect the property of our fellow schoolmates.
So the next time you see an umbrella, calculator, or anything that does not belong to you, just leave it alone. Try to think about how you would feel if that were your item laying on the table or floor. What would you want another student to do, put it in their bag, or put it in the lost and found?
In parks all over New York you often see teens playing basketball on a sunny day. However, as the days pass us by, we see an increasing number of teens put in dark and musty jail cells. The government is quick to prosecute teenagers in an attempt to prevent crime. What is it exactly that fosters crime among teens and how can we prevent it?
“Nearly three quarters of the inmates of state prisons in New York come from the same seven neighborhoods,” said Jonathon Kozol, who conducted a study at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility. Those seven neighborhoods (the South Bronx, Harlem, Brownsville, Bedford Stuyvesant, South Jamaica, East New York, and The Lower East Side of Manhattan) are considered the most dangerous at night and are inhabited by the poorest people in New York City.
According to Regina M. Foley, author of the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, correctional education may be the last opportunity for some incarcerated youth to acquire academic and vocational skills. However, is there something the state can do to prevent incarcerating youth and to educate troubled teens outside of the prison environment? There are many underlying reasons why these teens are in jail. There is no doubt that the state government can take measures to correct these problems, but will it?
“Seventy percent of jail inmates are there for non-violent offenses,” according to Examining The Intersection Of The Behavioral Health And Corrections Systems by Deborah De Montfort and Monica E. Oss. Most of the inmates need therapy and should not be punished for mental disorders. “As the number of inmates in need of treatment has risen, the proportion receiving it has decreased.” Treatment for inmates is extremely costly. States only spend 5 percent of their annual prison budget on drug and alcohol treatment. The estimated cost to treat each individual prisoner is $6,500 per year, something the state is not willing to spend.
Most of the teenagers who are accused of non-violent crimes and are released from prisons untreated, end up returning to jail for more serious crimes and for longer periods of time. Is it really cheaper for the state to allow teens to roam the streets untreated; only to have them return to jail?
The New SATs: A Student’s Inferno or Purgatory
Four-letter words conjure up feelings of uneasiness, anger, fear and, sometimes, aggression. For fellow high school students, however, it is not the four-letter words that stir our community (we got over that back in the first grade). The three-letter acronym that strikes fear, anger, and frustration in the hearts of most college bound teenagers is the dreaded SATs.
For high school students, the SAT is in an exhausting, nerve-wracking, and demanding three-hour test that unfairly evaluates our academic aptitude. Administered for the first time in June of 1926, the SATs have measured mathematical and verbal skills using a system which has remained mostly unchanged through the years. The SATs fail to reflect changes in our society. Now, however, the College Entrance Examination Board is reconsidering this system and implementing various modifications to create the “New SAT,” which will be administered in March of 2005.
Test takers will now be required to complete three sections of the exam (reading, writing, and arithmetic) for a perfect score of 2400 instead of 1600. While students are no longer expected to trudge their way through mind-boggling analogies, they now must write a composition and be more familiar with the technical aspects of grammar. Additionally, although test takers are no longer responsible for comparing two mathematical quantities, they will find more demanding algebra problems and an emphasis on, believe it or not, mathematical vocabulary.
One of the primary reasons the College Board (made up of 4,300 educational institutions) is changing the SAT format is to steer away from evaluating a student based on test prep courses, which merely teach strategy. There have been increasing concerns that the SATs do not reflect what a student really learns in a four-year high school program. The College Board, therefore, argued that “The skills evaluated by the New SAT are precisely those needed by all students today.” Hence, writing an essay on this exam will become the norm. The College Board hopes that the New SATs will encourage teachers to help students improve vocabulary and writing skills in preparation for college. One may wonder whether these modifications will be the motivational tool that some teachers need. The question is whether or not it will motivate the students.
On the other hand, it is almost predictable that, rather than encouraging students to become creative, exceptional writers, many teachers will go back to grammar drills. Authors, tutors, and test prep courses will promote their services with slogans such as “writing the best SAT essay in half the time.” College Advisor Alice Kleeman, of Menlo-Atherton High School in California, fears that “English teachers [will] begin to teach a formulaic style of writing to prepare students for this particular test,” as has been the case for other standardized exams. Scribbling quick (25 minutes or less) essays will not significantly improve students’ vocabulary and writing skills and will defeat the purpose of adding an essay section to the exam. In addition, because people work at different speeds, an unfair and controversial divide will again surface.
Another problem the College Board is confronted with is how reliable the grading of these compositions will be. Psychology professor David Lohman, of the University of Iowa insists that, “Tests that require a student to write essays are highly susceptible to the subjective judgement of the grader and to the mood of the taker on the day of the test, so they have low reliability.”
The essay section of the New SAT will be graded on a scale of 1-6, where “1” signifies “very poor” and “6” means that the student “insightfully addressed the writing task.” For evident reasons this subjective grading system has many people concerned. The College Board is conducting research to improve the systems’ flaws, in an attempt to make grading SAT essays more consistent and reliable.
The College Board has also been struggling with the section of the exam that involves a passage of fiction. There has been a difference of opinion regarding whether or not to use approximately 40 classics that are often taught in high school English classes. Some insist that the SATs should not test students on in-class readings because it would put students who do a lot of independent reading at a disadvantage. They argue that the SATs should measure a student’s general ability to comprehend and analyze text.
Conversely, retired English teacher Joan Vinson asserts that books such as Native Son, Animal Farm, and Catch-22 should not be excluded because, “These books are included in some of the best literature out there. Also, if we’re trying to align the SAT more with school curricula, that’s something we can’t do if we exclude these books.” Furthermore, including the classics might encourage students to read more famous works.
Finally, an important issue to consider is the way these modifications (essays, reading passages, and advanced arithmetic) will impact students who attend poorly performing schools. These students will still suffer the consequences of bad curriculums. Rebecca Zwick, a former chair of the College Board’s SAT committee anticipates that, “Because we have such huge disparities in the quality of schooling in the country, kids who go to crummy schools may be disadvantaged.”
As expected, slight modifications in the content of the SATs will not help students who can’t afford what Harvard President James Conant calls “top-flight-high school instruction.” It looks as though there are still many issues of concern that the College Board must deal with. Only time will tell if the modifications that are being implemented will improve things and if the College Board will do a better job of addressing inadequacies that have existed for decades.
Learn to Manage Your Time
Many students have trouble managing their lives. These guidelines are meant to help students use their time wisely. Time management skills can help students dramatically increase their grades and minimize stress.
BHSEC students have a large workload. How can they find time for other things? Students feel overwhelmed and need to address these issues. When a student has problems that are a result of a loaded schedule or procrastination, he/she should immediately assess the situation and attempt to correct things. According to Mindtools.com, the “Pareto Principle,” also referred to as the “80:20 rule,” states that “typically 80% of unfocused effort generates only 20% of results.” This means that if you’re running around hastily trying to do everything with very little direction, you will most likely complete only a quarter of your tasks. Therefore, “Concentrate on results, not on being busy.”
A common misconception that students have about colleges is that they are interested in how many extracurricular activities the student participated in, and this is just wrong. When colleges look at what extracurricular activities an applicant participated in, they take into account how much time was spent on a given activity. They are interested in quality not quantity.
So, if you are the type who joins fifteen clubs a month, quits the next and are content because you have a million activities to write on your application, wipe that smile off your face. Colleges in general, love you if you have at least three major activities that you have been participating in for the past three or four years. Make sure to focus on a few tasks that are important and that you are committed to. Here are 8 steps to organizational success. Remember like losing weight and building muscle, this takes time and effort. But they are worth the extra effort in the long run.
Assess your time. Find out how much time you have at your disposal. Try to do the following every now and then: record everything you do during one day. It’s tedious, but will help you see how much time you waste. Create a little schedule for yourself, and fill in when you can do certain things. Studying for 30 minutes during a free period is a good use of this time. Doing your English homework when you get back from school will allow you to eat dinner or watch some TV before you return to your work. Also, work in intervals, whether it’s studying, writing a paper, or doing homework. If you do something over a longer period of time rather than cramming for 3 hours straight, you’ll not only finish without feeling overworked, you will do a better job.
To get organized, get an organizer. Need I say more? When you have an organizer you can mark deadlines, and write in what things you have to get done. You can even write in your friend’s birthdays, because I know that sometimes a friend’s birthday may not be in the front of your mind. If you don’t want to spend any money, then a simplified organizer can be a piece of paper called a “to do list.” Not a very difficult idea to grasp right? Of course, you might get lazy and fail to update your organizer or check it regularly. If you check your organizer to see when a paper is due three days after it was due, then it defeats the whole purpose. So check it often. Don’t be lazy. It’s really not that hard once you get a system going.
Tackle priorities first. When you get home, don’t call your friends right away. Instead, do the easiest assignment on your list and then watch your show or call your friends. You are less easily sidetracked when you prioritize. Also, on your list of “things to do,” mark the order in which you should accomplish these things. For example, “1st I have to do my lab report, next I should study for my math test, etc.” Prioritize tasks based on due dates.
Set up a welcoming workspace. Do you really want to study at a desk with no lamp and papers piled to the ceiling? The answer is usually no. Your workspace should be comfortable. Have a snack ready so that when you are hungry you don’t have to get up, pass the TV and be tempted to sit down and watch it.
Actually pay attention in class. I find paying attention in class to be the best method of studying. It might sound weird, but many students tend to space out during class and miss a large amount of information, so that when they go to study, they have to study more than they would if they had paid attention in class. This is important in math, because if you don’t understand something right from the beginning then you are in trouble.
Find the best ways to study/work. If you truly study best within a group, then by all means find a study buddy and a time during the week (at least an hour), when you can meet to go over notes and prepare for exams. But for some, flash cards are the best way to get a perfect score. So, every so often go over your notes and create flash cards. Making flash cards the night before a test isn’t too helpful, since by the time you finish making the cards, you will be too tired to study. So make a few every two days or so, and by the time you get to the test, you’ll be ready. Also, include little details that teachers may mention in class but that are not in the texts you are assigned. Mark up whatever the teacher considers crucial. If your teacher does not give notes, make your own. Sometimes it can be tiring, but reading 60 pages the night before a test is much worse.
Multitask. While you are commuting to school study a little. Students who complain about the long ride to and from school, should stop whining. I admit that I do complain about my hour and a half long commute to school, but within that hour and a half I get a lot of reading done. So take advantage of the traffic and the subway stalls.
The library can be useful, so go there. The library is not only a place to find rows of books. There are four study carrels in the library, and if you feel overwhelmed at home, the library is a nice place to sit and do work or to have alone time. There could be so many distractions in the house sometimes, noisy siblings, etc., and the library is available for the most part.
This is my advice regarding the managing of time. This advice will hopefully be helpful to the majority, but if you think it is unhelpful then find a way to make your life easier through organization. Good luck, and remember that the only excuse for not completing a task is pure laziness and lack of willpower. Be devoted to doing well.
American Education and its Discontents
American education is in crisis. Students are unable to read, write, or think at their grade level. Our country’s education system is filled with violence, drugs, gangs, and mindless frivolity. The utopian model our forefathers once envisioned is in ruins.
The problems surrounding American education are multi-faceted and complex. The symptoms are obvious and undisputable. The problem lies in finding a rational solution that will teach students to ‘think’ in an independent and productive manner. Although these issues appear to be uniquely contemporary, they date back to the 1980s. In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education published a shocking report on the state of education in America. The report concluded that the intellectual, moral, and spiritual fiber of our country was in jeopardy because of a failing educational system. The document warned that “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.” The report’s recommendations included hiring ‘better’ qualified teachers, reassessing teacher and student performance, lengthening the school day, and increasing the amount of homework.
So, after twenty years of educational reform, how have we as a nation countered the threat to our future? It is clear that we have devoted a lot more money to our Educational bureaucracy. Federal Spending has risen from 4 billion dollars a year to twenty two billion dollars. Teacher pay is up twelve percent and spending per student is up sixty percent. Regardless of this, not much has changed since the 1983 report. Has teacher assessment improved? No. Is there a longer school day for our students? No. Is there more homework? No. Are there more teachers with doctorates? No. The truth is that as a nation we are still where we were twenty years ago. It is clear that students are still not meeting the goals described in the 1983 report. SAT scores are declining at an alarming rate. What are the fundamental causes of the decline in primary and secondary education over the past twenty years?
There are many reasons why American education is failing. Functional illiteracy is probably the most obvious form of educational failure. Functional illiteracy refers to the inability to read, write, or adhere to the conventions of English. It has been reported that millions of functionally illiterate students graduate from High school every year. This disturbing statistic clearly shows that functional literacy is widespread in our society. Time magazine reports that 13 percent of all American seventeen year-old students are functionally illiterate. They lack the tools and skills to think in a critical manner. Among minority youth that number jumps to 40 percent. The Department of Education reports that functional illiteracy has left America with 24 million illiterates. What is most amazing is that these are not people who do not attend school. On the contrary these figures refer to those students who have spent 8 to 12 years in American high schools. What is even more shocking is that 95 percent of seventeen-year-olds do not have the technical skills to understand or write a decent essay.
The other more subtle reason why American education is failing is cultural illiteracy. This aspect of American education is much more difficult to discern. The term commonly refers to individuals who lack the common and conventional knowledge needed to function in society. This societal malady is most common among seventeen-year-olds. For example, one-third of seventeen-year-olds are unable to recall simple historical facts (such as Columbus discovered the new world before 1750). This exemplifies the ignorance of American youth. But this is not the worse problem facing us. It is even more troubling that most of these students will graduate high school and eventually enroll as college students! Indeed these will be the very people who will run our ‘sacred’ institutions in ten to twenty years.
Many of the deficiencies surrounding contemporary education are not always matters of intellectual knowledge. Indeed there is a moral vacuum at the heart of American education. Conventional moral beliefs are constantly under attack at all levels of education. No real progress can occur when 90 percent of all students in public schools lack moral values. There should be a moral order within pedagogical institutions. Just as there exists a state of order within Mathematics, reason, and nature, so too there should exist a moral order within our educational system. Perhaps the greatest teacher and source of moral enlightenment is history. In history, philosophical thinkers such as Plato and Socrates have methodically shown that there is a higher order of moral standards that human happiness is contingent upon. They have preached that there exists a fundamental moral and transcendent order that is inextricably connected with human morals.
There exists a substantial amount of data that suggests that many teachers are under-educated. In recent years, studies have shown some teachers have no better than a 2nd grade education. In 1980, Time magazine published an article called “Help Teacher Can’t Teach.” The fact that this article is twenty four years old is of no comfort. This article reported that a Chicago school teacher who told a reporter, “I teaches English.” A third grade teacher wrote the following sentences on the board: “Put the following words in alfabetical [sic] order.” Another fifth grade teacher, a proud holder of a Masters in Education degree, sent the following note home to one of her student’s parents: “Scott is dropping in his studies [no punctuation] he acts as if he don’t care. Scott want pass in his assignment at all, he had a poem to learn and he fell to do it.”
It is clear that many parents are indifferent about education in America. Many parents simply leave the task to governmental institutions. Of course, many parents in America are the products of decades of educational failure. Parents need to look at their children’s homework more and constantly check on their reading, mathematical, and grammatical skills.
There seems to be a popular sentiment among parents, students, and public officials that education is a commodity that educators are paid to deliver. Payments are made for every student through taxes, so educators are expected to deliver the “goods” to every student. According to this view, bad grades no longer result from poor skills, but the inability of teachers to deliver the “goods.”
It is clear that the educational system needs serious reform. Education in America is a product of our society as a whole. The failure of education will lead to the failure of our society. The failure of American education is the great issue of our times.
School cliques are undermining the community atmosphere at Bard High School Early College. Everyday when you walk through the halls of BHSEC you encounter cliques, blocking classroom doors and staircases. When the school first opened in 2001 first year and ninth grade students were on the same floor in Brooklyn. There were no cliques and everyone knew each other and bonded with each other.
The members of cliques discriminate against, isolate, and intimidate students outside the clique, but cliques also provide security and lead to lasting friendships between people.
Cliques provide a comfort zone for some people. Groups of people who share like-minded views tend to isolate themselves from people who don’t think the way they do. Cliques can sometimes isolate people and make them feel like helpless wanderers in a desert. But backstabbing does take place within cliques.
Some people reject cliques and spend time with different groups of friends. They are known as “floaters”. “Floaters” are better off because they have a variety of friends with different points of view. Within cliques, its members adhere to the same way of thinking and behaving.
Some people are secure enough not to need cliques, while others depend on them. Normally, people who join cliques are viewed as not being strong enough to stand on their own. A clique is just a sophisticated word for gangs. When cliques fall apart some members become devastated because they are forced to stand on their own two feet instead of being in a group environment. Usually after a clique disbands you will find ex-members quickly attaching themselves, like leeches, to other groups of people. People in cliques are insecure.
Cliques have become a necessary part of our high school, whether it is for survival or popularity. Cliques are similar to political parties because they try to dominate and control.
There is an epidemic sweeping through BHSEC. It has a subtle effect on students and they are unaware of the consequences. This epidemic is laying the foundations of a future crisis, BHSEC’s ruination. This emerging plight isn’t AIDs or HIV, but a disease of the tongue known as Linguistic Bad Posture. This term, although seemingly obscure, was coined by the illustrious Dr. Matthews, of the Social Studies Department, and it is characterized by the repeated usage of such words as “like,” “um” and the common phrase, “I mean” during teacher student discourse. In truth, we are all guilty of using one or all three of these words or ubiquitous phrases, but when do they hinder communication in an institution that calls itself a college? That daunting question is answered upon entering any class room, especially college level courses. While observing the diverse population of our school, one realizes that the words “like” and “um” are integral to students’ speech.
This fact alone, has severe implications for BHSEC, an accredited institution, because in our society use of language often defines the manner in which people are judged. A more pressing issue relating to Linguistic Bad Posture is the reception of BHSEC’s speech impaired students upon transferring to other educational institutions. Based on simple observation of any classroom it is easily ascertained that linguistic bad posture is a problem, but how do we remedy this impediment? The answer to this question is simple: BHSEC must stress the importance of acceptable modes of communication in the class room, or offer speech classes for those individuals who cannot function without “like” and “um”.
In the three years since BHSEC’s conception we have greatly strayed from the original goal of creating individuals who are the result of pedagogical excellence. One would hope that the erudition BHSEC students gain will enable them to make a significant impact and contribution to the world. Consequently, Linguistic Bad Posture is making it difficult to achieve this goal, and until this undeniable facet of BHSEC life is eradicated, this institution will produce individuals that write well but lack the ability to articulate their thoughts clearly.
Senator Kerry vs. President Bush
The upcoming Presidential election promises to be a very close race. Now that Super Tuesday has passed, it is clear that Senator Kerry will get the democratic nomination; and the Presidential race can begin in earnest. I believe that both candidates have certain things going for them in the upcoming race, and it is impossible to pick a clear front runner.
The democratic primaries were very competitive. At first Howard Dean was the clear frontrunner, until he lost his momentum, and Kerry replaced him. Kerry and the close second Edwards competed over the states in Super Tuesday, with Kerry coming out as the clear victor. Despite the tough competition in the primaries, the Democratic Party has continued to be a somewhat cohesive unit. Instead of bad mouthing each other, they mostly directed their critical comments at President Bush. This is going to make it a lot easier for all of the democrats who failed to win the democratic nomination to whole heartedly support Senator Kerry. Democrats in general are very focused on their one goal, to remove President Bush from office. The momentum that Kerry gained from the close democratic primaries helped him gain a twelve percent lead on President Bush in the Gallup poles.
President Bush has several things going for him. For one thing he is the current President, which is a mixed blessing. He has the ability to fly on Air Force One and awe people in his campaign speeches. He is also able to pull publicity stunts like landing on an aircraft carrier in a fighter jet. Yet, he is responsible for everything that is going wrong in our country. He will most likely be criticized for the increasing number of attacks in Iraq, the unresolved situation in Afghanistan, the decreasing job market and economy. Two points of attack for the Democrats will definitely be Bush’s environmental record and his administration’s attachments to large corporations like Enron and Haliburton.
One of the main things President Bush has going for him is the huge amount of money at his disposal for reelection. He has over one hundred million dollars for his campaign, so he will not have to spend any more time fundraising, and will be able to focus solely on the campaign. Currently, Senator Kerry only has roughly three million dollars, and will have to take time out of his campaign to raise more money. President Bush will use his money to air countless advertisements in swing states like Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Arkansas. President Bush will be able to begin his campaign in these states while Senator Kerry is still raising funds.
I ultimately believe that the most decisive issue in this coming election is going to be the war on terrorism. Senator Kerry and President Bush have very different views on how to fight terrorism. President Bush favors a more aggressive strategy. President Bush focuses more on how to cure the symptoms of terrorism, rather than the roots of the problem. Senator Kerry, on the other hand, wants to examine the roots of the problem, the reasons why terrorism exists, and to eliminate the main illness. To many voters this might appear to be a cowardly way to deal with the terrorists. If Kerry is accused of such things, he can always remind voters that he was a highly decorated officer in Vietnam, and then ask questions about what President Bush was doing during the same time period.
It is ironic that the decorated war hero favors a more peaceful approach to terrorism while the man who never served a day under fire is gung ho about war and invasion. I believe that both Senator Kerry’s and President Bush’s arguments will appeal to different people and that there will be another tight race, reminiscent of the 2000 election.
Confusion continues to be the main operating force as UN officials’ assessments of Iranian nuclear weapons programs conflict with Iran’s own explanations about use of radioactive materials. Recent evidence indicates Iranian use of polonium-210, a “neutron initiator (to start the chain reaction) in some designs of nuclear weapons.”
As recent as February, the United Stated failed to convince other European nations that Iran should be sanctioned by the United Nations. At these early stages it is likely that these countries want to give Iran a chance to mend its ways. “Britain, France and Germany had in October struck a deal with Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, and are still stressing the path of constructive engagement.”
The reports Iran gave in October to the IAEA validated “Iran’s offer of active cooperation and openness” which allowed the IAEA to survey several nuclear facilities and question various officials. Recent news developments however, confirm that information is hard to come by, as various details withheld during meetings in October 2003 begin to surface.
Various conflicting reports have followed. While some news sources report that Iran is willing to cooperate, there are still others that suggest the atmosphere is otherwise. As stated in Reuters, “Iran has given enough answers to the agency’s questions,” Hassan Rohani, head of the Supreme National Security Council and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was quoted as saying.
Iran’s statements regarding the nuclear weapons programs (which have been likened to Libya’s) are of a conflicting nature. They claim that the developments are for “purely peaceful purposes,” such as the generation of electrical power. For Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi the findings are not surprising considering that Iran had been doing research on polonium 13 years ago. The Islamic Republic News agency quoted Asefi as saying that the findings were “merely a misunderstanding which will be removed soon.” According to Hassan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security, Iran was not obligated to report these findings and called them “unfinished work” from research done 13 years ago.
For State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher, the Iranian explanation is merely a cover-up claiming that “Iran’s nuclear programs, and programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, are well known. They’re based on hard evidence and they are programs that the United States Government reports on very frequently.” Boucher cites the CIA’s 721 Report as a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Iran’s nuclear programs.
Evidence cited by the US includes satellite images of the Natanz nuclear facility, “the suspect uranium enrichment plant” where it appears that many “large structures” are being driven underground in an effort to hide them.
Despite the massive amounts of proof that the US has of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the US has failed to convince other countries. These countries deny the accuracy of US intelligence and are still waiting for developments from UN research.
At this point it is hard to agree with either side of the argument, as Iran maintains it uses these materials for non-military uses and the US states that it is an obvious breach of treaties and agreements. Nevertheless, it does appear that Iran is cooperating with the United Nations by allowing access to sites and providing information. Further investigation will help the UN and other countries make important decisions regarding Iran.
Review of Coolie by Mulk Raj Anand
Coolie is the story of Munoo, a child laborer in India who goes through many hardships. However, it is not just the story of Munoo. Many children living in India in the 1930s, when British Colonialism was at its peak, had similar experiences.
Munoo is an orphan taken in by his uncle Daya Ram and aunt Gujri. His father dies a miser and a debtor. The landlord seized his 5 acres of land because he could not pay the interest on the unpaid rent. This leaves Munoo’s mother a beggar, with her brother and child to support. She grinds grain on a millstone, and her income allows them to eat one meager meal each day. She eventually dies of exhaustion. Munoo’s uncle and aunt end up supporting him. On Munoo’s eleventh birthday, they ask him to go work.
Thus begins his journey. He leaves his beloved birthplace and all that he knows to find a better life in the towns and cities of India.
As Munoo’s story goes on, we see through the narrator’s eyes many of the unspoken evils of the Raj: the exploitation of labor, police brutality, caste strife, and communal riots, just to name a few.
Coolie is a masterpiece. It shows the Colonist’s side of the story. It is not a history written by conquerors. As I read Coolie, I learned about a new world and didn’t encounter the Englishman’s India or his point of view; where the main concern of the day is tea at the English Club and the topics of conversation are the natives and how to be condescending towards them. At last, the reader hears a story about the other world, the world of the poor, tired, and hardworking, told by a Colonist.
I have a high regard for this book and suggest that everyone read it. It is full of hard truths about a stratified society where the indigenous people don’t rule the land, and the fruits of their labor are grabbed up by a greedy and faraway power.