AN INTERVIEW WITH BARTON GELLMAN: PULITZER PRIZE WINNER AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR SHARES HIS SECRETS
Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10
In 1978, Barton Gellman, Editor-in-chief of George Washington High School’s newspaper, gave the go ahead to run an article on teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy was a problem at the Philadelphia high school, but the words “abortion” and “contraception” in the article pushed the limits on an already contentious subject.
The schools’ principal confiscated the newspapers and fired Gellman from his position as Editor. The poor judgment of school authorities turned out to be a catalyst for Gellman’s burgeoning career in journalism, and ultimately his Pulitzer Prize. Gellman was forced to question what he was committed to, and decided to sue. ACLU and Temple Law School took the case pro bono, and Gellman took the principal to federal court.
He won the settlement—the courts ruled that the newspaper staff had a right to distribute the paper containing the offending article—but by then Gellman had graduated, and was a reporter for the Daily Princetonian at Princeton University.
Although he was stimulated and filled with ambition by a summer journalism program at Columbia, he chose to study politics and international affairs. “You learn journalism by doing it,” says Gellman, “It helps to be a journalist if you know something about something, like science, medicine, or law.”
“Write as much as you can; learn research skills…develop knowledge and intellectual self confidence,” Gellman advises aspiring journalists. “To learn what powerful people and institutions don’t want you to know,” he adds, “you need to have self confidence to unpack the lies and say what is the truth….”
His Masters degree in politics at Oxford University prepared him to be a diplomatic correspondent at the Washington Post, following a foray into presidential campaigning. During his first ten years at the Post, Gellman worked as the Jerusalem Bureau Chief and as a Washington D.C. superior court reporter, among other jobs. He was stationed in Iraq for two months, doing investigative stories on weapons of mass destruction.
Journalism is a passion for Gellman. “I get to be curious for a living,” he says, “You have an excuse to go anywhere, and ask anyone to show you their world.” Gellman has been in a submarine under an arctic icecap, and he has catapulted from a plane onto an air craft carrier. Gellman talks to everyone. Even within an organization, he explains, there are specializations and hierarchies—people in a single organization only know what happens in their sector, and aren’t connected to people working in other areas.
For the past ten years, he has been a special projects reporter, taking several months to write lengthy articles, an atypical schedule for a newspaper reporter. Gellman, along with fellow Washington Post reporter Jo Becker, took a year to write a 20,000 word series of articles about Dick Cheney’s vice presidency, which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting this year.
Although he was writing an in-depth series on Cheney, Gellman procured all of his information indirectly. His job, he explains, is “accountability journalism—finding out what people with power are doing with it that they don’t want you to know,” and holding them accountable. People knew that Cheney was a dangerously powerful Vice President, but it was up to Gellman to prove it with hard facts.
The information he needs to obtain would not be freely disclosed in a press conference or staged event. Gellman has to navigate the roundabout route. He starts by making a long list of people who know a little piece of the story, and then determines who has the least motive to hide something. “For example,” Gellman explains, “someone who is in the State Department might not care if something is politically sensitive from the point of view of the White House.”
In his experience, people are more willing to divulge information if Gellman shows them that he already has some knowledge. He uses a practiced metaphor: in the same way that you need money to borrow money, you need information to get information. In one situation, Gellman called the White House Chief of Staff seven times, but he refused to talk. Gellman then wrote him an email explaining why he should talk. Only when Gellman revealed that he was knowledgeable about the situation did the Chief of Staff agree to an interview, providing useful information.
The four-article series on Cheney was so popular—it places 3rd for “most hits” on the Washington Post website—that Gellman wrote a book, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, exploring similar questions but in a broader scope, with more room for narrative. His target audience? “I don’t know,” Gellman said, and then paused—“Political junkies.” But his book apparently has a wider appeal; it debuted at #4 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list early in October.
M14D BUS DRIVERS: WHAT THEY REALLY THINK
Sasha Pezenik ’10
As dawn streaks the New York City skyline, teenagers from all over the city travel to Bard High School Early College. We come by many different modes of transportation—by car, F-train, L-train, or the M21 bus. One of the most popular means is the M14D, an accordion-style bus that travels a tedious route but ends up right on BHSEC’s block.
Many Bardians take this route daily to and from BHSEC. We fill the bus to the brim, often disturbing those few who are not from Bard.
How do outsiders view our presence? I decided to go to the source: the bus drivers. I asked what they think of BHSEC kids. A great majority of the bus drivers knew exactly who I was talking about. The answers they gave me varied widely.
One bus driver I asked, a middle aged, mustached gentleman, gave his opinion on our fashion sense: “Oh, you guys? Yeah, I know you; you always go around in the craziest get-ups. I know I didn’t dress like that in high school.” It seems that we are more closely observed than expected.
Several other bus drivers commented on our manners, though there seemed to be conflicting opinions. “The kids who get off on Mangin always say thank you. It’s nice to get that back when you work all day” said one driver. However, the 8:45 driver said “I can always recognize one of you because in the morning you bang on the doors to be let in and crowd the doors and middle of the bus. In the afternoon, you’re all loud and I can’t stand how many of you there are on Avenue D. I almost want to skip the stop.”
Do these drivers receive different batches of Bardians? It seems unlikely. Were the drivers with negative views just having bad days? Whatever the reason, it is clear that our ‘chauffeurs’ opinions of Bardians are as diverse as our community.
LAPTOP SHORTAGES DUE TO SUMMERTIME THEFT
Gloria Bazargan ’10
Every period and sometimes before school, BHSEC students crowd into the library hoping to find a laptop to finish last night’s Seminar homework. Very few students are aware that the new shortage is due to a massive theft of BHSEC laptops and projectors that occurred over the summer.
On Monday June 30th 2008, twelve laptops and two LCD projectors were stolen from the school. A busted laptop cart found on the first floor indicates that the thieves tried, but failed, to steal an additional cart of laptops. The police were informed immediately of the break-in, yet they still have no leads. Principal Peterson doubts that the thieves will ever be implicated. He believes that the criminals entered the building through the roof while there were still scaffolding stairs on the outside of the building.
As education budgets in New York City shrink rapidly, these stolen items only add to the financial difficulty of sustaining BHSEC’s excellent academic environment. As of now, the lost technology has not been replaced, but Mr. Peterson is hopeful that private donations will aid the recovery.
Our best chance at finding the stolen goods is through police investigations of computer fairs. Mr. Peterson explained that stolen laptops and projectors are often taken to computer fairs, where they can be sold. If the police come across the stolen items at one of these fairs, they will be able to trace their barcode numbers back to the school.
DR. KATINA MANKO: WORLD TRAVLER, MOTHER, WINE-MAKER
Zoe Chaves ’09
Although Dr. Manko teaches American history courses at BHSEC, her travels have taken her across the globe; “I have very itchy feet,” she explained. Dr. Manko’s travels have taken her all over the world, to exotic regions such as Georgia, New Zealand, and Turkey.
She travels primarily as a site-seer, but her experiences have often been wild; she journeyed around “Mongolia in a Soviet van for about a month” and was diverted from China to Lao when the SARS pandemic broke out in 2003. “You never knew what you were about to eat” she recalled. Dr. Manko’s two-year-old twins have temporarily put her travels on hold, but she is planning a family trip to Tibet when they turn seven.
How is this adventurer from Sharon Springs, NY adjusting to BHSEC? “The kids are so interested,” she related “it’s not hard to grab their attention”. But there are challenges in teaching modern American history. Dr. Manko cites the sheer volume of material available: “so much history is being worked out.”
Dr. Manko studied women in business (her dissertation was about Avon ladies!) and plans to include a feminism component in her elective course “woven into the 60’s”.
In addition to writing an article on Mary Kay cosmetics, Dr. Manko spends her time outside of BHSEC working on a 1.5 acre plot of land at the Queens County Farm Museum. Dr. Manko and her partner grow grapes, which they then bring to a winery. Their first bottles are going up for sale soon.
Although BHSEC-ers may not be able to appreciate Dr. Manko’s wine-making talents, they can certainly appreciate her worldly knowledge and terrific student rapport. Said Year II Silvia Galis- Menendez, “Dr. Manko is hilarious. She always says something interesting and unexpected during class discussions that helps me look at the text in a different way.”
“LET’S FLIP THIS MARKET!”
Jack Jenkins ’12
It’s tempting to believe that corrupt predatory lenders and greedy Wall Street CEOs are the only people to blame for America’s current economic crisis. But think about how these people were able to make such unrealistic profits. They have fed, and are still feeding, on the American people’s failure to understand the market at a basic level.
Maybe we should get on our computers and do a Wiki-search on the economy. Or go to the local library and flip a few pages of an easy-to-read book of economics. That way, we can understand how we got into this mess, how we can escape it and how we can apply the lessons we learn to the future.
Our market collapsed because of our inability to see ourselves as the sculptors of the economy, our unawareness that our actions affect the country on a grander scale. We should have anticipated that the bubble would pop; it always does. America was punished by the Great Depression, and it is inexcusable that we have not learned from history.
What happens when you build a house of cards?
Banks started accounts with low interest rates on mortgages because they thought people would be able to make money once the market went up. Government regulators weren’t worried about watching over predatory mortgage lenders because markets “regulate themselves.” Everything depended on the housing market’s ability to continue to grow.
But – maybe I should make some money! Everyone’s doing it. It seems like the housing market keeps rising, so why don’t I buy a house? I’ll sell it as soon as its value goes up and before my mortgage rate does. I can make money from scratch! I can even borrow money for the down payment!
And then, all of a sudden, the housing bubble popped. People tried to sell their homes, but no one was playing the game anymore. Millions of adjustable rate mortgages (mortgages that start with very low interest rates that rise after five years) rose all at once, and people had to default on their loans. Wall Street, which had bought up pieces of these loans, lost billions and many companies went bankrupt. Soon no one wanted to lend to anybody, and the economy was crushed.
So, what have we learned from this economic crisis? We’ve learned that as a country, we need to be more aware of how our actions affect the economy. We’ve learned that although taking financial risks may have an upside, we need to be more careful—way more careful—with our money. And we’ve learned that we have to carry this lesson into the future, or we’re destined for a third Great Depression.
GREEK LIFE AT BHSEC?
Naomi Boyce ’10
Bard High School Early College prides itself on giving an authentic college experience to high school aged students. We flaunt the doctorial degrees earned by many professors, and we follow college curriculums and syllabi closely. For many BHSEC students, this college-like education is all that they are seeking. Yet a few students have gone a step farther and created BHSEC’s newest collegiate opportunity: Greek life.
During the summer Year I students Shardae White and Jamilah Harris discussed their concerns about applying for college. Their main concern was filling enough community service hours for their college resumes. Their solution was to form a club that focuses on community service and outreach. They decided to name the club M.A.C. standing for making a change.
Although their original intention was to make the club co-ed, M.A.C. became a sorority when the founding members realized that only girls were joining. They found the concept attractive because it could create an experience based on community building as well as community service. The idea was approved by Whitney Bates, the student coordinator, and Dean Lerner.
The M.A.C. presidents hope to create a sisterhood, a place where “Girls can be comfortable as leaders and mentors to younger students,” says Jamilah. They plan to focus their meetings around female issues such as gossip, girls, love, abuse, and virginity.
Upon hearing about the sororities, many BHSEC students responded with horror, anger and confusion. Year II Crae Sosa muses: “Considering that there no boys at this school, I guess it is kind of ridiculous.” Katie Glanbock, a Year I, said, “To be honest, I didn’t know there was one. But it is pointless because of the boy to girl ratio. We already have enough.”
“I feel like even though we are in an Early College, sororities and fraternities are meant to create small groups in larger colleges, not in smaller High School like communities where there’s already some separation,” says Rilka Spieler, “It just creates larger gaps and more defined cliques.”
Sororities are known as exclusive organizations that only allow the popular, rich, or powerful to join. But the M.A.C. sorority plans to defy this stereotype and create a tolerant, non-exclusive organization—beyond the gender prerequisite, of course.
In response to the sorority, a group of boys tried to create a fraternity, known as the B-Men. In Jamilah’s words, “We inspired the fraternity.” Yet Folagabyi Arowolo, Year I and a member of the B-Boys said that, “The fraternity disintegrated before it started. Now it is a men’s group with representatives from each grade to further and diversify the male to female ratio.”
The BHSEC fraternity, although not nearly as successful as the sorority (which boasts at least 30 members), does create a male oriented community within the predominantly female BHSEC population.
Although there is much controversy among the students as to whether Greek life is appropriate at BHSEC, Shardae has a vision for the future: “I hope it stays a sorority and that it completes the volunteer hours needed and that it is a place for girls to talk.”
WHERE WERE THE CAMPAIGN SPEECHES?
Sam Levine ’10
As I began to fill out my BHSEC Student Leadership Team intent-to-run form last week, I came across something that made my throat dry. In parentheses next to the section that asked why I wanted to run for the SLT was a warning that read: “This statement will appear next to your name on the ballot. NO SPEECHES WILL BE MADE THIS YEAR.” Looking down at the remaining space, enough room for about ten short sentences, I gulped and thought to myself: ‘Uh oh, these ten sentences better be really good.’
As the elections approached, student campaigns boomed: in stairwells and on bulletin boards, candidates posted flyers calling for Bardians’ votes. My mini-feed on Facebook was filled with status updates telling me which students were running for Student Union. A Year 1 candidate even made a series of campaign videos on YouTube that included a self-composed rap. But while posters filled the halls, and candidates came up with creative ways to rake in votes, one element was still missing from the race: speeches.
On this year’s ballot, my statement was no different from the countless others that read:
My name is (insert candidate’s name) and I am running for (insert position). While I am the one fulfilling this position, it is your opinion that matters. Here are some of the ideas that I have to make the school better (insert, a bigger and better community day, a quieter library, more free periods etc).
My qualm with this election system is that Bardians were forced to choose between candidates with only ten sentences to represent each. The voters did not have any way to assess their candidates in detail.
It’s true that in the past we’ve all thought about skipping that Dean’s Hour meeting when candidates from each grade promise to bring back the elusive student lounge, but there is still something to be said for speeches. Anyone can make promises on a piece of paper. But the ability to get up, look the entire student body in the eye, and make those same promises is what separates the winners from the losers in the election. Once elected, candidates will need to use their words to put their ideas into action. If a candidate can persuade the entire student body to support his views, surely this candidate can articulate his opinion to the administration, which ultimately has the power to make change in BHSEC.
When there is no way to distinguish between all the candidates, what does the election become? Student perceptions of each candidate are shaped more by personal opinion than by the candidates’ positions on the issues that BHSEC faces. With no speeches, there is no opportunity for a candidate to plead his case to voters.
In a school that pushes me to think outside the box, the elections did not even give me a chance to change my opinion of the candidates. Without speeches, this election became—dare I say it?—a popularity contest. Why not vote for your friends when no one else has given you a solid reason to vote for him?
Ultimately, I was elected to the SLT, but I’m unsure of how to feel about my victory. In the end, I guess I made those ten sentences really, really good.
L.E.T.: LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS
Melanie Steinhardt ’09 and James Marlow ‘12
Welcome back to The Bardvark! We know midterms were tough, but you survived to read the paper once more. As a congratulatory prize, we selected the best questions received this month–all sent by YOU!
Why are you not in the philosophy club?
Msteinhardt is often wrongfully accused of being interested in certain things “only because Dr. Clark likes them” (i,e. Oberlin College, Latin, etc). Therefore, she thinks it unwise to join a club whose purpose is to discuss philosophy–also known as Dr. Clark’s undergraduate major. Furthermore, she has a job and other responsibilities. Smarlow agrees. Although he feels that philosophy is awesome, he just doesn’t have the time for it.
Whenever I try studying at my desk, I get distracted easily. Actually, whenever I try to study at all, I get distracted easily. I’m falling behind on work and I’m stressed out. What do I do?
Msteinhardt knows how you feel. She also gets distracted easily when trying to study, but here are her tried-and-true methods for focusing! (1) Clean up your workspace. If you feel distracted, it could be because you are unorganized and your clutter demands your attention. An organized workspace is an organized life!
(2) Get enough sleep, and slow down on the caffeine. BHSEC students often underestimate the positive effects of a little less coffee and a little more shut-eye. Smarlow suggests you just get your work done and stop complaining! If you don’t get it done, it becomes a self-fufilling prophecy of more work to do. And if all else fails, go to Dr. Matthews to figure out the meaning of life. Once you do that, you’ll be so busy guest-starring on Oprah and writing self-help books that you won’t even need to study!
How can we stop Pushing Daisies from being cancelled?
Smarlow thinks that this wonderful show should be watched by tens of millions of people. Sadly, middle America doesn’t understand the appeal of a piemaker who solves mysteries by resurrecting dead people. It’s a strange concept, considering our school’s bizarre obsession with cupcakes, but it’s true! The show is on the verge of being cancelled, so Smarlow suggests that you should watch it and send emails or letters to ABC! Keep Pushing Daisies on the air!!! Remember, kids: if you’ve got any more urgent questions, feel free to send them. We answer queries about anything, from senior citizen community outreach programs to your Halloween costume for next year! Have a great month and GO OBAMA!
Your fellow Bardians, Msteinhardt (Melanie.firstname.lastname@example.org) & Jmarlow (email@example.com)
PIERPONT MORGAN LIBRARY: TYING TOGETHER THE PAST AND PRESENT
George Winn ’12
In this time of financial turmoil, it was ironic to be visiting the library and museum of John Pierpont Morgan, the man who saved the United States from the perils of a similar calamity, the Crash of 1907.
Morgan’s library and museum is located on the corner of 36th Street and Madison Avenue. It consists of two sections. The original section is made up of Morgan’s study and personal library. The second part consists of a modern exhibition center with four galleries, a dining room, a café, classrooms, and a theater. This newer portion sits on the former site of Morgan’s mansion, located at 219 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.
The original building is the more interesting of the two portions of the museum. Inside is Morgan’s large study, as it existed during the days of the 1907 Crash. To alleviate the financial panic in October of that year, Morgan hosted several meetings in the study with the leading bankers of the time, as well as the Secretary of the Treasury. It was in this study that he devised the plan to avert the crisis and convinced the others to approve his plan. It was a momentous occasion. According to a recent book entitled The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm, by Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr, Morgan’s deal saved the country from a financial collapse.
The décor of the historic study is luxurious but not splashy. A set of parallel couches is covered in red silk imported from china. On the walls, which are also cloaked in red silk, hang several pieces of artwork, including portraits of Pierpont himself and his son, John Pierpont Morgan Jr. (who took over management of the Morgan bank after his father’s death). In the southeast corner of the room sits Morgan’s personal vault, where he kept over 600 ancient manuscripts dating back to medieval times. Morgan’s desk is similar to the President’s desk in the Oval Office: Italian leather and mahogany.
Morgan’s personal library takes up a large portion of the original building. This room is awe-inspiring. The large room contains three stories of bookshelves, filled with books ranging from early bibles to popular American literature. Currently, there are a few important artifacts on display. One is the Biblia Latina, which is one of the three Gutenberg Bibles that the Morgan Library has in its possession. These bibles date back to the 1400s and are special because they were the first printed copies of the Bible. Another rare artifact on display is a mini portrait of a young John Milton, the 17th century author.
The new portion of the museum was built between 2003 and 2006. Starting in 2000, the trustees of the Morgan Library & Museum and Italian architect Renzo Piano began drawing up plans for radical renovations. On April 29, 2006, the library was reopened to the public, offering modern amenities and a renewed experience.
One of the significant items currently on display in the new portion is the 1665 handwritten manuscript of Paradise Lost, Milton’s famous collection of poems. Morgan purchased this treasure in 1904. This manuscript is the only surviving copy, according to Morgan biographer Jean Strouse.
The Morgan Museum and Library provides a history lesson on one of the country’s first mega-rich financiers and his passion for art and ancient book collecting. The exhibit highlights J.P. Morgan’s contribution to the American legacy of great museums, and celebrates his role in transforming America into a world financial power.
Hours: The Morgan Library & Museum and the Morgan Shop are open Tuesday through Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: $12 Adults; $8 Children (under 16); $8 Seniors (65 and over); $8 Students (with current ID). Free to members and children 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult).
Admission is free on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Admission to the McKim rooms is without charge during the following times: Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m to 6 p.m.
FUNDRAISING FOR GYM: A TRADITION FORM THE DEPRESSION
Juliet Glazer ’12
We’ve all heard about walk-a-thon fundraisers: the AIDS Walk, the MS Challenge Walk, you know the drill.
What you probably don’t know is that the walk-a-thon stems from 1930s dance marathons, where, (like that fateful episode of the Gilmore Girls) contestants had to dance without stopping for as long as possible. Dance-a-thons were traditionally an amusement of the lower classes. They were popular during the Great Depression since free food was available for the contestants. Eventually, dance-a-thons were deemed disruptive to society, and were banned. However, the concept has resurfaced throughout the century, in walking form, for charity fundraisers.
This month, the Bard athletics department is having a massive “Jog-A-Thon” to raise money and promote fitness. Participating students jog around a track near the East River during gym classes, sports practices, and free periods. The joggers each collect sponsors, who agree to donate money to the BHSEC athletics department if the students complete a certain number of laps.
When I asked the gym teachers about their goals for the fundraiser, Mr. Gagstetter boasted “20,000 dollars,” but Ms. Nardone told me that her “hopes are getting lower and lower,” and that she is “hoping to raise at least $1000.”
The money will go towards replenishing stock for the Bard store, funding the sports teams, and getting gym uniforms for everyone. Since I enjoy being able to wear an outfit of my choice to gym, I wasn’t sure about gym uniforms. Why should I raise money for something I only feel luke-warm about?
Lila Ramani, a freshman, says that “since our freshman class is so huge, our classes are getting bigger” she would “rather be fundraising for more teachers and smaller classes.”
Ms. Nardone expounded on the positive impact of gym uniforms: “People will all be wearing the same things…I’ll be able to tell who is unprepared or prepared.” She also mentioned that some students may not be able to afford their own gym-appropriate clothes.
Although every department is feeling pressure from the budget cuts, it is only fair that the money we raise during gym class go to athletics rather than academics. So as you jog around the track, whether or not you care about gym uniforms, envision yourself at a dance hall, having the time of your life in a stunning flapper dress.
BOOK REVIEW: BRISNGR
Nick Goodman ‘12
Have you ever wished that you could escape the triviality of everyday life and travel to a different place? If so, next time you go to a bookstore, you might want to pick up a copy of Brisingr, the third book in the Inheritance cycle.
Brisingr is a continuation of the story of Eragon, a young man, and his dragon. The novel begins with a brief synopsis of the first two books, Eragon and Eldest: Eragon, a young man is a small town discovers what he believes to be a large blue stone. The stone turns out to be an egg, and a baby dragon, Saphira, soon hatches from it. Brom, the town storyteller, takes Eragon on the run from the King, who wants both Eragon and the dragon for himself. Over the course of both books, Eragon makes and loses many friends, and is transformed into a human-elf hybrid, among other things. At the climax of Eldest, Eragon and a rebel army meet up with the villagers of Eragon’s old home, led by his older cousin Roran.
Brisingr picks up where Eldest left off, with Eragon helping Roran rescue Roran’s soon to be bride, Katrina, from imprisonment and death. The book follows Eragon to the rebel encampment to fight another battle, to the mountain stronghold of the Dwarves to participate in a war council, and into the Elvin forest to complete his training with another older dragon rider.
Christopher Paolini, the young author who surprised critics with Eragon in 2003, writes beautifully and descriptively, and I was disappointed when I had to put the book down after I finished it. However, it does have its flaws. The book’s biggest problem was the climax, which was bit lackluster in comparison to the rest. Also, although Eragon is likeable, I found myself looking forward to reading about Roran and other characters rather than Eragon himself. Eragon is your stereotypical fantasy hero, and you won’t find anything new in him. But the other characters more than make up for Eragon’s two-dimensionality. Despite the lack of an appealing main character, the book itself is a fun read with a satisfactory amount of character development, a wonderful diversion for a rainy day.
POLITICS OF THE FUNNY BONE
Alexi Block Gorman ’12
It’s politics season, and everyone has election fever. It’s time for us as Americans to invoke our birthright and make the most important decision we will be faced with in the next four years. As America enters this political frenzy, the media has never been so important—or so funny. Americans are tuning in—whether to radio, newspaper, or television—and becoming more aware of what’s going on in our country. The voters want their suspicions verified (Is Obama a terrorist?) and their worries assuaged (Naw, McCain was making up all that socialist stuff). The media helps them discern between right and wrong, between truths and half-truths.
Since the election has heated up, television ratings are higher than they generally are. Americans are watching more informative news programs and comedy talk shows than ever. Why are comedians getting the same attention as their more serious counterparts on the news? The short answer: comedians have a million and one things to say about politics. While a friendly face on Good Morning, America is the key to our hearts, political satire is the key to America’s funny bone.
Political satire is funny because—we hope—voting is something Americans can all relate to. While more serious news sources give complex analyses of politics, satire breaks down complicated debates and issues into simple amusement.
But a lot of voters still rely on political satire to help them analyze the candidates and make decisions in the voting booth. The candidates have become celebrities, appealing to tabloid junkies and political experts alike. Political satire is harmless if it is taken at face value, but the uninformed may make crucial decisions based on trivialities. Too often, political satire fixates on petty details. Election analysis, which theoretically focuses on a candidate’s pertinent beliefs, frequently spotlights a candidate’s personal life (or fashion statements).
Luckily, satire is only one of many sources of political information. All we can do is hope that Americans make informed decisions in both their choice of daily newspaper and their choice of candidate. Political satire is everywhere on the airwaves, and America is tuning in.
TO BE OR NOT TO BHSEC: THE DRAMA CLUB
Sofia Johnson ’12
It seems like at BHSEC there are more strange clubs than students, even with this year’s extra-large freshman class. It’s hard to imagine that there could possibly be any room for new clubs. Yet there are three “newborns” on BHSEC’s annual list of extracurriculars, including the drama club.
“I started the drama club because I do a lot of theater outside of school, and I want to do theater as a career, hopefully, and I felt like my first years of BHSEC didn’t have good theatre,” says Naomi Boyce, president of the new drama club. William Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” Until this fall, that seemed to be true everywhere except BHSEC. The theater class performs two plays a year (students are currently in production for The Count of Monte Cristo). But unfortunately, high school students can’t fit the class into their already busy schedules (though some want to drop a “boring” math or history class for the more exciting theater program).
At first I was skeptical that a student-run theater company could get off the ground without cardboard wings and superglue, despite that the club is run by president Naomi Boyce and vice president Sonia Feigelson, who directed the wildly successful Jesus Christ Superstar. My experiences with in-school drama consisted of a frustrated teacher struggling to quiet an unruly herd of students. I wondered: Can they pull it off?
But they do pull it off, and they do it well. I was pleasantly surprised by how effectively the drama club meetings are run. The students are eager to socialize at the beginning of the meeting, but it only takes a loud “Guys, be quiet and pay attention!” to get everyone focused. There is a definite structure and order to the meetings, but there is plenty of wiggle room for witty comments from students as well as theatre games such as “Zip Zap Zop,” “Park Bench,” and “Party Quirks.” The atmosphere is relaxed, but never chaotic.
This year’s Drama club production is The Children’s Hour, by Lillian Hellman. The club plans to perform some time in February or March.
Although the performance will certainly be impressive, the most inspiring aspect of the drama club is the creativity and confidence exhibited by the students. The students are seldom timid; they participate in activities with zeal, and make each character they portray entertaining. They are generally encouraging, though the theatre games can easily turn into “Last Comic Standing: BHSEC Edition.”
While no experience in theater is necessary, confidence and creativity are. The drama club is not for the shy; nor is it for those who are afraid to voice their ideas. But at BHSEC, hesitancy to express opinions is a rarity, not the norm, so I encourage everybody to join us.
BHSEC FACULTY: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Zina Huxley-Reicher ‘09
Every time that the BHSEC faculty loses a member, students are surprised because each teacher seems to fit into the school community so well. Usually, faculty members leave because they want to pursue other interests, not because they dislike BHSEC. This past year, we lost Dr. Shankar, Dr. Carter, Mr. Bally, and Dr. Gomez.
Dr. Carter has taken a fellowship in Washington DC. He is working for New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on an education committee called “Kids Team”. Specifically, he is working on programs that serve children under the age of eight, such as Head Start, Even Start, and Pre-K. Dr. Carter expects to do a lot of work on the No Child Left Behind Act once the administration changes this January, because it is up for review.
According to Dr. Carter, the main difference between academia and government is that in the government there are “a lot more procedural things to follow and a lot more hierarchy than at BHSEC.” Thinking about the needs of younger children is also a new experience for Dr. Carter.
I asked Dr. Carter about what it is like to be working in the government during this economic crisis. “It is very exciting, but also frustrating,” he responded, “because you want to do something about it, and often you can’t either because it is not the issue you work on, or politics get in the way of policy.”
Former BHSEC history teacher Dr. Shankar is currently working for UNICEF as a senior researcher. Her research focuses primarily on the issue of women and children’s health. Dr. Shankar also writes and edits publications on this issue.
Sometimes, our teachers experience the ‘real world’ before they get to BHSEC. Dr. Budimir worked at a Wall Street investment firm doing financial analysis before coming to teach at BHSEC. Whether they pursue their passions before or after BHSEC, our professors’ desire to go out and ‘get their hands dirty’ is what makes them dynamic and interesting in the classroom.