VOLUME 4, ISSUE 5 (MARCH 2007)

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

To The Editor:

Re: “Independent Studies For Music?” (March)

I am very impressed by the case made for independent study credits for musically committed students. Community Council had designated a task leader to follow up on this question after the year’s first town hall meeting, but unfortunately that member didn’t pursue it. Because of this article, I’ll bring the issue back to community council when we return to school.

In a number of different areas, the BHSEC community is stronger because of the flexibility it maintains. We allow students to transfer in up to six credits from other colleges, fully understanding that BHSEC’s offerings are very strong, but that BHSEC doesn’t provide enough for students with certain interests. We allow students in the early college program to leave early on a regular basis to work. We allow gym waivers.In all of these areas, the school’s flexibility is a valued asset in helping BHSEC students balance BHSEC’s rigorous academics with a full life. It seems like we should be able to find a way to enable greater flexibility in the area of music as well.

– Stephen Bonnett, Year II

Community Council Member

 

 

GORDON MATTA-CLARK AND TERENCE KOH AT THE WHITNEY: SLICED BUILDINGS, BLINDING FLOODLIGHTS

Chloe Steinhoff-Smith ’07

In the Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Matta-Clark’s most prominent series, “building cuts,” is represented in photographs and in film as well as in plans for his works and in several impressive installations displaying the dissected chunks of houses and buildings.

Gordon Matta-Clark was a classically trained architect who challenged the status quo with his artistic commentary on the American family, the poor state of urban life in the 1970’s, and the pretentiousness of modern architecture. In “building cuts”, Matta-Clark worked in abandoned buildings scheduled for demolition. He cut precisely shaped holes through entire structures, allowing light to flood into hidden corners and creating new dimension and meaning in decrepit urban slums.

In “Splitting” (1974), a shaky video shows Matta-Clark cutting a one-inch section from the middle of a typical American house, splitting it in two. The video shows a ray of sunlight shining through the split and cutting through the shadow cast by the house. This piece’s implications about the decline of the American family are fairly obvious, but the most impressive aspect of Matta-Clark’s art is that it is immediately aesthetically interesting even before a person considers its meaning. Downstairs at the Whitney is an installation by Terence Koh consisting of a floodlight blazing in the center of a white room, facing outward into the lobby of the museum and extending to a white screen that guards Madison Avenue from the glare. Anyone who enters the lobby is immediately blinded and forced to shield his eyes as he waits for an elevator or runs for the stairs. According to information about the piece provided outside of the exhibit, which museum patrons aren’t allowed to enter, Koh’s piece is saturated with meaning. “Koh’s gestures evoke isolation and secrecy, but also protection and ecstasy.” It is also apparently meant to evoke the birth of a new universe, or the collapse of a supernova, or something equally grand in scale and brilliance. These themes are indeed apparent in the piece. In fact, it seems that Koh was so focused on expressing something meaningful that he neglected the creative process and forgot about the piece itself. Here lies the difference between Koh’s piece and Matta-Clark’s work. Matta-Clark clearly had an aesthetic vision that was at least as strong as his philosophical one. While Koh fails to create a successful form to express his desired content, Matta-Clark manages to strike a perfect balance between the two, creating art that is as arresting to the eye as it is to the mind.

 

 

INDEPENDENT STUDIES FOR MUSIC?: STUDENTS AND ADMINISTRATION AT ODDS ON WAIVERS FOR THE MUSIC REQUIREMENT

Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10

Olivia Winn practices piano three hours a day and spends the better part of her Saturday at music school. She has been a pianist for 9 years and has performed at a number of venues, including the Merkin Concert Hall and the Manhattan School of Music. Liszt and Tchaikovsky are two of her favorite composers. But like many BHSEC students who make serious commitments to extracurricular activities, she eventually realized that the BHSEC workload hardly allows time for such dedication. Artistic dedication, that is.

While students who join a sports team receive credit in the form of gym or athletic waivers, equally committed art students cannot receive credit. This has lead Olivia, a ninth grader, to become one of the main student advocates for independent music studies, a form of credit for students who spend a large amount of time studying visual or performing arts outside of school.

“I’m doing music outside of school, and I want to be able to bring that into BHSEC and do something with it,” says Olivia. “Between practicing and doing homework, I have a lot of work to do after school.” She also argues that students would be able to focus more on school work if they could complete more of their homework in the free periods opened up where art classes used to be. So far the discussion has been largely limited to music independent studies, mainly because music students have been the most persistent and are more likely to have outside instruction.

It is not likely that there will be as many students interested in independent music study as there are who have gym waivers. The students who have requested it, however, say that it is worthwhile for those who need it.

They say that art waivers would be similar to the gym waiver in that a student would have to fulfill certain requirements to merit credit. There have been several suggestions as to what these requirements might be. One idea is auditions in which students can show that their musical skill is at a high enough level beyond the introductory programs and other in-school classes. Olivia said that “proof of work from outside the school as in grades, or signatures from teachers,” would probably be a requisite for a music “waiver.” To emphasize that the music waiver is not about getting out of class, but about bringing students’ musical talent into the school, it is possible that students will have performances or hold lectures on composers or music theory. There could also be writing involved, perhaps about individual musical education outside of school or an open topic essay relating to music.

Do music independent studies have a future at BHSEC? Dean Lerner does not seem to think so: “I am not in favor of music waivers. I support students pursuing musical and independent work outside of BHSEC, but students need to be realistic about expecting credit for it, as we have no way of supervising or assessing the work. I would much prefer to see students working with our own art and music faculty. They are a very talented group, and have a lot to offer.”

 

 

BHSEC BASKETBALL: A SEASON RETROSPECTIVE

Talor Gruenwald ’08

This past basketball season was a tough one for both girls and boys’ teams. Both were relatively new to the Public School Athletic League and suffered injuries that kept members on the sidelines for good portions of the season. Despite the obstacles, both teams persevered and completed the season knowing that they had given their best for their team and school, and strong sense of camaraderie helped fuel the teams against more established rivals. Considering the challenge of balancing rigorous scholastic requirements and a strenuous practice and match schedule, the basketball teams deserve admiration and congratulation.

The boy’s basketball team, although established in 2003, has only been in the PSAL for two years. They currently play in the B division. The players played four days a week —two practices and two games—for nearly four months. Each player was required to maintain a certain grade point average and fulfill his responsibilities to the team—a tiring routine.

Unfortunately, the team was plagued with injuries throughout the season. Rich Larague, a veteran starter, broke his arm and the team’s tallest man, Henry Shapiro, broke his ankle mid-season. These injuries were devastating for the team, leaving them with a weaker offense and a much weaker inside presence. The captain of the team, Justin Tindley, said that the team would have done much better had these two players been healthy for the entire season. Players who felt they were not getting enough playing time also grew discouraged as the season went on, but nonetheless played hard when they were asked and always gave their best effort.

The coach of the boy’s basketball team, Craig Mandelbaum, voiced similar sentiments concerning his team’s play, “Our strengths were our intensity on defense and the fact that we played a team oriented game on offense. For the most part, there was a selfless attitude amongst the players and we went into every game with a positive attitude.”

Justin Tindley explained that in spite of the problems they faced, a strong bond grew between the members of the team. The captain expressed that he “…loved everybody on the team. They were my brothers for four months. I saw them more than my family.” There is a good chance that things will improve for the basketball team next year: although they will have lost some key players, the team will be more experienced and prepared to compete in the PSAL.

The team won three games over the course of the season in scrimmages. “I was hoping that this team would win Bard’s first PSAL league game,” said Coach Mandelbaum. “They really deserved to; after all of the work and time they put in, it would have been nice for them to win a league game. I’m happy that we were able to win three games over the course of the season.”

The girl’s basketball team has been established for several years, though this was the first season in the PSAL. The majority of the team was new, and the team suffered from a very small number of players. For most of the season, the team had only six players, which caused the team to tire quickly. Practicing and playing games four times a week from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M., schoolwork, and the small size of the team perhaps made for an even more stressful season for the girls than for the boys.

Injuries hit the girl’s basketball team early on. The team’s co-captain and tallest member, Erikka James, was injured with a torn hamstring early in the season and Destiny Rivera, a sophomore, broke her ankle. These injuries were overwhelming for the team, but they persisted in putting in their best effort. There were times when the team was uplifted by their play, realizing their hard work paid off. The co-captain commented, “When people were able to do the things they worked on in practice, lay-ups, free throws, it really brought the team up.”

Despite the challenges on and off the court, a strong bond grew between the girls on the basketball team. More experienced players such as co-captain Alex Tatarsky helped the newcomers and guided them through their first season in the PSAL. Erikka expects that next year the newer players will be more comfortable with each other and more experienced. This should help them gain some success.

It is most important, above all else, to recognize the effort that these students athletes put into their teams. Students who aren’t part of sports teams are encouraged to participate next season. It is extremely fulfilling to be apart of a hard-working, dedicated team.

 

 

GLAMOUR GALS CLUB GIVES MAKEOVERS AND COMPANIONSHIP: MAKEUP IS PROVIDED, JUST BRING A WILLING AND STEADY HAND

Melanie Steinhardt ’09

Glamour Gals is a nontraditional club, which is saying something because BHSEC is, of course, a nontraditional highschool. It is a headed by Year IIs Lizzie Goldfarb and Charlotte Baughman, but the Gals in question are not these two lovely ladies. Rather, they are the senior citizens the club serves. Glamour Gals participants travel to nursing homes all over New York City where volunteers give complimentary makeovers and facials to the older women.

Rachel Doyle, founder and president of Glamour Gals, decided when she was a teenager to start an organization to “connect my peers with the people we often have limited contact with––the elderly.” In doing so, Doyle took one step against the pervasive human obsession with youthful beauty that stretches back to the ancient Greeks. But seeing the beauty in an older woman is only part of what the volunteers do.

BHSEC’s chapter of Glamour Gals visits the Cabrini Center on 5th Street between Avenues A and B. When they first started going, they ended up—unknowingly—on the Alzheimer’s floor. Alzheimer’s patients can be hard to deal with, but, as Lizzie says, “the women are so sweet. We get emotional attachments to them.” Recently, when a Gal fell ill and needed to go to the hospital, BHSEC’s volunteers visited her there.

One Glamour Gal, an Alzheimer’s patient named Helen, loves sharing her stories with BHSEC’s volunteers. Helen grew up in our neighborhood, the Lower East Side. She often professes how proud she is that she attended high school, a feat that not many young women in the early 1900s accomplished. She’s shocked by price inflation since her childhood, telling stories that the volunteers find amusing. “A Hoishey bar? Five cents!” says Helen dismissively. To have someone to listen to your stories in old age is a blessing that the members of Glamour Gals give often. They successfully bridge the age gap between young and old, a growing space thanks to the arrival of no-wrinkle cream and Botox.

Glamour Gals is not gender-limited. Often, the few males at BHSEC are repelled by the club because the title implies that the members are the Glamour Gals. Goldfarb says “One time, a boy came up to me and asked if he could sing to the women in the nursing home on Valentine’s Day. I said, sure!”

While some critics point out that giving the elderly makeovers may only reinforce the idea that the old cannot be beautiful, Lizzie says, “These women have boring lives until we come and give them something to be happy about,” she says. “They’re very receptive.”

In early June, a conference will be held at Parson’s New School of Design, with a keynote speech by Tim Gunn of the popular Project Runway. The purpose is to raise awareness and funds for the organization. Although makeup is donated by high-end names like Clinique, Mary K, Chanel, and Sephora, the Glamour Gals could use more money for the program. Everyone is invited to the conference, from the volunteers to friends and supporters. BHSEC sells ten-dollar pink bracelets for the cause.

Lizzie and Charlotte hope the club continues after they graduate. “We have a good relationship with the administration at Cabrini Center, [but] there have been times when we are the only ones who go.” To those who like companionship, giving back, and of course, doing makeovers, Glamour Gals is a fun and rewarding experience.

Contact Lizzie Goldfarb at lizzievicki@aol.com, or Charlotte Baughman at pandapeek240@aol.com.

Or check out www.glamourgals.org

 

 

WHAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN ABOUT STEPHEN TUNNEY: MUSICIAN, WRITER, PAINTER, LECTURER, LIBRARIAN

Adriana Stark ’07

“There is a plague of noise in the library! Let’s infect the lounge upstairs and eradicate it here!”

Current BSHEC librarian Stephen Tunney has become widely and affectionately known throughout the student body for his hilarious library announcements, which vary from comparisons of noise level and body temperature to warnings detailing how the printer paper will mysteriously disappear due to inappropriate library behavior. However, Mr. Tunney’s quiet poetry is only one facet among his many artistic outlets. Beyond the boisterous library Mr. Tunney leads a life filled with art, literature, and music.

Most students were mistaken in their preconceptions of Mr. Tunney’s occupation. “I am not a librarian,” he states, clarifying that for the past few years, much of his career, aside from music, has been in freelance illustration and writing work. “It pays well, but I would really like to teach. I am in the process of becoming a licensed teacher.” In fact, Mr. Tunney has taught at both New York University and Long Island University, where he lectured on the correlation of text, art, and rock and roll and conducted a creative writing class.

This past teaching both reflects and incorporates his education. “Back when punk rock was king” (if that helps pinpoint a year), Mr. Tunney received a BFA in Illustration from Parsons, The New School for Design and a Masters from City College. Since college he has had his artwork in many exhibitions. His paintings and drawings feature surreal worlds and situations, though his most recent paintings are more realistic than his earlier work. He is also a published novelist, having written the book Flan in 1992. Flan features a strange and chaotic conception of a holocaust during an unknown time, complete with talking fish and dogs with human heads. The book received mixed reviews.

Musically, Mr. Tunney was one of the founding members of King Missile, “a strange poetry noise experiment” whose style is somewhere between Man Man and Cat Power; soft but absurd. Tunney recorded two albums with the band, Fluting on the Hump in 1987 and They in 1988, and then left to pursue a solo career under the name Dogbowl. His first album was released in 1989, and was then followed by eleven other releases. “I still record, I still do music, but I don’t pursue it.” His website, http://www.dogbowl.com, features all of his artistic work, as well as other articles about his music, art, and writing.

Outside of his artistic achievements, Mr. Tunney is a husband and a father of two. “Kids are funny. Power Rangers and Pokemon cards. I generally like these things,” he says.

Tunney’s position at BHSEC is temporary. “In two weeks I may be a gym teacher at an elementary school. However, my degree, painting, doesn’t really cut the cake for that.” Despite his imminent departure, Tunney seems to have enjoyed the time he has spent at Bard. “The kids have more adult-like personalities. I don’t feel like I am talking to teenagers.”

We Bardians have at least given him the opportunity to create the most absurd explanations of the need for quiet in the library.

“Now that we are deep into fourth period, it is time for us to fly into a moment of quiet observation, occasionally dipping into the waters of knowledge, which we glide over, like an albatross.”

 

 

PROFESSOR PROFILE: DR. MICHAEL STANISLAWSKI

Genevieve Sico ’08

After twenty-five years as a professor of history, Michael Stanislawski has discovered that students learn and retain knowledge best when they feel the instructor’s passion for a subject. For those who have not seen this passion first hand in his human rights college course at BHSEC this semester, a short chat with him will do.

“I love studying history and want to spend the rest of my life studying and writing about history,” says Dr. Stanislawski, who is currently on sabbatical from Columbia University.

He also encourages students to think for themselves and relate material to their own lives, adding, “I have forgotten most of the facts I learned in high school and college, but I remember best the courses I found exciting.” As a teacher, he says, “I love it when I am basically the moderator of a lively discussion.”

Raised in Montreal, Dr. Stanislawski became interested in history and politics in high school, where he served as prime minister of the democratic socialist party in a mock parliament. He took this interest to Harvard, where he earned his bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees in history. After finishing school, he taught at the University of Washington for one year before taking up a position at Columbia in 1980.

Dr. Stanislawski came to BHSEC through the involvement of his wife, who is Dean of Administration here. “She loved the school from the start and recommended that I try teaching here,” he says.

This is the first course specifically on human rights at BHSEC. The class is primarily about whether the rights which have been defined as “universal” actually apply to all parts of the world. Dr. Stanislawski tries to engage his students in the excitement of the material, often by making it directly relevant to their everyday lives. He stresses how their lives are different from those of the people in other parts of the world.

Dr. Stanislawski says he enjoys teaching BHSEC students and, if given the chance, he hopes to return during his next sabbatical. He adds: “I strongly believe in its mission” and “admire its administration and staff.”

 

 

CHINESE STUDENTS REFLECT ON BARD AND US: BHSECERS DO A FRACTION OF WORK CHINESE STUDENTS DO, THEY SAY

Elizabeth Vulaj ’08

This semester a number of Chinese exchange students visited BSHEC for three weeks, immersing themselves in American culture and attending our school. In an interview towards the end of their stay here, two exchange students, Wu Dan Feng, 16, (whose English name is Angela), and Li Ying, 17, (a.k.a. Lynn), talked about their experience here. Both students came to America to study through the LINC student exchange program and stayed with Year I hosts. The students returned home in the last week of February, and, although their stay was brief, they both appeared to have gleaned much about our culture and our school.

Both girls believed that their schools are more demanding than ours is, although Angela noted that Seminar was “a bit difficult.” Lynn said that the science courses offered here are much more manageable than the classes she takes back home. The standard five courses students are required to take in America pale next to the ten subjects mandatory in China, which include Psychology, Geology, Computer Programming, and English. They are also expected to take three science courses all at once – Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. Though this may seem like an extremely heavy load, Angela notes that they have “gotten used to it” and, over a period of time, “it just seems normal.” In fact, they did not enjoy the break in schoolwork.

Aside from having less studying to do, both students noted that life in America is freer, and the interactions between students and teachers are less formal in China. Angela explained that in China, “…every time you speak to a teacher, you have to stand up.” Lynn also mentioned that asking questions in class is seen as “strange” in China, while here it is expected that a student raise her hand when she does not understand a topic.

Both students passionately decried Chinese food here, saying it is been radically downgraded when Americanized.

While students in China do not usually hang out with one another during the week, Angela and Lynn said their compatriots enjoy singing karaoke, playing video games, and passing time to the techno beats of the dance-video game DDR after they have completed all of their work on the weekends. Angela also spoke about “Spring Outing,” a day when many students gather for a trip to a nearby city, although she added that many students are unable to attend field trips because they are so busy with studies.

In terms of future travel, Lynn notes that she would love to go to Italy and Angela plans a trip to Laos soon. When asked about what may have provoked a visit to the United States, Angela replied, “We really wanted to learn something about the world, not just information from textbooks.” Agreeing, Lynn summed up, “I’ve seen what I came here to see.”

 

 

THE ‘STUY-IFICATION’ OF BHSEC?: OVER HALF OF NEXT YEAR’S 9TH GRADE WERE ACCEPTED TO A SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOL

Will Glovinsky ’08

In the competitive world of top New York City high schools, BHSEC students like to think of themselves as a different breed 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 indication, the answer may be less and less.

Over the short history of BHSEC, the number of eighth grade applicants who were accepted to a Specialized High School but opted instead to attend BHSEC has grown significantly. This means that the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is increasingly becoming an indirect factor for admission to BHSEC.

Although there has been much speculation over the cause of this emerging influence, the apparent reason is deceptively simple. Due to increased media exposure and word of mouth, BHSEC’s reputation has grown considerably, and this reputation is attracting more students who would have otherwise attended a Specialized High School. Every spring, admission to BHSEC takes place in two rounds. The first round is comprised solely of applicants who are accepted to both BHSEC and a Specialized High School and who must choose where they would like to go. The percentage of these applicants who chose BHSEC over a Specialized school has jumped from 17% to in 2004 to 40% of 9th graders in 2007. Of the approximately 150 members of the class of 2010, 86 gained admission in the Specialized round.

Some members of the BHSEC community have theorized that the increase in BHSEC students who were accepted to a Specialized School is the product of an unintentional preference given to such students by the Department of Education. However, Neil Dorosin of the Office of Student Enrollment Planning and Operations says that matches of students and schools are based entirely on student and school preferences. “There is no difference [in preference] whether they are in either round,” he said. Mr. Dorosin explained that the DOE runs all of the students who applied to BHSEC against BHSEC’s own rank-order list of the 700 preferred applicants and produces a list of acceptances. The only difference, according to Mr. Dorosin, is that students who were accepted to a Specialized school find out sooner than the rest. “It is driven by student preferences,” he said, not DOE policy.

Regardless, it remains a concern that the SHSAT (known colloquially as the “Stuy test”) is affecting the composition of student body. The administration and faculty have discussed it in meetings, and Monica Hidalgo, Director of Admissions at BHSEC, explains their frustration: “We did not want to be a part of the Specialized School process, we didn’t want to base admissions on one exam.”

The fear is that sooner or later the Stuy test may become a virtual prerequisite for most BHSEC admits; almost all students in an incoming class will perform well on it and the percentage of non-test-taking applicants, whom the school has previously attracted, will dwindle.

Why does the Stuy test pose such a threat? BHSEC, unlike schools such as Stuyvesant, maintains a racially and socio-economically diverse student body with myriad academic interests and post-graduate plans. 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 a more intensive recruitment program to reach out to poorer communities around the city that don’t have access to the same information as affluent school districts.

[At BHSEC, whites make up 45.5 percent of the student body; blacks, Hispanics and Asians represent 23.5 percent, 17.3 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively. At Stuyvesant, the student body is 55.9 percent Asian, 38.5 percent white, 3 percent Hispanic and 2.6 black (2004-2005 figures).]

Recently, Ms. Hidalgo and Ms. Carmona visited Breakthrough New York, a free academic enrichment program that prepares intelligent middle schoolers with limited educational opportunities for rigorous high schools with high percentages of college-bound students. Bard’s own Early College Academy is a similar program that targets neighborhood kids. The admissions office is also holding a separate open house for three poor and underrepresented school districts.

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

 

 

BRIEFLY NOTED: THE INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL: 10TH ANNUAL ICFF EXPANDS BOUNDARIES OF CHILDREN’S CINEMA

Meagan Chen ’07

What do animated frogs and children soldiers in Sierra-Leone have in common? Perhaps very little, but both were featured in the International Children’s Film Festival (ICFF), which ran from March 2 through March 18 in Manhattan.

While the focus on children may suggest a lack of maturity in the films, the screened selections exhibited a wide spectrum of subject matter. All of the films were about children, but few could be classified as kids’ movies.

With hand-drawn and computer animation as well as live film, the annual festival aims to redefine the category of children’s cinema. Very few of these films could be considered appropriate for young children. If these films represent a harbinger for future children’s cinema, parents may be surprised – or even disturbed. One film on the topic of “love” and “changes” depicted two caterpillars who grow into two very different butterflies and have an erotic encounter. Another film documented the plight of children who were recruited to fight as soldiers in Sierra-Leone’s civil war. “Little Noel Wants to Fly” told the story of a young man who wanted to join the Australian army.

The ICFF should not repel a teenage crowd just because it mentions children. In fact, many high school students would enjoy the films and would expand their horizons beyond the likes of “300” and “Norbit.” See http://gkids.com/index.html for more information.

 
 
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