LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
To the Editor:
Talor Gruenwald’s article on changes in the physical education program is informative and well-done, but I would have appreciated more investigation into exactly what the state’s requirements say. The article implies that people who exercised in gyms had insufficient oversight to meet state requirements, meaning that many of the waivers would still be acceptable from the point of view of state requirements. In short, I’m not convinced that the program was incompatible with state requirements – if re-written to exclude self-reported fitness activity, would it then meet state standards? If so, what’s the real reason behind the administration needlessly reducing the flexibility available to students? For all these reasons, I’d also be interested in attribution of who in “the administration” insisted that because some of the gym waivers were inadequately documented, none of them could be allowed. As written, no members of the administation on the record defend the change.
As always, I commend the Bardvark, and Talor on an issue well done.
Regards, Stephen Bonnett ’07
BARIANS BLAST THEIR WAY TO THE TOP
The Bard Barians Ultimate team won their first scrimmage of the year against Stuyvesent, the favored champions of last season. The Barians, entering their thrid season, rallied to gain five straight points, beating Stuy 12-11. Last weekend, the Barians attended a tournament at Rutgers and emerged with a record of 4 wins, 2 losses, making them 5th in the state. Says co-Captain Christian Gaffney: “The Bard Barians are a freight train from hell!”
L.E.T.: LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS
Sarah Marlow ’08 and Melanie Steinhardt ’09
Newcomers, welcome to the huge school with an exceedingly large student body known as BHSEC! If you have made it into late-October, you are probably doing some things right, but a few felicitous recommendations by upperclassmen can only help. So sit back, relax, listen to some supremely wise upperclassmen, and try to think of questions you might, and will, ask us.
The first thing you MUST do to have a great time at BHSEC is make sure your friendliness level is somewhere between “Obnoxiously Antisocial” and “Creepy Harasser.” Smile in the hallways, try not to hug around an unsuspecting third party, and if there must be PDA or an argument don’t do it in the middle of the hall or in front of a door. Speaking of doors, hold them for the people behind you; it’s chivalrous.
It’s also important to treat upperclassmen as peers. That means that you should not be intimidated by them, because they have a lot to offer. But be sure to be respectful, because one thing a BHSEC college student hates is a superiority complex. This means when you overhear a group of Year IIs energetically discussing post-modernism, only interrupt when you have something relevant! Don’t just go up to the group to interject “I used to have a song about post-modern girls on my iPod by the Strokes!” You obviously have something intelligent to say, so show us your intellectual side and we can all be friends.
To really enjoy your BHSEC social life (ha!) is one thing, but enjoying your classes is another. There are a great many actions you can take to guarantee an enjoyable class time experience, but there is one piece of advice you will hear over and over and over again, until it is as worn into your mind as the phrase “non-traditional high school,” TIME MANAGEMENT. It’s true. Time management extends further than knowing that if you’re on the 8:48 V train from W. 4th and run approximately three blocks, jump over one mailbox and speed walk the rest of the way, you’ll end up in your seat in your English class on the 5th floor at exactly 9:01.
Actually doing homework at home is incredibly underrated. The shocked face of the Bard 9th grader when they register that YES, that paper DOES need an annotated bibliography, and NO, it cannot be done on the M14D in the morning, is sadly common. So stop procrastinating!
Another great piece of information to use to your advantage: befriend your professors. Let them see how intelligent, witty, and hard-working you are! Talk to them after class! Bring them apples, they’re in season! It’s the small gestures like complimenting Dr. Matthews’ new shade of hair that really make a teacher-student relationship great. You might even consider dressing up like your favorite teacher for Halloween. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! And if that’s just too crazy, there’s always the chance that you will, in fact, end up wearing the same costume as one of your teachers, essentially making you Halloween doppelgangers. These suggestions are actually based on facts, like almost everything else you’ll encounter at BHSEC. Indeed, keeping your mentors close is a rewarding move that will help you in the future. Not only will teachers be more friendly and comical with you, you’ll also have a reason to say “I took the bus with Mr. DuCett last week, and we totally bonded over our shared viewing of everything Sally Fields!”
Few people have mastered the art of perpetually stealing food from their friends—to those few souls, congratulations—so bring food with you. A sandwich, chips, fruit, Fruit by the Foot (Fruit by the Yard, to be technical)—anything to ensure that you don’t pass out during those six-hour stretches between free periods. Tupperware becomes your best friend here at BHSEC, but if you don’t have the means of bringing lunch with you, there are options outside your backpack. School lunch, for one, is not so bad and has a variety of foods from which to choose. Avenue D is home to many completely greasy but delicious take-out restaurants, and of course there is the blue truck. Ashraf (OSH-rof) runs the foodmobile, and his selection of candy as well as inexpensive coffee will keep YOU running throughout the day.
Given that the nearest train station is nearly a mile away, the odds are that you’re getting some kind of exercise anyway, but why not go further? Go out to the Astroturf at lunch and play Frisbee, or perhaps, if you’re in the right mood, see just how far you can throw your book bag.
In any case, consider yourself extremely lucky—not just to be at BHSEC, but that there are kind upperclassmen willing to hand out free advice. Heed it or beat it.
Feel free to email us with any other questions concerning BHSEC, advice, the baking of snickerdoodles, or Britpop, all of which we are experts in.
QUESTIONS FOR DR. SHANKAR
Gloria Bazargan ’10
Professor Shobana Shankar is one of many new teachers at BHSEC this year. Having left a teaching position at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania for the urban pasture of Houston Street, she now teaches 10th grade Global Studies and college electives in Global History and can be found in the Social Sciences office, working hard and willing to help students with their questions. Dr. Shankar is a unique teacher who brings her personal experiences and interests in other cultures into the classroom. She enjoys teaching because “everyday is different.”
The Bardvark: What do you think of BHSEC so far?
Dr. Shankar: I love it. It’s great. BHSEC seems really exciting and challenging. It might be hard for some students, but I think most students are happy to be here. Overall it seems like a happy place. So far I like the students I’ve met and I look forward to getting to know everyone better.
Q: Why did you decide to come to BHSEC?
A: I decided to come to BHSEC because I really like the philosophy behind the school. The whole new revolutionary idea of education interested me. I think it’s important for young people to know about the topics we’re studying early on.
Q: What was your high school like?
A: My high school was a lot like BHSEC. I attended an International Baccalaureate Program. It was a French system in which we took a test in twelfth grade in six subjects. It was challenging and very rigorous.
Q: What made you interested in history?
A: I was very lucky. In high school I had a great history teacher. I remember him, but I’m sure he doesn’t remember me. The textbook I used was similar to the one we’re using in Global Studies now. It was a college textbook on European history. We also read other pieces besides textbooks like biographies. I remember reading the biography of Bismarck. I found that very interesting. My teacher was good because he taught us about issues and topics that most people didn’t always cover. For example, we learned about West Africa before European colonization and had a chance to examine the changes and progress that happened in the region over time. Our discussions were good because we explored various perspectives of each issue.
Q: What particular cultures are you interested in?
A: I think the question: is what cultures am I not interested in? I’m usually up for trying new things and experiencing other cultures. I enjoy trying new food from other cultures to get an idea about a particular group that I may not have known a lot about. I spent a lot of time focusing on Eurasia. I think that I know the least about America and its cultures.
Q: What culture would you be most interested in learning about right now?
A: If I could go anywhere right now, I would go to Greece. It’s a wonderful place for people who love history, because there is so much of it that has been preserved. It’s also a great place for those who like going outdoors because a great deal of the buildings and excavation sites are outdoors.
Q: What influenced you to become a teacher?
A: Well as I mentioned before, I had a great history teacher in high school and that made me really interested in history and learning. I really love teaching because no two days are the same. I feel very lucky. I know people that work in offices, and I worked in the UN for a while, and I feel like you can expect similar things from everyday in other jobs. With teaching it’s not the same. Everyday is different.
Q: What did you do when you worked at the UN?
A: I worked in publishing. I focused on document research and translation, and I later worked at UNICEF.
Q: Was there a person or event in your past that really affected your future?
A: …I went to Nigeria in my junior year of college. The people I learned the most from weren’t the teachers, but instead those who spent their lives in the country. This trip was significant to me in many ways. It helped me see how much we, as human beings, all have in common, instead of the ways we are different. I saw that we all have a lot to learn from each other. Studying abroad made me excited about learning again, which made my last year of college a very different experience than it would have been if I hadn’t gone. It really changed my perspective, and that is why I always recommend studying abroad to my students if they have the opportunity. [For my dissertation] I researched Muslim Responses to Christian Missions in British Nigeria specifically focusing on child converts.
A KING OF PASSION: KING LEAR AT BAM
Kai Wallace-Krueger ’11
“I know thee well enough; thy name is Gloucester.” These words are spoken in the clearest of whispers into the ear of a man who has lost his eyes, his identity, and his sons. They are spoken by a mad King, yet one more of a man in madness than he ever was in a crown. It has been argued that the whole of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” which recently left the repertory at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is about that single word: enough. It asks, what is enough? The answer comes in the form of Trevor Nunn’s three and a half hour production filled with some of the most stunning acting that has ever graced the stage.
King Lear, portrayed by British actor Sir Ian McKellen, is a monarch at the end of his reign. He ends it by choice, with no love of governing, and decides to separate his kingdom among his three daughters: the malicious Goneril and Regan, (Frances Barber and Monica Dolan) and his favorite Cordelia (Romola Garai). He intends to divide his land based on the answer to a simple question: how much do you love me? Cordelia refuses to answer. Lear becomes enraged, and banishes her. This is the beginning of his downfall.
Very few of us do not know of Sir Ian McKellen, who has become widely known through his roles in such films as X-Men, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lord of the Rings. It would be sadly ironic, however, if such films became his legacy, because his true legacy is on the Shakespearean stage, a place where few alive could match his mastery. His portrayal of Lear is the life of this play. It makes a work that may have been good or mediocre into one of the most powerful pieces of theater I have ever beheld. In fact, I think it unlikely that I will see a better piece of acting in my lifetime.
The challenge of portraying Lear is threefold. The first great difficulty is the need to change over the course of the play. The story is that of a King becoming a man and learning what that means, but also aging, weakening in will, and ceding to insanity. The actor must become fainter, yet stronger at the same time. McKellen manages that. He can seem shaken and exhausted, yet at the same time radiate a sense of power or on other occasions an utter lack thereof. He is stripped bare — literally in fact, as the production has him briefly remove all of his garments to render himself a beggar and a wildman. From that point on, his humanity is infinite, and our empathy for him reaches its truest form.
The second challenge is to be worthy of the text. This is a hard thing to do, particularly because one has to make Shakespeare’s poetry accessible. Nowadays, writers of prose have to earn their poetry. Their truly beautiful lines come off as tacky unless some theme has built up to that line. Shakespeare is precisely the opposite. He earns his simplicity. His simple lines are few, and so have more power than all his poetry combined. The most moving line in the whole of the play is when Lear, pardoning his daughter while being forgiven, says, “I am old, and foolish.” An actor needs to make that line work, and McKellen delivers.
The last is the need to balance passion. The part of King Lear is among the more passionate roles in all of theater. He is loud, dominant, and without control. But the actor, though surrendering himself to the part, must be in control still. He must moderate, and make every word clear. He cannot shout, but he should be furious. He must know what is enough. All these elements are here. It all comes back to that one word: enough.
What is enough? If you ever see this play, you will know.
King Lear runs 3 hours and 30 minutes, and left BAM’s repertory on September 30, 2007. It next opens at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis from the October 5 – October 14.
CLOUD “8”: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: A REVIEW OF SUPERSILENT’S NEW ALBUM “8”
Craig Gordon ’08
The bowels of your iTunes library probably stores scores of run-of-the-mill efforts, lacking that special spark that continually draws you back for more. Unfortunately, despite a variety of pleasant tracks and even some good ones, “8”, by Norwegian band Supersilent, might just be relegated to your hard drive’s colon.
Supersilent has come a long way from their frenetic free-jazz roots of “1-3”. They’ve dabbled in almost every experimental genre you could name – minimalistic, ambient, post-rock (a style of atmospheric music which sounds similar to ambient but uses rock instruments), and free improvisation. In “8”, they throw all these disparate genres into a melting pot, but the results aren’t nearly as sublime or poignant as those on “6”, their most well-loved album. “8” runs like several truly beautiful moments, none of which encompasses an entire song, strung together by almost forgettable filler. The ideas are well and good, reminiscent of the aimless and spectral qualities of “6” with a darker and more drum-heavy sound, but the execution is rather lazy, something that I am unaccustomed to hearing from this band. The production and atmosphere of the album are quite fitting, but the actual substance is lacking compared to the band’s earlier efforts. Perhaps the overindulgence in percussion is what mainly ruins the album, as the drums and cymbals are often used capriciously (not in itself a bad thing) but sometimes without much thematic unity or apparent pattern.
The album starts out with the miasmic “8.1”, which is one of the better songs here. A mixture of the relentless plodding of Sunn O))), who liberally construct entire songs out of pure droning noise, and the swirling ambience of Gas and Boards of Canada, electronic acts that play thickly-layered and dreamy ambient music, the song does a fine job of setting a hazy and meandering mood. “8.2” is basically a bunch of drum and cymbal hits threaded together with rushes of aquatic blips. There’s hardly anything to the song until the last minute or so, when about five different sonic directions converge into one chaotic whole and then die and fade away into nothing.
The minimalistic “8.4”, probably the best song on the album, ironically has actual melodies and is rather pretty in an understated way. Calmly shifting electronics and horns explore laid-back sonic territories, appealing to both lovers of delicate textures and eerily gorgeous melodies. Sometimes the best songs are soft and simple, and this one is a fine example.
The initial components of “8.5” are: repeated drum cluster, drunken robot nonsensical ranting, background heavenly choir, and other small ornamental noises. Later, the song transitions into the quintessential Supersilent spacey swirling of guitar and unconventional rock instruments (in this case flute). Many of the aforementioned “truly beautiful moments” can be attributed to sections with the flutes and the latter part of this song in general; if not for the annoying start with spliced vocals this would be among Supersilent’s very best songs. As it is, it’s up there with 8.4 as the best material on this album. “8.6” starts out promising, with a somewhat interesting idea of spontaneous electronic bloops complemented by the ever-present sparse percussion, but the idea never gains any momentum or goes anywhere at all. They at last return to their freakout roots with “8.7”, a blizzard of electric trumpet and guitar noise thrown atop a tight and compact rhythm section. While the song is fluid throughout, for some reason or another it just doesn’t grab me like most chaotic free improvisation. A few of the remaining “beautiful moments” happen here, but not too many. The album finally peters out with, you guessed it, “8.8” which is similar to (but not as good as) “6.1”; it really just doesn’t have much interesting going on, apart from some melancholic wave-like sections which, if explored more thoroughly, might have salvaged the song.
Alas, the band just shies away from going beyond the cusp of good ideas and in general stinks of production without true substance. Perhaps I sound overly harsh here – there are plenty of great spots, and the album is pleasant enough really – but I was pretty disappointed by this one, as it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Let’s hope 9, 10 and all subsequent integers are more engaging and wholesome.
CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES AT BHSEC: INSTALLATION OF HANDICAPPED-FRIENDLY FEATURES AND ELAVATOR MAKES SPACE CRUNCH
Daniel Goulden ’10
BHSEC inhabits a building built in 1914. While this has its advantages––there is some admirable brickwork in the façade and the structure has a stately aura––the age of our building has necessitated nearly constant renovations over the past years. This academic year is no different, and students are contending with a roped-off yard while administrators deal with even tighter space constraints.
Currently, the main construction project is focusing on bringing the school up to federal handicap accessibility standards. New, lower water fountains are being installed, and workers are widening doors and replacing handles to make wheelchair entry possible. As students know, an elevator is being installed, although students should note that it is expressly for students with disabilities and will operate only with keys. (These rules apply to teachers as well!) The entrance to the elevator will be in the gym, and there will also be a tunnel connecting the gym to the lunchroom.
The construction of the elevators has temporarily knocked out all the rooms ending in –02, and this has produced a space cramp. The first victim was the Student Commons, although administrators say that it will return along with the closed classrooms as portions of the elevator are completed. Reopened classrooms will have portions cut out due to the elevator and the installation of a handicapped-accessible bathroom. All classrooms should be back by the end of this semester.
Additional projects include the replacement of tiles and the continual renovation of external brickwork. Most of this construction is funded by the city. City Council person Maria Lopez has taken interest at BHSEC, allowing BHSEC to have more features to aid students.
While these projects whittle away the meager space BHSEC has, the School Construction Authority now says that we do not have enough square footage. We may therefore receive either a larger gym and/or lunchroom. Further details on this development will be ready once a committee has met to recommend new construction projects for BHSEC.
LETTER FROM TURKEY: TZVI PROCHNIK ’08 RELATES AN EXPERIENCE FROM HIS EXCHANGE
Tzvi Prochnik ’08
As I looked down the long hill, I felt the heat of the Turkish sun strike my head. I was standing on top of a steep hill surrounded by my exchange partners and the Turkish students we were staying with. On this lovely spring day we had chosen to travel to a small group of islands slightly outside of Istanbul, known as Princes’ Islands, for they were once the islands to which Ottoman princes were exiled. This particular island was the largest and it also contained a beautiful little monastery from the 6th century. During the course of the day we had ridden around in carriages and visited a number of grand vacation homes for Istanbul’s extremely wealthy. But we had decided that it would have been a shame to spend the whole day riding around in carriages when the island’s prime attraction, the monastery, lay atop a hill and only a short walk away, or so we thought. As we began the ascent our Turkish exchange partners explained to us that it was customary when one climbed the hill to not talk, to not look back down, and to not stop. These added complications made it about ten times harder to make it up, especially with the Mediterranean sun beating down on our faces.
As one might imagine I was in no mood to climb back down, after having visited the monastery. I kept looking around the hill, scanning the horizon, hopeful that some giant bird would swoop down and kindly deposit me at the bottom. But, instead of a giant bird coming to help, something even more miraculous happened. As I began readying my stuff to leave I saw an old man slowly appear and following him were a group of about five or six mule––my prayers of slothfulness had been answered.
I asked my Turkish exchange partner, Secil, whether she thought that the old man would let me ride a mule down the hill. She answered that this was precisely the reason he was there, for a small price of course. Excitedly, I went up to the old man and pointed at one of the mules and then at chest.
He seemed to understand me and so I readily climbed atop the mule closest to me. In my ignorance, I had chosen an animal that was probably about as old as its owner and no less tired. I kicked the sides of the mule as they do in movies and the animal began moving with a jolt.
Unfortunately, I had never traveled by mule before and probably had only ridden a horse once. Naturally, I had a difficult time directing the mule, especially because it had plans of its own. The animal headed for a very large bump along the side of the hill. Not knowing the Turkish words for “slow down” or “stop,” I knew only that in a very short amount of time I would be thrown off the back of animal. I held on to the reigns tight and hoped for the best, but as the mule began climbing over the bump, instead of being flung off, the animal buckled under me. Apparently the strain of my weight on this poor mule’s back was too great, and it simply collapsed down the bump. My body rigid, I managed to stay upright and eventually the mule struggled back to its feet and continued at a slow trot down the hill. I sat, ridiculous and sweating, feeling terrible for the animal, but unscathed as we descended from the monastery.
[Tzvi Prochnik visited Turkey on a BHSEC exchange trip in spring, 2007.]
GYM PROGRAM EVOLVES: WAIVERS CUT, ELECTIVE OPTIONS EXPANDED
Talor Gruenwald ’08
Outstanding gym programs and dynamite sports teams have never been the drawing cards of BHSEC, but Bard’s physical education program has experienced a major overhaul in the last year. Ms. Nardone, the new Physical Education Director, is continuing the work started by Mr. Larkin to expand the program’s offerings and ensure that students are adequately satisfying the requirements of DOE gym policy. Some of the developments, however, such as the end of the gym waiver program, have sparked protests from a student body used to physical education autonomy.
Gym waivers allowed BHSEC students to fulfill the state-required gym credits through physical activity outside of school. There was, however, a fundamental problem with the gym waiver: apparently, it didn’t adequately fulfill state requirements. Students were not doing the amount of physical activity per week that New York State requires for four semesters during high school. Therefore, the gym waiver program has been cut, with an exception made for Year IIs who have not fulfilled their requirements and may use “Gym Independent Studies” to complete the four semesters.
For everyone else, there is a new comprehensive program to ensure that students complete their gym requirements by early 11th grade, if not the end of 10th grade. After students have finished fulfilling the state requirements, Ms. Nardone is offering a slew of new electives that students in the college program can opt to take if interested. These include learning the fundamentals of many sports, including Ultimate Frisbee, Golf, and Field Hockey.
Some students on sports teams, however, say that they spend much more time practicing than PE students do in gym class, and are therefore entitled to physical education credit. The girls’ basketball team, for example, practiced four days a week from 6:00 to 8:00PM last year. The administration holds that there simply wasn’t enough oversight to be sure that waiver students, many of whom did their exercise independently in private gyms, were actually putting in the required hours.
In terms of school-sanctioned sports teams, Ms. Nardone would like to encourage more school-wide involvement, making sports teams a more integral part of student life. She is particularly interested in adding current club teams such as Track to the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL). Students seem to be responding to these efforts: almost forty students expressed interest in joining the Track team.
Ms. Nardone also hopes to add other sports to our list of athletic options, including flag football and flag rugby. Students have expressed interest in pursuing both of these sports, and though they will not be apart of the PSAL, they will have comparable season lengths and will be competitive.
AN UPDATE ON BHSEC II: SCIENCE EMPHASIS WILL SHARE STAGE WITH HUMANITIES
BHSEC II, our planned sister school set to open in Queens in Fall 2008, is taking form. And it’s already beginning to differentiate itself from its older sibling.
Although the new school will be based on the same Bard College/Department of Education collaboration that spawned BHSEC back in 2001, administrators say that BHSEC II will benefit from a partnership with the New York Academy of Science as well. The Academy will hold lectures, open to students of both schools, that will supplement the BHSEC II science curriculum and coordinate internship programs. Although BHSEC II will have an enhanced science program, planners say they want to model the school’s atmosphere on the existing BHSEC, which balances an intense and well rounded academic experience with a relaxed, non-competitive student body.
To that end, the BHSEC Admissions Office will handle BHSEC II admissions. Applicants to the BHSECs now have the option of applying to one or both schools, which will result in some degree of self-selection. As with the beginning of BHSEC, BHSEC II’s first year will include 9th grade and Year I students, and the Admissions Office says that the same standards will be used to evaluate applicants to both schools. Likewise, a national search for qualified professors is underway.
So just how different will BHSEC II be? Students will study the same core curriculum and will have the same requirements to fulfill in the college program. Dr. Valeri Thomson, a biologist at Bard College and principal-to-be of BHSEC II, made it clear, that BHSEC II would not be a clone, saying that a school is ultimately shaped by the people who work and study there.
And what of the science slant?
Adrian Adorno, an Admissions Coordinator in charge of BHSEC II applications, suggested that the most significant difference would be the background of the principal. “The principal might lend a different flavor,” he said, although he noted that arts and sciences would be rigorous and required at both BHSECs. “We have seen that, at BHSEC, the humanities strongly inform the sciences,” he added, suggesting that the potential for cross-disciplinary study and research is more relevant than any putative natural science emphasis.
Dr. Thomson also expressed a desire for dialogue between the two BHSECs. She hopes that there will be a medium for students from BHSECs I and II to share their work, such as in a symposium or independent study presentations.
Given the school’s Long Island City, Queens location, some have voiced concern over geographic diversity. Dr. Patricia Sharpe, the founding BHSEC dean who is a literature professor at Simons Rock College, and Dr. Thomson say that although BHSEC II will be located in Queens, it will still strive to pull students from all five boroughs. Dr. Thomson did note, however, that she and Dr. Sharpe wanted BHSEC II to be “more accessible to students not going to BHSEC,” indicating that the school may try to ease the commutes of future students.
Dr. Sharpe, Dr. Thomson and Dr. U Ba Win, Vice President of Early College Policies & Programs for Bard College, form the core group of BHSEC II planners. Dr. Thomson is spending this academic year at BHSEC, where she is teaching a math class and closely observing the school.
The founding of BHSEC II will not only expand the Bard empire, but also represents another step for Bard President Leon Botstein and the early college movement he has championed. The creation of BHSEC II is yet another testament to the success of BHSEC, which for the past few years has been able to accept only several hundred students from pools of several thousand.
The exact nature of BHSEC II, and the characteristics of the inter-BHSEC chemistry that will presumably grow, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the BHSEC community has served as a strong role model, and will likely continue to nurture the young school even as it develops a character of its own.
Additional reporting for the article contributed by Will Glovinsky
FOREIGN REPORT: TWO SUMMER TRIPS TO CHINA: BHSEC SENDS STUDENTS TO TEACH ENGLISH AND STUDY CHINESE
Noa Bendit-Shtull ‘010
BHSEC students and faculty made two trips to China this summer. The visits, which were made independently of each other and entailed learning and teaching Chinese or English, are further successes for BHSEC in its series of foreign programs with China. Below, The Bardvark brings you reports of both trips.
Teaching English, Sharing Cultures
Dean Michael Lerner and three BHSEC students traveled to Shanghai for two and a half weeks to teach English. The students, Jamie Gatchalian and Tanj McMeans (both’08), and Scott Storch ’07, lived at the Shanghai Kang Qiao School, where they were ‘dorm parents’ along with a group of students from the City-As-School. The students were responsible for creating an English course for Chinese middle school students.
The BHSEC students had to cope with an English proficiency that differed from student to student. “Although the students I had were pretty fluent in English, some of the other students weren’t, so I really had to make use of the limited Mandarin I knew,” Jamie said.
The students-turned-instructors also had time to bond with their students by playing sports, taking art classes, sightseeing, sampling street cuisine and visiting the special places that tourists usually miss.
There were also opportunities to teach Chinese students about American pop culture. “One of my proudest moments with my students was when they danced my choreography to ‘Girlfriend,’ by Avril Lavigne at the closing ceremony,” said Jamie, adding that she enjoyed “the experience of teaching them [her] dance and watching them work hard and progress, while having fun.”
The BHSEC students found that some of the simpler cultural differences are the most difficult to adjust to. “Their eating habits are very different. Breakfast is 7:30, lunch at 10:45 and dinner at 5:30,” reported Jamie. “For me, it’s breakfast at 10:45, lunch at 5:30 and dinner at 9 pm.”
The response to the program was overwhelmingly positive. Jamie said, “It was just two weeks of my summer, but the were the most memorable two weeks of my life. If I were asked to do it again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat.” Dean Lerner agreed that he would “absolutely” do it again. “It was a great experience,” he said, “really an eye opener.”
Another BHSEC student traveled to China this summer, this time as an intensive Chinese immersion program. Year 1 Silvia Galis went with the China Institute on a scholarship from the US embassy, where for seven weeks, she and thirty-five other American high schoolers studied at the prestigious Yucai School in Beijing. Each student lived with a host family. Their host ‘siblings’ were all high school students who attend the Yucai school, and spoke about the same amount of English as the Americans spoke Chinese.
The Americans spent four hours a day learning Chinese, practicing vocabulary, grammar, and dialogues, and speaking Chinese for about three quarters of the class. Silvia raved about the program: “By the end, I was definitely thinking in Chinese!”
When the group was not in the classroom, they spent time sightseeing and participating in various activities. Before school there was Tai chi, and after there were classes such as calligraphy and tea culture.
Silvia’s favorite outing was to the Great Wall, where the group camped out on two rented towers. Her impression: “It was gorgeous, but not comfortable at all”
Despite a bad sleep or two on the only man-made object visible from the moon, Silvia says that the China Institute trip educated her not only about the Chinese language, but about its amazing culture, which is both ancient and modern. “It was a shock, definitely. I think it’s an amazing program. Your Chinese will grow exponentially.”
“THAT’S SO BARD”: THE BHSEC MIX TAPE
Sasha Pezenik ’10
Late last semester, in the midst of graduation forms and senior theses, Stephen Kahn Bonnett ’07 produced a Bard mix tape. He peddled his creation in the hallways for $5 — half of the proceeds to go to the Community Council. This year, after his encore appearance during Writing and Thinking Workshop, his mix tape lives on as students listen to his ‘soundtrack to Bard,’ not only as a way to remember him but, as stated in one of his tracks, as a ‘celebration of us.’
With 8 tracks, the tape is a compilation of overdubs of popular songs such “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé. While the beat and music are the same, the lyrics are a little, um, non-traditional. Each song focuses on an aspect of BHSEC, running the gamut from the rants against the Department of Education to the woes of plagiarism.
Stephen says that he got the idea at last year’s Year II Talent Show, and began toying with the idea of creating a mix tape to sing the passion of BHSEC, as well as to procrastinate studying for his finals. The tape also helped raise some extra cash for Community Counsel to use on Community Day. Stephen says that the CD was a way to exemplify many different experiences at Bard—the intense studying, the homework, and the hanging out with friends that students somehow manage to cram in with the three papers and the lab report due the next day.
His message, he said, was the uniqueness of BHSEC: the combination of studying, while trying to have a life apart from studying. He wanted to portray the amazing community and show his appreciation for the values at BHSEC.
One of the most memorable tracks is “To Be Together,” which is about trying to make a relationship work while juggling school responsibilities. At one point, he says that “with every A student, you can find a date, just hangin’ around.” The track encapsulates that age-old (six years) duality at BHSEC: high school—dating, commutes, etc., and college level work.
Another notable mix was “Rebellious Student,” an anthem that details the antagonism between BHSEC and the Department of Education. Sings Stephen, “Every school is like a prison…where all kids are potential murderers running wild!” But facetious lyrics become Cassandra-like predictions: “Soon they’ll say pencils are too dangerous for school—after all one could be used as a dangerous tool!”
“That’s so Bard” is the invariable sigh that signals that Plato has somehow made his way into your lunchtime conversation, again. Some people are irritated by the exclamation and avoid using it. But when confronted with Stephen Bonnett’s mix tape, what else is there to say?