VOLUME 5, ISSUE 2 (NOVEMBER 2007)

L.E.T. (LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS): THE BARDVARK ADVICE COLUMN

Sarah Marlow ’08 and Melanie Steinhardt ‘09

Now that we’re well into the 2007-2008 school year, we have received some very interesting questions pertaining to the advice column. In fact, there are so many queries that it’s doubtful we can answer all of them!

Now that the student lounge is gone, where can we go for a place to hang out?

The place many students do go to hang out is the library. Fortunately, Smarlow and Msteinhardt can provide you with new places to keep our beautiful library quiet. It’s easy to find a place to just chill. Outside of the library, there is a big yellow poster with different room numbers on it. Find the day of the week across the top of the poster, then cross-match it to the period down the side of the poster. In the middle is a list of rooms that are empty. If you aren’t into sitting in an empty classroom, the Lower East Side boasts some awesome places to hang. There’s the always delicious—but sometimes a bit crowded—Sugar Sweet Sunshine (126 Rivington, between Essex & Norfolk, just a hop from the Delancey stop), Katz’s Delicatessen (corner of Houston St. & Ludlow St.), and a plethora of other cool food places. You can also join the hoards of students across the street leaning against the fence, or go out to the Astroturf field. But be sure to bundle up!

The winter is hard on my cold, cold body. Where can I get a cool and fashionable winter hat?

Lila el Naggar, Year 2, recommends designer Anna Sui for a nice head warmer. You can find the Anna Sui shop at 113 Greene Street (212.941.8406). She also talks about a great hat store all the way down Houston Street. If you walk really far, into SoHo, you’ll find it. Just stay on our side of the street and bypass American Apparel. Their clothing is thin and not appropriate for temperatures below 40 degrees! Smarlow would like to add that berets are always classy. If you’re more inclined to brave the Arctic than make a fashion statement, you can always get yourself a good old balaclava. Msteinhardt is a big fan of the Ruski-type hat. If you’d like to see an example of a beret or a furry cap, approach us in person!

In the last issue, you said you had a great recipe for snickerdoodles. Care to share?

As several people who have been lucky enough to receive Smarlow’s amazing snickerdoodles for birthdays or the holidays can attest, they are quite delicious. You can use this recipe to bake your own snickerdoodles, although we must warn you that they might not be as magical without the obligatory Smarlow factor, because, let’s face it, the girl can bake…

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

½ tsp salt

2 tsp baking power

8 Tbsp of cinnamon

8 Tbsp of sugar

1. Cream the butter, sugar and eggs with electric mixer until smooth.

2. Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into sifter and sift over a small bowl.

3. Add the sifted ingredients into the sugar/butter/egg mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon.

4. Add vanilla and stir again.

5. Dough should be soft and easy to handle. Add a little more flour (about a tablespoon or so) if dough sticks to your hands.

6. Preheat oven to 400F. Set out cookie sheets lined with foil .

7. Combine sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl and set aside.

8. Roll pieces of dough into the size of a jawbreaker. Roll the ball in the sugar/cinnamon mixture, and place on baking sheet.

9. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly brown, and place on cooling rack.

10. Eat, drink and be merry.

Why do you guys suck so much?

How else do you expect us to ingest our Now & Laters? They’re definitely too hard to chew. We like Cherry and Green Apple.

Remember kids, email us with any questions about making the perfect snow angels, imitating The Pipettes to a T, the truthfulness of the don’t-open-an-umbrella-indoors superstition, or anything else you can think of. We’re always more than happy to impart our sage wisdom to the masses.

Love!

Smarlow

smarlow@bhsec.net

&

Msteinhardt

Melanie.steinhardt@verizon.net

 

 

STUDENTS SPEAK OUT ON BHSEC II: EXCITEMENT, AND A FEELING OF LOST NOVELTY?

Elizabeth Vulaj ’08

Bard High School Early College has always had a bit of an individuality complex. Students take college-level classes and are granted a kind of freedom with their education that is rare in most “traditional” high schools. Yet with the development of a new “sister-school,” aptly (though some say unimaginatively) christened BHSEC II, will we cease to be so special?

Bard is virtually still a newborn; the school was only opened six years ago. Even though the state’s Board of Regents has recently passed a new plan to place 12,000 potential New York City high school dropouts in Bard-esque atmospheres (taking college classes while still in high school), there has not yet been a school quite like BHSEC in New York. Yet all of that may change with this new institution. The reaction from students about BHSEC II has varied, from enthusiastic to down-right demeaning.

One of the numerous positive effects of a “second” Bard is that more students will be granted the opportunity students here are offered. “I feel it is great that we have decided to expand our program to make an early college education possible for more people, not just 145 students per year,” Year II Diocelyn Batista said.

Tenth-grader Noa Bendit-Shtull agrees. “The opportunities that BHSEC offers for social and intellectual growth should be available to as many people as possible,” she says.

Some are further hopeful that the new school will be more accessible to certain demographics. Mr. Cho, an English professor at BHSEC, states, “I think the fact that it’s in Queens will make it more open to immigrants, which is a good thing because of the opportunity it offers.”

BHSEC II will reportedly have a slight focus on the sciences and mathematics, and some students speculated this emphasis would provide a more intimate option for those interested in accelerated science programs. “If it’s more focused on calculus and Darwin than gender studies and Du Bois, yet it still has the main goals of a liberal arts school, then that’s a good thing. I think BHSEC II gives more options to more kids, and that’s always a positive,” says Year II Isabella Glaudini.

Yet one question that is still lingering in people’s minds is the social effect of this new school. Will it cause competition or rivalry? Will the BHSEC II kids engage on “academic face-offs” with us or will it be peaceful? Will there be a sports rivalry?

Of course, it is certainly exhilarating to feel as if one is on an educational frontier, and some seem reluctant to give up claims to singularity. “I really don’t like the idea of one basing its foundation on a school which is only in its blossoming years,” says Year I Ernesto Stewart.

 

 

DARING TO DISAGREE: MODERN DAY SCOPES AFFAIR PLAYS OUT TEN MILES FROM BHSEC

Xena Brooks ’11

In 1925, a teacher from Tennessee, John Scopes, was accused of teaching his students evolutionary theories derived from the works of Charles Darwin. Teaching anything that contradicted the stories of creation found in the Bible violated Tennessee’s anti-evolution legislation, the Butler Act. Scopes was convicted, science became taboo, and Tennessee did not repeal the Butler Act until 1967.

A curious reprise of the Scopes trial recently transpired ten miles west of BHSEC.

In 2006, David Paszkiewicz, a social studies teacher in Kearny, New Jersey, used class time to preach that evolution and the Big Bang theory were not scientific and that there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. Paszkiewicz, a Baptist youth minister, also singled out a Muslim girl in his class and explained to the other students that she was a nice girl, but would burn in hell because of her beliefs. Matthew LaClair, a sixteen-year-old student and member of the Ethical Culture Society (a humanist religion), was greatly offended by the comments and decided to stand up to the religious administrators at his school.

LaClair recorded a few of the lessons to prove that Paszkiewicz was bringing religion into the classroom and unfairly targeting non-Christian students. LaClair had a meeting with the principal and Paszkiewicz, who denied saying anything improper. When LaClair brought up the classes he had recorded, the Board of Education ruled that recording devices weren’t allowed in school.

Before he had recorded the lessons, LaClair had been approached by fellow students who were also disturbed by Paszkiewicz’s preaching. After the dismissal of the recordings, LaClair expected his peers to stand up with him. However, his classmates abandoned him. LaClair was ostracized, harassed, and ditched by many of his “friends.” He even received a death threat from a fellow student; his school refused to punish the perpetrator. The most devastating moment for LaClair occurred when he saw a reporter interviewing kids from his class—every single one of them denied that the teacher ever said anything about God or students going to hell.

Although his classmates had abandoned him, LaClair gained support from strangers. “December, the New York Times ran the story. That is when I started to receive support, not from my school or community, but people from all over the country and all over the world,” LaClair says. “I started to get a lot of positive feedback and many television stations ran my story. I also received support from newspapers and radio.”

Ultimately, the school administration was forced to admit that Paszkiewicz’s preaching was inappropriate. The LaClair family had been prepared to sue the school district for breaching Matthew’s civil rights and refusing to safeguard him from harassment. The school board and the family compromised. Teachers and students had to attend a training session offered by the Anti-Defamation League about the separation between church and state.

Mr. Paszkiewicz is still teaching, and LaClair says that they see each other every morning. Paszkiewicz has, according to the school board, learned his lesson and has stopped his rants. However, some of Paszkiewicz’s students have told LaClair that Paszkiewicz has continued preaching that the Big Bang isn’t scientific and that Jesus is their only hope to save them from their sins.

The backdrop of LaClair’s experiences, of course, is the protracted and heated debate over Intelligent Design, which posits that certain products of biological evolution are too complex to have come into existence without an intelligent agent guiding the process. The scientific community has debunked the theory with near unanimity, but school boards across the nation still believe it deserves equal teaching time along with modern Darwinian evolution.

Despite the ripples the Kearny controversy has made in this national debate, the impetus for LaClair’s actions was as ethical as it was scientific. Speaking in retrospect, LaClair says, “If I could go back in time, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I am very glad I did what I did. I felt, and I still feel, that I had to. The teacher was saying things that were so outrageous that I don’t feel I could have let it continue.”

 

 

NINTH GRADERS LEARN THE ROPES AND SETTLE IN

Henry Rabinowitz ’11

It happens every year. New ninth graders wander the hallways and fill the library as they juggle difficult classes, cope with professors with different teaching styles and seek new friends.

“The hardest part for me is getting to know all the students,” said Caroline Rauffenbart, a ninth grader who attended Salk Middle School, “and getting used to the fact that you’re a freshman again, that there are people older than you.”

“It’s the number of kids, size of the school, multiple teachers and homework,” said Max Wolf, a ninth grader who was home schooled for eight years. “Adjusting is hard, but that’s reasonable for me. For the first couple weeks I had no life outside of school, and I still have days when I come straight home and do nothing but homework,” he said. “I would like to join the ultimate Frisbee team but I’ll have to wait.”

Even though the challenges are considerable, most students are happy with the change. “I like it better here,” said Karin, a ninth grader who went to Christa McAuliffe Middle school, “It’s a much better environment; it’s easier to learn here.” “The people are more active and outgoing, they’re more unique,” added Nicole Price, also ninth grade.

The school has long recognized, however, that many students need a helping hand. “The faculty talk a lot about how some students come into BHSEC at different levels,” said Ms. Yaffee, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel. “Some students weren’t prepared as well as others in middle school. If we notice these students are not doing so well, then we try to meet with them.”

Since its inception, BHSEC has launched a number of programs to help students adjust to the rigors of an early college education. “We started the Writing and Thinking program so that students can meet each other and get to know the style of the school,” said Ms. Yaffee. “It introduces them to the Writing and Thinking exercises and their advisors.”

“We initiated the Summer Bridge Program so that kids can get to know each other before they actually start the BHSEC program,” she added.

Ninth grader Thomas Schubert attended the BHSEC Summer Bridge program and reported that it did give him a “general feel for the school.” He did note, however, that he would have liked to do something more “summer-like.”

BHSEC is notorious for a high drop out rate: in recent years around 10% of tenth graders do not continue to the college program due to stress or weak grades. But even students swamped with work are hopeful. Ninth grader Kevin Schnupp opined: “I think that I will be well adjust and every freshman will be adjusted by next year.”

 

 

CONCERT REVIEW: THE PIPETTES, BLENDTER THEATRE AT GRAMERCY, 12 NOVEMEBER 2007

Sarah Marlow ’08

Phil Spector’s future may not be clear, but the future of his creation, the modern girl group, is bright, thanks to an up–and-coming reincarnation of his singular idea, The Pipettes.

The Pipettes—Gwenno, RiotBecki, and Rosay—took the stage at the Blender Theatre at Gramercy on November 12, following sets by Monster Bobby (the founder of the Pipettes and the guitarist of their all-male backing band, The Cassettes) and Nicole Atkins and the Sea.

This exuberant girl group, whose self-proclaimed concept is to reclaim pop for themselves and their generation, hail from the beach town of Brighton, England, and have been performing since 2003. The band is known for their dance moves and dress codes—the girls wear polka dot ensembles and the Cassettesmatching cardigans. Although they sound like The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las, their lyrics would have caused quite a stir in the 50s: “He’s got a dirty mind/just don’t know what you’re gonna find”. We Are the Pipettes!” their debut album, was released in the UK last year with moderate commercial success and reached #41 on the UK album charts. A remixed version of the album was released in North America this year on October 2.

At their recent New York show, The Pipettes waltzed onto the stage in their polka dots and immediately launched into “Dance and Boogie” from the North American release of their debut LP. The crowd was a little reluctant to jive at first, but the next song, “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me,” and its signature move, the “Finger Wag,” got the crowd dancing.

The Pipettes are unabashed about the constant lyrical themes. After a few more songs about love of all sorts—unrequited, old, unwanted, you name it—RiotBecki interrupted with “This next song isn’t about love, so it must be about dancing!” “Yeah,” Rosay interjected, “We’ve only got two types of songs, haven’t we? Songs about love and songs about dancing.” Indeed, most Pipettes songs are about love or dancing, sometimes even both (see “It Hurts to See You Dance So Well” and “Because It’s Not Love (But It’s Still A Feeling),” among others). While a few relate stories of “dirty, dirty, boys,” as Gwenno put it, the band and their music are very accessible—who doesn’t like to hear about love, and who doesn’t like to dance?

The Pipettes played almost all of We Are the Pipettes, plus a few non-album gems like “Guess Who Ran Off With the Milkman,” “Really That Bad,” and “The Burning Ambition of Early Diuretics” which were all met with applause, dancing, and singing by the audience. The band finished its set with the (redundant) single “Pull Shapes” (which, not coincidentally, is British slang for dancing), but not before insisting that everyone pull shapes with them, and teaching the crowd how to do so (You, too, can learn to dance like a Pipette! Check out the Pipettes’ instructional dance video on YouTube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Jr5aknstC50).

The Pipettes are aware and proud of their pop nature and use this to their advantage as performers. Fed up with the stereotypical “skinny white indie boy” music scene in England, the Pipettes set out to “inject a bit of femininity into it all.” They have most definitely succeeded; they create music they want to hear, and not only do others want to hear it, too, they also get up and dance.

“I like to disco!” proclaims Gwenno during “Pull Shapes.” “I like to rock n’ roll,” counters Rosay, followed closely by RiotBecki’s “I like to hip hop.” The three then sing “We can do it all, just don’t let the music stop,” and I can’t help but agree.

 

 

BOYS’ SOCCER TEAM REACHES PLAYOFFS: 10-1 RECORD IN REGULAR SEASON

Talor Gruenwald ’08

Amid griping over gym waivers lost and a new physical education program, the BHSEC Raptors boys’ soccer team gave Bard students something to smile about.

In the regular season, the team was nearly undefeated. They won ten out of eleven regular season games, securing a position in the B-Division playoffs. The team won the first playoff game before being knocked out.

“Practices definitely paid off,” says Captain Kadeem Joseph. “Soccer has a lot to do with fitness and the desire to play hard and win. Our practices were really intense and that was due to the coach’s no-nonsense attitude.” Kadeem explained that the team would often run “half and halves” on the turf field behind school, where the team would jog half the length of the field and sprint the other half. Kadeem remarked that the team would often run eight of these per practice.

The coach, Winston Mckoy, spoke similarly of practice intensity, saying, “You practice how you will play in the games. If the practice is not intense, your play on the pitch will be lackadaisical. Intensity breeds better play and better skills. Our intensity [resulted in] great play on the pitch.”

Both Kadeem and the coach believed the Bard soccer team was particularly effective at working together on the field. Their game focused on passing, rather than relying on one or two players to make big plays and win games.

Unfortunately, the team lost two strong players for the duration of the season due to injury. Indeed, while injury is a part of sports, the soccer team experienced more than their fair share. Many other players were injured outside of practice and games, compounding the original frustration.

Underclassmen involvement on the Bard soccer team was invaluable. There were only two seniors on this year’s team, and consequently both captain and coach expect further success out of the boys’ soccer team next year, perhaps even a trip to the New York City B-Division Championship if the team can maintain sound leadership and discipline on and off the field.

Cheers to a wonderful season!

 

 

THE MAN IN THE BLUE TRUCK

Mahala Greene ’09 and Zina Huxley-Reicher ’09

“I’m going to the truck,” declares an overstressed and undernourished BHSEC student as she dons a scarf and hat and counts enough quarters to buy Tylenol and a hotdog.

A deep shade of blue, the truck fills the role of convenience store and food stand for BHSEC and the surrounding neighborhood, as the precious housing project lawns leave little room for storefront development. There are many legends surrounding the truck and the man who runs it, what his name is, why the change is so warm, or where he goes when there is another man running the truck. Some frequent patrons may find it inconceivable, but there is more to BHSEC’s personal caterer than frying skills and peanut M&Ms.

His name is Ashraf (he only gave his first name), but students have called him many things over the years–“Blue Truck Guy” is a perennial favorite. He is an engineer from Egypt, and manages to spend four to six months of the year back home with his wife and two sons, ages five and six. He never intended to be an engineer in the U.S., only to work and make money. He plans to return home for good in a few years, selling the truck to a new owner. He assured a reporter that the truck will remain just off East Houston Street as it has for the past 35 years.

On occasion visitors to the neighborhood tell Ashraf that they remember the Blue Truck from childhood. Ashraf himself bought the business nine years ago, after working in a Midtown magazine store. The truck is the original, dating back more than three decades, but Ashraf did add a new engine and body and a new coat of paint. “Everyone knows it as the Blue Truck so I can’t change the color. If I change it they’re going to think it’s somebody else.”

The exterior is not the only thing that has been changed; the selection and kitchen has been revamped many times. The recent additions of French fries, hamburgers and falafel necessitated the installation of a fryer and a grill.

The additions also reflect Ashraf’s business savvy. The enlargement of the menu was conceived to provide a more substantial meal for people who previously would have to trek to Avenue D or further. He runs the business with a partner, Ahmed, who fills in when Ashraf is in Egypt. Says Ashraf: “I own my business and I make good money and I’m doing good with my partner.”

Ashraf’s tenure at the Blue Truck has been very safe: has never been successfully robbed, though there has been one attempted robbery. He says that one day, when his back was turned from the window, someone tried to reach in and steal the change on the countertop.

When BHSEC moved to its present location, Ashraf found a better stream of customers than the less independent elementary school children who had previously studied in 525 East Houston Street. But how knowledgeable is Ashraf of the school community that he unknowingly plays a vital role in? When asked this question, he acknowledged our academic reputation and the intellectual strength of the students. He says, “It’s a good school. Even when everyone comes to take the test they say that it is a good school, and a public school. And the test, I heard, is hard.”

Little do students know that when they trudge over for a sugar boost after a nasty physics test, Ashraf might be able to supply not only a Snickers but also a thorough explanation of Newton’s third law. Ashraf has been a friendly constant for all BHSEC students, from his charitable chain-link fence service for hungry ninth graders to his ready grin and bottle of water for dehydrated Frisbee players. When asked how it felt to be a BHSEC legend, Ashraf responded, “I feel great, I feel good!”

 

 

LOCALS FIGHT DOMINO SUGAR FACTOR DEVELOPMENT PLAN: FEARS OF GENTRIFICATION ACROSS THE EAST RIVER

Jacqueline Allain ’11

Local residents call it “Atlantic Yards: The Sequel.” This time, it is the parcel of land home to the Domino Sugar Factory, a relic of 19th century Brooklyn’s industrial past. A developer wants to supplant it with a grove of thirty and forty story luxury high rises.

In an effort to placate an unsettled community, the developer, Community Preservation Corporation Resources (CPC) recently held a meeting in a Williamsburg retirement home so locals could ask questions about the proposal. An array of residents assembled and for an hour and a half grilled representatives of the developer.

Susan Pollock introduced herself as project manager of the CPC and proceeded to explain the proposal and answer questions. The original plan had called for the sugar factory to be torn down, but community residents and the Waterfront Preservation Alliance managed to prevent this from happening. Now there is a new plan on the table that includes a 30% allotment for affordable income housing. Residents, however, still feel this is not enough.

As more old industrial buildings—some of which have lasted over a century—are demolished, many Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents feel as though the neighborhood they know is disappearing. As activist Mikki Halpin puts it, “Domino really became a symbol to us. It would be great if we could save this one little piece of waterfront, have one place where the paint is still peeling.” Besides sentimental considerations, residents are opposed to the CPC’s high rises for practical reasons. Williamsburg Independent People compiled a list of concerns regarding the Domino plan, which it claims includes an “impact on traffic patterns, parking, subway usage, shadows, wind patterns, sewer lines, schools, hospitals, and fire houses” in the area.

There is also the thorny question of displacement and gentrification: for each luxury apartment built, two affordable apartments are displaced. The CPC says the “former industrial site will mirror the city’s economic and cultural diversity and preserve historic architecture in Williamsburg.” Despite the commitment that 30% of the 2,200 apartments created will qualify as affordable, many argue that the Domino plan is part of a larger wave of “Manhattanization,” and that it pushes out minorities and lower income residents. While many city neighborhoods are concerned with the looming threat of gentrification, it has been noted that the change has been most pronounced and rapid in Williamsburg.

Community activist Stephanie Eisenberg has been a staunch opponent of the CPC’s plan from the beginning, attending and organizing endless numbers of meetings. Over time she has gained a certain amount of notoriety among local developers and corporate PR’s. Eisenberg thinks that instead of high-rises, Domino should be transformed into a sort of museum, host to a variety of private art collections, traveling exhibitions, and art fairs, which would attract tourists. This model is based on the Tate Modern in London, which has created approximately 3,000 new jobs—either directly or indirectly—since its opening in 2000 and generates over $100 million in revenue for the borough of Southwark.

When asked about the possibility of this bringing retail chains to the neighborhood, she cited the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum: they attract tourists, but no chains. “People don’t come here to see another Starbucks,” she said. Would the proposed plan interfere with rush hour traffic? Eisenberg says that it wouldn’t: tourists would come in across the river during the day when community residents were at work, and would leave before they came home.

Back in the meeting, Eisenberg is called on. She broaches the issue of the CPC’s use of ambiguous language. She berates the corporation for never saying, “we will,” only “we hope to” or “probably.” Another audience member asks Pollock approximately how big the shadows of the 40-story towers will be. Neither she nor either of the two architects working for the CPC can remember.

Another concern of residents is the iconic “Domino Sugar” sign, located on a condemned portion of the factory. Pollock explains that the CPC is “working tirelessly to preserve,” it. When residents noticed that the CPC model of the developed esplanade lacked the sign, Pollock said that nothing was definite.

After over ninety minutes of Susan Pollock and the CPC team speaking and answering questions, the meeting ends. One woman remarks, “I hate how sweet they are,” as she leaves, referring to Pollock’s way of responding to criticism with unfaltering cheer. Many community members, however, are pleased that the CPC is trying to make compromises. By providing affordable housing and restoring the original factory, they are demonstrating a desire to appeal somewhat to the local population. At the same time, it doesn’t appear that Williamsburg and Greenpoint are ready to accept the towers.

“I think that towers are out of scale with the neighborhood,” says Greenpoint resident Dorothy Pierson. With tall, modern glass buildings popping up on every block, many wonder if there will be any brick factories and dirty metal shops left in a few years.

 

 

BHSEC RECIEVES PROVISIONAL C GRADE: EARLY COLLEGE PROGRAM SLIPS BETWEEN CRACKS OF DOE’S NEW SYSTEM

Will Glovinsky ’08

When The Village Voice and the New York Times reported that BHSEC had received a tentative grade of C in the citywide school report cards, no small number of students, staff and parents found themselves scratching their heads. How could a school like Bard, with an acceptance rate top colleges would salivate over and a rigorous college curriculum, deserve such a middling grade?

Mr. Peterson, for one, was not too surprised. That is partially because principals were given a preliminary grade last year that was not made public, but also because he said BHSEC could not possibly attain an A under the present grading system. Other schools, such as Stuyvesant, that do not see large strides in standardized test scores among students from 9th to 12th grades (since their students begin at a high level of performance) were able to gain points in the “additional credit” portion of the report card because their students take at least eight Regents for an Advanced Regents Diploma. BHSEC students take only five, and high school courses are designed to prepare students for the college program rather than to maximize their Regents scores.

“We don’t rack up points for administering lots of Regents, as schools like Stuy do,” said Mr. Peterson. He says that the school, upon receiving its tentative grade, asked the Department of Education to include specific achievements of BHSEC in its accounting, such as the fact that students here receive an Associate of Arts degree from Bard College rather than the Advanced Regents Diploma. “They promised to consider it,” he said.

Of course, it appears they decided against it. BHSEC’s grade is currently “under review” because the results of some test scores were initially excluded. Bard President Leon Botstein has appealed to the DOE to reconsider the criteria.

Dean Martha Olson also called for the DOE to give weight to the college program. “The college degree should be given at least as much if not more credit” than extra Regents scores, she said. The C grade, she said, “shows the difficulty the DOE has in accepting and nourishing different programs.”

Dean Olson did acknowledge, however, that the DOE is trying to be fair to each school by minimizing exceptions and irregular criteria. “If one grade is changed it can make ripples throughout the whole system,” she said.

Another, possibly greater, concern is the effect the C grade will have on parents of students and prospective students. Mr. Peterson said that he was confident most parents would see through the grade, but worries that some parents who are not used to scrutinizing and parsing bureaucratic parlance might be deterred from sending their child here. “I’m worried a certain kind of parent might not see through the complexities,” said Mr. Peterson.

To that end, Mr. Peterson has sent a letter to middle school guidance counselors explaining the report card’s criteria and reaffirming BHSEC’s commitment to its own educational values, such as critical thinking, close reading, seminar discussions, and analytical writing.

Mayor Bloomberg has focused on the opportunity presented by the grades for more accountability, saying that the school report cards will “hold a principal’s feet to the fire.” In fact, according to DOE rules, a principal whose school receives three consecutive Cs is up for review. Students might find comfort knowing that Mr. Peterson is not too worried about losing his job.

[Editor’s Note: at press time, BHSEC’s grade is still listed as “under review” by the Department of Education.]

 

 

SWEETS AND SALVATION: THE “SIDEWALK SUNDAY SCHOOL” TRUCK

Celine Chadwick ’11 and Rachel Atlas ’11

It is Wednesday afternoon, and the familiar racket of a distorted microphone blares out grade school catechisms and basketball analogies as the “Sidewalk Sunday School” truck once again graces Baruch Place, directly south of BHSEC.

On this day the truck, one of seventeen operated by the evangelist Metro Christian center, is festooned with tropical draperies and a large banner reads “Hawaii in the Hood”. The “Sunday” school instructors are decked out in hula skirts and multiple leis as they once again reach out to urban children, ages 4 to 12, with a program that mixes Christian proselytizing, ethics lessons, and copious amounts of candy.

After several phone calls to an off-site supervisor, the female instructors allowed Bardvark reporters to sit in on a class and take photographs. About thirty-five children, all racial minorities, flocked to the truck and sat separated by sex on two tarps on the ground. The class began with Pledges of Allegiance to both the flag and to God, and one instructor explained that the political Pledge was necessary because it is a duty to God to support the government even if we disagree with it.

After reciting the pledges, the lesson progressed to singing about simple stories and idealistic characters, which were clearly metaphors for biblical morals and teachings. They emphasized the supreme importance of following God’s clearly paved pathway and the brutal consequences–death or moral disorientation–that would result from going against this teaching. Between the songs the children played trivia games in which they would win prizes if they could cite a quotation from the Bible or could correctly say why they attended Sunday school. Children who stood up or talked out of turn were usually told that they were not following the right path or that they were not respecting God. Children sang a bouncy tune: “Every breath I take I take for you, [Jesus]” to emphasize the teaching that to be a true Christian one must live every day for God.

The instructors appear to associate ghetto culture with depravity and spiritual drought. One instructor said that teaching Biblical morals to poor children was important because even though they “might not live in the ‘hood…they’re raised with that mentality.” This attitude echoes the Sidewalk Sunday School website, which says that the concept is aimed at ghettos around the world and “Areas that are ‘bad’––the ones that Christians wouldn’t be found in, but Jesus might should he be there!”

The instructor also noted that parents and siblings of the children bring them to the classes because they are confident it will keep them out of trouble. The class does encourage universal virtuous living and its promise of success. During “Hawaii in the Hood,” the program taught children to resist peer pressure, as it could result in “morally incorrect” behavior. One of the instructors used the analogy of Lebron James, the great basketball player, and his commitment to daily practice. She told the children that being a good person (and a good Christian), like being a good basketball player, takes constant effort.

The glue that appeared to hold the program together, however, was the promise of sweets. In a cross between blatant manipulation and positive reinforcement, children were constantly reminded that if they stayed until the end of the class they would receive candy. Similarly, a flier for the program seemed to guarantee more sugar than salvation.

It is difficult to determine how deeply the children were connecting to what their instructors were saying, but some Bard students have nevertheless found it disconcerting to watch kids swayed so heavily at such a young age by sweets and hula skirts. The lessons that they are being taught, however, could ultimately have a positive effect on the children.

In any event, the Sidewalk Sunday School and its backyard brand of Christianity is a curious foil to BHSEC, where the catchphrase “Education, not indoctrination” is itself derided as dogmatic.

 

 

THE STUFF WE’RE MADE OF: CAN NEW YORKERS DEAL WITH ANYTHING?

Zuzu Myers ’11

It’s widely accepted that before a terrifying event happens, no one can anticipate her own reactions. Thursday, October 11 was one such unfortunate opportunity for observing the differences of people caught up in the fervor of the moment.

The 1 train, filled with the usual eclectic array of passengers, glided into the 72nd street station as usual, hitting a virtually unnoticeable bump. The passengers steeled themselves for stepping out of the train car and into station.

Through the graffiti infested windows the passengers could make out people running along the platform edge, waving their arms fanatically and obviously shouting, their faces masks of sheer horror. They were silent screams, for the thick metal of the subway car didn’t allow any noise to permeate through, though for one slight moment when a shriek was heard.

The sickly sweet smell of smoke drifted through the open side doors where a few people were attempting to leave the train. The passengers who felt that the leap from the side doors to the platform was too large were prisoners of the confusion within the train.

There were two women sitting side by side in the seats near facing the open doors. One, who was judged to be an author based on the continuous references she made to “the book” and her publisher, sat quietly, alertly casting her eyes about her fellow passengers and sinking in the very way each person moved. Her neighbor, a flightier woman, set her face to appear panicked and said in a loud, clear voice so that the entire car could hear, “I just hope it isn’t another terrorist attack!” She obviously seemed pleased with her statement; for she went on to repeat it several times.

A thick, heavyset man dealt with the panic in another way. He started screaming insults at whoever would listen, mainly targeting the MTA and the attention-seeking woman.

Though the passengers weren’t told at the time, the tiny bump that was barely felt when the train rolled into the station was in fact a man. He had fell into the tracks, whether or not it was intentional was never announced.

What has happened to the New York City that awed the nation with its ability to pull together in unnerving times? There was none of the lauded caring for strangers witnessed in the blackout, no superman like the one headlines proclaimed last year when a man jumped into the tracks to save another. There was only the separation of scared people—has something been lost along the way?

 

 

A WHOLE NEW RIDE: DREAMING OF A 2ND AVE. SUBWAY, CIRCA 2020

Matthew Goldman ’11

Oh boy, the BHSEC class of 2020 has lucked out. According to a tentative city timeline, they might get to ride the Second Avenue subway to school and save a precious half-hour of sleep.

Preliminary construction has already begun uptown on the “T” train, which will run from 125th St. and Lexington Avenue down the far East Side to a terminus at Hanover Square in the Financial District. The Second Avenue subway was originally planned in 1929, and after the retirement of the heavily used Third Avenue El train the subway artery was in even higher demand. Completion of the project would represent a realization of one of the city’s most famous pipe-dreams. Almost every mayor and administration staff since has toyed with the idea, but it has never before gotten this far. Though the timeline is tentative – and of course this is New York City capital construction; nothing is completed when planned, let alone within the foreseeable future – the current analysis indicates a completion sometime between 2014 and 2019.

The 10-20 minute walk from Allen Street to the FDR Drive would remain, but the advent of the “T” line would be enormously helpful to certain BHSEC students. The portion of our student body that resides on the Upper East Side (East End Avenue, Gracie Point, Yorkville, and the area surrounding the University Hospital of Cornell) as well as the very populated Sutton Place, Beekman Place, Tudor City and United Nations areas would suddenly be exempt from the irritating walk to Lexington Avenue for the 4/5/6 trains. Even students living in Gramercy Park, along the western edge of the Lower East Side, the eastern sections of Greenwich Village, and much of lower Manhattan (Battery Park/the Financial District and Chinatown) would have a new option for transportation to school.

“It would make my commute a lot easier and faster,” says Karina Vukel, a Ninth Grader who lives in Beekman Square, a small enclave near the East River adjacent to the UN “I would get to wake up later. Instead, I have to take the M15 and then I have to wait for the M14D to come. Not so much fun.”

Karina is certainly not the only student who could benefit from a subway under Second Avenue. Rebecca Shubert, also a Ninth Grader who resides in the East 80s added that, “It would shorten my commute by about a half hour. I could walk two blocks to Second Avenue and then walk to Mangin along Houston. I wouldn’t have to rely on the 14D, which would be a relief – for everyone who takes it, actually.”

The route is to offer connections to the F, V, 4, 5, 6, 7, Q, R, N, and E lines, as well as transfers to the Metro North commuter rail and proximity to major attractions and venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gracie Mansion, Grand Central, the United Nations and World Trade Center memorial (assuming that it is completed before the 2nd Avenue line). The trains will be equipped with the very latest in technological features. All stations will be fully handicap accessible.

In a city of eight million people, the rewards of such an efficient and convenient mass transit system along the east side are truly immeasurable; best of all a selection of Bard students of the future will be released from the mercy of the snail-paced M14D and enjoy a few minutes extra sleep. Lord knows we all need it.

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