TEENS AND STEROIDS
We all want to be the best at something, whether it is sports or school. To excel is not an option it’s a duty, especially for teens. Teens would do almost anything, including endangering their own health, to become the best in something. Teens take “alert” pills to stay awake and study or finish projects. Not only do teens endanger their health to do well in school, they also take risks in order to excel at sports.
Teens, some as young as 13, are using anabolic steroids to become buff and strong. They believe that by drinking dietary supplements and taking pills that they will look physically fit and that their skills will improve. In part this is true. If you become stronger your abilities (depending on the sport) might get a boost. However, your health is not going to improve by taking anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, are “man-made substances related to male sex hormones. ‘Anabolic’ refers to muscle-building, and ‘androgenic’ refers to increased masculine characteristics. ‘Steroids’ refers to the class of drugs. These drugs are available legally only by prescription, to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence.” In other words steroids should be used for specific health problems and only if prescribed. They should not be used to enhance muscles or improve skills.
Many teens are unaware of the dangers of steroids. They don’t know the harmful effects that it can have on their body (internally as well as externally). Other teens are aware of the effects but continue using steroids because their parents, coaches, or peers encourage them to. A Department of Health and Human Services report done in 1990 concluded that, “Parents, coaches and peers are indirectly contributing to the problem by failing to discourage non-medical illegal use of steroids by adolescents.” The report also indicates that, “93 percent of current users like the effects steroids have on them.”
Some health problems attributed to anabolic steroid use include: liver disease, heart disease, cancer, shrinking of the testicles, sterility, kidney disease, blood pressures problems, stunted growth, and death. On top of the diseases that anabolic steroids can cause, a report by the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) indicates that, “A study of 227 men admitted in 1999 to a private treatment center for dependence on heroin or other opioids found that 9.3 percent had abused anabolic steroids before trying any other illicit drug. Of these 9.3 percent, 86 percent first used opioids to counteract insomnia and irritability resulting from the anabolic steroids.” This means that steroid use can lead to serious drug addiction. The obvious question is why are so many teens using steroids if they cause so many health problems? In the same study (conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services) many of the users that were surveyed said that they didn’t agree with the experts about the dangers of steroids. Some of them said that they aren’t “experiencing health problems themselves” and that there is a lack of “hard evidence.” That is why they continue to use steroids.
Another report by the Department of Pediatrics and Family Practice, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, concluded that “A segment of male adolescents are using anabolic steroids without fully understanding the risks of such behavior.” The best way to prevent abuse of anabolic steroids is for teens (and also parents) to become aware of the health risks involved. Parents need to be more aware of the dangers of steroids so that they can help their child if he/she is using steroids or plans to use steroids. The best protection against steroids is awareness.
NO PHOTOS PLEASE!
Three hundred sixty one photographs of dead American soldiers in flag-draped coffins were released to the public on April 22nd. Tami Silicio, a 50 year-old civilian contractor, was fired for snapping these pictures while she was aboard a cargo plane containing the coffins. The question is whether or not Americans should have access to these pictures.
Silicio ignored the U.S ban on photographing dead soldiers and stated that she had a desire to “capture a moment in history.” As a result of taking these photographs she lost her job. The strict photograph ban was created in 1991, during the first Persian Gulf War, in order to save Americans from the horrid sight of the human cost of war. Although the policy had not been firmly followed, in March 2003, the Pentagon reconfirmed the policy. Even though pictures of our deceased soldiers are taken regularly, their publication is strictly off-limits.
“Among the national television news organizations, only the Fox news channel had no plans to use any of the photos or explore the issue of why they had been barred from use in the news media,” said a channel spokesman. The executive producer of NBC Nightly news, Steve Capus, called the pictures “poignant, and responsible.” According to a CBS news poll 62% of Americans want the pictures to continue being published, 27% think they shouldn’t be, and 11% are undecided. It is not clear whether or not the American public will demand an end to the no photo policy. President Bush’s approval ratings have been dropping and the publication of the images of the dead might have something to do with it.
CALCULUS IN CHINATOWN
Even though reality shows are formulaic they are successful. Performance based reality shows consist of a charismatic host and fresh amateur acts from across the country showcasing talent or lack thereof. These shows amuse audiences and leave them begging for more. With the popularity of “American Idol,” it’s no wonder that it has inspired many spin-offs such as like “Last Comic Standing,” “Fame,” and BET’s “MC.” These shows change the lives of a lucky few. Dat Phan won “Last Comic Standing,” Harlem Lee won “Fame,” and Jin That won “MC.” Telly Wong, a wisecracking Filipino with a lot to say, points out that these reality TV shows have led to the creation of a totally new and unprecedented experience in Chinatown. “For decades, mainstream society has been telling us that we’ve got no talent or that there aren’t enough talented Asians and that is pure bull—-. Just look at whose winning these reality show contests, all Asians. The talent is obviously out there but there is a severe lack of opportunity. But since no one is gonna hand us any, we gotta make our own.”
Telly Wong created Teabag Open Mic to establish a venue for Asian American artists to display their talents before the public and scouts in the music industry, including Tofu records, which is a sponsor of the event. Started in September of 2003 and located on 30 Mott Street in the attic of the Silk Road Internet Café, it began with a small, but loyal teenage following made up of kids from the local arcade who took up 20 seats in the attic on a Friday night. Since then, the show has evolved into something much more specialized and has moved into the basement of the Internet Café, where literally hundreds of Chinatown wanderers drop by each Friday night from 8 to 10 P.M. Wong likes to remind audiences that this is not your typical open mic.
“I like to establish right off the bat that this isn’t some lame— karaoke night in Chinatown. Usually most of the girls wearing Hello Kitty paraphernalia start heading out the door as soon as they realize I’m not going to sing any Cantopop.”
Despite Wong’s brutally honest introductions the average audience size is over a hundred people per show and about sixty performers. Performers come from every race and background. “Each week we draw a crowd that is made up of blacks, Latinos and Asians. The performers are also from different backgrounds. We’ve featured musicians, poets, comedians, rappers, dancers and spoken word artists. It is incredible to see all these different people coming together each week and sharing their stories and/or entertaining each other. I now see ‘Teabag’ as something that will help build bridges in all these diverse communities while also entertaining the masses.”
Each performance is roughly eight to ten minutes long. Musicians, dancers, poets, comedians, and ordinary people are given the opportunity to sound off about topics that pertain to their lives and to present their work in front of a live audience, many for the first time. Fresh ideas are discussed and spontaneity is a staple. Tea Bag Open Mic provides a great opportunity for people to come together, share their work and opinions, and enjoy themselves.
“Hopefully, we can inspire Asians to follow their passions and nurture their God-given talents,” says Wong. “And I’m not referring to being great at calculus or —- like that.”
15 MINUTES OF FAME, 15 MINUTES OF THERAPY: AN EDITORIAL ON THE MEDIA
Over the past few years, young adults have been flocking to reality show auditions, enduring painfully long lines and hours of waiting, to get a taste of fame and fortune. These enthusiastic fame-seekers look forward to the “delightful” experience of appearing on a reality show, which often entails painful surgery, rejection, public humiliation, deception, and defeat.
This willingness to partake in fabricated antics in front of millions of viewers is mind boggling. Yet, in the eyes of Howard Bloom, founder of the International Paleopsychology Project and a scholar at NYU, human desire for fame is not so mystifying. He insists that humans are by nature obsessed with the idea of being in the public eye. Although reality TV is relatively new, the search for stardom is not a recent phenomenon. As Bloom notes, even Alexander the Great and Julius Cesar took advantage of mass communication in the form of “press releases” to maintain their popularity.
Dr. Gene Ondrusek, a psychologist who assisted in the selection process for the CBS hit “Survivor,” explains that the need for glory and recognition is purely psychological. According to him, reality television programs are appealing to young adults because they are seeking meaning in their lives. He believes that this search for fame is a search for identity. They hope that appearing on these programs will help them through a time of uncertainty. Dr. Oliver James, a broadcaster on UK television, agrees adding that many applicants of reality TV shows are “emotionally vulnerable people.”
Even Simon Cowell, executive producer and creator of Fox’s “American Idol,” maintains that many contestants suffer from a “Napoleon Complex.” “No one took much notice of them,” leaving them with a “huge desire to be famous.” Cowell honestly believes that “fame is the only motivation for why people come on the show.” But, what does one really achieve through fame besides material success? Sam Solovey, a contestant on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” reveals that fame is “your ticket to living past your actual life, and how many people are actually remembered after they are gone?”
Howard Bloom has a slightly different explanation, asserting that fame is desirable due to its “intoxicating high.” Fame is thus comparable to a drug in its addictive nature. The biochemical effect of adulation and constant recognition stemming from stardom is the release of high quantities of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood. What people experience and crave is a disorienting, intense euphoria that fame brings about. Contestant Sam Solovey describes it as an “adrenaline rush” and admits, “I desire the attention. I am now addicted to the celebrity status. I don’t want it to end.”
The spotlight inevitably fades and as Dr. Ondrusek observes that those who “depend upon adulation” and are suddenly removed from center stage are left with resentment, abandonment issues, and low self-esteem because the brain is suddenly “depleted of dopamine.” Dr. Oliver James fears that contestants on shows like “Big Brother” and “Temptation Island,” might be “damaged” from their experiences during and after the show.
Vanessa Felts, UK contestant on the 2001 season of “Big Brother,” now realizes that, “in the end, you are the victim of a reality that somebody else imposes on you.” She adds, “You lose your privacy, your past, your future.” Contestant Sam Solovey also believes that fame is “not all it’s cracked up to be” because it is “an annoyance when it’s there, but when it’s not, it’s like, ugh, this really stinks I am not in a magazine this week.” It seems that contestants, who are currently reaping the benefits of being on reality TV programs shouldn’t be too quick to buy that new car yet. Saving money for future therapy sessions might be the way to go. Chances are they will need it for “15-minutes of fame” damage control.
BHSEC’S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET: AN EDITORIAL ON THE BHSEC COMMUNITY
Have you ever wondered why some names never disappear from the Dean’s List? Or why some students who rarely participate in or attend classes receive the best grades? Are they geniuses? No. The finest and craftiest cheaters in the city, and perhaps the nation, attend BHSEC.
Cheating is a tradition at our school. “I haven’t seen anyone cheat but I’ve heard about it and everyone knows the people who do it,” says Second Year Richard Samraj. Richard is right. We all know who cheats yet we choose to do absolutely nothing to stop it. Why is this? Perhaps communal bonds run so deep that students are afraid to report each other, or students are not bothered by cheating as long as the cheaters do not excel above them.
Some of BHSEC’s most notorious cheaters have received scholarships and been accepted to some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions such as New York University, due to their “hard earned” grades and “strong work ethics.” How is this possible? Isn’t there an old saying that cheaters never prosper? Well here at BHSEC, one of the nation’s premier learning institutions, we have challenged that old saying. These duplicitous individuals have enjoyed an undeserved prosperity. Some of you might be wondering who these people are, but most students are in the know. Perhaps the success of the BHSEC cheaters will inspire complacent students to finally do something about it.
Among the Second Year Students there is one cheater that transcends and redefines the word itself, and for the purposes of this article I will refer to her as the “Dark Haired Lady.”
“Every class that I have had with her, ranging from Geology to Seminar, I would see her cheat. She would constantly look over her shoulders before looking at her cheat sheets which would either be pre-written essays for midterms and finals or spark notes, depending on the class. It’s horrible but she gets good grades and she’s going to a good school in the fall,” says Second Year Faye Batiste when asked about this well known cheater.
How has the Dark Haired Lady been so successful? The answer to that question lies with an administration that is so trusting that it fails to realize that students will manipulate this trust to further themselves by cheating. The failure to report cheaters also adds to the problem.
It is time for the school administration to wake up from their naive slumber and realize that this school has a cheating problem of epidemic proportions. If left unaddressed it will lead to ruin. Ultimately, these individuals will be caught and they will all have one thing in common; they attended Bard High School Early College and honed their skills there. Do we want our school to be known as the birthing ground for these despicable individuals? No. Ray Peterson I implore you to rally your staff, find these cheaters, and make an example out of them by expelling them and ridding our school of the cancer that has seized its soul.
BHSEC FIELD DAY YEILDS MIXED REACTIONS
Friday, April 30th marked the first Field Day event at BHSEC. This event was designed by students and faculty in collaboration as a daylong diversion to deal directly with the prominent and pervasive issue of racial and sexual discrimination. Field Day proved to be a uniquely Bardian experience. In a similarly Bardian skeptical manner however, everything from the now-infamous lively afternoon panel discussion to the comedic improvisational group are subjects of criticism from students.
Many students were turned off by the very idea of the day. “The whole purpose of an “identity day” such as this is a misconceived notion,” one student argued. “It is inherently self-defeating for us to want to promote equality yet simultaneously encourage being different.” That argument, some students claim, seems to have some validity, as many witnessed during the afternoon panel discussion. Following a controversial statement made by a panelist regarding racism targeted towards whites, the room divided into warring sides in an attempt to define the term “racism” and which instances of bigotry and prejudice were most brutal.
However, many students disagreed with this skeptical viewpoint. Citing good intentions on the part of event planners and their desire to present a public forum, students like First Year Linnie Bendor-Grynbaum believed that “While a lot of people thought it was more harmful than helpful to the BHSEC community, I thought the day opened up the community. It was a place where people could finally speak openly about what they believed. There were a lot of ideas that had obviously been buried. They were finally discussed.” Many students believe that a public forum is essential for BHSEC.
Brendan Jou, a First Year student, never conceived of Field Day as a panacea. “Though idealized as a day where issues surrounding the “ism’s” [racism, sexism, etc.] would be resolved, the so-called Field Day served more as a day of awareness rather than abolishing such ideas.”
Teachers, as well as students, have had mixed reactions to the day. Mr. Gelber was not impressed by the improv group. Claiming that the troupe was “using stereotypes to get cheap laughs,” he believed that “if anything, the troupe proved that people prefer stereotypes because they find them much more amusing than complex reality.” Finding more promise in the individual workshop groups, he lamented the fact that while the discussion groups were largely successful, “Of course there is no escape from self censorship in a public setting.”
While the student reaction to the Field Day were mixed, nothing less would be expected of such an opinionated student body. Generally, however, most students felt that the isolated event would do little to solve BHSEC’s problems with the “isms” and in order to maintain awareness of the issues recurring and varied events need to be planned. The day itself, ultimately no universal remedy, initiated thought and this is invaluable.
IS BHSEC BECOMING A PIGSTY?: AN EDITORIAL ON THE BHSEC COMMUNITY
Remember the day when you wore your favorite jeans and you sat on gum? Or how about the day when you placed your jacket on the table only to realize the table was covered in sticky spilled soda. Everyone here at BHSEC has experienced something of this nature. BHSEC students are lacking common decency.
A survey was given and students were asked how they felt about garbage in the school. Each student was asked to indicate his or her grade level and gender. Some of the answers to the survey questions were shocking.
When asked about garbage left in the cafeteria a tenth grade male student answered, “It is disgusting.” He also thought that it was the job of the students to pick up their trash. When asked if he and his friends cleaned up after themselves he answered no. His answers were shocking. He felt that the trash was disgusting, but he was one of the litterbugs. When he was asked about ways of cleaning BHSEC clean he had no answer. It figures, right?
A fellow First Year student was asked the same questions and she said that the garbage was disgusting but that she along with her friends clean up after themselves. When asked about how we can keep BHSEC clean she replied, “If everyone would act as though this was their house and clean up after themselves BHSEC would be much cleaner.”
One tenth grade male student blamed the garbage in the cafeteria on the ninth graders. He said, “I think if harsh punishments are made then the ninth graders will learn to clean up after themselves.” It is easy to place blame, but we cannot say for sure that the ninth graders are solely to blame for the garbage left behind. From surveys of every grade, tenth graders as well as first and second years placed blame on the ninth graders for the garbage left in the cafeteria. What they could not comment on was the garbage left in the yard, classrooms, and hallways. It is easy to say that ninth graders are responsible for the garbage in the cafeteria because they are the first group to have lunch. But, I have seen all the upper classmen leave trash behind or purposely drop it on the floor.
One day I was entering the third floor alongside a Year Two student. She accidentally dropped some napkins on the floor. A bystander informed her and she turned around and kept walking. Some may think that napkins are unimportant. What the population of BHSEC has to understand is that garbage is not meant to be on the floor. Just because it is a small piece of paper or a gum wrapper does not make it all right to throw it on the floor. Just think what the floor would look like if everyone dropped a gum wrapper on it?
I sat in the cafeteria waiting for someone to leave garbage behind. When I noticed a litterbug walking away without their brown paper bag and water bottle I asked them why they left their trash behind. They replied, “Oh, I forgot but it’s OK because the janitors have to clean up anyway.” I was totally appalled by this comment. I had no words for this student. What in the world would make someone think that way? Just to set the record straight, the custodians are here to maintain the building. They are not our personal maids. Just like your mother is not your maid the custodian is far from it. For all those students who feel that it is the custodian’s job to clean up after us, you need to refrain from eating in the building until you learn some common decency and respect. The next time you are in the cafeteria or anywhere in the school and you are about to leave trash behind, just think what would your mother say.
TALKING WITH DR. ROSENBAUM
Dr. Rosenbaum has developed a unique teaching style. One of his main goals is to, “make the classroom environment a comfortable mixture of the academic, social, and personal in a way that could have a real positive impact on all three.” It seems that he is accomplishing his goal. In his classroom you will find guitar playing, chess matches, calculus tutoring, and a student sipping hot cocoa.
Dr. Rosenbaum believes that teaching styles exist in a person even before they become a teacher. He has always enjoyed working with younger kids, even as a teenager. In high school and college he worked as a camp counselor throughout the summer, something he felt very comfortable doing. Dr. Rosenbaum also enjoyed tutoring students in mathematics, which he did during his graduate work at Brooklyn College in New York City. He discovered that “different students learn in different ways.” He learned in his youth to use humor to “channel young people’s natural interests and energies in a positive direction rather than trying to control and manipulate them.” First Year student Ian Garvey concludes that Dr. Rosenbaum’s theory of teaching does, in fact, reach the classroom. “Dr. Rosenbaum is a great teacher because he tries his best to make one of the usually more intimidating subjects more student-friendly by being approachable.”
Dr. Rosenbaum also learned about the world of mathematics while tutoring at Brooklyn College. He was also introduced to other fields of mathematics which dealt with the social sciences – the types of mathematics that non-math majors often take. He received his PhD under a mathematician who connected mathematics to the social sciences in “offbeat and interesting ways.” Dr. Rosenbaum also says that this mathematician, Dr. Fred Rogers, was an “outstanding teacher.”
Dr. Rosenbaum taught at Iona College as an assistant professor, before he came to Bard High School Early College. While he states that Iona College is not known for its superior academics, but more for its athletics, Dr. Rosenbaum managed to find great opportunities at Iona. He realized that the school was able to create a “loving, caring environment,” from a combination of social and academic environments. Dr. Rosenbaum describes the tutoring center at Iona as a place where students came to get help, but also to relax and discuss other issues. It seems quite obvious that Dr. Rosenbaum’s classroom at BHSEC is the same way.
Dr. Rosenbaum plans to keep working towards his goal of making BHSEC a community where academics are combined with the social and the personal, in order to create a closer, more caring community.
TEENS AND JOBS
Remember when you were 14 and you wanted a job so that you could buy those sneakers everyone else had? Or when you were 16 and you started saving money so you could buy a car someday? Many teenagers find themselves wanting things, but not many jobs are available for them. According to Washington States Workforce Explorer, the national percentage of employed teenagers has slipped from 50 % in 1987 to 37% in 2003.
One of the reasons why it is so difficult for teens to find jobs is because of the law. The law prohibits employers from making teens work more than 20 hours a week. It is illegal to keep a teen working past 10 o’clock at night if they have school the next day. According to a manager at Starbucks, “We can’t really hire teens when there are so many laws concerning young employees. The paperwork is not the biggest nuisance, but it’s the fact that we can get in big trouble with the law. We don’t want to give ourselves a bad name or jeopardize our good reputation.”
Legal jobs which are accessible to teens almost always pay minimum wage. “I feel like I deserve more (money), I want a better job but I can’t find one,” said Carlos Calderon, an employee at McDonald’s. Carlos, like many other teens, has to work long hours before he can bring home a decent paycheck. Some teens prefer fast money. They make money selling drugs or working ‘under the table.’ “I don’t plan on making a career out of it, I just need the money right now,” said an anonymous teen.
Most employers hire people based on their job experience and many teens lack it. Teenagers are encouraged to become interns so that they can gain real world experience and have a better chance of getting a job in the future. Internships can lead to paying jobs, but most internships are non-paying positions.
On a positive note, a study by NRC/IOM states that work teaches about responsibility, punctuality, communication skills, and money management. Teens can also build up their resume with each new job they hold. On the negative side, students who work long hours are likely not to advance far in school, use illegal drugs, get insufficient sleep and exercise, and spend less time with family.
Teens who seek jobs can go to job fairs at local schools or participate in training programs offered by various organizations. For example, The Door offers job training and job placement. By listing volunteer experience, job experience, and professional references on their resume, teens will have a better chance of getting hired.
Jobs help prepare teens for the future. Jobs help teens become mature and gain independence from their parents. Working only a few hours a week can have positive effect on a teen as long as it does not interfere with schoolwork and family and social life.
A LOOK AT THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
The college admissions process is an important part of a teenager’s life. It is an intricate web of interviews, essays, and SAT scores. It is a daunting task. How does one begin to dissect the intricate college admissions system? The college admissions process is a bureaucratic system that is designed for one purpose, but in recent years, there has been intense economic and social pressure to bring about reforms. The inevitable results of these social pressures impacts everyone: the college admissions officers who have to sort through myriad applications, the college counselors who have to advise hundreds of students, the parents who have to watch over their kid’s decisions, and most importantly the students themselves.
The purpose of the college admissions system is to find a way to match millions of students with thousands of colleges. The process is therefore highly selective and time consuming. The process is analogous to dating, or finding someone to dance with. There is often never a single “right” or correct choice. If one of your matches fails to work, there are plenty of fish in the sea. American colleges are, for the most part, extremely varied. There are thousands of undergraduate colleges in the United States.
The driving forces behind the college admissions process, the high school advisors and admissions officers, are extremely optimistic about trying to find the “right” school. But the stark reality is that the admissions process is a battlefield for prestige. America’s aspiring students know how this competitive battle works. If you are rejected, the winner moves to the next stage, the finale, and finally receives the so-called grand prize, the trophy. The pithy maxim that college students adhere to is “Ivy league is gold.” “Getting stuck at a 2nd Tier College sucks.”
The truth is that there is a difference between the “real” admissions system and the superficial “ivy” admissions system. The genuine admissions system realizes the single most important fact of the admissions process is placing students in an environment that is suitable for them. The superficial system emphasizes the placement of students in the most prestigious schools. The real system is concerned about what a student will do when they finish college and the superficial system only cares about what school the student will attend.
CANNIBALISM: AN EDITORIAL
In elementary school we learn that herbivores eat plants, carnivores eat meat, and omnivores eat both plants and animals. Neilson Dairy, a division of George Weston Ltd. in Canada, seems to be changing all of that.
According to a Reuters news release dated April 14 a new type of milk is being sold in Canada that allegedly has health benefits. Dairy cows in Canada are being fed herring and other fish along with hay and grass in order to produce a variety of milk which contains an omega3 fatty acid named DHA (docoshexaenoic acid). The news release states that DHA provides health benefits for the brain, eyes, and nerves.
Although this is an appalling violation of nature, to turn herbivores into carnivores, the news release has an upbeat tone. It begins, “Some landlocked Canadian cows are enjoying a little seafood with their hay and grain so they can produce a new kind of milk…” The emphasis is on the word “enjoying.” The idea that herbivores would “enjoy” a carnivorous diet is absurd.
This experimentation is done in the name of human progress. But should human progress extend to the violation of nature?
We should ask if this is progress at all. These experiments might create new diseases, the likes of which we have not encountered before. These diseases could be stronger than the ones we now struggle to subdue, such as AIDS. Mad Cow Disease, a disease created by humans, occurred because we fed cows contaminated and infected sheep meat and bone meal, and cattle protein. In other words, we were turning cows into cannibals.
This unwarranted experimentation endangers the human race and the entire planet. Imagine if aliens took over the planet, domesticated humans, and forced us to become cannibals. It would be best if we let nature determine the diets of cows and other animals.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS
Have you ever wondered how people start an organization? In this article, I interviewed Ana, a senior at Laguardia H.S. who, together with various other youth organizers, will be starting “Asava: Education Reform through Student Independence.” Asava is a new, non-profit organization aimed at effecting change in the NYC school system. (Asava means aspiration in Sanskrit.) Speaking with Ana, I was made aware that she and her partners were unhappy about the failures of the school systems in America. Specifically, Asava aims to address the New York City Board of Education, though Ana was quick to point out that “There are systemic problems throughout the nation and this will be a national organization. We are seeking better conditions, higher achievement, and want to increase self-determination for students in their own lives through higher rates of participation and increased access to relevant information.”
I asked Ana what made her new organization any different than all the other non-profits out there claiming that they “fight for students rights” when in reality, nothing really changes. She cautioned me that rather than trying to change the “system,” they were only aiming at transforming the way students are treated in their respective schools. For them, school is place where students must be given respect if they are to give respect back; “The success that students, parents, teachers, and politicians all talk about wanting cannot be achieved if students don’t care about their own education, don’t feel like they have a personal stake in their own lives, and are not treated with the same respect and dignity any other person expects for himself.” So, rather than be responsible for an entire slew of people and their complaints about the school system and their own school, Asava wants to empower students to take action in their academic communities.
Essentially, the organization will aim to provide students with the tools they need to attain the level of respect and quality of education they want. The structure of Asava would be comprised of both personal interactions, and an online community created by a student driven website. The tools available from the organization include information and resources about the laws and rights of students, civics, independent learning and publishing, as well as simple ways to improve schools from within. To make the search simpler or to enrich it, students can opt for a “tool kit” that would include various articles on how to handle teacher confrontations, how to start and be leaders in after school clubs, how to start an “underground” newspaper, and other relevant information.
Gathering all of this information together, I came out of the meeting wondering if this would work at a school like BHSEC. I concluded that our school has a very high level of maturity. Teachers and students relate to each other as adults and student’s rights are usually respected by the teachers and administrators. That said however, I do feel that this organization is something that can have a profound effect on schools with mature and immature students alike. Schools that have faculty-student conflicts and students that are treated as if they are incapable of handling themselves properly would benefit from organizations that take proactive measures to deal with these issues. Schools that have more pleasant environments can build upon the existing structure to create an even better network of communal and academic learning.
One important feature of Asava is that it has no specific agenda. It is committed to effecting change in a variety of different situations. Ultimately, it is up to the students to create their own experiences and environment while in high school but sometimes, students need a little guidance.
Asava is still in its formative period. They should be up and running by September 2004. If you would like more information about Asava or would like to create a social action club at BHSEC, please e-mail Ana at SURAFYNIX@aol.com
Information about the founders of Asava:
Ana Hevesi is a senior drama major at Laguardia H.S. for the Performing Arts and has had an extensive political upbringing as her father is a writer for the NY Times and her uncle is Alan Hevesi, the New York State Comptroller. She has interned at the DOE fund, a homeless services organization and been involved with the social action club at Laguardia. She is currently on the Board of Directors of Oblivion, a youth rights organization and magazine. (www.oblivion.net) Ana is the prospective Director of Operations for Asava.
Jason Kende, the prospective Executive Director of Asava attended the High School for Environmental Studies “when it was good” and is knowledgeable about politics, civics, law, and environmental science. Jason has been on the Board of Directors for the National Youth Rights Association (www.youthrights.com) for the past two years, and has been on the Board of Directors for Oblivion for over 5 years. He was recently elected President of that organization.
THE WORLD WIDE GAS PRICE INCREASE
Most Americans have noticed the rising gasoline prices. For the first time in American history the price of gasoline has moved above the two dollar a gallon mark. This increase affects every American, in many ways. People are beginning to re-adjust their budgets, so that they can afford to keep their houses heated in the winter, cool in the summer, and feed their cars. During the booming 1990’s SUVs were required accessories for soccer moms. Now people are starting to realize that paying over fifty dollars to fill up their car with gasoline is no laughing matter. The rising cost of gas is not only an American problem. Countries in Southeast Asia are beginning to feel the pain caused by gas shortages, and with the instability in the Middle East having no end in sight, it becomes difficult for countries to simply wait for the gas prices to decrease.
With the entire continental United States preparing for summer, when fuel demands are the highest, we should ask the government if they have the fuel reserves to keep our cars moving and our homes cool. Will the fuel prices continue to rise over the summer, or will Bush manage to keep the oil flowing from Iraq into our cars? The current uprising in Iraq makes this difficult. In an article drawn from Bllomberg.com, an expert in the field expresses his concern about the oil needs in New York during its hottest months. “We’re going to be looking at the gasoline number on Wednesday,” said Joshua Sadler, Vice President of energy trading at Societe Generale’s SG Corporate & Investment Banking in New York. “We could be set for a disaster.”
Rising gasoline prices are not limited to the United States. Many countries in Southern Asia are beginning to feel the pinch of rising gasoline prices. The Prime Minister of Australia fears that “continued high oil prices could have an impact on inflation.” Gasoline prices in Australia, like the United States, have reached a record high. Asian Airlines are taking another hit with rising fuel prices, even though they have not fully recovered from the economic damage brought about by the SARS outbreak last year. Although they are protected by the government for the short term, it is hard too anticipate the long term effects.
Will the rising price of gasoline inspire an international search for gasoline alternatives? Will people in America stop buying fuel guzzling SUVs and begin to buy fuel efficient hybrids? Although no one can predict the future, it is safe to say that President Bush will take a serious hit in the upcoming election unless he takes drastic action against the gasoline price increase. President Bush has the opportunity to look at gasoline efficient technology and gasoline alternatives, and to make them an integral part of mainstream America. Bush, the oil man, needs to lead the United States of America on the road away from oil guzzling cars.