Volume 1, Issue 2 (March 2004)

Teen Suicide: To be or not to be? 

Sujith Baliga

Adolescence can be the most precarious stage of life. During this critical period, teenagers have to deal with a vast array of new and often tumultuous experiences. These include personal relationships, peer pressure, decisions about the future, physiological and psychological developments. Teenagers who can’t deal with these profound changes often turn to alcohol and drugs. In many cases, these troubled teens decide to take their own lives.

In the United States, the numbers of suicides have dramatically increased in recent years. According to recent statistics, suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst 15-24 year olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14 year olds. It is worth noting that males are more likely to commit suicide than females.

An interesting question one must raise is why has the teen suicide rate increased dramatically in the past few years? For one, it is easier to obtain the paraphernalia needed to commit suicide. Boys often use guns to kill themselves; girls usually use less-violent means such as pills. Two, it is widely accepted that the pressures in the modern world are far greater than in any other era. The combination of peer pressure and physical, physiological, psychological, and sociological factors make it increasingly difficult for teenagers to function in an unstable environment. Three, the competition over good grades and college admission is fierce. This builds up internal pressure making the teenager feel alienated and suppressed. Finally, depression is a major contributing. Depression may result from several factors such as separation of parents, recent loss of a family member, personal relationships, or failure to live up to parent’s expectations.

There are many different warning signs or symptoms that can suggest a teen is suicidal: A marked change in eating or sleeping habits; Violent actions, recalcitrant behavior; or “running away;” Marked personality changes; Neglect of physical appearance; Loss of interest in pleasurable activities (mostly physical); Drug and alcohol use.

More subtle signs are often ignored because of their trite nature. When teens say things like “I’m feeling rotten inside,” they are usually not taken seriously because it is considered inconsequential. Often subtle verbal hints are given: “I won’t be a problem for you much longer.” or “Nothing matters.” Such thoughts are usually expressed in a joking manner.

One should realize that if a teenager or a child says, “I want to kill myself” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” these cries for help should be taken seriously. It is important to seek evaluation and therapy from a child psychiatrist or physician.

Troubled teens do not need to be lectured. What they need is a strong sense of reassurance. They need to discuss their emotions and overwhelming problems with professionals or parents. It must be a person who is willing to listen and displays a clear understanding of the problems surrounding the issue. All in all, there are no simple solutions to the problem of teen suicide.

Sometimes simply taking the time to talk to the ‘suicidal’ teenagers about their feelings or problems can help prevent the tragic incident from occurring.

Politically Engaged Teens Bereft of Voting Rights

Daniela Caraballo

14-17 year olds cannot legally buy alcoholic beverages, join the army, own homes, get married, or even go on a school trip without parental consent. Many teenagers are now asking if it is discriminatory for young people to be deprived of the right to actively participate in the U.S. electoral process. Should 14-17 year olds be denied the opportunity to vote for people who have power and influence over our nation and our youth? Over the past few years, an increasing number of young political activists have been fighting for “youth suffrage” and demanding that their voices be heard.

It appears that in the 21st century adolescents are reassessing their priorities. While it is true that most 16 year olds still worry about getting their driver’s license, dating, fashion, and celebrities, many teens are also recognizing the lack of youth representation and involvement in politics and are now determined to change this by disposing of unjust voting restrictions.

Seventeen year old Stacey Reed, of Baltimore MD, insists that it is about time that adults begin acknowledging the importance of giving teens voting rights because, “Who knows what young people need better than young people? We know from experience what goes on in our schools and neighborhoods.” She wants to motivate politicians to respect teens and to take their insights, critiques, and suggestions more seriously.

Over the past few years, Maryland, Florida, Texas and Minnesota have been pursuing the possibility of lowering the legal voting age to 16. In addition, young political activists in Maine are urging politicians to consider lowering the voting age to 17, while the National Youth Rights Association, in New York, is pushing for rights that allow teens, at the tender age 15, to take part in the political process. However, Americans are not alone in their efforts. Recently, the UK has been debating reducing the voting age to 16. This comes at a time when South Africa graciously granted 17 year olds the right to elect representatives and Israel, parts of Germany, and Austria are encouraging 16 year olds to cast their ballots.

Yet it must be asked, are today’s teens ready to accept the new responsibilities that voting entails? While many adolescents would conclude that they are capable of handling that responsibility if it means making a difference in American politics, Morris Reed, a director at a consulting firm in Washington and a former Clinton official asserts that the answer is a resounding no. “Kids that age are still trying to figure out who they are,” she said, “we shouldn’t expect them to be up to speed on all the voting issues.” Therefore, allowing teenagers to vote would add to the pressures of growing up.

Katherine Tate, a political scientist at the University of California in Irvine also wholeheartedly disagrees with reducing voting age restrictions, stating that, “voting is an adult privilege,” and that, “this is a misguided attempt to boost participation.” Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, similarly opposes this new concept claiming that; “It’s a terminally dumb idea. They’re neither prepared nor have any responsibilities. It’s a threat to a sound governance.” One could argue of course that it should be a top priority to inform teenagers about the issues to ensure that they are prepared to take on such vast responsibilities, rather than just dismissing the very notion.

Evidently, American youth are faced with much opposition. There are however supporters of this movement as well. Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs in the UK announced that “it is a very important issue” because “we expect more and more in terms of social responsibility…particularly from young people.” Therefore, “if we want to both engage young people and make them discharge their responsibilities then I think there’s got to be a quid pro quo of letting them see greater influence in the political process,” he adds. Lord Falconer would also probably concur with Alex Koronknay Palicz, President of the National Youth Rights Association that the “youth feel alienated from politics and politicians and this will help to include them in the process.” He argues that, “the strongest case for why they should have a vote is so many of the laws in society affect young people, but they have no way politically to improve their lives, or their schools, or their community.”

Sixteen-year-old Dylan Schwarts reminds us that by not allowing teens under the age of 18 to vote we are encouraging an unjust double standard. In an essay, he expresses disappointment because “children as young as 14 years old can be charged and sentenced as adults for a range of crimes…and serve the exact same prison term as adults,” when they don’t have the basic human right to help “change policies affecting themselves.”

Dylan, along with many other eager American teens may soon be granted their wish. Recently, four legislators suggested a new proposal in California that can be perceived as a form of “training wheels for citizenship.” They suggested that 14 and 15 year olds be granted a ¼ vote, while 16 and 17 year olds should get a ½ vote. Therefore, adolescents can become more politically involved and take on this responsibility in “baby steps.”

Others think this strange accounting system is offensive. Cindy Horowitz, a BHSEC student, asserts that, “maybe we should hold teens to higher expectations since we are moving toward adulthood.” She adds that, “teens are forever becoming and never being.” David Smith, executive director of Mobilizing American Youth, also argues that it recalls the times when Black slaves were considered 3/5 of a person in this country. “It sets a dangerous precedent,” he acknowledges, “to say that someone is not worthy of a whole vote.”

Then again, ¼ of a vote or ½ of a vote demonstrates some sort of progress and allows teens to be more influential in our political system. It is better than having no vote. A 1992 survey from the Washington Post shows that 73 % of 12-17 year olds were very or fairly interested in politics and this confirms that changes might be well received. Democratic Senator John Vasconcellos argues that “we have apprenticeships in medicine, journalism, plumbing, and car driving, why not politics?” He insists that such a system would give teens the opportunity to make a difference, without permitting things to get out of control. He further states that teens of the 21st century are not naïve, but more informed about life and politics then in the past because they “have far more exposure to the world via media, internet, and cell phones,” and can quickly gain knowledge about political issues.

After speaking with fellow BHSEC students it is clear that they have concerns about the lack of teen involvement and representation in politics. Many politically active teens under the age of 18 anxiously await the day that America responds to their concerns and allows them to take part in the political process. However, if teenagers want to eliminate voting restrictions they must continue to make their voices heard. As Dylan Schwarts observes, “young adults are well known for being one of the most motivated and influential age groups in existence,” especially when, “a common goal unites them.”

Not Your Typical Athlete

Olivia Lin

It’s your typical Friday night. Arcade goers are crammed inside the tiny red-painted L-shaped establishment known as Chinatown Fair. The walls are not visible. Every surface has a machine pressed against it and the machines take up half the space. The other half is filled with players of every kind, beginner, novice, expert, and even a couple tourists who occasionally wander down the busy end of Mott Street. In one spot on the floor there is a high pile of backpacks, asspacks, coats, and sweaters of every build and size. These are the personal belongings of arcade goers that hop in right after school and athletes that carry their gear with them everywhere they go around the city.

But they aren’t your regular kind of athlete. The backpacks are filled dance shoes, Windex, and paper towels. These are the DDR players or the Dance Dance Revolution players that gather around Chinatown Fair every Friday night to play a few games, hang out with friends, and show off their skills. Most of these players have been honing their skills for two years or more, but players at every stage are present. Durable dance shoes and glass cleaner and paper towels (used to maintain the sensitivity of the pads) help hardcore DDR players achieve higher scores.

In 1998 Dance Dance Revolution was released by Konami, a Japanese company that produces music games collectively known as Bemani games. Since then, many versions of the game have come out and according to ddrfreak.com, 1928 machines have been registered in the United States, with 72 of them in New York State alone. The game has been described as “a combination of high-impact aerobics class and a legs-only version of Twister” by Concord Monitor. In the game, one must listen to music, watch the arrows come up across the screen (in directions of north, south, east, west), and step on corresponding arrows, which race across the screen, with their feet. It is the game’s versatility that keeps players coming back for more. The infinite opportunity for improvement and the many different levels and songs to choose from, help make the game very successful. One can arrange options so that arrows appear only halfway across the screen, or not at all for those who have memorized a song. Players can arrange it so that both dance pads will be utilized for game play. This is known as “double” play. The object of the game is to synchronize dance moves with directions on the screen. Game play is not restricted, so the way players hit the arrows can become an art in itself.

Games can range from .50 to $2.50 a game for three or four songs. So for those without much money, it can be difficult to play in the arcades. But most players start at home before they go to the arcade. The home version can be purchased for $70 to $100, depending on the type of dance pad purchased and the number of songs available. The game can be played on any Playstation or Xbox and the pad or controller must be purchased separately. The dance pad can also be used with other games such as Street Fighter for extensive combos. Even computer simulators like Stepmania can be easily downloaded to be used for practice with the arrows on the keyboard.

With the many possibilities and choices in songs (DDR music includes such genres as techno, trance, rave, hip hop, R&B, and pop), difficulty levels, and options based on players’ personal styles, it is no wonder that the game attracts so many people. Sketch, also known as Anthony, one of New York State’s top players and captain of one of the best DDR teams nationwide, Dance Dance Police Department (DDPD), says:

“It’s hard to believe, I admit, that a “petty game” like DDR, or any Bemani for that matter can have such a strong impact on a large group of people on a scale such as DDR has on sections of the world. Initially it’s ‘just a game.’ Do you really think Konami intended to turn DDR into a massive experience that has probably millions of people worldwide going to arcades engaging in the stuff we do? I think not. But DDR has become what it has become, and it’s evolving into what it is evolving into.”

The game attracts many different people, whites, Asians, Hispanics, and blacks, athletes, computer types, dancers, and just about anyone. The most typical DDR players are high school boys, but many girls play as well. The casual players are just as welcome as the hardcore players. Many people are brought together through their mutual love of the game. Frequent tournaments also help form bonds between players. There are even different styles of DDR players. Lone Wolf of Co-op city in the Bronx, is a member of DDPD who memorizes songs and then plays without the arrows launching across the screen. This is called stealthing. “I stealth for a number of reasons. Stealthing is one of the hardest aspects of the game. It forces you to learn a song in its entirety, But stealthing allows me to be an individual, by learning songs others don’t know, or being the first to ever stealth a song. Also, it’s a great way to show off.” Even in the large community of DDR players, it is possible to stand out as an individual.

The Internet plays an important role in strengthening and sustaining the community. “The online community powers the fame, it’s what actually gives people the urge to actually go on and continue playing the game.” Colin Barker, of the DDR Community, Myst, runs one of the biggest DDR community websites on the Internet. “The online community is very important. It’s what powers the game, it’s what actually gives people the urge to actually go on and continue playing the game. Even when they have played a song maybe 10, 15 times, they get bored of the game. So, the online community helps them out by saying ‘I’d like to challenge you, I’d like to meet up with you.’ and with that, you get people meeting up to have fun.”

DDR is a great weight loss tool as well. Some schools have the machines in their physical education classes to motivate students. This goes against the stereotypical image of the video game player as couch potato. In fact, in Norway, it has been officially registered as a sport. It has been featured in Fox’s King of the Hill, in a music video by the band Everything But the Girl, and most recently, in an episode of South Park. The popularity of DDR continues to grow.

Time is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood: A Dance Review

Fallon Casper

Considering the postmodernist trends college sophomores have been studying since the beginning of the semester it seems fitting to review Karole Armitage’s dance company and her innovative and unique choreography. Armitage, a dancer who, in the 1980s, was praised for her willingness to push the envelop, has now returned to the US after spending many years dancing and choreographing in Europe with her dance company Armitage Gone! Armitage is notorious for her ability to combine classical ballet with her own spunk and attitude, giving her an edge unmistakably her own. She is innovative and unique. It was precisely these qualities that earned her a place within the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1975 and made her one of their indispensable dancers.

Armitage’s most recent piece is a wonderfully choreographed program titled “Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood.” Admittedly, the name appears to be a choppy medley of different elements mixed together and yet, it is an extraordinarily fitting title for the hour long performance at the Joyce.

The set, comprised of a long curtain of silver beads (possibly representative of chains depending on your own interpretations of the dance) covers three sides of the stage and certainly works well with the overall mood of the program; something between mysticism and intrigue. For Laura Shapiro of the New York Metro, the setting creates a mood that allows the “dancers to slash their way through exaggerated splits, sky-high extensions, and deliberately ostentatious posturing, glowing every moment in a hard, gold light.”

The dancing itself is wonderfully classical. The style and movements correspond to classical ballet techniques and yet, there is still something raw in the expressions. Perhaps this is where Armitage shines through the most. One can see that her elemental “attitude” permeates her dancers. The sexual undertones are apparent, along with the glitz and glamour that made Armitage stand out in the 1980s.

The audience is made aware of the dancers’ own self-awareness. This is the most enticing part of the program. Instead of letting you sit back and take in the dancing, as perhaps one would do with the American Ballet Company, Armitage invites you to take part in the extreme concentration taking place on the stage. Joan Acocella of the New Yorker called this “the conjuring of extreme and secret states of the soul via ballet alone, with its steps serving as “open symbols,” nonspecific but suggestive.” The dancers make meditative movements; They are acutely aware of their presence, their bodies, and of the act of moving. Indeed, one can recognize some yoga positions creeping into the choreography, as well as some modern dance styles and of course, Armitage’s unforgettable punk rebel flavor.

For the most part, the arrangments consist of the classic male-female pair, where the female is being pursued by the male. However, even in its most traditional element, the production has an innate sense of individuality that extends through to its dancers. This creates a weird duality as the traditional dance pair works with each other and at the same time they pull away from each other. Perhaps this is one of the down sides of the piece as it seems lacking a universal movement. Though there is form, style, and expression, the overall meaning gets lost in the process. We wonder to what purpose we are made to be aware of being aware.

One thing is for sure, “Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood” creates a reality unlike conventional dance pieces. It makes one feel exhilarated and at the same time confused as to its deeper meaning. Nevertheless, Armitage has once again created a radically different piece that challenges propriety, orthodoxy and makes one think in an irregular way.

And the Walls Come Tumbling Down: An Editorial on the BHSEC Community

Cindy Horowitz

Racism is rarely spoken about at BHSEC because it is a sensitive topic. When we spoke about it in my Public Education and Democracy class, I saw uneasiness in the faces of students as they attempted to voice their opinions about the subject. Most students have been silent about racism throughout their lives and when the subject comes up they feel uncomfortable speaking about it. How can we bring this issue to light without insulting a specific group of people or saying something that may sound racist?

It is difficult to find an answer to that question without knowing exactly what the term racism means. We often ask ourselves,” What makes a person racist?” Some may argue that racism is a form of ignorance. An individual is unaware of being a racist and continues to be one. However, others believe that racism is subconscious. Some people who consider themselves enlightened about race issues may make ‘racist’ comments or jokes without being aware that they are doing so.

There are invisible walls that separate the student body here at BHSEC, but I do not think this is due to racism. The students at BHSEC tend to segregate themselves voluntarily and form racial cliques. Observe a typical seminar class or sit in the cafeteria during lunch period. The whites tend to sit with the whites and the minorities tend to sit with the minorities. Even though most of the students do this unconsciously, this could be interpreted as a form of segregation.

Then again, there are students who break this pattern of behavior, but not completely. “Up until you asked me I did not realize that I met most of my black and Spanish friends through white people.” said an anonymous student. Notice that the student, who was white, was friends with white people before interacting with minorities. “When I came in as a 9th grader the first person I approached was someone of my own race. I guess I feel more comfortable with people of my own race. We have more in common.” said a 10th grader. We are more likely to interact with people of our own race when we enter a new environment. “But we are all guilty of that.” added a 10th grader. People who have similar economic and ethnic backgrounds connect more easily.

If we can break through the racial barriers here at BHSEC by getting to know and learn from people of different ethnic origins we will help eliminate racism. According to a Harvard study, the average white student attends schools that are nearly 100 percent white. At the same time one-sixth of all black students attend schools that are nearly 100 percent non-white. BHSEC is an exception because students are chosen by interviews, grades, and test scores. “Some people also tend to start out with their own race and then become better friends with other people, especially at a school as liberal (I think) as Bard.” said a first year. Our student body is diverse. It is time for students to take advantage of this. The students at BHSEC are always complaining about the fact that there is no sense of community. Why not smile at a student you have never spoken to before and begin breaking through the invisible barriers that separate us.

The Step and Tennis Teams Need Your Support: An Editorial on the BHSEC Community

Leticia Randle

Have you ever wondered why our school is not recognized, or why no one but the students and faculty really know about this school? Well the answer to those questions is that we do not promote ourselves. Most schools are known because of their athletic teams or academic standings, but BHSEC remains unknown. We have a terrific school that no one knows about, and it is no ones fault but our own.

Unbeknownst to the majority of BHSEC students we have a couple of teams and clubs that have excelled outside our school walls. One of these is the BHSEC Step Team, which has been a part of the school since it began on Leonard Street in Brooklyn.

Even though numerous flyers have been put up for every step team event, student support has remained low. Some may say, “Who cares?” but the truth is the team cares. There are 13 students on the step team. Did you know that at a step competition part of the judging rubric is crowd support and participation? Those points are very crucial at a step competition and most of the time the step team loses those points. As a member of the step team I know what it feels like to have your school name called and the gymnasium to be relatively silent because everyone is trying to figure out what name was called. I know first hand how it feels when your mother is cheering you on rather than you friends from school.

Take a look at the BHSEC Tennis Team that was started by Jolene Rodriguez and Alexandra Jenik in the fall of 2002 and now consists of thirteen girls. Already they have competed in two games. They lost the first one but won the second one 5-0. These girls practice hard 3 times a week in order to compete against other developmental teams. They are now seeking acceptance into the Public School Athletic League (PSAL). Their acceptance into the PSAL could be a major turning point in the life of BHSEC sports. But, in order for these girls to stay encouraged they need support, and that support has to come from the students they represent.

The main reason we are not known is because we do not promote ourselves. The student body here at BHSEC is not very supportive of the few successful teams that represent our school. Not only do these teams represent our school, they put our name out there. The next time you decide to skip the tennis match or the step competition, remember that the less time you spend supporting our school the more time it will take for our school to be recognized.

Please Flush!: An Editorial on the BHSEC Community

Floyd Campbell

It has been said that a bathroom is a reflection of the values of those who own and use it. This definitely holds true for BHSEC. The abysmal state of our bathrooms is a manifestation of poor hygiene practices and overall neglect by the student body.

When asked what she thought about the present state of the girl’s bathroom first year student Eniola Adeyinka, replied, “It’s disgusting. Sometimes you find used tampons and feces on the toilet seats and these people don’t care. It’s just nasty.”

Eniola is not alone. Her point of view and experiences are shared by almost all of the girls I spoke to, including two second year students who prefer to remain anonymous. These girls reported having to flee the girl’s bathroom on numerous occasions due to the lack of clean stalls. “I had to run all the way to the fifth floor just to get a decent stall, but even when I got there I had to play musical chairs with the stalls because the toilets were either overflowing with urine or little brown substances that we all know well.” I then asked why she didn’t take it upon herself to flush, to which she replied, “The stench was just too overwhelming.”

Her friend then went on to say “These girls are the most disgusting people I have ever come across. Some will literally leave bloody pads right there smack on the toilet seat and some leave their nasty feces in there as if people want to see this. It is the most appalling thing ever but what gets me the most is when they use the bathroom, they don’t wash their hands.”

The lack of good hygiene also extends to the boy’s bathrooms but the level of concern is rather low. When I asked male students about their thoughts on the condition of the bathrooms the responses were nonchalant. But one amongst them, Nicholas a first year, replied “It’s disgusting but all I go there to do is pee.”

The question at hand is with whom does the blame lie? The obvious answer is the student body but one student remarked, “It was the janitor’s job to clean.” This is true but the fact remains that we are young adults who should not have to be reminded to flush the toilets. Perhaps these words (Please Flush!) should be placed in every bathroom stall as a much needed reminder. Many BHSEC students forget that along with our class room responsibilities we also have a responsibility to maintain a certain level of cleanliness, if not for ourselves, then for the remainder of the student population.

No one wants to be greeted by a pile of feces or a toilet overflowing with pungent day old urine, so please flush. This simple action can make a big difference. If your parents neglected to teach you how to flush during potty training, it is time to learn this invaluable skill.

The BHSEC Girls’ Tennis Team

Linnie Bendor-Grynbaum

It was a freezing day a few weeks ago when BHSEC history was made. A 15 member team, accompanied by a few spectators loyal enough to brave out the weather, gathered in the East River Park tennis courts to compete against another New York City high school.

The BHSEC girls’ tennis team is the schools first team to join the Public School Athletic Team (PSAL). The team joined the PSAL after much tribulation and many attempts over the past year and a half. The team was started last year by Alexandra Jenik and Jolene Rodriguez, who are the current co-captains of the team. After a long and extended search for a Department of Education certified and CPR certified advisor and coach, BHSEC guidance counselor and college advisor, Rob Carmenini agreed to help the girls out. Along with Mr. Carmenini the team was able to join the PSAL. Soon afterwards BHSEC’s new physical education teacher Mr. Larkin, who is skilled in the game of tennis, became the new coach along with Mr. Carmenini. The team became a PSAL “developmental” team a few weeks ago. All public school sports teams must join the PSAL before being able to compete against other public school teams.

After regular Monday classes ended, the team gathered in the BHSEC gym and walked together to the East River Park courts. After various drills and practice regimens, the BHSEC team was greeted by the Eleanor Roosevelt High School developmental team around 4:30 p.m. With little hesitation the players were assigned to courts and began to serve. While the whole team was present, there was only room enough for seven players to participate in three games of singles and two games of doubles. Alexandra Jenik, Jennifer Sutton, and Hana Kitassei were the singles players, Jolene Rodriguez and Anne Gebbie played one game of doubles, and Asma and Darshvir Kaur played the other game of doubles. All of the players gave it their all, and Asma and Darshvir beat their opponents 10-0.

The teams competed until 5:30 when the Eleanor Roosevelt coaches decided the weather was bad and the sun was too low. Despite the strong resistance of the BHSEC players, who wanted to finish the games they were in the middle of, the BHSEC coaches agreed, and the two unfinished games were draws. Therefore, Eleanor Roosevelt one four games and BHSEC won one game. Despite the losses, BHSEC players and supporters remained resilient. Even when the opposing team walked out mid-game the BHSEC players fought to keep playing.

It was quite obvious how much the game meant to both the individual players and the school as a whole. A spectator and former team-member, BHSEC first-year student Ana Nicole Rodriguez stated, “I was enthused to watch the team engage in their first official PSAL competition. I had been part of a committed and enthusiastic team, and I felt these members deserved a chance to demonstrate their acquired skills.” She went on to state that she hopes the tennis competitions would “encourage other teams at Bard to become developmental teams and to ultimately partake in their own competitions. It was exciting to know that we were leading the way.”

And they are leading the way. Perhaps through the inspiration of the girl’s tennis team or by the obvious need for more sports teams at BHSEC, a group of parents started a committee to begin organizing other sports teams such as soccer and basketball. Sports are fundamental to the development of school spirit, something that many students feel is lacking at BHSEC. Jane Deegan, a junior at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan and a member of the girls’ track team there states, “Sports teams are good because it gives you an opportunity to hang out with people from your team. Most of my friends are from my track team. It opens your social possibilities. You get to meet people from all different grades.” Jane also states that the sports teams at her school help to raise flagging school spirits.

BHSEC first year student and tennis team member Jennifer Sutton declares, “It’s a defining moment in BHSEC history. We not only have a sports club but an active sports team.” It seems as though most members of the team are quite proud to be a part of this defining moment. The team had their second match on March 29th against University Neighborhood High School and they won every game.

The Passion of the Christ: A Movie Review

Jessica Consuegra

Most movies lose their edge after they have been in theaters for two or three weeks. No one talks about them any more. “The Passion of the Christ” is an exception. It is one of those movies that you either love or hate, but you can’t ignore it.

Before it was even released on February 25 to nationwide audiences the movie had already stirred up controversy. It made almost $8 million dollars in pre-released tickets and $83,848,082 on opening weekend. The story of the crucifixion of Jesus is not new to many Catholics but some people might not be familiar with the story. The movie depicts the last twelve hours of Jesus Christ’s life.

It sounds like yet another religious film, but it was more than that. “The Passion of the Christ” is not only a movie for “religious people” it’s a movie for any one who wants to see a great movie. The violence in the movie is very graphic so I would not recommend that children see it. However the vivid images are what makes this movie unlike any other movie that has been made about the life of Jesus.

The image of Jesus Christ carrying the cross with blood dripping down from his crown of thorns is just one of the many breathtaking moments in this movie. Even though this is a movie, the imagery might be heartbreaking for those people who consider the events to be historical.

Mel Gibson did an excellent job directing the film and the performances were quite strong. We might remember James Caviezel from the movie “Angel Eyes” with Jennifer Lopez. Once again he lends a certain eccentricity to his portrayal. Caviezel gives an emotional performance as Jesus. Even though the movie received some great reviews and is still doing well in the box office it also received many bad reviews. In the New Yorker, David Denby wrote, “…the movie Gibson has made from his personal obsessions is a sickening death trip, a grimly unilluminating procession of treachery, beatings, blood, and agony.” David Ansen from Newsweek also gave the movie a bad review. Ansen wrote “Instead of being moved by Christ’s suffering or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins.”

The movie is also considered to be anti-Semitic by many people. My opinion is that if a person goes to see the movie thinking the film is going to be anti-Semitic then that person is bound to see anti-Semitic messages in every scene. In other words don’t try to find something that isn’t there.

Overall “The Passion of the Christ” is a great movie. However, as I said before I wouldn’t recommend it to children. I also wouldn’t recommend it to people with a pacemaker, or who can’t endure the violence of the movie.

On a personal level, I thought the movie was too violent. The violent scenes were given great emphasis and sometimes I felt disoriented. It’s not a movie that a person like me (who freaks out at the sight of such violence) would see again. On the other hand, if you are into drama, and can endure some of the most violent images you will ever see in a film, then I would recommend it.

Teacher Profile: Professor Lee Johnson

Ian Garvey

No one knew what to expect from the new First Year Seminar instructor. What would his teaching style be like? Despite that, over 40 people in the fall of 2003 took a blind leap, ignored their uncertainty and apprehension, and signed up for a class with an unknown professor. Now, well into the spring semester, both of Professor Johnson’s First Year Seminar classes are packed to capacity. Obviously, the anxiety that surrounded those first few months has been replaced by an embrace of his passionate style of instruction. But who is Professor Lee Johnson, truly? Many of those taking his seminars and Russian culture classes have ideas about his professional and academic background, but his tale is an interesting one.

Born in Sussex, England to a city-girl mother from London and a country-boy father from North Carolina, Professor Johnson eventually found himself attending high school in Los Angeles. In fact, it was there in an English class in Chatsworth High School where he was first introduced to his lifelong academic passion: Russian culture. During class one week, on a whim, Professor Johnson’s English teacher decided to introduce the famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was there, Johnson claims, that Dostoevsky “got his claws into me and never let go.” Claiming that Dostoevsky’s recurring themes of “compassion and hope in the midst of darkness and despair” were ideas “quintessentially Russian,” Johnson’s lasting affair with Russian culture is proof of an academic “love at first sight.”

While most students who are acquainted with Professor Johnson are likely to know all about his obsession with Russian culture, what often remains unknown is his academic past. He is a proud alumnus of the University of California Berkeley since 1986. He majored in Russian Language and Literature and this reflected his newfound academic passion. His several trips to Russia (then the Soviet Union) to experience the culture firsthand eventually helped him become fluent in the Russian language and gave him the opportunity to witness the social upheaval that occurred during the fall of the USSR. While the populace seemed largely repressed during his initial visits, Johnson, during a few trips following the fall of the Union, was able to watch the public become expressive and free with the fall of communism. While initially an “alien world” to him, the new Russia gradually opened up and Johnson was “thrilled” to experience its development.

In 1994 Johnson visited Russia to work at an orphanage, following his work at Yale University under fellow Slavic scholar Robert Jackson. Last summer, as well, Professor Johnson accompanied a group of students from Bard College (where he taught a course on Russian Language and Literature) on a trip to St. Petersburg.

While Johnson’s favorite author remains Dostoevsky (specifically the works “Crime and Punishment,” “The Idiot,” and “The Brothers Karamazov”), the well-read professor leads active discussions on such European works as “The Prince” and “Hamlet” in his First Year Seminar classes. Always up for vibrant group discussions on such classics, Johnson has thoroughly enjoyed his time at BHSEC. He enjoys guiding the young and vivacious minds found at our school. Next year, he hopes to offer more courses that focus on Dostoevsky and the unique Russian culture. We are lucky to have added Professor Johnson to the gifted “brain trust” of faculty.

Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right: Book Review

Gregory Eisman

“Lies, and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right” is a witty, interesting, and informative take on current politics. This book is an investigative report on Conservative and Republican politics. It is filled with facts and figures which are often used to debunk statements made by conservative media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly. Al Franken takes a very close look at the Bush administration, and fearlessly counters his critics who call him unpatriotic: “Condoleezza Rice should watch her mouth.” (Franken XI). On one level this book is political commentary. The sharp sarcastic wit of Al Franken is highly entertaining.

The book opens with a critique of the writings of conservative figureheads Ann Coulter and Bernie Goldberg. After this Franken focuses on the Bush administration, the funeral of Paul Wellstone, and the overall conservative bias of the news media. Franken, staying true to his Saturday Night Live roots, also includes two satirical cartoons. In one of these cartoons a Jesus who has the same political beliefs as our current administration is compared to the Jesus of Nazereth. People must choose which one to follow, and there is a surprising and ironic result. Another cartoon shows the several members of the conservative right in Vietnam, under the leadership of Al Gore and John Kerry. The mess that this troubled squad gets into is a direct criticism our current conservative leaders.

This book is humorous and filled with interesting facts. On occasion I questioned Franken’s tactics and use of statistics but I found him to be more level headed than his conservative counterparts.

The Young Capitalists

Ashli Edwards

Who rolls out the cash? Your average teenager does. According to ABC News’ “Shop ‘Til They Drop,” a special hosted by John Stossel, “Last year young shoppers spent over $170 billion – double the amount just 10 years earlier.” This level of spending is holding steady. According to Lester Rand, president of Rand Youth Poll, “Spending power by teenagers has increased every year from 1953 through 1996 despite eight recessions.” Teenagers have the greatest spending power in United States.

Where does all this buying power come from? According to the ABC special, “These mall-trotting teens carry credit cards, some using prepaid plastic that functions like a debit account.” Many parents are paying for these debit cards.

Teenagers are born consumers. They jump into the consumer pool at an early age. By the ages of four or five, and sometimes younger, children begin to pester their parents to buy them the advertised goods flashing across the television screen during commercial breaks on Saturday mornings. These young consumers are important because as adults they continue to buy the products they were exposed to as children. The cycle is continuous and gives new meaning to the term “consumer for life.”

Marketers peddle their goods to teenagers because they are aware of their spending power. They employ celebrities who appeal to teen audiences to sell the merchandise. For example, Nike commercials use professional basketball players to sell sneakers. Other commercials portray teenagers in various stages of ecstasy simply because they own the advertised goods. Advertisers often use upbeat imagery to portray their products as exciting and youthful. Teens often follow trends so it is up to the advertisers to create and market these trends. “As marketers become more youth-savvy, they logically keep an ever-keener eye trained on emerging trends,” says Peter Zollo, the author of “When Marketing to Teens, Trends Live Fast, Die Young,” an article published in Crain’s Chicago Business.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, an arm of Procter and Gamble called Tremor is enlisting teenagers to help them spread information about their products in living rooms, schools, and other places that are difficult for corporate America to infiltrate. Another way to invade teenagers’ minds is through magazines such as YM, Seventeen, Teen People, Cosmogirl, and Teen Vogue, to name a few. These magazines always have numerous ads for make-up, hair products, shoes, underwear, sportswear, and eveningwear. After seeing the ads in these magazines, teenagers will go out and buy the products.

Crowds of teens occupy malls across the United States. They spend their money or their parent’s money on heavily advertised products, proving that the marketers’ efforts are successful in the end.

Getting the Grade: An Editorial on the BHSEC Community

Barbara Kuszewski

Does getting a good grade mean that one is receiving an adequate education? This strange question is worth discussing.

The problem lies with the education system or with the students, or both. “Even the best education possible can be wasted by an indolent student.” remarked 1st year student Shibo Xu. “Educational institutions are what the students make of them.”

Most students find themselves stressed out by school work as well as activities that they do outside of school. Good grades and participation in extracurricular activities are a must when applying to any college. However, report cards may not always be an accurate reflection of the students’ actual knowledge or intelligence. It is odd to say that a student may not have a complete understanding of a subject even when they get an “A” in the class. But an “A” on a report card only shows that a student knows how to study and be prepared. Is that what an education is truly about? School is also supposed to be about understanding the ideas presented in class and knowing how to prepare for the future.

It is strange to think that the education we receive will not expand our minds. “When we go off into the real world, we won’t get graded.” said 1st year community council representative Catherine Wiacek. “Acquiring knowledge through experience and learning is a lot more important than just learning something to get a good grade.”

Many BHSEC students study right before an exam. Students in turn, don’t eat, don’t sleep; they just cram. While students cram all of the knowledge into their brains and hope they will remember it the next day, many end up forgetting it right after the test. Students have a cycle of tests they have to study for but they aren’t learning anything. One alternative to this situation is to have fewer tests. This might sound like yet another complaint from a lazy student, but it would definitely help if teachers went over the material slowly and carefully, making sure that every student felt at least semi-comfortable with it.

Then again, BHSEC is not an average high school is it? Students are expected to grasp material quickly and thoroughly without having to cram. Teachers focus on independent study most of the time. But is all of this pressure healthy for the students? I’m certainly not trying to say BHSEC is a bad place, after all, many students who came to the school in its first year stayed. Many students enjoy the work-filled days and sleepless nights. Some things in life are not to be messed around with, or are they? We are the future of America and we will either change the system or leave it as is. In reality, some of us will become educators, and those of us who do will have a chance to change the system.

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