LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Just this morning I finished reading the last article — “Subway doors”. I think you and your writers have brought more variety to the paper with each issue. Congrats again on this issue of Horizon.
Please convey my thanks to Tim Casey for his popcorn recipe. After years of shaking the pot, I can now relax. In exchange, I would like to offer a similar tip, which I discovered late in life: You don’t have to cook the lasagna noodles before putting them in the lasagna. Just lay them in the layers, seal up the pan well with foil and bake. Don’t waste your money on the no-boil noodles either. This works with ordinary noodles, though I have never tried the whole wheat ones.
Yours for less time in the kitchen,
I greatly enjoyed your newspaper but was considerably surprised to find that not only do you not have any editorial in this issue but none are to be found in your entire archive. Considering the deep reflective, intellectual and cultural resources of the student body I think it would be very interesting to the BHSEC community for you to write editorials.
Aside from the constructive criticism I would like to praise the subway article for its in depth nature, the breakfast article for its practicality and hilarity and the popcorn article for its hilarity.
Thank you very much,
(Please note that there are many editorials in our archives. The archives include articles and editorials that date back to 2004. There are 2 editorials in the March 2006 issue. Thank you for the compliments.)
MOVIE REVIEW: “THE PINK PANTHER” DIRECTED BY SHAWN LEVY
The plot of the latest version of “The Pink Panther” is utterly predictable from start to finish. It contains very little suspense and very few redeeming qualities. But bearing in mind that this film is aimed at a young audience, one might want to cut it some slack.
Though comedic moments are frequent in “Panther,” the majority of them fall under the category “bathroom humor.” Some of the jokes are moderately funny, but I’m attributing that mainly to the wonderful acting skills of Steve Martin (who puts his own witty twist on the infamously prideful and foolhardy Inspector Clouseau). Unfortunately, I am under the impression that the director Shawn Levy doesn’t know how to fully utilize Steve Martin in his films, because Martin’s talent has yet to shine through in any of Mr. Levy’s movies (like in the mediocre family film, “Cheaper By the Dozen”).
The versatile and usually captivating Kevin Kline, who takes on the role of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Clouseau’s boss, so to speak), is also not at the top of his game. Quite frankly, Mr. Martin and Mr. Kline could be acting in movies of much higher quality, should they be more selective in their choices of scripts.
Disappointingly, but not greatly significant in the grand scheme of things, the classic Pink Panther theme song by Henry Mancini is barely in the movie at all. It plays through the opening credits and is then absent for the full hour and a half.
I haven’t yet seen the infamous Pink Panther films starring Peter Sellers, but considering the fact that all remakes in the past decade or so have been, without fail, spectacularly bad, it would be reasonable to assume that if you are expecting “Panther” to be on par with the 1964 version, you will be sorely disappointed.
It’s best not to waste your ten bucks on this one, unless you’re extremely desperate for something to occupy your time with. That money can be better spent on several packages of chewing gum or if you are an avid follower of Mr. Martin’s work, rent the film instead.
MUSIC REVIEW: THE LAWRENCE ARMS
The Lawrence Arms, a punk rock trio from Chicago, debuted in 1999 with an Asian Man Records album titled “A Guided Tour of Chicago.” Now, after an interview with Jon Stewart, a B-Sides album and numerous songs on benefit and anti-Bush compilations, they have returned with an album titled “Oh! Calcutta!” This album is different from their others, not in a “fans will hate this” type of way, but in a “fans will love this if they can appreciate change” type of way.
In former full lengths, The Lawrence Arms made concept albums, in which songs with the same theme flow perfectly. For example: their most recent one, “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” is hailed by most fans as the best Larry Arms CD ever. The concept? A circus. However, there are no recurring themes on this release, which almost makes me miss their previous albums. Besides that, this record, unlike the others, is not split between the two vocalists, Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan.
Kelly, with a raspy singing voice, is considered the more “punk rawk” of the pair while McCaughan is the melodic one. On previous albums they switched off on the vocals. On this album, they worked out a call-and-response and chorus melody, which is probably what makes it one of their best albums.
“Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me, God” is perhaps the best track on this album, not only because of the hilarious title (which every girl raised in the 1990s will understand), but because of the lyrics and vocals. “They told me bedtime stories (of how I’d rise above), and tell me they were true.” These lyrics are understandably from the heart, and show that punk rockers can have feelings, too, but then again, it could just be the alcohol speaking. The vocals in this song are a perfect example of how well the call-and-response system works. The “…how I’d rise above” portion is sung by McCaughan with the main vocals sung by Kelly.
A great aspect of this album is that it doesn’t slow down, unlike “Apathy and Exhaustion” and “The Greatest Story,” which had their fair share of slow songs. Though there are songs that start off slow-paced, sooner or later you hear Brendan’s voice, and you know that it won’t be slow for much longer. For example, “Recovering the Opposable Thumb” starts out sounding like an Old Western movie: nice, acoustic, melodic solo with Chris singing. But then the power chords start and you know that Brendan can’t be far behind.
The bonus track is somewhat folky, and it’s about the 2002 Warped Tour — which they were kicked off of because they bashed festival creator Kevin Lyman for allowing concession stands to price bottles of water at more than $5. (“Well I got my bottled water and nachos it came to under 20 bucks!”) Looks like these guys aren’t playing a Warped Tour anytime soon.
This is the Lawrence Arms’ best work yet, and should be well anticipated by fans. The album comes out on March 7, 2006, and they are playing a sold-out show at B.B. King’s on March 1 with fellow Fat Wreck Chords bands NoFX and The Loved Ones.
A LOOK BACK AT THE MOST AWFUL MONTH OF THE YEAR
Although February has some things going for it, like the fact that it’s Black History Month, it has very few other redeeming characteristics, making it one of the worst months on the calendar.
Probably the number one reason to dislike the month is Valentine’s Day, affectionately nicknamed Singles Awareness Day. Let’s admit it: many people despise this day which is full of excessive PDA and strawberry cupcakes. As popular teen author Meg Cabot says “Birthday of a dead martyr or not, Valentine’s Day makes way more people feel bad than feel good, which means Valentine’s Day is evil. And wrong.”
Some hate February simply for the general mood the month carries. Sari Sharoni, a freshman at Stuyvesant High School, describes the second month of the year in blunt, callous words, saying February is “a barren and desolate weight of a month. The starvation before the feast. The remnants of winter.”
As if a depressing holiday and the characteristic dullness weren’t enough, the weather is bad, too. Goldie-Rose Hurwitz, a ninth grader at Edward R. Murrow High School explained: “February sucks because it’s not quite cold. It’s not warm. I mean, c’mon February, pick a weather and stick with it.” The seesaw weather reports are annoying, and February has the misfortune of falling in between the cracks of winter and early spring. It’s not cold enough to be a fun sort of cold, but you can’t exactly go swimming either. You’re stuck at home with a cold or the flu, resorting to Saved by the Bell reruns for comfort.
Perhaps February’s weather wouldn’t be so bad if we did not resort to archaic superstitions to forecast it. Many have long questioned the existence and relevance of Groundhog’s Day. Susan Vasserman, a freshman at Beacon High School says, “I hate Groundhog’s Day because it is an insignificant and inaccurate way to divert media attention from more important things.”
And yet, there is still more! Anyone who was born on February 29th knows the horrors of the Leap Year Phenomenon. The stupid jokes (i.e. “You’re not sixteen, you’re only FOUR!”) haunt these people throughout their lives, or at least until every single person they know is mature enough to stop them, which for high school students is basically a lost cause.
And for the rest of us, February is the month that most of us will break our New Year’s resolutions. Doing push ups, eating right, finally replacing that light bulb in the closet, these promises all lose whatever meager weight they once had in our minds, and are reduced to beautiful might-have-beens.
The good news is that February is over. No more slushy sidewalks (hopefully), lighter coats, no terrible holidays and all the very best that spring has to offer. Fellow students, be glad that this dreadful month is over. Look forward to the lamb-like ending of March, and breathe a sigh of relief as you realize that yes, you’ve made it through another February.
LOVE IN THE AIR?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, many people, including teenagers, made plans to spend time with their loved ones on February 14th. Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day for couples to express their love for each other with flowers, candy, candle-lit dinners, and other romantic gestures. Sometimes this expression of love is sexual. The day’s affiliation with romantic love came after the middle ages. Now, it has become a holiday which is celebrated internationally and of course at BHSEC.
When asked about her Valentine’s Day plans, one Year I student replied that she and her boyfriend had made plans for the romantic holiday long before the actual day: “My boyfriend and I use the day as an excuse to go out and have fun. It’s what everyone does.” This comment implies that Valentine’s Day has become, for some teenagers, a day to indulge in their adolescent urges, rather than to celebrate the many forms of love in life: love for themselves, love for their families, love for their futures, and love for their partners in committed relationships.
However, other BHSEC students do not dismiss the day as a “hallmark” holiday and an excuse to go to the movies. Instead, some, such as an anonymous ninth grader who is involved in a committed relationship, use the day to remind themselves to appreciate all the kinds of love they have currently. Part of this particular student’s alternative attitude towards Valentine’s Day relates to the family values he has been taught. Regardless of how it may seem, some teenagers do listen to their parents, especially to important and stressed information. The ninth grader stated that his parents have constantly taught him that true love is based on actions, character, and friendship.
It is sometimes hard to believe that teenagers hold such values in this day and age, a time when sex is everywhere. It is obvious though that Valentine’s Day holds special value and significance in different ways for people. Since BHSEC is a diverse environment, it has students with different backgrounds and principles. In fact, this is one of the aspects of the school on which BHSEC prides itself. Therefore, students have diverse opinions about Valentine’s Day. Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day is traditionally considered to be a day to celebrate romantic love. This may imply that romantic love is valued by humanity much more than the other types of love.
SCHOOL PLAY REIVEW: “UBU ROI” WRITTEN BY ALFRED JARRY, DIRECTED BY PATRICIA COLEMAN
Though its audience was seemingly small, BHSEC’s first theater production this year — “Ubu Roi” — was received with much praise, especially from the staff. Originally written in French by the radical Alfred Jarry in 1896, the satire immediately earned a notorious reputation. After its very first performance, the play’s production in France was prohibited due to its irreverence towards French royalty.
At Bard, however, the three performances of the spoof were warmly welcomed. Maybe the audience was entertained by the boyish humor and the play’s absurdity, or maybe, the acting was simply too irresistible. With Leah Hennesey starring as the narrator and Captain Bordure, and with Laura Atlas starring as Père Ubu, the audience was continually amused. The remaining cast members (even the lesser roles) were also, for the most part, quite remarkable. The acting was largely based upon witty improvisation. If I had not attended the surprisingly different performances done on the same day, Friday, I wouldn’t have noticed that the play was largely based on spontaneous improvisation.
The play’s trite language and the plot’s simplicity made the improvisation perfectly acceptable. In the BHSEC adaptation, Ubu Roi begins with Père Ubu and Mère Ubu receiving Captain Bordure for dinner. Immediately, the audience can sense the play’s bizarre aspect. During their little get-together, the grotesque Père Ubu, who is only an officer of the King of Poland at the time, declares that together, they should kill the King and seize his throne. They do so in no time. Père Ubu who becomes increasingly merciless in his new position of power, executes his subjects in order to obtain their property and goes so far as to betray his ally Captain Bordure. By the end of the play, there is a turn of events and the King’s people have revolted and Père Ubu is chased across Europe by the “Russian Army.” The repulsive fool is finally justly punished for his corrupt behavior.
The set was surprisingly elaborate for Bard’s standards and was even, at times, comical (with such props as an oversized sword). The brightly colored objects and flamboyant set design were perfect for this production. Even more astoundingly, Assistant Director Loaiza Colon focused her energies on the stage lighting. Unfortunately, BHSEC’s lighting gear is not very extravagant and only permitted subtle lighting effects to be employed. Eerie music amplified the surreal ambiance of the play. Costumes consisted of a wide array of wacky clothing articles, most of which were borrowed from Leah Hennessey’s wardrobe.
The two final Friday performances were remarkably unlike one another. Though each had its own sets of pros and cons, I would definitely select the first as the more successful of the two. The cast at the seven o’clock Friday performance began with a genuine lack of energy (and who can blame them, on a Friday night after a tiresome week of stress and classes and an earlier performance?) and ended in a mayhem of overexcitement. During the second act of the final performance, the chaos element of the play was stretched a little too far. Also, the final performance lost some of its charm when the cast attempted, in vain, to obtain audience interaction during the celebration dancing scene. Nevertheless, both performances maintained some matching characteristics, such as the comic twist during which condoms were thrown at the audience.
The 2006 BHSEC production of “Ubu Roi” may not have been the most comprehensible one, but as long as spectators kept in mind that the play was a farcical dissection of monarchy, they were perfectly safe. The brilliant acting and ceaseless air of jest easily made up for all the gaps in the plot. You never know, “Ubu Roi” may have marked the start of a more theater-involved student body at Bard — because we definitely have the potential.
A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT “UBU ROI”
In June of 2005, I signed up for theater production class. I had a vague idea that I wanted to be in the school production, but no solid idea of what I was getting myself into. I had, however, taken some theater classes at BHSEC before. In one memorable class last year, we began the semester planning to do the play Chicago. We only had two hours a week to practice, and so due to time, and also lack of enthusiasm, the entire play turned into dancing to two songs from the musical. It was enjoyable, but as a burgeoning actress, I was disappointed. So when I signed up for “Ubu Roi,” I didn’t expect much more. It turned out however, that I was very wrong.
The two-day-a-week classes mainly began with acting exercises, experimenting with different walks, finding space, and doing accents. During the first read-through, people excitedly passed around ideas of how certain scenes should be played out and what songs to use for what scene. Problems started to pop up when the regular class schedule began to expand. Patricia Coleman, the director, was met with much resentment and anger by many of us, who had other after school activities to balance as well as the play. “Ubu Roi” required a great deal of our time, something not all of the actors, including myself, realized. I admit to having missed many rehearsals. Resentment about the time required turned into resentment about other things: the play was too weird, the exercises we did were not beneficial, we did scenes too slowly, we would never finish. For a while, the cast was divided, not working well with each other or the director.
Then, just weeks before the show, after many arguments and lectures, we somehow managed to pull it all together. We rehearsed almost every day after school, and Terry Brodner, Loiaza Colon, Ms. Coleman, and others constructed a dramatic set. Other tasks were finished too, such as digging through piles of props and clothing accessories in order to find appropriate costumes for each of the characters. Leah Hennessey was made head of costumes, and she dressed most people in her own clothing. We came in on Saturdays, vacation days, and stayed until 7:30 some nights. I did not appreciate it at first, but I did sincerely start to enjoy the rehearsals. As a cast we became close, and late nights at school made us so tired that we became giddy, which I believe made the play better, due to its absurdity and hysteria.
Everyone was excited on the night of the first show. There was a short crisis, as the loud and artistic makeup that Leah Hennessey painted on the faces of the entire cast, was not met with open arms from the director, but things soon calmed down. The first Wednesday show was only the second time we had run the play straight through, so many of us were nervous about our light cues, and using the microphone at different points. We treated the first show as a dress rehearsal, but I believe that it was the best out of all three performances. It had the most sustained energy level. I played a peasant, and in one of the shows, the queen. I had been reluctant to join Ubu Roi, but I ended up loving it. It has been one of my favorite experiences at Bard so far.
In conclusion, I must say that an immense amount of time and effort, on the part of the actors, and the director, was put into this theater production. Do not get me wrong, this is an effort that I and others enjoyed, since after all, it is all done for the audience. Our school, which I consider to be a very close knit community, could do a better job in the future at supporting their local thespians. I feel that many in our student body missed out on the play this past semester, and I hope to see more of you at the end of the current semester, when other shows will be performed.
Thank you to those who did come; you were very involved and appreciative. There is nothing better for an actor to hear than a positive response from the audience, whether it is laughter or shock. It lets you know that you are doing your job well.
There once was a student — assign to him whatever name you will — who was a healthy person and worked incredibly diligently at his studies. Before you come to any conclusions regarding his character, I will tell you something that happened to this fellow. He discovered one day that the area surrounding his mouth had a slightly orange tinge, which eventually engulfed his entire face. He went to see a doctor, who consulted his medical books until he finally discovered the root of the problem. The students had been studying so hard and snacking on carrots while studying. Soon he had eaten so many that he was consuming them unconsciously, until the excessive overload caused his Sesame Street-like appearance.
We are constantly told not to eat chips and candy and drink soda while studying, but if vegetables fail to provide a solution, we shall surely despair.
A glimmer of hope remains, however. Chips are desirable for their taste and crunchiness. A healthy alternative would be whole-wheat crackers, but I recommend PITA! I do not mean quesadillas, as the ensuing sour cream-guacamole-salsa mess would kill most papers and computers. I suggest that you, the wise students of BHSEC, obtain small pitas. Cut them into fourths, so you have several triangles of smallish size. Put them on a rack and pop them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes at 375 degrees (depending on your crunch preference). Chips will miraculously appear! You can salt them if you like, or eat them with dip (I warn against the potential harm to computers) but they are infinitely more healthy for you than the sodium loaded snacks advertised on T.V. If you desire a sweeter treat, add sugar and cinnamon before baking.
To replace the soda, I suggest sun tea or lemonade. For those unfamiliar with sun tea, I shall explain. Put a great deal of water and a couple of tea-bags (green works well) into a glass pitcher with a lid. Let it sit on your terrace/windowsill/stoop in the glaring sun. The sun will infuse the water with the tea flavor. Store in the fridge, and add sugar syrup at your discretion. Regular sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold beverages, so make sugar syrup by mixing equal parts sugar and water and pop it into the microwave.
The cynics among you may point out that it isn’t remarkably sunny right now, and that recipe originated in Hawaii anyway. To counter them, I will politely suggest an alternative. Make a regular cup of your favorite tea, but make it highly concentrated — three teabags in one cup of hot water, for example. Once it has steeped, add this to a pitcher of cold water, store in the fridge, and treat it the same way. You may still call it sun tea, because highly-condensed-hot-tea-added-to-cold-water doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
You could also make lemonade. I don’t trust that pink stuff as I have never seen a pink lemon–perhaps I should get out more — and it seems embarrassingly artificial to me. I’m sure everyone knows that to make lemonade one must squeeze lemons, dilute with water if necessary, and add as much sugar syrup as desired.
To return to those dear vegetables — I do not mean to dissuade anyone from eating carrots; on the contrary, I advocate it. It is an illustration, however, of the importance of moderation. Too much of even a good thing can be detrimental. Of course, even small amounts of things can be detrimental, but I digress. I shall not include a real recipe here, as this seems sufficiently extensive, but I will recommend that readers check out my next article — What the Paper Bag Princess Eats For Lunch — for more tips. Recipes, failed attempts, and attacks on misinformation to be sent, as always, to the editors.
“SENIOR” YEAR AT BHSEC
It’s always been said that BHSEC is not a traditional high school. But are our seniors missing out on the coveted senior-year of high school traditions? I talked to some of the seniors (that technically would be the 10th graders, in case you were wondering) to see how their year is shaping up so far. One “senior” said that she believed senior year should be easy and fun, and her year has been anything but. Another said that she’s had more schoolwork than ever and is extremely stressed. Yet another BHSEC senior said that senior year is marked by the anticipation that usually accompanies it. There are many different stories like these, and one thing is for certain: there isn’t going to be any dancing on parade floats at BHSEC during “senior” year, but should there be?
Do adults constantly reminisce about high school because they hated it or because they loved it? Was John Hughes lying to us through all of those movies? Is high school merely something that must be endured, or is it truly a formative experience?
Personally, I think high school is definitely a formative experience, and I’m beginning to worry that we’re missing out on most of it. Bard doesn’t have a pep squad, or a homecoming dance, or anything like that. We come to school. We learn. We go home and do tons of work. End of story. Sure, we’re definitely learning more than the average senior, but at a hefty price — our social lives. Yes, there’s talking in the halls and instant messaging at home, but more often than not, conversations revolve around school assignments. Ah, yes. Bardians are a rare species, indeed.
I was discussing this with one of my classmates recently when she kindly pointed out to me that “Bard isn’t a traditional high school.” I realize this, I do. Bard may not be a typical high school, yet we’re still semi-typical teenagers, and I think we should be treated accordingly. I’m not suggesting in any way that the curriculum be toned down, because we’re obviously not typical in that sense. I just think that we need to have more social outlets at school to help relieve the stress of our very demanding academic lives, which are pretty tough to handle. A few more dances, a field day every now and then—we’re not too picky. After all, high school isn’t meant to be formative only academically, it should also help us grow socially.
This same classmate also noted that she doesn’t really think of herself as a senior. I never really did, either, and I think it might be better that way. Academically speaking, we’re seniors, but in reality, the role of “big man on campus” is reserved for the Year IIs. And personally, I’m definitely not ready to deal with the whole “I’m a senior now! What college should I go to? What do I do with the rest of my life?” thing just yet because, honestly, the future freaks me out. It’s scary enough thinking about the future from a sophomore’s perspective. From a senior’s perspective, it must be terrifying.
TO DOWNLOAD FOR FREE, OR TO PAY A FEE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
Each day a computer user is faced with a dilemma. He or she has a craving to hear a song and can either go out, brave the weather, and buy the entire album for a steep price, unsure that any of the other songs will be halfway-decent, or can find the song through one of many different file-sharing options in less than five minutes while still sitting in their comfortable desk chair. The latter method for getting the desired song is the most frequently used, particularly if the person is a student with a small or nonexistent income.
Using iTunes to download music is also among the choices for those who prefer legality without the hassle of getting to a record store. However, it requires a credit card, does not ensure it will have what you are looking for (for instance, if you are in need of a Beatles song, you’d be hard-pressed to find one on iTunes), and according to Tony Brummer, owner of Victory Records, iTunes destroys the artistic integrity of albums. He declares that, “allowing people to cherry-pick the tracks they want from each album cannibalizes full-length album sales and is ultimately detrimental to the artists who created the music. iTunes makes music disposable. It makes it a faceless impulse item. It steals its soul.”
More than a year ago it was all we heard about. Ordinary people deemed “music pirates” were making headlines and being fined huge quantities of money. Suddenly, a wave of panic rushed over all who ever downloaded or shared files, no matter if it was one small MP3 or thousands of them.
One high school student said on the subject, “I used to download, but I stopped because my mom got paranoid. She deleted KaZaa and all of my downloaded music a year or so ago.”
At that time, the record industry was regularly giving intimidating speeches and creating commercials to help boost their music sales, which, as everyone is well aware, have been relentlessly slipping. Now, quite a while after this wide scale shroud of fear, the threats associated with file sharing have nearly evaporated from our collective consciousness.
Naturally, major music enterprises like Sony BMG and Columbia are still trying their hardest to stop music downloading; their most recent attempts being to include FBI warnings on the backs of all jewel cases and to make some of their CDs incapable of playing on computers (which has been hotly debated, for it hurts those who typically upload songs onto their iPods). But, these attempts have been pathetic at best, which seems to imply that record companies have begun to realize they’re fighting a losing battle. When one considers the multitude of ways the trading of files can be accomplished it seems like an impossibility to completely prevent it from occurring.
Not only do people use the ever popular peer-to-peer (or P2P) networking programs like KaZaa and Limewire to satisfy their music hunger, but they also manage to download through torrent files, blog communities, and by attachments in e-mails. It would be entirely fair to say that millions upon millions of people acquire and share files every day.
It sometimes appears that music industries are thinking only of their declining incomes, and have not stopped and contemplated the reasons why some people share and download over the internet.
On the basis of anonymity, two students were asked to articulate their thoughts on and justifications for downloading music.
The first said, “I download so that I can listen to music that I don’t have the money to buy. Also, so that I can listen to groups I wouldn’t otherwise know about. When I download music by poorer, lesser known artists, it’s not like I would go out and buy it if I wasn’t downloading.”
And the second observed that, “Most of my CD collection is made up of soundtracks because I know the music before I buy it and I’m guaranteed to enjoy it. I don’t have that kind of security with artists I’m less familiar with.”
One woman who has never downloaded a song before mused, “Perhaps if we lived in a world where CDs weren’t fifteen dollars people wouldn’t download as much.”
In a recent article for the New York Times, Damian Kulash of the band OK Go pointed out that, “…before a million people can buy our record, a million people have to hear our music and like it enough to go looking for it. That won’t happen without a lot of people playing us for their friends, which, in turn, won’t happen without a fair amount of file sharing.”
Whoever you may ask, the consensus is that music these days is unreasonably expensive and generally inaccessible. As Joni Mitchell implies in her song, “For Free”, music is something that shouldn’t have a price tag, it should be available for all to hear and enjoy. “Now me I play for fortunes, and those velvet curtain calls. I’ve got a black limousine and two gentlemen escorting me to the halls. And I play if you have the money, or if you’re a friend to me. But the one man band by the quick lunch stand, he was playing real good, for free.”
INTERVIEW WITH DR. CARTER
Dr. Brian Carter is one of the newest teachers at Bard High School Early College. He is also one of the youngest. His desk is located in the science office where Dr. Peres had been, which is now covered with work and puzzles, such as the two twisted nails, or the loop around the two horseshoes connected by chains. I decided to interview Dr. Carter on a Friday morning during 2nd period. Because Dr. Carter is new to the school, I thought it was high time we got to know more about him, since we know so much about our other teachers.
AS: Why did you decide to teach at Bard?
BC: I was in D.C. and I was at a wonderful public charter school, which I really enjoyed. Personal reasons took me down to D. C., and those same personal reasons brought me back. I really fell in love with New York when I was in grad school, and I don’t think I was ready to leave when I went down to D. C.; so I was happy to be moving back to New York. I started by job search by going to insideschools.org and looking for high schools. I read about all the different high schools, and nothing really stood out to me. They all just seemed the same. Then I read about Bard, and their approach to education, and I didn’t care if it was an early college or a college or a high school, I just really have always believed that this is the correct approach to education, if the students are going to college. There are plenty of other versions of education if the students are doing other things, but if you’re preparing students for college, it seems like the best thing to do is to teach them college courses. Why beat around the bush and do all these other things if they’re going on to college. I’m somewhat biased towards a college approach to education, which I think of as a very deep, explorative, individual approach to material. It’s not this surface level treatment of a topic so often found in high school classrooms nowadays. Education should really be more like, “Why that? Why this?” Constantly questioning so that you come away from it with your own understanding that you hopefully will take with you.
I just loved BHSEC’s approach to education. I came to New York last spring break, and I visited several different schools. There are some bad things that go on in New York public schools. Not all of them, but some. I went to some of these schools. One school had fired their principal and had gone without one for six months. I don’t know how any school could do that. This was also the school that, while I was visiting, I was scared for legal repercussions because the kids where spilling concentrated sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide all over the place, and they refused to put on their goggles. I visiting another school where they understaffed the science department and where a principal actually said they would make science a priority when No Child Left Behind made science a priority. That is a pretty offensive thing to tell someone who is a scientist, and what they love doing isn’t valued as much because of their teaching standards.
Then I visited BHSEC, and just loved it. I loved the small class size. I loved the seriousness with which the students approached education. It seemed like students were here who wanted to learn. It’s not like that everywhere. At a lot of places, students are only interested in their grades. Now I’m sure that students here are still interested in grades and test scores and the like, but it seemed that the students here were truly interested in what was going on in the classroom, beyond the grades and beyond the testing, which, for me, is what it’s all about.
AS: Was there something in your past that helped shape your future?
BC: I had a math teacher, Ms. Bell, for trig and calculus, and she was just amazing. I always have had really good teachers, but Ms. Bell was special. She was just so enthusiastic, it made it look like it was so much fun to come to work everyday. So, I knew then in 11th grade trig, that teaching was what I wanted to do. I went to college, and I really enjoyed the subjects of math and science, and kept pursuing them. I went to grad school, but in the end I knew that what I wanted to do more than anything was teach, and I would definitely say that it was because of the teachers I had. They were a real inspiration. I still talk to these teachers even today.
AS: Did you do anything between college and grad school?
BC: I went right to grad school. Looking back on it, I wish I had taken a year and done something different before entering grad school. It gives you a new perspective on graduate school. Graduate school in chemistry is kind of an apprenticeship. You don’t sit in a lot of classes. It’s more like you go into a lab and you learn by doing.
AS: Did you do any research?
BC: My lab was interested in enzyme evolution. We’ve had billions of years for these enzymes to evolve, to do what they do and do it really well, and that’s great, but we wanted them to do what we needed done. We wanted enzymes that could do industrial processes for us, like clean our clothes and make our medicines, cheaply and without environmental waste. The problem is there is no evolutionary pressure to do these tasks. There are all these ways to try to mimic evolution, and what we did was try to create ways to mimic evolution in bacteria and yeast. When you move evolution to bacteria, as opposed to humans, a life span for a bacterium is twenty minutes, so you can go through all human evolution in a couple of weeks if you’re using bacteria. The idea being that by, supplying outside pressure, you can evolve enzymes that do what you want them to do in those three or four weeks. If you let natural evolution happen, it will never evolve what you want it to do, and even if did it will take millions of years, but if your using bacteria, then you can control their evolution, and you can allow them to rapidly evolve the function that you want. We were focused on methods to do that, and we would develop the method and we would test it on different enzymes. I did a lot on the technology development side, and I did a lot of work with a specific enzyme that is involved with antibiotic resistance. That’s when I started to become interested in how bacteria avoid modern antibiotics, which leads to drug resistant bacteria which is a major problem in modern in modern medicine.
AS: What do you think of Bard, now that you have worked here?
BC: The students are awesome! At my old school it was a difficult job because everyday you went into the classroom and you had a kid who was sleeping or talking. It was like pulling teeth in the classroom to get the students to even pay attention. Here, when you walk into a classroom, the easiest part of my job is to stand up there, talk to you guys, share information, and hear your feedback, that’s easy. But what’s hard is keeping up with you all, because you want to know so much. I want to help you learn everything that you want to learn, and so it’s a lot of work outside of the classroom, whereas in my old teaching position, I would walk in and I would teach. So, it’s just completely different. It’s hard for any new teacher, you’re planning and you’re trying to figure out how to give the best assessments to reflect these students and what they really know. Tests are so subjective, so you want enough methods to make sure that the grades that you are giving the students are reflective of what the students know.