LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
I am writing in response to Olivia Bernard’s editorial in June 10 edition of the Horizon about the ‘image disconnect’ as regards the situation of recycling at BHSEC. I would like to point out that last semester the Environmental Club attempted to get a recycling program for paper by creating scrap paper boxes for use in each classroom and in the library, and tried to establish recycling of plastic and glass in the school as well. Unfortunately, at the time, despite a strong campaign encouraging students to recycle, there was not much enthusiasm on the part of the student body at large, and the programs had to be discontinued. Therefore I think it is not entirely fair to blame the school for a lack of awareness vis-a-vis recycling; it is imperative that everyone be conscientious to the issue for any implemented measures to take root and function well.
I am so impressed and encouraged by Will, Chloe and Olivia’s contributions to this issue of Horizon. All of them look critically yet constructively at our community. They make me feel again that we have a valuable – and, to use Will’s word, fragile- enterprise going on here. And I second Chloe’s good sense proposal about community day- though, knowing this crowd, I wonder how many, when confronted with a day of fun, would opt to stay home and catch up on their work or sleep. Anyway, thank you for a wonderful issue.
These are great articles. Will, even though he isn’t featured in your staff photo sheet, is a great interviewer and writer. I loved surfing over the sentences and transitions of all the articles. Yes, I know they are not 9th graders, but I have had some of them in my 9th and 10th grade classes and I am impressed by how far they have come. I really enjoyed reading their prose, then, but especially now. Please pass on my congratulations.
Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) is a school that uses adjectives like “liberal” and “progressive” to describe itself. It is an academic institution whose students believe themselves to be more worldly, conscientious, and politically aware than the average high school student. However, it has come to this writer’s attention that perhaps not all of BHSEC’s policies are environmentally sound, thus contradicting their descriptors and reputation.
One of the most troubling examples of BHSEC’s wastefulness is that prepared meals in the cafeteria are doled out on stryofoam trays. It can be reasonably estimated that at least two hundred students rely on the cafeteria for their breakfast and/or lunch every day. This means that as many styrofoam trays are thrown out every single school day, which annually translates to about 34,000 trays a year. Styrofoam, similar to plastic, takes hundreds of thousands of years to fully biodegrade, and more than 150 billion pounds of it are used each year by the United States alone.
Secondly, BHSEC doesn’t seem to do everything in its power to assure that glass, plastic, aluminum and other types of recyclable materials are, in fact, recycled. There are two recycling bins in the entire school, one in the auditorium and one in the teacher’s lounge. Neither of these locations is typically frequented by students. As building custodians cannot realistically be expected to regularly sort through each of the school’s trash cans, huge amounts of recyclables are being taken to already overcrowded landfills.
In addition, BHSEC uses its energy immoderately. Students have noticed that the building is heated excessively, at times when the outside temperature doesn’t warrant it. One of BHSEC’s Year One students observes, “There is no logic to when the school gets heat. Classroom radiators often work overtime when it’s the middle of April and sixty degrees. And in the winter, when students are dressed in heavier clothing,” she adds, “overheating makes it pretty uncomfortable.”
A “progressive” school like BHSEC that encourages students to “think globally, act locally” should be more sensitive to the delicacy of our environment and make an effort to contribute to its conservation.
Congratulations, BHSEC! Exams are over, summer begun, and your worries should have wandered into a happier realm. Summer provides many opportunities for students to fend for themselves when it comes to making dinner, and nothing is worse than fixing dinner in a hot kitchen as the city roasts and melts outside the window.
This first recipe idea comes from a cute healthy food store in Montauk. They call it “Surfer’s Special”. Essentially, you fill a pita with avocado, sprouts, tomatoes, and cheese — I’d recommend cheddar, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella. Don’t use condiments, as the pita should be very fresh tasting; just let the food be tasted as it truly is. Try to get fresh produce.
“Tzatziki” sounds much better than “Cucumber Yogurt Dip”, but you may call this next whatever you’d like to. I would recommend using Greek yogurt for this — not only because tzatziki is a Greek dish, but also because you’d need to strain other sorts of yogurt more. This yogurt is to be PLAIN, not even vanilla is acceptable. You also need cucumbers, garlic, parsley, black pepper, olive oil, and mint. Statistics: 2 cups yogurt (nonfat as you choose), 2 cucumbers, 1-2 garlic cloves, salt and pepper “to taste”, 1/3 cup fresh mint, 1/3 cup flat-leafed parsley, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Chop up the herbs, drain the yogurt, peel the cucumbers and remove the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to cut the cucumber in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. How large you cut the cucumbers is a matter of preference, but I would recommend ¼ inch wide to be the biggest. Mash the garlic and salt together, and stir the yogurt in, before adding all of the rest of the ingredients (except the olive oil—that you drizzle on at the end). It tastes very refreshing no matter what you dip in it, but the classical option is pita (vegetables are your friends, you can use them too). This recipe gives due credit to Steven Raichlen’s “High Flavor Low-Fat Cooking,” and I can assert that it tastes good.
To oblige those who aren’t vegetarians, these next two suggestions will be meaty. A Chef’s Salad is vastly open to interpretation, with lettuce as its only requirement (please avoid iceberg). To this salad, pieces of cold cuts of your preference can be added — turkey works especially well — as well as shredded cheese, other vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and even bacon. Imagination is a wonderful thing for this; if you dream of nuts and chickpeas, you dream well, and I recommend that the chickpeas are strained and rinsed. Olive oil-vinegar dressing serves very well; mix mustard in if you want an extra kick. If you would like this salad to be more portable, wrap it in a tortilla and call it a wrap. Be careful not to put too much salad in; this will help decrease spillage.
To accompany these lovely dining delicacies, homemade lemonade is just the thing. Juice several lemons, and add sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water, pop in the microwave until the sugar dissolves). If this is too strong for you, you can water it down with water or ice. If you would rather have pink lemonade, add some grenadine.
Raman noodles, although nice sometimes, are not to be regarded as the only thing that one can make without trouble. Hopefully, these easy recipes will help make your summer tastier. Until the fall, eat well, and have a fabulous summer.
THINKING ABOUT COMMUNITY DAY
Community day at BHSEC has never been officially defined. Its title suggests a sort of field day where students are free to mingle and enjoy each other’s company — an opportunity to nurture existing bonds of friendship and to create new ones. This is not what community day is. Although specific activities vary from year to year, since its establishment in 2004, community day has essentially consisted of a potluck lunch followed by discussions in small groups about problematic aspects of the BHSEC community, and then some kind of presentation about intolerance, either generally or specific to BHSEC, which everyone attends.
The very mention of community day in the halls of BHSEC is sure to elicit groans of displeasure from most students as well as several members of the faculty. One 9th grader on his way home from this year’s community day detailed exactly how and how much the day had sucked, while a couple of his older companions — students who had experienced community days of the past — mused, “It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be; remember last year?!”
Since the first one in the spring of 2004, community day has become infamous. This year, a staggering number of students opted to stay home for community day. A few showed up for the potluck portion of the afternoon, but cut out after snagging free lunch and chatting with some friends. Year after year, despite the genuine and well-meaning effort of the community council and select faculty members, community day has left students with plenty to complain about. “It’s pointless and boring,” says one student, “it’s like [the BHSEC faculty] can’t just let us have fun. Everything always has to be academic in some way.” Another student points out that he doesn’t feel the “issues” discussed are issues that are really a problem at BHSEC. “I think that, besides a few stupid kids, the BHSEC environment is very warm and welcoming and tolerant. Students who would be lambasted at any other school in the country are popular here.” Another pointed out that it was hard to nurture the BHSEC community when almost half of the student body wasn’t there. Several students I spoke to agreed that, while everyone was physically uncomfortable and most teams cheated, the scavenger hunt in the beginning of the year was more successful at bringing students together and fostering a sense of community than our typical community day. I heard a range of complaints, but each one seemed to be based upon the same problem: community day isn’t fun.
So why exactly isn’t it fun, and how can we fix it? Each year the second half of Community Day has been devoted to discussing problems in the BHSEC community. In all of the small group discussions I have participated in, students have brought up problems like stress, dirty bathrooms, and the noisy library. Students discuss these small problems among themselves everyday. A forum to present and pick over them is hardly necessary.
This year, there were two presentations by the community council and an acting teacher from outside BHSEC about tolerance. One focused on the negative treatment of immigrants, while the other addressed negative behavior towards our homosexual population. The issues were discussed and solutions were suggested. However, the activity eventually degenerated into chaos. Assuming for a moment that these issues are really prevalent in the BHSEC community, it hardly seems realistic or constructive to try and solve them in one afternoon. And if, as many students seem to feel, these are not problems that most BHSEC students face, it is unfair to look for problems that don’t exist. “You can’t tell us [BHSEC students] that we’re good and bad at the same time. You can’t celebrate the community while simultaneously scolding it,” says a year 1 student.
The answer to a successful community day, then, is this: rather than focusing on problems and positing community day as an academic exercise to fix BHSEC, just let us have fun together. Students generally get along and enjoy each other’s company. During the potluck lunch, students could be seen conversing with teachers as well as peers, playing frisbee and basketball, and enjoying the sunny outdoors. No one was being picked on, bullied, or insulted, no one was ostracized, and no one was having a bad time. All together in the same space, BHSEC students are able to experience the warm and friendly community which we have already created without having to feel bad about it. If this positive energy could be carried through the rest of the day, we might just have a successful community day.
POSTSECRET.COM HAUNTING HONESTY
Along with revolutionizing business and access to vital information, the Internet has also shed light onto the darker corners of the human collective conscious through internet diary sites. Although some sites, known as weblogs, such as Xanga.com and LiveJournal.com can only be viewed with permission, this rule does not hold true for all. PostSecret.com, one of the most widely viewed sites, is completely open to the public for reading in which entries are submitted anonymously.
The owner of the site, Frank Warren, calls Post Secret an “ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.” It turns out that America is full of secrets (and artistic talent). The cards display a wide range of topics, such as death, love, war, and religion, among others. Some secrets are funny, some are sad, and some are downright disturbing, but each is hauntingly real.
Mother’s Day week secrets were generally of the holiday themes with mixed emotions: the cards ranged from “I love my mother more than anyone” to “Mom stop pushing me away” to “I give her funny cards so I don’t have to lie and say I love her.” Memorial Day week’s secrets were of a very mixed nature, with some on the actual holiday topic, including a person unable to rid him or herself of their past in Iraq, and some with no visible connection, such as a confession from one person who apparently wipes their brother’s urine on a towel before the brother takes his bath.
But the less serious messages quickly leave one’s mind with the first scary secrets. Estranged sons become seemingly happy postcards when contrasted with these more haunting postcards, usually about the sender’s attempts to commit suicide or a regret that they couldn’t. The postcards are frightening, although some say that such postings show people of similar conditions that they are not alone. Frank has even posted the number for the suicide hotline, which the caller can dial day or night to talk to someone about their feelings. Some messages have stated that the hotline saved the sender’s life.
During the week, Post Secret readers can email Frank about a postcard that has touched them personally (firstname.lastname@example.org). Frank reads the emails, and, where appropriate, inserts them next to the postcard itself. Sometimes, the responses are more heart-wrenching than the confessions.
Post Secret has impacted the world in a bizarre yet touching way. What started as a man handing out invitations to anonymously mail in secrets has turned into America’s lifeline. The blog has won five of the “Bloggies” awards, including Weblog of the Year. Frank has compiled choice secrets into a book which has done so well that another is coming out October 1st, and three more are planned. He travels around the country displaying secrets and holding Post Secret discussions and book signings. Frank has become as his publisher puts it in his book’s foreword, “the most trusted stranger in America.”
The website is updated every Sunday, and the place for sending secrets is listed. It’s the address America knows best (perhaps behind 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue):
13345 Copper Ridge Road
Germantown, Maryland 20874
THE BARD DROP OUT RATE: UNACCEPTABLE OR INEVITABLE?
The challenges posed to BHSEC students are ones we all struggle with on a daily basis. And while coping with the rigors of academic life here at BHSEC necessitates certain sacrifices — demanding teachers and classes put stress on the student body while long hours of homework cut out other activities from the day — there are other, more costly losses incurred, the necessity of which is much more questionable.
Any student above the ninth grade probably has several friends who have left BHSEC for another school because of failure to maintain an acceptable grade point average or from the stress brought about by successfully doing so. What most students do not know is the actual number of students who leave BHSEC each year: twenty-two in the 9th and 10th grade, or around 10 percent.
”Strangely, it’s the same number every year,” says Sara Yaffee, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel, “it’s a huge concern; we structure the whole guidance program around it. We want everyone to stay.”
Robert Carmenini, the guidance counselor, immediately meets with students who are on academic probation and meetings are arranged with parents multiple times a year. Interns have been recruited from graduate schools around the city to tutor students on study skills and specific abilities, and two years ago the Learning Center was created to help bolster students’ writing and math skills.
However, students continue to leave BHSEC. According to Mr. Peterson, the degree of this problem was not perceived at the outset of BHSEC, in 2001. “We thought we might lose some students,” he said in an interview, but of the exact number: “we had no way of knowing when we began.”
There is of course a simple solution which would most likely cut the number in half, or possibly into an even smaller fraction: changing admissions standards. Schools such as Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech all use a standardized writing and math test to select which applicants are accepted, and math skills have proven themselves to be a very accurate measurement of a student’s ability to stay at BHSEC. So should we adopt different standards for the sake of retaining more of our students? It’s an important question that strikes the heart of BHSEC’s philosophy: What are we willing to sacrifice in order to uphold our educational principles of diversity and an alternative student body?
According to the top administrators here, that would be a serious mistake. “We could do that,” said Mr. Peterson, “We could test like Stuyvesant, taking in only top students. But then we would probably lose a lot of the diversity that we have in the student body, and we don’t want to do that.” The key element in this decision is that at BHSEC, the word diversity means more than lots of boxes labeled with different ethnicities. BHSEC is a place for students who not only have different histories but also different futures; this fragile student population would be crushed with a standardized test determining admissions.
Meanwhile, the problem remains and the administration is looking for new remedies to help lower the number. There are several ideas on the table, particularly a possible overhaul of the Writing and Thinking Workshop in the first week of school to focus more heavily on study skills, specifically time management. Also circulating is tentative talk of requiring incoming ninth graders to attend a short summer school before entering BHSEC, much like the workshop that students attend before beginning studies at Bard College.
Every year, new programs and policies are introduced to help retain more students, but towards the end of that year, the same twenty two students must leave BHSEC and their friends behind, and again we are faced with the same question of whether the drop out rate should be considered collateral damage, an unfortunate but inevitable loss.
Now we find ourselves at the end of another year, and we ask ourselves whether it is unfortunate or inevitable that next September there will be twenty-two of us missing.
REVIEW OF SARAH JONES’ “BRIDGES AND TUNNEL”
The basement of a “beautiful” South Queens coffee house is an unlikely setting for the annual I.A.M.A.P.O.E.T.T.O.O. poetry slam. It’s an even more unlikely setting for a Broadway play.
Sarah Jones’ one woman show “Bridge and Tunnel” takes the restrictions of a basement and one actress in stride and succeeds in making these limitations work to the show’s advantage. She creates an amazing cast of characters who travel to the coffee house to share their poetry. They are all extremely different, from Mohammed Ali, the host, to Juan Jose, a quadriplegic. However different they may be, they all have one thing in common — they are all immigrants.
Jones successfully transforms herself to become each of the characters, quickly adopting the mannerisms needed to play an angsty Australian teenager and then changing yet again to become a ten year old from the Bronx.
What makes “Bridge and Tunnel” so good is the characters’ passion. The aforementioned Australian teen is as passionate in her hatred for her ex as much as Juan Jose is concerned about his girlfriend whom he hasn’t heard from since she tried to cross the border from Mexico. Simplicity also plays a key in the success of the play. There are no elaborate sets or costumes, nor is there an intermission during the 90 minute show. Jones’ wardrobe consists of different jackets and accessories for each character; none of the costumes are too elaborate for this play, and are, in fact, appropriate.
Jones is able to deliver her monologues with such sincerity that it is quite easy to forget that the same woman portrays over a dozen characters. The characters Jones represents are so diverse, both literally and figuratively, that you can identify with at least one of them. Jones manages to portray the struggle of the immigrants that our country depends on with such grace, humor, realism, and integrity that it’s surprising that no one has asked her to be the poster girl for America yet.
“Bridge and Tunnel” started off Broadway in 2004, and then moved to Berkley, California in 2005. The play, with the help of producer Meryl Streep, opened on Broadway this January. Due to its well deserved popularity, the play’s run has been extended several times. As of now, the play will continue its run at the Helen Hayes Theatre on West 44 Street through August 6. “Bridge and Tunnel” recently won a Tony Award.