VOLUME 6, ISSUE 4 (JANUARY 2009)

MOVIE REVIEW: “TRAITOR”

Nick Goodman ’12

If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that there’s no shortage of espionage thrillers these days. James Bond, Jason Bourne…the list goes on and on. If you’re searching for something different, then you may want to see the film Traitor.

Directed by Jeffery Nachmanoff, Traitor is the story of Samir Horn (Don Cheadle), a mysterious man in cahoots with Al Nathir, a terrorist organization. Constantly in motion, Samir is closely pursued by agents Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Archer (Neal McDonough). However, Samir is more than he appears to be, and it is soon revealed that his loyalties do not truly lie with Al Nathir. His ability to keep his true allegiance hidden from Al Nathir is put to the test when he is asked to organize a series of bombings scheduled for Thanksgiving Day in Chicago.

Cheadle, the titular traitor, plays an interesting role as a devout follower of Islam who uses his religion to blend in with Al Nathir. Unfortunately, he is disappointing protagonist. Although the role has potential, Cheadle’s portrayal lacks depth. The real star of the film is Samir’s terrorist ally and close friend Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui). His performance is excellent, and I found myself wishing that he were the main character instead.

The films’ most noticeable flaw is its camerawork. The camera is constantly shaking in an attempt at realism. This stylistic choice is less realistic than dizzying. The film’s finale is also lackluster, missing the trademark explosiveness expected from a thriller. Despite these pitfalls, all of the actors give fine performances, and if you’re looking for a stereotype-bending thriller to see, this is it.

 

 

THEATER REVIEW: THE COUNT(ESS) OF MONTE CRISTO

Lauren Crawford ’12

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas’s classic tale of romance and vengeance during the post- Napoleonic period in France, was set on BHSEC’s stage for three nights this month. Directed by Dr. Vatorella, the play was an interesting take on the dramatic, almost hectic, storyline. The production used no set at all, leaving the milieu to the audience’s imagination. In the beginning, it was difficult to follow along, yet as the play continued, it became easier to imagine the setting. This added to the adventure in Dumas’ tale; the audience, like the characters, was led blindly through the story. However, because the play lacked setting, the scene switches were unclear and scenes seemed to blend together.

The main character, Edwina Dantes, was played by Sonia Feigelson. At first, she was a little overdramatic, casting many a forlorn glances out into the audience, but as the play went on, she seemed to relax and her acting became much more believable. Feigelson had excellent projection and played the part of a timid female and then a mysterious count quite well. Naomi Boyce’s performance as the town drunk, Caderousse, was also notable. She came off as more of foxy seductress than a drunk, but her character was consistent throughout the play.

Although Dumas’s novel is a serious one, BHSEC’s play was often comical, especially in the death scenes. Each of the numerous deaths was portrayed with gusto, making it hard to believe that someone was actually dying. If the goal of production was to make the audience laugh, the actors succeeded admirably; each scene had a humorous touch, from  fake mustaches to dramatic pauses at each sentence. The humor kept the play entertaining even while dealing with serious subject matter.

 

BOOK REVIEW: BEL CANTO

Juliet Glazer ’12

Imagine terrorists descending on a party through the air conditioner vents. Now imagine that the party is in honor of your birthday and that a famous opera singer has been invited; you love opera even more than you love your wife. Finally, imagine that this party is being thrown in the Vice Presidential mansion of a South American country.

Anne Patchett’s Bel Canto opens dramatically. A band of terrorists takes the entire dinner party hostage, including one of the most famous opera singers in the world, a prestigious Japanese business man, and the Vice president of the host country. However, the terrorists are not typical criminals. Once they discover that the President wasn’t at the party (he bailed because his favorite soap opera was playing that night), they decide that they’re not really interested in killing anyone.

The terrorists, most of whom are teenagers, form incredible bonds with the hostages, despite the fact that almost no one at the party speaks the same language. The book becomes a beautiful love story, but with undertones of danger that are impossible to ignore completely.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of Gen, the translator working for the Japanese business man for whom the party was thrown. Because all communication must go through him, Gen is the only person in the house who knows everyone’s secrets. This puts him in a strange position. He must hear and pass on expressions of exasperation, fright, worry, and love.

Strangely enough, most of the characters actually enjoy being locked in the Vice Presidential mansion. They are freed from all of their every day responsibilities, and the house becomes a paradise – a Garden of Eden for modern day businessmen. Being alone and completely cut off from society allows some of the characters to discover that their lives before the party were meaningless. They soon rethink their ideals and purposes in life.

Patchett’s writing is both haunting and captivating. The lack of action in the middle of the novel is surprisingly beautiful and paradisiacal, especially given the intensely dramatic beginning. But Bel Canto is bittersweet; both characters and reader know that the paradise cannot last forever.

Bel Canto challenges our stereotypes of terrorists and their victims. But aside from shedding light on current events, it’s an incredible page-turner, a perfect read for regents week. Bel Canto’s South American backdrop offers some literal (and literary) warmth.                

 

 

REIVEW: THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD

Melanie Steinhardt ’09

As Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages have shown, companion books to J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter series are a guaranteed success.  Thus, the latest Harry Potter supplement from Scholastic Books: The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Readers were first introduced to Beedle’s tales in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which Harry’s friend Hermione must translate the 15th century Wizarding fairytales written in ancient runes.

These tales, to which Muggles are now privy, are indeed a “new translation by Hermione Granger,” and each story is followed by extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. The notes and interpretations of Professor Dumbledore, which “were found eighteen months before the events occurring on the top of the Astronomy Tower,” often outshine the stories themselves.

Dumbledore’s commentary includes information about the Wizarding world’s history, deeper meanings of the stories, and his own opinions on the tales. Readers will find Dumbledore’s charming wit and delightful immodesty familiar and comforting, not at all different from his distinctive voice in the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling makes her own cameo in the Dumbledore-written sections by footnoting references unlikely to be understood by Muggles.

However, the tales themselves, in their own way, are similar to Muggle fairytales. As Rowling notes, magic is often the root of problems in stories such as “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs;” in Tales of Beedle the Bard, characters with magical abilities learn that their powers can cause as much trouble as they can cure. Stories like “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” and Ron’s favorite, “Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump,” end with morals similar to those in Muggle fables. And, like tales well-known to Muggles, some of the stories are frightening. “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” third in Beedle the Bard’s collection, includes graphic descriptions of the horrors that arise when heart is separated from body; the commentary following the long awaited “The Tale of the Three Brothers” explains the consequences of power abuse in terms of Dark Magic.

All of the tales are short enough to be bedtime stories. That may be my only criticism: I was left wishing Beedle the Bard had left behind at least as many stories as there are books in the Harry Potter series.

But The Tales of Beedle the Bard is not just a compilation of legends. It’s also a means to support the Children’s High Level Group, a charity co-founded and co-chaired by J.K. Rowling. The CHLG is committed to improving the lives of institutionalized children all over the world. The Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, MEP and co-founder of CHLG, writes a concluding note about the circumstances of institutionalized children and what the CHLG is doing to help.

All profits from sales of The Tales of Beedle the Bard go directly to the CHLG. And once readers see the sticker price—$12.99!—they will, hopefully, be more than willing to purchase a copy.

Who knew that buying yourself a hardcover Harry Potter book could make you feel so generous?

 

 

WOULD YOU LIKE A MARSHMALLOW WITH THAT?

Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10

Last month I surveyed a variety of apple ciders, searching for the perfect blend of apple and spice. This month, I assembled a panel of testers to try five brands of “just add water” hot chocolate. Instead of adding water, I added milk, which, according to Swiss Miss, produces a “more indulgent cocoa.”

The first hot chocolate sampled was Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Mocha Hot Cocoa, which cost $7.29 for 20 servings. It was smooth, with a slightly thin, milky texture. There was a distinct coffee flavor, but one tester swore she tasted dark chocolate. Ghirardelli’s offers a European take on this winter classic; the mix isn’t as sweet as popular American hot chocolate.

Jacques Torres hot chocolate is not a beverage; it’s an experience. “It’s like drinking liquid chocolate,” one tester exclaimed, tipping the mug to drain the last drops. The Jacque Torres experience, however, comes with a hefty price tag. At $18, the mix costs a dollar per serving. On the other hand, testers couldn’t stop raving about the thick, rich cocoa. One tester said that the hot chocolate was “heavenly.” Another said that she couldn’t drink a whole mug, “but a shot glass would be great.” The Jacques Torres was certainly delicious, but it was the most difficult to make. The milk coated the bottom of the pan and the surface of the cocoa congealed when left to cool. The powder also formed a few lumps that didn’t melt.

Hot chocolate number three, White Rose, was the worst by far. The first time around, I accidentally used water, producing a watery, chemically sweet hot chocolate. The second time around I used milk, but the result was not much better. It was thin and artificial tasting. A few testers couldn’t even finish their samples. One called White Rose “a waste of calories.” But if you’re looking for something cheap, White Rose is the hot chocolate for you; it cost $2.19 for 10 servings at Gristedes.

Nestlé’s hot chocolate was even cheaper: I paid $1.66 for 10 packets at Fairway. The flavor was only slightly better than White Rose. It was milkier and not as sweet, but just as thin and unsatisfying. Testers said that Nestlé’s hot chocolate was uninspiring and commercial, and agreed that it “could use some whipped cream.”

The box of Swiss Miss I bought at Gristedes produced the best hot chocolate for the buck. It was very drinkable, with a satisfying chocolaty flavor that was not too sweet but not too bitter. One tester said that it was “good all around.” The only downside was the slightly chalky texture at the bottom of the mug.

The final word? Cost aside, Jacque Torres is the clear winner. It’s too rich to drink a full mug, but its unusual, absolutely delicious, liquid chocolate texture carried the day. Of the three brands that came in packets (White Rose, Nestle, and Swiss Miss), Swiss Miss came out on top. The flavor was good, and the price tag was better.

 

 

CASEY’S SEMINAR WIELDS THE HEMLOCK

Olivia Winn ’10

On December 11, Socrates was put on trial in room 209.  In true BHSEC spirit, Mr. Casey’s students armed with copies of Plato’s Five Dialogues and their debating abilities spent three days disputing Socrates’ sentence. Did Socrates corrupt the youth of Athens, or did he give them knowledge? In a community of young scholars, the debate over whether one man could have had such a strong impact on teenage Greeks was markedly relevant.

The prosecution started with a strong appeal to the jurors’ emotions.  The prosecutors argued that Socrates would destroy the democracy that Athens had just won, alleging that he was a threat to the children, and that he undermined traditional values. Athens needed peace and stability, not sophistry and questioning of old beliefs.  The prosecution asserted that if Socrates won the allegiance of the youth, the entire social order would crumble.  

The defense examined a number of witnesses, none of whom could prove that Socrates had corrupted their young.  The defense argued that Socrates merely sought to examine and question, and if Athenians could not defend themselves, then their ideas were not grounded in truth in the first place.

Some witnesses even admitted that if the Athenians were smart, they would be able to hold their own in a debate with Socrates.

As students performing an impromptu reenactment of a trial (full disclosure: I was one of the reenacters), it was difficult to state the facts without letting our emotions and 20th-century beliefs interfere.  We are taught to always question, to never take anything we are told for granted.  But did the Athenians see free speech in the same light?  And how accurate was Plato’s description of Socrates?  With only the Five Dialogues to illuminate Socrates’ personality, we were forced to rely on the beliefs of a devoted pupil; as pupils ourselves, we can all understand how biased that perspective can be.

Following the arguments of the prosecution and defense, the jury (the rest of the class) deliberated over their vote.  Some jurors argued that the very act of questioning the nature of piety should be considered impious. Others said that Socrates did not actually introduce any ideas that were contrary to traditional beliefs.  In the end, the jury was split and the judge cast his vote, determining Socrates’ acquittal.

After the trial, the class discussed the extent to which present-day belief, religion, and politics affected their decision.  Democracy is something that we have not personally fought for, while the Athenians had just overthrown a tyrannical oligarchy, and were probably much quicker to defend their newfound freedom.  Could BHSEC students argue in support of an ancient religion that they did not believe in?  We may not have been exactly like the Athenians of old, but we learned how to mold ourselves to new personas, and defend our positions as either promoters of free speech or defenders of democracy.

 

 

POLYGLOT GOURMET: THE SOFTER SIDE OF MR. DUCETT

Alexi Block Gorman ’12

Paul DuCett is known to many of his admiring students as a quick-lipped Spanish teacher with a mysterious past who embodies sarcasm in its purest form. But the real Mr. DuCett cannot be reduced to any of these labels. Those closest to DuCett know his sarcasm is only one facet of his multi-dimensional personality.  Mr. DuCett has earned a reputation for being “unnecessarily harsh.”  However, all he really wants is some respect from the students. In turn, he is willing to give respect to those who love to learn, who have a strong interest in language, and who are never insubordinate.  Could he loosen up a little? Maybe.  Is he strict for a reason? Definitely.

Mr. DuCett wouldn’t be so insistent that everything be done right if he did not take our education as seriously as we ought to.  But he doesn’t just enjoy teaching because of the pleasure it brings him to see our eyes light up in wonder when we learn to conjugate a new tense. “The students think I’m here to teach them, and I am,” DuCett says, “but I think I’m really there mostly to teach myself.”  DuCett believes that teaching a language adds something to his knowledge of the language which even a native speaker may not have.  “Obviously I’m not a native speaker of Spanish, so the average native speaker would know more Spanish words than I do. But, since I’m a teacher of Spanish, I’m more likely than any native speakers to know the variants of different countries,” he explains.  

While Mr. DuCett will often crack jokes about teaching ungrateful children, he does take his job quite seriously, and has worked hard to become a good teacher.  He says that there is definitely a difference between knowing a language and being able to teach it.

Mr. DuCett began learning languages in junior high: “When I was in 6th grade, my sister was in 8th grade, and I started doing her Spanish homework…  She just found it boring, I saw the book hanging around and I took it and said ‘Oh, this looks interesting,’ and I started doing it.”  Despite the unconventional start to his language education, DuCett has been an avid language learner, studying languages at Harvard and Columbia, among other schools.  

Gramatically, Russian is Mr. DuCett’s favorite language.  He has been to Russia thirty times, once per year, and he says it used to be his best language next to English, though that may not be true right now. Why Russian?  “I don’t know.  I think I like the intellectual culture there.  People sat around drinking tea and talking about politics and literature.”

But it’s not only culture that DuCett enjoys.  Mr. DuCett loves everything about language, and has books in about fifteen different languages in his house.  At the moment, he’s very into a witty Russian podcast he recently discovered.  

Aside from language, Mr. DuCett enjoys throwing small dinner parties for himself and his friends at his home in Queens.  Behind his biting sense of humor and the high standards he sets for his students, Mr. DuCett is a gracious host with a sweet tooth: “I like to cook, I like to make sweets.  I make my own ice cream and desserts.”  

 

 

CONNECT THE DOTS: ECONOMIST RICHARD WOLFF DISCUSSES THE BACKGROUND BEHIND THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10

“To say that the economy is in trouble is a polite understatement,” says Richard Wolff, an economic analyst, writer, researcher, and teacher at the University of Massachusetts -Amherst.  

On Friday December 5th Wolff spoke to a group of college advisories about the economic mess our country has gotten itself into, and how we can get out of it. He began by explaining that the predicament is more widespread than most people think. Although the media uses the catchphrases “automobile crisis” and “banking crisis,” the crisis is not confined to Wall Street. “If those two things are in trouble,” Wolff said, “then the United States is in very deep trouble.”

Wolff’s presentation was engaging and well structured. He spoke clearly and charismatically, and outlined the trajectory of his argument effectively. He explained the history of American reliance on increasing wages and consumerism. When wages stopped rising in the 1970s, Americans began to work more and borrow more to support their spending. They buried themselves alive under mortgages and sky-high interest rates. Longer hours and debt-induced anxiety took their toll: “the American working class [was] busted.”

Meanwhile, corporation big-shots were benefiting from the lower wages and increased productivity of the computer age. Employers could keep more and more profit for themselves, Wolff explained; the Boards of Directors were “floating in money.”

As employers became wealthier and wealthier, they did a few things with their extra profits. They lent the money to their employees at high interest rates, essentially substituting loans for wages, putting the working class even further in debt. They invested in the stock market, and when that bubble popped in 2000, they started bidding up housing instead. The bubble burst again this year.

The government’s efforts to revive the economy are proving ineffective. Saving a few banks and helping a few families buy houses won’t help in the long run. The problem, Wolff concluded, is in the system. The economic system in the United States keeps producing bubbles and breakdowns.

Professor Wolff closed by suggesting a not-unheard-of solution to the problem: democratic business. Wolff, evoking Karl Marx, proposed that the workers become the Board of Directors. The distinction between blue collar and white collar would blur. Job descriptions would include four days of work and one day of management. Workers would continue to award themselves higher wages, and the ‘borrowing binge’ of the late 20th century would come to an end.

Is this prescription for the economy too drastic?  Is it too sharp a turn away from basic principles of American capitalism?  Wolff’s view is that dire circumstances necessitate radical change.  “Everything,” Wolff said, “is going to change in fundamental ways.”

 

 

THE LOCKER ROOM PROBLEM

Sofia Kelley Johnson ’12

Students at other high schools may complain about the inconvenient locations or repulsive odors of their locker rooms. At BHSEC, students complain about the absence of locker rooms. Unlike other high schools, Bard is too small a building to have any space for locker rooms.

Regardless, students are expected to change into gym clothes in a timely manner (in the five minutes between classes) and to be on time to their next class.

Students are forced to change in the bathrooms, which can be very inconvenient. Before gym classes, students pack the second floor bathrooms, which are closest to the gym and the most convenient. This crowding, combined with Bardians who aren’t using the bathrooms to change, makes for a very uncomfortable changing experience. In addition, the long lines for stalls cause frequent tardiness.

Some students have taken it upon themselves to find different areas to change. Some don gym clothes in the secluded area of stairway B, while others change behind the fitness equipment in the gym.

Although somewhat more public, these alternatives definitely reduce crowding. However, these changing options are strongly opposed by faculty.

A rule has been issued stating that students caught changing the hallway, stairwell, gym, or any other public place will have their student IDs confiscated.

“It was a tactic that was told to be done by the administration,” says Ms. Nardone of the new policy. “Students were warned not to change in the hallways anymore and this made the students speak to the administration and now they can explain further why it’s not proper or appropriate to change in the hallways.”

Many students voice displeasure at the rule. The most common protest is that although BHSEC is devoid of locker rooms or any official changing area, students are still penalized for trying to find the quickest place to change so that they are not late for class.

This rule is not only unpopular, but also ineffective. Even if everyone does change in the bathrooms, the only place where changing is completely private is in the stalls, which are neither practical nor efficient. There are far too many students per gym class for every one to use a stall at once, even assuming that there are no students in the bathroom who actually need to use the facilities.

The ideal solution, of course, would be to have locker rooms at BHSEC. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough space. It is possible to change in an empty classroom, but the level of privacy is unpredictable.  But why not designate one classroom as a changing area? After all, we survived last year with an entire line of classrooms cordoned off for construction. Or, in lieu of locker rooms, why not have a curtained-off section of the bathrooms that is strictly for the purpose of changing? In the meantime, just think of the marvelous locker room B.O. we’re missing out on.

 

 

BOYS BASKETBALL: FIRST VICTORY IN BHSEC

George Winn ’12

The clock read 00:00. “It was impossible to keep in the emotions as all the fans stormed the court,” said BHSEC Boys Basketball Coach John Avitto. “All the hard work, dedication, and resiliency paid off for the team’s first PSAL victory.”

December 2nd was a memorable day for the BHSEC Raptors; the Boys’ team

rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the nearby NEST +M High School, 60-51. It was the team’s first victory in the school’s PSAL history; they had gone entirely win-less in their previous two seasons.

The team more than made up for a slow first half in the second half. Coach Avitto’s arduous pre-season workouts clearly paid off in the fourth quarter. The Raptors’ energy allowed the team to apply steady pressure at the game’s most important point.

Using a deep bench, Coach Avitto shuffled his line-up constantly to make sure that

his starters were fresh and ready to play through the closing stretch.

Although it may be too early to tell, the team hopes to make the the coveted PSAL playoffs for the first time.

Raptors vs. Nest+M Statistics

PLAYER           REBOUNDS    ASSISTS    POINTS

Denzil Davis              15          3              24

Fola Arowolo             10          0               0

George Winn             2            0              0

Joel Falcon                1            0              0

Kitaka Hypolite          13           1             12

Michael Grant            2             1             0

Mohammed Ibrahim   1             0             0

Mohammed Khan       6             3             4

Naeem Muhammed    10           2             20

Samuel Salcedo          2            0             0

Teddy Uzamere          0            0             0

TOTALS                     62          10           60

 

STOP, THEIF!

Nora Miller ’12

Dozens of notices deck BHSEC’s walls. Usually, these posters advertise events like bake sales or club meetings. But recently, a new brand of signs has sprung up, requesting the return of stolen possessions. One such sign appeals to the thief directly, explaining that the owner of the stolen wallet desperately needs her CPR and lifeguard licenses in order to keep her job. Other signs lend humor to the situation: “Dear thief, you probably have made hundreds of dollars by now. That’s enough to buy a brownie with, don’t you think? Stop by our bake sale.” One thing is for certain: theft has been sweeping the school like wildfire.           

Because of the some 25 thefts that have occurred, Ms. Walk is making changes. “A significant number [of thefts have occurred in the library]. Probably at least 8 or 9,” says Miss Walk. As a result, she’s been moving bags behind the desk or to Mr. Peterson’s office. “If I find things that have been left alone, for their protection, and to keep the library a clean place, I bring them down to Mr. Peterson’s office or hold them ‘till the owner comes,” she explains.

The series of thefts has not been taken lightly. In addition to new library regulations, two assemblies were held, one for 9th and 10th graders and one for Year Is and Year IIs, to discuss the thefts. The former broke out into a series of accusations. 10th graders pointed to freshmen as the culprits because of, among other things, their lunch schedules. Somebody pointed out that an entire grade couldn’t be held responsible for thefts, although it is unlikely that only one thief is to blame.

There have been several brainstorms on how to stop these thefts. One suggestion was to install security cameras in the library. According to Ms. Walk, this is impossible: “For the most part we are not allowed to videotape classrooms. The library is considered a classroom, so it’s unlikely to be able to do anything like taping; our hands are just tied there.”

Mr. Peterson says that the best way to prevent theft is to make sure that you have your belongings with you: “We tell students who leave their bags around with valuables to keep their valuables with them at all times.” Student Union representatives who spoke at the assembly affirmed that this is the best way to prevent theft. If you’re holding a bag, nobody can sneak away with it.

If you have any information, there are a few things you can do. You can either report to Miss Sawick or talk to the thief yourself. “If the person is a friend of theirs, just tell the person to stop and return the stuff,” says Mr. Peterson, “A student suggested that students can just anonymously take things that were stolen and put them in the lost and found.”

In the meantime, the bag that you ‘just left for a minute to go get something’, the iPod poking out of your purse, and the wallet you left on the table in the library are all liable to be stolen.

 

 

ITALIANS VISIT BHSEC, HOOP IT UP

Sam Levine ’10

Not even the fact that that he was in school at 8:30 on a rainy Monday morning could wipe the smile from Joel Falcon’s face. As he watched Francesco, a tall, slender Italian boy, glide across the auditorium floor towards him, Joel’s grin grew bigger and bigger. When the two finally met in the center of the room, the gods of basketball must have been looking down on BHSEC and smiling; both over six feet tall, the two made a front court duo that could solidify any team’s defense. Almost as soon as the two power forwards introduced themselves, Joel promised Francesco that before the week was over they would play a game of basketball together.

Joel was just one of 13 Year I students participating in an exchange program with students from the Liceo Scientifico Majorana in Putigano, Italy. For an entire week, Italian students accompanied their Year I partners to morning classes before leaving to sightsee for the second half of the day. Visiting BHSEC was only a small portion of the school’s two week long trip to the United States. The goal of the trip was to provide Italian students with an opportunity to learn about American culture and American education.

Several Italian students said that BHSEC’s discussion-based, seminar style classes were very different from the way that their lessons were taught in Italy.

“In our school, the entire class faces the front and the teacher dictates the lesson to one or two students,” said Giacomo de Tomaso, a junior at Liceo Scientifico. “I prefer the circle much better because you get to see everyone’s face and hear what everyone has to say.” Giacomo also noticed that while the teaching style at BHSEC is different from Liceo Scientifico, there are also many similarities.

“Our school building, like the one here, is a very old one, he said. “While it might not be the most beautiful building, it has a lot of history.”

As the week went on, the dreary weather prevented Joel and Francesco from having their game of basketball, but the Italian students eased their way into the BHSEC community, spending their free periods in the library and eating lunch with BHSEC students in the cafeteria. By their third day at BHSEC they had made friends with students across all four grades; it seemed like they had been at BHSEC for two years rather than only a few days.

“I just really enjoyed getting to share my week with such a stranger,” said Corey Switzer, a Year I. “When you realize how someone who’s so different from you can be so similar to you, you also realize how the world can be such a big place and such a small place at the same time.”

By the end of the week teachers even began to integrate the Italian students into their classes. In Dr. Wright’s seminar class, the Liceo Scientifico students helped introduce Dante’s Inferno by reading the story in its original language.

By Friday, Joel had resolved that he would have his game with Francesco, even if it meant playing in the rain. Under the threat of dark clouds, they started a game of 4-on-4, Americans and Italians mixed on both teams. The two were just as fluid together as predicted; when Joel was double-teamed, he would bounce a quick pass to Francesco, who barely had to jump to put the ball through the net. On one play, after he grabbed a rebound and put it in the net, Francesco turned to Joel and gave him a fist bump.

“Two points,” Francesco said.

“Now defense,” Joel replied.

It had taken a week, but the two basketball players had finally gotten their game in.

 

 

HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES: A DAY AT BHSEC II

Zoe Chaves ’09 and Zina Huxley-Reicher ’09

The temporary home of BHSEC II is a large, multi-story building in Queens that it shares with four other schools. The entry-level of the building boasts a round security desk, several working elevators, and multi-colored mosaic tiles.

The hallways are wide and free of snacking students, and the walls are hung with notices for clubs and organizations such as the journalism club (their newspaper is called the Bard II Spectrum) and their unique student government, which is comprised of two students from each advisory. BHSEC II also houses a Math League, a Step Team, a Writing Center, and a Music Club. Starting clubs at BHSEC II requires more student signatures on the proposal, and finding a faculty advisor is difficult due to the small size of the school. Despite these hardships, most students feel that the administration and professors are supportive of student leadership and activism. “You can see that all of your actions have an impact,” says Kaila, a Year I. The small number of clubs clearly shows that the development of BHSEC II’s culture is definitely in its beginning stages, but the atmosphere already is  promising and dynamic. The school has noticeably greater ethnic diversity than BHSEC I, and there seems to be very little of the self-segregation for which our student body is often criticized.

Former BHSEC I teacher Bronwen Exter, who currently teaches Year I Seminar and History of the Americas at BHSEC II, says that no BHSEC II social archetype has emerged as of this year; one would be hard-pressed to generalize the social character of the student population. However, Ms. Exter did say that her experience at BHSEC II is much like her experience at BHSEC I in its earlier days, suggesting that our sister school might still evolve a trademark social persona.   

What the BHSEC II students do seem to have in common is a desire for an academically challenging school with an open environment, and a change from their dissatisfaction with their previous schools. Year I Kaila, who transferred to BHSEC II from the Lab School in Manhattan said, “My old school was basically Purgatory.” The current Year I class of BHSEC II, which has 60 students, has drawn transfers from a multitude of competitive institutions; the Stuyvesant School, the prestigious Hotchkiss School, and Eleanor Roosevelt are just some of the many establishments that lost students to BHSEC II this year. The most common reason for transferring was a desire for academic rigor, but some Year Is also said that the social scene and level of professorship at their old schools were lacking. A Year I who transferred from Murry Bergtraum said that, “the teachers [at Murry Bergtraum] didn’t really care and the kids were more interested in socializing.” Have these students found what they were looking for at BHSEC II? The ones we interviewed seemed to be happy with their decision to transfer; they all said that the volume of work took some adjusting, but they lauded the faculty and expressed appreciation for the relaxed and diligent student body. The Year I students seem to be particularly enjoying Year I Seminar, in which they read Gilgamesh in addition to the books assigned to BHSEC I Year Is.  

Gilgamesh isn’t the only difference in BHSEC II’s academic character. Val Thomson, current principal of BHSEC II and former BHSEC I teacher, says that BHSEC II is testing out some practices that BHSEC I has been thinking about instituting. For example, BHSEC II operates on a block schedule every day except for Wednesday, which means that they attend four classes a day for 75 minute periods. The BHSEC II freshmen say that 75 minutes is much too long to be in one seat, especially for math and science classes.

However, the Year Is like the block periods for their Seminar and Humanities classes. Another different practice: all of the students meet with their advisories daily after their first two periods, and the entire school lunches together in the cafeteria after the advising period.

At the moment, BHSEC II students don’t have out-to-lunch privileges because the school has yet to establish a connection with the neighborhood. However, students have adopted the practice of ordering delivery from surrounding restaurants.

Because of BHSEC II’s small size, it has yet to develop the robust course catalogue that we enjoy. The only languages currently offered are Spanish and Latin, although the administration hopes to add either Chinese or Arabic by next fall. At the same time, there are some really interesting components of their curriculum and course list that BHSEC I doesn’t share. For example, one of the science classes offered to the college students at BHSEC II is an Animal Behaviors class. For one project, students in the class must spend eight to ten hours working with zookeepers, an intensely hands-on experience which Year I Kaila loves. “You actually get to introduce predator scents into other environments and see how they [the animals] respond,” she said. This hands-on and very personal approach to learning seems to be popular at BHSEC II; the Spanish Literature class is raising money to go to Spain, and almost all of BHSEC II’s teachers prefer to be referred to by first name.

Despite the rather large curriculum differences between BHSEC I and II, it was the little disparities that caught our attention. For one, BHSEC II students receive no trademark BHSEC planner. Additionally, the morning coffees that BHSEC I students nurse throughout first period are nonexistent at BHSEC II; the no-eating policy extends to beverages and is strictly implemented. The students at BHSEC II have access to a student lounge, and their library is actually a place of quiet.

BHSEC II currently shares a building with four other high schools, which can often be taxing on both resources and the administration’s patience. BHSEC II regularly comes into conflict with Voyages Preparatory, a school for overage and under-credited students. “Sometimes they [Voyages students] come up here and they’re 24 and some of our girls are 14,” says faculty member Kate Millington, “It’s just not good.” However, the current location does provide BHSEC II with some terrific facilities that their permanent location in Long Island City will lack, including a beautiful music room and a nice library.

Naturally, BHSEC II is not an exact replica of our own school. As a new school, the possibilities that the future holds for the institution are in the hands of its current students. As the years go by, the schools might even become more different! But is there a definite BHSEC kid vibe? As we walked along Junction Boulevard (BHSEC II’s version of Houston), at the end of the day we were stopped by a young woman who asked us if we knew where BHSEC II was. It seems as though whether we wake up and head to Manhattan or out to Queens, we are all BHSEC students.

 
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s