VOLUME 4, ISSUE 3 (DECEMBER 2006)

“A COMEDY OF ERRORS” AT BHSEC: NEW PRODUCTION BRINGS MODERN HUMOR AND TWISTS TO SHAKESPEARE

Will Glovinsky ’08

Often Shakespearean humor just doesn’t age well. “The Merchant of Venice” seems more anti-Semitic than funny and some viewers are so preoccupied with Elizabethan pronouns that jokes are invariably out of reach. BHSEC’s recent production of “A Comedy of Errors” blasted the centuries away with some anachronistic hats, several priceless hillbilly beards, a few well-chosen interjections and, most importantly, a superb cast.

The comedy, directed by Rick Vartorella, derives its scripted humor from the chance arrival of two sets of twins separated at birth, one pair masters the other servants, in the same town. The masters, portrayed by Natan Vega Potler and Jonathan Loonam, set up a nice character counterpoint as Natan delivers serious, thunderous lines while his twin recites the lines hurriedly and hilariously. The servant twins (Lizzie Goldfarb and Lila El Naggar) have a pleasant chemistry, both portraying their poor characters with dynamism and gusto (“spherical, like a globe” is well played).

The other characters are numerous, and many deserve mention, but several enduring performances include Max Marinoff as the bearded Egeon, Co Sou as the similarly bearded conjuror/Doctor Pinch and Kim Karp as the jovial copper. The cast, while letting slip several sniggers and a few out of place lines, is overall extremely competent, reciting the Shakespeare with humor and vividness.

Shakespeare’s ironic humor is well developed and embellished with explicit body language – in the end the audience may really be waiting for another pelvic thrust – but it isn’t too overdone, which is fortunate. Credit goes to Mr. Vartorella for carefully crafting the directions.

The extremely satisfying qualities of the production come from that certain tension between the serious and outright laughable. This may be thanks to Shakespeare’s genius: “A Comedy of Errors” is one of the Bard’s most slapstick plays but the solemn shadow of father Egeon’s imminent death sentence in the first scene creates a weighty context for the comic happenings. This production takes that tension and modernizes it. How often do you get to witness a character, bearded to the belly button, lament his misfortunes in 17th-century verse? Or a demonic Courtesan in flashing horns with (unintentional?) a cross around her neck?

The answer to these questions is rarely, if ever. (This is a true shame because the play is only running three nights, and as of this writing there is only one left.) And the merits go on. A wise choice was made to forgo using the stage and to instead create a small, floor level stage enclosed on three sides – rather like Shakespeare’s Globe, actually. This intimate staging reflects the fact that on all other nights the relationship between cast and audience is one of peers, and at the same time allows easy access for audience participation in the post-show electric slide.

I will admit that sitting down to this production, I expected a school play, along with every connotation that term carries. I was wrong, and I truly felt like I was in a black box theatre with some avant-garde company, but I wasn’t. I was in our auditorium.

 

 

MORSELS OF HOLIDAY WISDOM

Lizzie Goldfarb ’07

The Winter Holiday season is a time of merriment, meeting with friends and family, eating home-cooked meals of dubious nutritional merit, doing class assignments, and, for Year IIs, attempting to apply to colleges. Unless you are planning to indulge in one of the more active winter activities, your poundage may complement the number of schools you apply to and how many papers are due after break. That such signs may be avoided, it is my privilege to recommend ways to return from vacation with an impression, however false, of relaxation and physical health.

Some of the best known trademarks of the holidays are foodstuffs. Although I can neither provide nor cook a recipe for a Christmas goose, I may show a recipe for latkes, or potato pancakes. The worst thing about them is their oil, but, when eaten in proper moderation, they are tasty and not too detrimental nutritionally. That is truly the key to surviving the holidays — self –rationing makes any food a healthy possibility.

As I cannot even attempt to make the latkes that my mother makes, the recipe that I provide I have not tasted. It is inspired by a cookbook that boasts all recipes contain three ingredients, which, in this case, are potatoes, onions, and oil. I venture to branch out to four and add salt, but this, of course, is optional. Put the potatoes and onions in the food processor or hand grate them, squeeze the extra liquid out of the potatoes, and fry dollops of the mixture in about half an inch of oil. I know I’m not giving proportions for the ingredients, but it is truly subjective.

That said, allow me to segue into dessert, a realm that is understandable and appreciable on a wider scale than latkes (perhaps). As mentioned earlier, the best way to enjoy the holidays and your clothing size is to eat small amounts. I would not be so hard-hearted as to suggest that delicacies are given up altogether (moreover, it’s impossible to do so). A quaint substitution for Yule logs and candy canes are fruits. Applesauce is a traditional sweet of the season and is incredibly easy to make yourself. The key is to mix tart and sweet apples. Peel them, cut them up, remove the cores, and put them in a pot with about half a cup of water. Cook them for about twenty minutes, and then give a stir. They will be so soft that they fall apart on their own, and taste infinitely better then the store-bought varieties. You can also control how much sugar you put in, if any.

For those who aspire to be college-bound among us (I speak not to those who have gotten in; their relative carefree-ness exempts them from culinary cautions), keep nuts, fruits, and vegetables by your desk instead of chocolates and those mouth-tinting-sugar-infested-sharp-edged-cavity-inducing candy canes. Best of luck to all who travel down this desponding road.

Happy holidays to all. Unsuccessful latkes and applesauce to be sent to the editors, as always, and await an article of more cheery tidbits when the admissions process ends.

 

 

AN UPDATE ON GYM WAIVERS: PHYS. ED. RECOURSE MAY SOON BE GONE

Talor Gruenwald ’08

The requirements for gym waivers, a form of independent study offered at BHSEC, have changed in the past several semesters and have caused some confusion among students and may soon be altogether done away with. Athletic Director Michael Larkin says he has altered the requirements in the past semesters because he feels that they are not a satisfactory substitute for a real gym class.

As of this semester, the general requirements for a gym waiver are as follows:

–– Two and a half hours of physical activity are required every week for the entire semester.

–– Students log onto http://www.getactivestayactive.com, create an account, and record their minutes of physical activity every week.

–– The activity must be instructed by a professional at some point throughout the semester.

The student must attend three sporting events and write a response piece on each.

(NOTE: More detailed instructions can be obtained by visiting Mr. Larkin’s office in the gymnasium.)

In addition to gym waivers, an Athletic Physical Education waiver is available to students currently playing for one of Bard’s eight sports teams. This involves several signatures and an essay concerning your experience playing for the team. (Again, more detailed instructions can be obtained by going to Mr. Larkin’s office.)

According to Mr. Larkin, gym waivers were appropriate during Bard’s first few years when it did not have a developed athletic program. Mr. Larkin says that there is now a much more structured physical education class with exercise and weight training equipment and an accessible field across the street from BHSEC. He says that a program such as this nullifies the need for gym waivers. “I feel that I’ve built a quality physical education program,” he says. “People who take physical education waivers are missing out on something worthwhile and different.”

Mr. Larkin’s concerns are supported by increasing rates of obesity among American youths. According to recent studies, only 8% of schools meet nationally recommended exercise requirements and 45% of kids in the United States are overweight or obese. When BHSEC students opt to outsource gym, the school loses a degree of oversight that some say it needs to ensure that students take physical education seriously. Others say that gym waivers give them much needed breaks in their schedules.

Mr. Larkin’s goal is to introduce a lifestyle that involves working out regularly. He feels that students should take four years of physical education in high school because this will lead many to continue exercising throughout their lives. He says that if students only take two years of gym, the current requirement, then students will not leave high school with any lasting desire to continue working out.

 

 

WHERE HAVE ALL THE PROFESSORS GONE?: AN UPDATE ON THE TEACHERS WHO LEFT LAST YEAR

Melanie Steinhardt ’09

If you look around BHSEC today, you will see new faces of professors around every corner. These new faces are a sign of growth and opportunity, but they are also represent all the teachers and faculty who left the school last year. Ms. Howell, mathematics, Dr. Berenson, physics, and Ms. Exter, American history and literature, are all gone. The list continues. Dr. Harris, a first year American literature teacher, Dr. Rodriguez, biology, Dr. Mendez, Spanish, Mr. Collins, technology and digital media and Mr. Gelber, the trusty librarian, have all left the school. Even Dr. Bifet, a new mathematics professor, just recently left mid-semester (see full article). The questions posed are: where did they go and why did they leave?

Dr. Berenson, when contacted, wrote back with interesting news. She has retired, but is “teaching a physics course at Hunter College (the same course as the calculus-based physics I taught at BHSEC) and slowly starting a tutoring career — tutoring high school and college physics.” She says she is “also finding time for hobbies — still knitting and taking more dance classes, modern dance and tap, and catching up on my reading.”

Another teacher, Ms. Howell, says, “I am getting my Ph.D. in math education at NYU. I work (for them) doing research and visiting math teachers in various schools to see what they are doing.” She adds: “I miss you guys at BHSEC of course but being back in school is also wonderfully intense and interesting.”

The well-known Mr. Gelber also responded. He has relocated with his growing family to the Adirondack Mountains and is an art critic for The New York Sun. He is also currently writing “a non-fiction book about his experiences at Bard High School Early College.” That book should produce some jitters of excitement and apprehension!

Perhaps the most well known of last year’s departures is that of Ms. Exter, who, as many students already know, left Bard to pursue her music career. She has released an album, “Elevator Ride,” and The New Yorker has described her voice as “a warm mist capable of obscuring all of life’s problems.” Her music is available to listen to online at http://www.myspace.com/bronwenexter.

Because of Department of Education policies limiting communication between students and former teachers, teachers could only be interviewed indirectly and some were not reached at all. Nonetheless, the four examples above illustrate the diversity of interests of our faculty.

It is left to speculation why so many teachers left last year. Certainly, some received enticing job offers or felt their passions stray, but the turnover is enough to wonder if there is any single aspect of BHSEC that causes it to retain a sizable number of teachers for short periods of time. Teacher support at BHSEC is excellent, and perhaps the days of arriving early, staying late, and using free periods to help students is simply exhausting, or radically different from traditional universities that rely heavily on teaching assistants and more readily give out research time. Whatever the causes, students would appreciate more learned reasons for the departure of so many teachers.

 

 

DR. BIFET’S EARLY DEPARTURE: NEW MATHEMATICS PROFESSOR LEAVES BHSEC BEFORE COMPLETING FIRST SEMESTER

Will Glovinsky ’08

Dr. Emili Bifet, a professor of mathematics in his first year at BHSEC, resigned his post this past month over what has been described by the administration as a “difference of opinion.” The resignation, which followed a period of anticipation by Dr. Bifet’s students and their parents over the future of several math courses, sparked a flurry of rumors and apprehension as students wondered what caused the departure.

“He was not fired,” says Dr. Michael Lerner, Associate Dean of Studies. “We tried to resolve issues, but it was mutually agreed upon” that Dr. Bifet should resign. Dr. Lerner emphasized that the decision was administrative and not the result of pressure from parents or students. “That’s not the way we work, we don’t fire people when students and parents complain,” he said.

In interviews, many students in Dr. Bifet’s college-level computer science sections said that his teaching style was unorthodox, relying heavily on student self-motivation and self-determination and rarely including traditional lecture classes. “It was teach-yourself,” said one Year II enrolled in computer science. Another student said that Dr. Bifet was “open minded” in his educational philosophy and said she thought that he “embodied the spirit of Bard.”

Many students have speculated that a rift with the administration or faculty over teaching style led to his departure. According to Dean Lerner, however this explanation is “too simple.” Other factors “not open to public scrutiny or discourse” played a role in the decision, he said.

Dr. Matthew Auth, a professor of mathematics, said “everyone in the math department agreed with his teaching style.” Dr. Auth, who has taught Calculus using some “similar” methods such as individual learning, said that Dr. Bifet’s teaching style employed “texts to do problems on your own.” He confirmed that Dr. Bifet’s teaching style “relied on student self-motivation.”

Dr. Auth added that Dr. Bifet’s personal teaching style was not untested. “He has had success in the past with undergrad and graduate students at Stonybrook,” he said. He, like Dr. Lerner, declined to cite a precise reason for Dr. Bifet’s departure, saying that it was a “complicated issue.”

A parent of a computer science student said that she was struck by the hands-off approach of Dr. Bifet. She said that in parent-teacher conferences, “I asked him how the class was going and what the students were doing and he told me, ‘They’re independent’ and that ‘If they want to learn, they can learn.’ ”

In characterizing Dr. Bifet’s departure as a mutual parting of the ways, Dean Lerner emphasized that the administration solicited and considered the views of parents. A well-attended meeting was held in mid-November at which parents expressed concerns about Dr. Bifet’s teaching methods to the administration and mathematics faculty. It does not appear that students had a formal opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter, however. At last week’s Community Council town-hall meeting for college students, one Year Two student expressed frustration that there was “no forum though which we could declare our opinions.”

Parents were notified of Dr. Bifet’s departure immediately. They were informed that his 9th grade classes would be taken over temporarily by Dr. Michael Salwen, a former professor at BHSEC, and that Mr. Tuna Ozgelen, a doctoral candidate in computer science at Brooklyn College, would serve as the computer science instructor.

[Late-breaking news: As we went to press, we learned that Mr. Ozgelen will not be returning to BHSEC after the Winter Break as he has secured another source of funding for his graduate work. Another Brooklyn College doctoral student will be taking his place in January and will teach Computer Science in the Spring as well.]

Dr. Lerner, in the letter to parents, said that this new connection with CUNY and Brooklyn College would allow BHSEC to take advantage of resources such as a robotics program and a program encouraging young women and minorities to “pursue careers in computer science.”

Dr. Lerner noted that he was happy about the addition to the faculty and reported that the post-Thanksgiving transition had been smooth.

 

 

VIETNAM VET VISITS BHSEC

Meagan Chen ’07

In a suitable visit for the Friday before Veteran’s Day, Cpl. Peter Addesso (Ret.) from the United States Marine Corps came to BHSEC to give a presentation about his experience in Vietnam. The talk was part of Dr. Michael Lerner’s Understanding Vietnam class.

Speaking to students in the gym because it currently is the only wheelchair accessible part of the building, Addesso recounted his time in the military and answered questions. In 1967, he was drafted into the Army but chose to enter the Marine Corps because he felt it would provide him with better training. In Vietnam, he was originally stationed in the central highlands of Vietnam of An Hoa. However, when the Tet Offensive was launched he was moved to fight the Viet Cong in Hue City.

In 1968, a rocket launched by the North Vietnamese wounded Addesso, a radioman, paralyzing him from the waist down. His commanding officer risked his own and others’ lives for Addesso. No one was supposed go into Hue City, not even helicopters to re-supply the troops. The first helicopter sent to rescue Addesso was shot down by the Viet Cong, killing two Marines on board. The second successfully landed and took Addesso to safety. Most of the other Marines with Addesso were not so fortunate: out of the 312 Marines originally in his company, only fifteen survived.

The Tet Offensive, which took place in January of that year, caused more soldier deaths than any other offensive during the war. “More Marines were lost to minefields than to rifle fights,” says Addesso. “You didn’t know who the enemy was” because of the high numbers of child soldiers and other unlikely combatants, he added. In Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket,” the company fighting in the last half hour is based on Addesso’s former company.

When Addesso returned home he received the same cold welcome that many of his fellow Vietnam veterans faced. Upon doctor’s instructions to do rehabilitation inside of a pool, the townspeople in his community did not want him using the community pool because they regarded him as just another “drug-crazed vet.” The people in his town, like many others around the United States, did not even want to look at any of the veterans because of their actions in Vietnam and the nature of the war.

Currently, Cpl. Addesso counsels soldiers who have been wounded in the war in Iraq and gives presentations to students about Vietnam to help them understand a war 30 years in the past. To this day, he says, “I would go back and fight [in Vietnam], even knowing the outcome of the war.” This attitude echoes that of the soldiers who are now returning from Iraq who say that no matter how much they’re getting injured out there, “they still want to go back and fight.”

 

 

STAY HEALTHY ALL WINTER!: TEN STEPS TO AVOIDING THE WINTER BLUES

Gloria Bazargan ’10

The BHSEC student has a hectic life with little time to spare for matters of personal health. Schoolwork and other obligations sometimes take precedence over our well being — but success in school depends in part on the latter. Getting sick is really easy but getting better is hard, so think prevention. Here are 10 simple ways students can ward off or reduce infirmity and stay healthy all winter.

1. Relax

One of the main causes of sickness is stress. T-cells are the best defense against sickness, but when your body is under stress it pumps out adrenaline, which decreases your body’s number of T-cells. Lack of sleep also weakens your immune system, lowering your body’s ability to fight off illnesses. Try and relax during finals and finish homework early so you can get enough sleep and not worry about school.

2. Eat Right

Limit your intake of junk food. When you eat too many sugary snacks, your blood sugar quickly rises and falls, causing your body to release stress hormones that can increase your risk of getting sick. Try exercising a half hour each day to increase your immune-cell production and lower your stress hormone levels.

3. Be careful about heaters

As the weather gets colder you’ll be spending more time inside with the heater on. While it’s wonderful to be warm and cozy, indoor heating systems dry out the mucus that gets rid of viruses and bacteria in your airways. Be sure to drink lots of water in the dry heat.

4. Get some air

With the holidays around the corner, you’ll be going to lots of holiday parties. At parties, you may be exposed to smoke. Smoke paralyzes the hairs in the nose that keep germs out of the airways. Germs in the airways mean a higher risk of getting a cold. If you can’t avoid smoke exposure step outside for a few minutes every 45 minutes to get some fresh air.

5. Wash your hands

You have probably heard this since you were five years old, but it remains as true today as it was then. Viruses and bacteria are found on pens, cell phones, mp3 players, doorknobs and subway poles. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before you eat and after using the bathroom and after exiting the subway.

6. Keep your bag clean

The sneakiest source of germs is your bag. Every time you put it on the floor, viruses and bacteria cling to it. If possible, carry a leather or vinyl bag and clean it using leather cleaner when you get home. If that is not possible, avoid using your bag as a pillow or any other activity that requires close contact between it and you face.

7. Should you stay home?

If your only symptoms are stuffiness, sneezing, and coughing, you can still keep your plans but try and get as much rest as possible. If you have severe congestion, muscle or joint pain, chills, fatigue or a fever, stay home. Being active can only make your sickness worse at this point. If your temperature is over a 101ºF see a doctor as soon as possible.

8. Take vitamins

Taking up to 500 mg of vitamin C and up to 3 zinc lozenges a day can reduce the severity of your cold symptoms and quicken your recovery.

9. Eat Soup

Chicken soup is one of the best and tastiest ways to get better. This soup contains protein and the vitamins found in vegetables that strengthen your immune system. Chicken soup is also rich in nutrients that slow down the inflammatory cells that cause body aches, fevers, and head aches.

10. Stay hydrated

When you’re sick make sure you drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to help flush out germs and cleanse your system. Also try adding two tablespoons of apple-cider vinegar and one tablespoon of honey to a mug of hot water. Drink this 3 times a day. Vinegar is a natural antimicrobial that helps your body drive away bacteria and viruses.

Of course, sickness is an integral part of winter but that is no excuse for defeatism. Persevere and don’t do things you know to be stupid or unhealthy. With a little luck, you will enjoy a winter relatively free of sickness.

 

 

BAND PROFILE: AKRON/FAMILY

Craig Gordon ’08

Akron/Family is a relatively unknown four-piece band from Brooklyn. Both talented and prolific, the band has produced three albums in the course of a year and, with a demo out anticipating an early 2007 release, they show no signs of letting up.

Akron/Family have officially been a band since 2002 but released their first official album in 2005, the eponymous Akron/Family. A personal favorite, the album combines freak folk elements with comforting ambience and subtle electronic blips; its songs touch straight to the heart. Their second album, Akron/Family & Angels of Light, a split release with Angels of Light, contains the complete opposite––straight-up rocked out tracks. These songs here are chaotic and imminent, pulsing with energy. The track “Moment” progresses from cacophonous noise to rhythmic passages of chant-like vocals to a full on emphatic yell with swirling woodwinds and chimes, and finally to a tight riff-driven passage followed by a striking ending of urgent acoustics and group singing. All this is accomplished in a little over five minutes, demonstrating that these guys can do more in one song than some bands do in their entire careers.

The third release, Meek Warrior, combines the styles from their first two albums and further evolving the band’s creative ideas. The album opens with the monstrous “Blessing Force,” a 9-minute jam that’s reminiscent of their split album. Beats and riffs attack relentlessly as subtle guitar shifts and snare hits slowly increase the intensity of the song. Suddenly everything except the beats drop out and the members begin spewing buzzing nonsense with some clapping for good measure that coalesces into a layered round of chanting. The band chants the song’s title in alternating patterns and tones for nearly a minute, a now signature groove. From there, the song starts sounding Eastern, turning into an all-enveloping noise (like in the beginning of “Moment”), and ultimately ending with some raucous free jazz horn squeaking.

After this monumental song, the album takes a turn for the more intimate side of the band, recalling elements from their debut. “Gone Beyond” features prominent acoustic guitar lines with complex instrument interaction. Again foregoing complex lyrics, one member repeats a variation of the track’s title with a slightly wistful voice, as the rest chime in with backing vocals. The restrained nature of the song follows wonderfully after the relentless opener, but slips away quickly into the title track, “Meek Warrior.” Another short song, “Meek Warrior” opens with wind chimes and alternates between climaxing hills of acoustics and a slower, contrasting (hence the oxymoronic song title) passage.

“No Space in This Realm,” along with the following track, makes great use of the members’ wonderful voices. One member sings dreamy lyrics (“The fields are soft and pools are clear with glowing light ponds in the rear”) while another then lilts with short lines. “Lightning Bolt of Compassion” features one continuous acoustic guitar with single bass notes and foreign lyrics. A simple yet comforting song, this leads into “The Rider (Dolphin Song),” another long track featuring polyrhythmic percussion and feedback-driven guitars, all built on one continuous riff. The final track, “Love and Space,” gives each band member’s voice a chance to shine, repeating simple lyrics that end the album on a quiet, somber note.

Meek Warrior is a dynamic album featuring a band hitting their stride, producing tunes that range from simple songs with one lyric and one acoustic guitar to thundering multipart jams. I first listened to this album having heard their self-titled debut, and while I recognized the links between the two I was amazed by how consistent they were with such radically different styles. This album invokes both frenzied excitement and quiet reflection; when I listen to “Blessing Force” I want to dance around and chant along with the band, but when I get to “Lightning Bolt of Compassion” I am compelled to calmly sit down and meditate, drinking in the simplistic beauty. Not many bands today can successfully pull off both ends of such a spectrum.

 

 

SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOL TEST INFLUENCES BHSEC ADMISSION: LAST FALL, 27 9TH GRADERS LANDED AT BHSEC DUE TO A DOE RULE

Will Glovinsky ’08

In the competitive world of top New York City high schools, we BHSEC students like to think of ourselves as a breed distinct from those who attend Specialized High Schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. But just how different are we? If trends in admissions provide any accurate indication, the answer may be less and less.

Over the short history of BHSEC, the number of ninth graders who were accepted to a Specialized High School but opted instead to attend BHSEC has grown exponentially. This means that BHSEC students are increasingly screened by the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

The root of this trend lies in the interplay between BHSEC’s own admissions process and Department of Education applications policy enacted in 2003. Beginning with a pool of several thousand applicants, our admissions office generates a list of roughly 700 to fill a 9th grade class of 140 and ranks each applicant according to preference. This list is sent to the DOE, which then compares it with the choices of applicants and produces the first round of acceptances.

The issue arises when the DOE weights applicants on Bard’s list who have been accepted to a Specialized High School, causing any student who was accepted to one of these schools to be in the first round of acceptances.

“Lets say a kid was 500 on the list,” says BHSEC Admissions Director Monica Hidalgo, “but because he was matched to a Specialized School he gets bumped up. So he’ll find out first about his acceptance to BHSEC. I don’t think the system takes into consideration that although he got into Bronx Science, Bard ranked him 500th.” The upshot? In the 2005 admissions season, 27 of the students on Bard’s list had their seats taken by students who were given a bonus due to their acceptance to a Specialized High School.

BHSEC was a relatively unknown school only several years ago. The past few years, however, have given it increased exposure and a growing reputation. Today, more admitted applicants, including students who have benefited from their performance on the SHSAT exam, are choosing Bard over other schools in the first round of acceptances. Since the DOE implemented its current high school application policy, in which 8th graders rank up to twelve schools and are accepted to only one choice plus Specialized High Schools, the number of applicants accepted in the first round who chose to attend BHSEC has jumped from 17% to in 2004 to 40% in 2006.

The increasing influence of the Specialized High School Admissions Test, or SHSAT, on BHSEC’s student body is a concern of the administration and faculty and has been discussed in meetings. Ms. Hidalgo explains the administration’s frustration: “We did not want to be a part of the Specialized School process, we didn’t want to base admissions on one exam.”

With that one exam comes a host of issues, such as accusations of ethnic bias and fears of a homogeneous student body. Ms. Hidalgo thinks that the exam, along with the growing reputation of BHSEC, is causing a perceptible change in the student body composition. “We have more middle to upper class kids coming here than before,” says Ms. Hidalgo. “They have savvier parents that know the system and how to navigate it.”

In response to the influence of the SHSAT, the admissions office (comprising Ms. Hidalgo and Admissions Coordinator Olga Carmona) is employing a two-pronged approach. Evidence of sincere and self-motivated interest in BHSEC will become even more critical during interviews, and there will be a continued recruitment program to reach out to poorer communities around the city that don’t have access to the same information as affluent school districts.

“It could become a problem,” says Ms. Hidalgo, “but as long as we are all clear on what the mission of the school is” then we can maintain diversity and ensure that students from all around the city receive the information they need.

 

 

SEXIER DEAN’S HOURS: THE “S-WORD” TACKELS TEEN SEXUALITY

Genevieve Sico ’08

The new clubs to grace BHSEC this year are many: Swing, Chess, Cancer Awareness, Future Doctors and Scientists of America, Fitness and Yoga. One of the more provocative startups is none other than the source of those racy posters found throughout the school building — the S-Word Club.

Diocelyn Batista, Year I and co-president of the S-Word Club, says that the name stands for Sex Club and that the club traces its roots to a talk at Simon’s Rock College of Bard on the morals of virginity. Diocelyn and some other Year 1 students attended the talk and discussed the issue for hours. They realized how important it is to provide sexual education for students who might not have easy and personal access to such information. Soon, however, the idea evolved into a club that goes beyond a sex ed class. The club addresses most of the contemporary issues that link sex to our everyday lives. The club encourages members to keep open minds and question the many taboos that exist about sex.

Leah Graniela, who as Student Activities Coordinator oversees all school clubs, and the administration immediately supported the club after the founders presented the mission statement and rules in their proposal. Ms. Graniela says that she is very proud of the new club and that the leaders and members are doing a good job of seriously accomplishing the club’s objectives.

A typical meeting begins when a co-president presents a ‘word of the day.’ The words are related to sex act as a platform for discussion. One topic was the dictionary definition of ‘virginity’ versus the members’ own perceptions. Sometimes the club holds different kinds of meetings, including forums or even movie screenings.

It doesn’t take a particularly acute observer to realize the impact that sex has in our culture and how sex is portrayed in the media. (One writer for this newspaper once noted that the attention the word “sex” commands at BHSEC is rivaled only by “college admissions.”) The purpose of the club is not only to educate, but also to tackle difficult issues like sexual orientation and abortion. Among some of the other topics to be discussed are virginity, sexually transmitted infections, sex and religion, abstinence, culture of sex, sex and the media and masturbation.

Dr. Jane Budimir, adviser of the club, says that the issues discussed in the club are important to young adults who are just beginning to form sexual opinions and identities. It is critical for young people to learn more and correct misconceptions before mistakes are made, she says. Regarding the issue about the students joining the club because they want to giggle about sex, Dr. Budimir replies that anyone who attends the club and does not participate in a mature fashion will be asked to leave. She continues saying that of course, “there are times when we may laugh at something,” but this is different from behaving immaturely. The club is looking for students who won’t attack opposing viewpoints, but keep an open mind and contribute their ideas to an intelligent discussion.

In addition to the her involvement with the S-Word, co-adviser Olga Carmona is part of the organization called Bard’s Response to Rape and Associated Violence Education. Ms. Carmona says that her training in the program has probably been the most important training in her life as she learned how to be sensitive and perceptive to serious issues in a professional way. She believes that her experience with BRAVE will also help the club meet its objectives of providing accurate information in a safe and comfortable environment.

With several months having passes since the club’s inception, members say that the S-Word Club is fulfilling its mission in an engaging and informative way. “No meeting has ever been dull,” says one member. “It’s worth spending my Dean’s Hour learning from each other issues regarding the realities of life.” “In this club, we talk about confidential issues that we can’t talk about at home and we gain ideas on how to handle them after attending the club meetings,” another member added.

 

 

SURVEY: MOST BHSEC STUDENTS TOO BUSY FOR TV: WE WATCH “HALF THE NATIONAL AVERAGE”

Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10

The typical American teen watches 23 hours of TV a week, or over three hours a day on average. American teens spend more time watching TV than they spend in school. Each year, they watch almost 20,000 commercials (including 1,000 – 2,000 wine or beer commercials) and over 1,000 violent crimes such as rapes, armed robberies and murders, and 14,000 sexual references.

How does the average American teen compare to the BHSECer? Many students said that they used to watch TV, but they don’t have time anymore due to homework. Out of 100 students interviewed for this article, seventeen said that although they have TVs, they don’t watch any at all, and another three said they don’t have a TV in their homes. Eight students estimated that they watch half an hour on a given weekday, and 28 more said they have time to watch about one hour. Twenty-four BHSEC teens said they watch two hours, thirteen watch about three hours, and four and five hours had one student each. Five students reported watching over five hours a day. Based on these interviews, the average BHSECer watches a little over 1.5 hours of TV on a weekday. This is half the national average.

But when do the heavy viewers find the time to watch over five hours? One student explained that she does not watch but listens to TV while doing homework. Another student manages to watch TV and listen to music while doing work. But most other students find it difficult to multitask and end up watching TV instead of doing homework. One student admitted, “I know it’s a bad thing, but that’s the way it happens.”

Is watching hours of television really so detrimental? Experts certainly say yes. Studies suggest that TV sends messages subconsciously, both positive and negative. Watching TV can be used as a way to escape reality and avoid real-life issues, such as those two essays due Monday, and as a substitute for socializing and interacting with other people. Sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time also promotes negative lifestyle habits and can lead to obesity. Many TV shows unintentionally encourage unhealthy behavior such as smoking and drinking, violence and stereotypes.

A ninth grader sitting in the 3rd floor hall before class saw TV as a substitute for life. “Instead of watching TV,” she said, “you could be playing a game, playing a sport, or being with your friends.” A widely held opinion was that TV is fine is small doses; problems arise from too much time spent in front of the TV.

When asked why they watch TV, most students had similar, slightly apologetic answers: “Because there is nothing else to do,” “Because I’m bored, it’s interesting, it’s funny…I’m addicted,” “There is always something interesting.” One student had the unique point that on TV one “can see that other people have bigger problems than you.” One Year II attributed the time she spends watching TV to “senioritis.”

 

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