GOODBYE TO OUR GRADUATING YEAR II’S!
Our three departing
Bardvarks leave us with 17
more syllables each:
I am so grateful
To have worked on a paper
Marked by timeliness!
– Zoe Chaves, News Editor
So long fellow peeps
The Bardvark has been fly
Keep it up next year.
– Zina Huxley-Reicher, Features Editor
Goodbye, dear Bardvark
Goodbye, all my closest friends
Vale, David Clark
– Melanie Steinhardt, Opinions Editor
SANDWICH REVIEW: CHICKEN PARMESAN PANINI FROM ADINAH’S FARM
Gideon Salzman Gubbay ’10, Corey Switzer ’10, and Sam Levine ’10
Half of this sandwich was desperately devoured during a chemistry lecture on pH. It left a taste that wasn’t acidic or basic, but perfectly neutral.
Do not be deceived by the humble exterior of the Chicken Parmesan Panini; while the sandwich itself may not be as beautiful as the works of art we have come to expect from Adinah’s, the smooth chicken cutlet-tomato-mozzarella trifecta grilled to a crisp will stay with you long after the final crumb is gone. However, this sandwich has room for improvement.
Let’s start out with the bread. A sandwich should be hot and the bread crunchy. There is nothing worse than a soggy meal, and while Adinah’s Chicken Parmesan Panini isn’t squishy, the bread could use a little more toasting. We noticed that on days when lots of people are ordering paninis, the Adinah’s guys don’t spend too much time grilling each sandwich.
On days like these, the bread only gets semi-crunchy, but even worse, the inside of the sandwich is cold. We’re not picky and we’re usually hungry, so we’ll eat any cold sandwich, but we caution the sandwich connoisseurs out there: you can get a warmer meal from Mr. Softee.
Now, onto the chicken. We think it tastes fishy. It looks like chicken, smells like chicken, and has the consistency of chicken, but there is something funky about Adinah’s cutlet. Nevertheless, it still blends well with the other ingredients. The sandwich sometimes comes out bland a dry; a little more sauce would help quite a bit.
Even though Adinah’s attempt at the Italian-American classic has its flaws, the Chicken Parmesan Panini is still a good choice if you’re looking for something to keep you moving through 7th period. If you’re running low on cash or Adinah’s is too crowded, a slice might be a better choice.
DR. JOHNSON: RUSSIAN LITERATURE, PUNK ROCK LOVER
Sasha Pezenik ’10
Every now and then, on the Astroturf adjacent to BHSEC, a flash of corduroy can be spotted deftly booting a soccer ball towards the goal posts.
When he’s not bending it, he is Dr. Lee Johnson, a UC Berkeley and Yale educated member of the BHSEC English Department’s faculty. He teaches Russian literature classes, courses on Russian culture, and (when Year 2’s are lucky) second-year Seminar, which boasts wait-lists almost as long as War and Peace!
When did the magic begin? A high school English professor, who taught three of Dostoyevsky’s novels on a whim, first sparked his passion for Russian literature. Dr. Johnson is carrying on the tradition.
His students know him as an inspiring teacher. Yet outside the classroom, Dr. Johnson is a self-proclaimed “nerdy film nut,” who enjoys off-the-beaten-track cinema like the Soviet propaganda film “Battleship Potemkin.” His high school music collection included Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys, and X (if these bands don’t to ring a bell, look them up; they certainly contrast with Dr. Johnson’s usual mellow demeanor). Despite his adolescent preferences, he has an open mind to most music.
Dr. Johnson has been teaching at BHSEC for six years. He became part of the permanent faculty by accident—the position, which he accepted after a stint at Bard College, was intended to be temporary.
However, once he arrived, something clicked. “I liked the intimacy, and the interactions with students,” he said, “I love the attitudes and the motivation.” He also admired BHSEC’s divergence from the rote methodology of typical high school education.
Students reciprocate his warm feelings. A Year 2 said that “He’s always available to talk about papers, and I feel like we can have great talks in class—he cares about what I have to say.” Dr. Johnson feels that his teaching is rewarding: “It’s not as if I’m helping malaria victims, but it feels meaningful.”
BHSEC STAFF RECALL THEIR STUDENT DAYS
Often, high school students feel misunderstood by their teachers, and forget that faculty were once students themselves. But three members of the BHSEC staff are now alumni of the school: Lizzy Stemmer, Andrew Stephens, and Olga Carmona. Stemmer and Stephens shared their thoughts about their high school and adult experiences at BHSEC.
Stemmer and Stephens agree that BHSEC has undergone both positive and negative changes since they graduated. On one hand, BHSEC is now a respected and sought-after school. “Everyone knows who we are,” says Stemmer. But on the other hand, both former BHSEC students say there have been some unfortunate consequences for the admissions process. Stephens describes it as “more quantitative,” while Stemmer says she doesn’t like the idea of “weeding people out.” Students who would have been accepted before are overlooked. When they applied to BHSEC, only an essay and an interview were required. Both understand that the admissions process is necessary and notice that the students admitted are grateful to be at BHSEC.
Stemmer and Stephens appreciate the continuity of the BHSEC community. Stemmer enjoyed and continues to enjoy the diversity of race, class, and perspective among the students at BHSEC. Returning to BHSEC also offered a chance to work with the teachers that once taught them. Stephens came back to work at BHSEC for the same reason he applied for high school: “I knew I would be working with people who were truly committed to educate students.”
Now part of the faculty themselves, Stemmer and Stephens relate differently toward their former teachers and advisors. Stephens is quick to pick favorites. He has two: Dr. Matthews and Dr. Mazie are his “favorite teachers of all time.”
Stemmer had trouble naming her favorite teacher. She began to list teachers—“Dr. Martin, Dr. Mazie, Dr. Clark, Dr. Ween, Mr. Casey…” — but then gave up; “I loved them all!” Stemmer views her advisors differently now that she works alongside them. “I was terrified of Dr. Matthews, I’m not anymore.”
The two have great memories of BHSEC. Stemmer and Stephens both loved the Simon’s Rock trip and are glad that students still have the same opportunity. Another tragic, but memorable part of Stephens’ experience at BHSEC was the collapse of the World Trade Centers. Stephens remembers being comforted by the faculty. The faculty and students “forged a bond,” he said, “we confided in each other.” Stephens feels that the bond between BHSEC students and faculty “still exists today.”
BHSEC also prepared them well for college. Stemmer says that the school helped her gain independence, register for classes, and keep track of credits. By graduation, she “had an idea of what would be expected” at a four-year institution. Stephens saw no difference in BHSEC and Bard College, his alma mater. “BHSEC was college,” he says. Moving to Bard was “no adjustment in terms of grasping material; I was already a college student.”
Both faculty members want to go back to school to get higher degrees. Stemmer plans to attend graduate school in a few years. Stephens is unsure whether he wants to “pursue a degree in psychology or counseling.”
Stemmer and Stephens both loved BHSEC and they still love it. According to Stephens, the “essence is still alive.” Although Stemmer has difficulty thinking of improvements for the school, she says that, “You can always improve. Definitely make the toilets higher.” Stemmer couldn’t stop praising BHSEC. “I love the kids,” she said, “even though I act like I don’t.”
THE BHSEC FACULTY DEMOGRAPHIC
Naomi Boyce ’10
Since 2002, the Board of Education has opened over 300 new schools in New York City. This is, without a doubt, an extraordinary accomplishment. With each new school, educators and administrators alike are faced with the challenge of attracting and selecting a student body that is dynamic and diverse.
One new Bronx high school, The Peace and Diversity Academy, “seeks to create leaders who have the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to build an increasingly just and democratic global society.” Opened in 2004, the Peace and Diversity Academy’s student body identifies as 65% Hispanic and 25% Black. These numbers seem to contradict the high school’s name and mission statement. How can a school with so little diversity teach students to think globally?
The situation at Peace and Diversity Academy is not unique, however. Stuyvesant High School is almost 70%Asian- American, but only 2% Black and 3% Hispanic. Many other NYC schools have student populations dominated by single ethnic groups.
BHSEC is one of the few NYC schools with fairly even rates of enrollment among different ethnic groups. We are 22% African American, 23% Hispanic/Latino, 16% Asian/Pacific Islander, 36% Caucasian and 3% other. We have perhaps one of the most diverse student bodies of all New York City public high schools. This rich diversity stems from the office of admission’s determination to pull students from all five boroughs. Many institutions of higher learning pride themselves on their ability to create a learning environment enhanced by a diverse student body. BHSEC not only mimics, but also excels in this pursuit.
While BHSEC students come from a broad range of ethnic and economic backgrounds, the same cannot be said of the school’s faculty. Most of our professors identify as Caucasian, and the percentage of full time African- American faculty members is incredibly low. There is no clear explanation; BHSEC is an equal opportunity employer and has supported diversity since its inception. Our faculty is not lacking in any way—BHSEC teachers are highly qualified in their fields—but we need to ask why the faculty is predominantly Caucasian and how this can be changed. If BHSEC is to be truly diverse, there must be diversity not only in our student body, but also in our faculty, staff, and administration.
STAYCATION ’09: TOP TEN SUMMER FESTIVALS
Lauren Crawford ’12
1. Shakespeare in the Park
For over 50 years, Shakespeare’s plays have been performed for the public at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park. While tickets are free, they are limited; most people waiting on the five-hour line that wends through Central Park bring a picnic, enjoy the lovely weather, and return for the show at night. This year’s play of choice is “Twelfth Night,” which will run from June 10 to July 12.
2. Celebrate Brooklyn
Celebrate Brooklyn is another excellent park event, held in Prospect Park rather than Central Park. This year, artists such as MGMT, Animal Collective, and Jackson Browne, to name a few, will be performing throughout the summer. The shows begin June 8 and run to August 15; $3 donation at the gate.
3. River-to-River Festival
During the River-to-River Festival, parks and venues all over lower Manhattan will be hosting showings of movies, concerts, and dance performances. Featured performances include Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band (performing in Battery Park, July 4), Merce Cunningham Dance Company (performing in Rockefeller Park, August 1 and 2), and “The Seven Year Itch” (featuring Marilyn Monroe, showing at The Elevated Acre on July 6).
4. Summer on the Hudson
Summer on the Hudson is an annual festival located on Riverside Park South (The Upper West Side), where free kayaking, yoga, and dance classes are offered all summer long for those who like to stay active.
5. Movies with a View
All summer long, the Brooklyn Bridge Park will host free movies (with a view of the Manhattan skyline in the background!). The viewings start on July 9 with “Raising Arizona” and run until August 27; “Edward Scissorhands” will conclude the festivities. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “To Catch a Thief”, and “The Return of the Pink Panther” will also be shown.
6. Museum Mile Festival
On June 9, 5th Avenue will be closed off from 82nd street to 105th street for the 31st annual Museum Mile. The nine museums within the designated mile are opened free to the public. The participating museums are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Goethe-Institute, The Neue Galerie, The Guggenheim Museum, National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, National Design Museum, The Jewish Museum, El Museo del Barrio, and The Museum of the City.
7. Philharmonic in the Park
This year, during the week of July 14-17, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra will be presenting Mozart’s 41 Symphony and Beethoven’s 7 Symphony in various parks throughout the city.
8. Summer Stage
Summer Stage in Central Park provides a great variety of performances, from dance shows to comedian stand-ups. Almost all of the performances are free. The festival will begin June 5 and end August 15.
9. Broadway in Bryant Park
This summer, Broadway in Bryant Park features the biggest musical hits from on and off Broadway. The free concerts will run from July 9 to August 13.
10. Summer in the Square
From June 18 to August 13, Union Square will be free hosting yoga classes, lunchtime performances and evening shows of music and theatre for public enjoyment.
COMMUNITY DAY: MORE IMPORTANT THAN WE KNOW
Sam Levine ’10
If everything had gone according to plan, my commute to school would be twenty minutes. I would sleep a luxurious extra ten minutes in the morning, read the sports section cover to cover, and find the time to comb my hair (probably eliminating several bad-hair days). Yet, when I faced the choice of continuing my education in the heart of Chelsea, or leaving my middle school building for a tiny school on the edge of civilization, I decided to leave. In the early weeks of 9th grade, when I explained my new transportation route to old friends, they always asked: “Why would you want to go to a school that’s so far away?” I would always respond with the same quip: “No cliques.”
Last week, classes were cancelled and an entire day was dedicated to both celebrate and discuss our school’s community. While a few BHSECers would prefer a day of classes to Community Day, the majority of students have a lackadaisical attitude toward our community. In my morning discussion group, Community Day skeptics argued that at a school that emphasizes intellectual rigor, it’s more important to get your paper in on time than it is to talk to people in every grade. This criticism raises a question that needs to be considered before we can discuss our school’s community: Should we care if the BHSEC community exists?
While my instinct wants to answer with an unquestionable affirmative, the question is too complex for such a simple answer. This year, students from all four grades were integrated in Writing & Thinking Workshops in order to build a stronger sense of community from day one. But when the morning discussion panels concluded and students spilled out onto the field, underclassmen sat with underclassmen and college students sat with college students. When there was a call for volunteers to leave my discussion panel, three out of the five 9th grade students’ hands shot up, even though they hadn’t made a contribution to the discussion all morning.
There is an explanation. Most BHSEC students instinctively find their niche within their own grade and amongst their own friends. Perhaps because different groups of BHSEC students interact on an academic level so frequently, they find it less important to step out of their niche outside the classroom. Community Day pushes us to consider and appreciate the social and intellectual diversity that we frequently encounter, yet often take for granted. Maybe, contrary to Community Day cynics’ claims, BHSEC’s academic and intellectual intensity don’t destroy the BHSEC community, but fuel it.
While critics will claim that this academic diversity does not resolve the social divisions that ultimately influenced me to leave The Lab School, a close-knit academic community inevitably spills over into the social community. This doesn’t necessarily happen in one week, or one month, or even one year, but it is still worthwhile—even if it means a bad hair-day or two.
POLITICAL THEORY HITS THE CLASSROOM (AND VICE VERSA)
Juliet Glazer ’12
Dr. Mazie’s visit to Israel the summer before college turned into a PhD dissertation in Political Science, and then a book. A movie he watched about Amish children inspired an article about the social contract in the Amish lifestyle. Teaching at BHSEC provoked an article on the problems of diversity at Stuyvesant High School.
Dr. Mazie’s life experiences have always influenced his research topics. He often finds a real-world event or phenomenon that relates to his discipline–political theory–and then gives himself “…the task of trying to make sense of the juxtaposition of the two.”
His book, Israel’s Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State, which was published in 2006, was inspired by the paradox between his love of the country and the secular liberalism he studied in college. He felt the need to figure out “…how to reconcile liberalism… with the idea of Israel as the Jewish State.”
However, Dr. Mazie says he doesn’t plan to write more books any time soon. The “article length” is working just fine for him for now. He generally comes up with proposals for papers over the summer, which he then submits to academic conferences in the fall. He then writes the paper to present at a spring political science conference. He has often developed his papers into articles, which have been published in various political science journals, and he wrote an op-ed on the Israeli constitution for the New York Times in 2006.
Dr. Mazie has recently completed the draft of an article about human rationality and social contract theory. His summer plans include solidifying another new paper idea to submit to political science conferences. The paper, “The Supreme Court’s Evolving Vision of Equality in the Obama Era,” will discuss two Supreme Court cases dealing with discrimination that will be decided this June. Based on his research, he is creating a new college course for next fall, called “Equality,” which studies, among other things, those very cases.
For years, Dr. Mazie’s teaching has gone hand in hand with his research. “One doesn’t lead to the other,” he said, explaining that he taught the college course “God and Caesar,” which dealt with questions of religion and politics, while working on his book about the same thing. “My teaching and research are mutually informing, mutually enriching.”
Just this March, he assigned his 9th grade Americas students a debate and an essay about what should be done about the lack of diversity at Stuyvesant. A few weeks before, his own article on the same topic was published in the journal Theory and Research in Education. (In the article, he argued that something needs to be done to change the specialized high schools’ admissions program.)
Dr. Mazie said that his research always inspires his teaching, and his teaching inspires his research. “I want to teach about things that I’m interested in, that I’m working on,” he said.
Class debates and comments made by students often give him new insight into a theme, and he has acknowledged the help of former students in several of his publications.
“BHSEC is a wonderful place to be a scholar-teacher. The two roles flow together so naturally.”
OLD MEETS NEW IN YANKEE STADIUM AND CITI FIELD
George Winn ’12
On April 3, New York City was ablaze over the opening of two new baseball stadia. Yankee Stadium, the new home of the New York Yankees, brings back memories of the original built in 1923, complete with the towering façade that graced the facing of the roof over the top deck. Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, evokes the old Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913 to 1957, the year before they moved to Los Angeles. It boasts a red-brick exterior and circular rotunda, throwbacks to the glory days of baseball.
The new Yankee Stadium presents fans with a luxurious and modern baseball experience. Fans enter through the Great Hall, decked with banners of legendary Yankee players, including Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Elston Howard, and Yogi Berra.
At its west end, the Great Hall sports a large photo of Yankees’ great Reggie Jackson hitting a home run in the 1977 World Series. At the north end, the Great Hall leads to Monument Park, which now sits behind the centerfield fence and tastefully pays homage to the great Yankee players, managers, and executives of the past. One interesting feature of Monument Park is a door to the Yankees’ bullpen, which sits behind the fence in right centerfield. The door was not in the original blueprints, but was installed at the request of Yankees’ longtime relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, so that he could easily visit the shrine during games.
Along with a new stadium come new concession stands. The new concessions include Johnny Rockets, Brother Jimmy’s, and Carl’s Steaks. There are also new restaurants at Yankee Stadium, including the Hard Rock Café and NYY Steak, and two new stadium clubs: the Mohegan Sports Bar and the Audi Yankees Club. Five-star service meets the fans’ every need at these clubs, all around the stadium, and in the four stadium suites. There are also three team stores where fans can buy souvenirs.
To conserve energy, all of the lighting in Yankee Stadium is controlled by systems that allow the stadium to save 207,000 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to about one tree planted for every pitch thrown during the 81-game home season. Furthermore, packaging material used at the stadium aims to direct about 40% of trash away from landfills. Finally, to save a projected 3.1 million gallons of water (a 22% reduction from the old stadium), the new plumbing systems clean and reuse water. All restrooms are equipped with GoJo Hand Soap, which doesn’t require water. If all fans use this soap, about 1 million gallons of water will be saved each season.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the new Yankee Stadium is the giant centerfield high-definition scoreboard, which is a massive 59 by 100 feet (the old stadium’s scoreboard was only 25 by 33 feet). This amenity keeps fans up-to-date with the score, count, number of outs, player statistics, replays and special features.
The Mets first became a team in 1962 and played its first two seasons in the old Polo Grounds stadium located in Harlem at 155th Street and 8th Avenue. In 1964, the Mets moved into Shea Stadium in Flushing, built as part of the World’s Fair.
Over the years, Shea Stadium witnessed a lot of history, from the 1969 and 1986 World Series title teams to concerts by The Beatles, Billy Joel, and many others. Shea Stadium, which was located just a few feet away from the new Citi Field, is now gone. By February 18th it was completely demolished, and has since been re-worked as parking space.
Citi Field offers also offers a luxurious and incredibly fun experience for Mets fans. The main entrance, called the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, brings the fan back in time and tells the story of Robinson’s racial integration of professional baseball in 1947. Words carved into the stone walls of the rotunda describe Robinson’s persistence, courage, citizenship, commitment, and teamwork.
One amazing thing about Citi Field, in stark contrast to Shea, is that every seat has a clear view of the whole playing field. While Shea Stadium had just one stadium club, Citi Field has five, at least one on every level. There are also plenty of concession stands. Out in right field is the famous Shake Shack, with its mouthwatering burgers and milkshakes. Throughout the stadium there are stands that offer food from all over the world. Citi Field also has nine stores that sell Mets’ merchandise.
The biggest difference between the new stadia is how they pay tribute to the past. Yankee stadium celebrates every championship team and significant player. Although banners of famous Mets are on display outside Citi Field stadium, there is much less memorabilia inside.
The new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are both exciting places to see the classic game of baseball. They rival all of the other new parks, such as those in Philadelphia and Detroit, and set the stage for a new era of New York City baseball.
FOR THE BATTING PRACTICE AFICIONADO:
Yankee Stadium opens three hours before game time, and Citi Field opens two and a half hours before game time.
J.J. ABRAMS: BOLDLY GOING WHERE MANY HAVE GONE BEFORE
Melanie Steinhardt ’09
Hardcore Star Trek fans, commonly known as Trekkies, have awaited another addition to the film series for a long, long time. The latest film, directed by J.J. Abrams of Lost, has not disappointed. In fact, the preliminary reviews were so positive that Star Trek earned $76 million in its first weekend alone.
The best thing about the new film is its fresh take on the Star Trek tradition. As the trailers advertise, the movie “is not your father’s Star Trek.” The action scenes, of which there are many, are easy to follow and are aesthetically interesting even for those who are not action fans. The main characters have interesting stories, and the roles are well-cast. Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime gives the older crowd an anchor to the series they remember, and the younger crowd a new perspective on the story.
Star Trek tells the story of Captain Kirk’s very first U.S.S. Enterprise crew, beginning with their experiences at the Starfleet Academy. Chris Pine is a fantastic Captain Kirk, and while he brings out the edgier, younger Kirk that we knew was there all along, his portrayal is consistent with William Shatner’s. Although they mostly provide comic relief, McCoy and Scotty are spot-on in their roles as well. Zoe Saldana, recognizable as the bratty girl from Crossroads (yes, the Britney Spears movie), is surprisingly adept at playing Uhura. Sulu and Chekov are good, and they deserve more screen time.
My only complaint is with Mr. Spock, played by Heroes actor Zachary Quinto. His storyline is a bit far-fetched; his less-than-excellent performance as young Spock might be due to his strange place in the plot. Despite his green blood, Spock seems much less Vulcan and much more human than expected. In addition, it was a bit unsettling to see him behave sexually outside of the Seven-Year Itch.
Trekkies have demanded more Star Trek ever since the original series ended, giving rise to Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Enterprise, and ten other films before this one. Although J.J. Abrams’ perspective on Star Trek is different from ever before, it is a welcome change.
His film is young, fresh, and exciting, and he strikes a perfect balance between science fiction, action, and character building. Although some parts of the film are a little bit contrived, the first crew’s story is unusual, and flows smoothly.
This film truly delivers the Star Trek legacy to a new generation of sci-fi fanatics. It fits in perfectly with its big screen and small screen predecessors; it is a Star Trek film through and through.
PROFESSOR MATTHEWS: HERALD OF SCHELLING
Alexi Block Gorman ’12
Dr. Bruce Matthews, BHSEC’s resident historian of religion and philosophy, has a lot going on beyond his BHSEC teaching career. In his own words, Matthews is currently “in the midst of writing an intellectual biography of Fredrick W. J. Schelling,” entitled Schelling: Heretic of Modernity. Fredrick Schelling was a German philosopher who lived from 1775 to 1854. He had a significant influence on German Idealism, the Romantic Movement, psychology, Philosophy of Nature, and Existentialism. According to Dr. Matthews, Søren Kierkegaard (who is credited with the spread of existentialism) heard Schelling’s lectures in Berlin in 1841 and “took the ball and ran with it.”
According to Dr. Matthews, Schelling’s greatest intellectual achievement is his “Philosophy of Nature,” which essentially warns humankind against the wanton exploitation of our Earth. Schelling held that the central tenet of modernity, that man can be infallibly reasonable and in control, fosters the false belief that humans are more important than nature.
Schelling was aware of humankind’s dependence on nature when other thinkers were not, which is why Matthews has deemed him the “Heretic of Modernity.” As Dr. Matthews put it, Schelling held that “we only see nature for its economic value.” This mindset must be discarded if humans are to survive.
Though a labor of love, this book cannot be completed without considerable effort. After school, Dr. Matthews heads to the library on 42nd Street, where he has access to the Wertheim study, a room where scholars can leave their reference books for an extended period of time.
This coming October, Dr. Matthews will speak at a conference in Belgium on Schelling and German Idealism.
BHSEC’S TÜRKIYE EXCHANGE
Naomi Boyce ’10
BHSEC has one of the most challenging academic programs in New York City, but it can’t compare to the 16 courses that students take at Kabatas Erekek Lisesi. During spring break, five BHSEC students traveled to Istanbul, Turkey with Dr. Brutsaert to see and experience the city’s culture and history. The students also learned more about the education and health systems of a great metropolis comparable to New York City.
Upon arriving in Istanbul, Year I Nathan Campbell was taken aback by how different Istanbul is from American cities. He described Istanbul’s stunning architecture and scenery: “The whole city is built on hills that slope down to the Bosporus Straits. Most of the buildings are pastel-colored apartment buildings with balconies; all the roofs are red-tiled and they poke out from a lush layer of trees and form odd, uneven clusters.”
Nathan was amazed that every person in Istanbul seemed noticeably Turkish, regardless of religion or neighborhood. He attributed this commonality among Turkish people to what he calls “cultural reference points.” The image of Ataturk, the founder of Turkey, is displayed throughout the city and in the schools, a ubiquitous symbol of Turkish nationalism.
Ataturk believed in secularism, but Islam has a major influence in Istanbul, making it a more conservative city. One of the many courses that Kabatas students take is a religion class that focuses on Islam. There are many gorgeous mosques scattered throughout the city, some of which the BHSEC students toured. Tenth grader Kate Gibbel, who lived with her host family in Üsküdar, a more conservative area of Istanbul, could hear a daily call to prayer. Living in a neighborhood where women wore burkas and headscarves exposed Kate to a lifestyle unfamiliar to most BHSEC students.
Although none of the students who took part in the exchange spoke Turkish, they weren’t hindered by the language barrier. Because Kabatas has an excellent foreign language program, the five Turkish students spoke proficient English. Kate was ashamed at times that the BHSEC student could not speak with the Kabatas students in their own language. “The language barrier was not a problem, although it is embarrassing to be in Turkey and speak to Turks in English!” Some of the Turkish students’ parents did not speak English, but they were still able to communicate.
Overall, the Turkish exchange was an unforgettable experience for the students who participated in it. They were all mesmerized by the life and beauty of Istanbul. As Nathan put it, “Istanbul is a labyrinthine, endlessly complex and changing city that is impossible to summarize, and the sheer weight and unsettled vibrancy of the place was always palpable to me wherever I went.”
五個新朋友: Five New Friends
Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10
The five of us—Ariela, Erika, John, Alis, and I—stood nervously at the pick-up point for international flights at JFK airport. Would the five Chinese students from Changsha recognize the traditional Chinese characters on our welcome signs? How should we greet them, with handshakes or with hugs?
On the car ride home from JFK, Alice, my exchange student, explained that in China people generally greet each other with handshakes, unless they have a close relationship. I was relieved that we opted for the more formal welcome.
That was my first indication of the differences between Chinese and American culture. Alice was surprised that my family doesn’t wear slippers in the house. “My friends said that some families don’t even take off their shoes!” she exclaimed. At Sunday brunch, in a room full of people, two of the exchange students asked me about my standardized test scores. I skirted the question, and later explained to Alice that in America it’s not considered polite to ask people for their scores and that people usually only share their scores with a few friends.
Alice was intrigued by BHSEC’s classroom dynamics. “Many of you are really smart and active,” she explained, and “often raise your hand and answer questions.” However, she was surprised that students were required to raise their hands at all. She was taught that in American classes, students sit in circles and are allowed to speak whenever they want. She said that in China there is less communication between students and teachers.
The BHSEC library is also very different from the library at the exchange students’ school, Yali. At Yali, the “library [is] required to be silent and quiet,” Alice said.
Although our library does not showcase the best study habits, Alice was surprised to learn that American students also work hard to prepare for college. Before she arrived at BHSEC, Alice thought that “American kids don’t often work very hard,” and that only Chinese students stayed up late doing homework. Admittedly, Yali’s course load does seem heavier: students at Alice’s school take nine subjects, including geography, all three major sciences, and a class called ”Morals.” They have school six days a week, and their teachers seem to have considerable influence over all aspects of the students’ lives; Alice explained that all of the girls have cropped hair because their teacher asked them to cut it.
Alice and I also noticed marked differences between American and Chinese eating habits. Alice expected the American diet to emphasize steak, beef, and chicken, but she said that, on the contrary, “it seems that they like pizza.” (She politely declined my mother’s health-conscious ‘pizza’: pesto and goat cheese on a whole wheat crust). Accustomed to noodles and dumplings for breakfast, Alice daily turned down a variety of American breakfast options in favor of waffles.
Chinese table manners are also different from our own. John Iselin, a Year I, commented that instead of lifting fork to mouth, several of the Chinese students lower their faces to their plates.
Discovering these small differences was what made the Chinese students’ time here so interesting. We didn’t know what to expect, or even how to greet the students, but we ended up with five new friends. John remarked that having another person living in his house was weird, and even stressful at times. He was surprised that he was the one working all night, and was disappointed that he missed out on opportunities to spend time with his exchange student, Jacky.
My main concern before Alice arrived was that she would be bored while I was doing my homework; fortunately, she occupied herself with chatting on QQ, Chinese instant messenger. On the weekends, when we did have time to spend together, we did a lot of shopping; Alice’s shopping list included Nike sneakers, products made in America (nothing at the NBA store), and multivitamins.
On the street outside the Apple store, we stopped to buy chicken skewers from a vendor. “Are you Mexican?” Alice asked him. “No, I’m Japanese,” he replied, with a smile. Alice didn’t know how to respond; he was obviously not of Asian descent. “I’m Chinese,” she said. “So am I!” the vendor exclaimed.
The exchange students’ time in New York was eye-opening, exhilarating, and exhausting. We may have had too much homework for our liking, but any disappointments are overridden by excitement at the prospect of traveling to China, really testing our Chinese language skills, sampling Chinese cuisine, touring historical landmarks, and—most importantly in an exchange—experiencing a small piece of Alice, Jacky, Kockyo, Lily, and Joyce’s lives.
EARTH DAY MISLEADS US
Jack Jenkins ’12
When someone mentions Earth Day, green values don’t immediately come to mind. Rather, I think of the problematic idea that the only time to honor the Earth is April 22nd. Even though the intentions behind Earth Day are good, I think we’re inadvertently being taught that awareness is a once-a-year ordeal rather than a lifestyle.
BHSEC does have a coalition of students who are devoted to making our institution a green one. I worry that to onlookers, the actions of the Eco Club appear less persuasive than they mean to be. The club does BHSEC an invaluable service, but they may lead us to believe that it only takes a few people to transform our environment.
That’s why I felt like a change was being made when clips of An Inconvenient Truth were show in ninth and tenth grade advisories. Although I knew most of the facts, I was really inspired by the commitment of such an esteemed politician and by the principle that environmental stewardship can (and should) be present in every aspect of society, from big businesses to public schools to our homes.
It’s cheesy to say that you can make a difference by just doing your part, but it’s true that by turning off bathroom lights, using fluorescent bulbs, and opening a window instead of turning on the air conditioner, we can all contribute to save our shared home. Every little thing counts.
What may be even more important than being environmentally friendly is spreading the word. In my opinion, the biggest heroes in the green debate are those who let people know that humankind is facing an omnipresent danger that has been exacerbated by ignorance and overshadowed by superficial politics.
By doing what we can on the individual scale, hopefully we can move toward the broad and meaningful unification that the degradation of our world calls for. And so, while I am worried that Earth Day reinforces the notion that green living is just a temporary, trendy way of thinking, I am glad that it is a national holiday. Earth Day gives us a concrete way to come together and educate ourselves about this pressing crisis.
BHSEC: 2005 – 2009
Melanie Steinhardt ’09
During my first Writing and Thinking Workshop, as a freshman in 2005, I was asked to write a text explosion for a poem from our anthology. When weekly advisory meetings commenced, my classmates decided to forgo text explosions in favor of Hangman. During my last Writing and Thinking Workshop, as a Year II in 2008, I was asked to write a text explosion for a poem from our anthology. Now, my classmates and I often play Hangman during college advisory.
It is easy to point out scores of differences at BHSEC between 2005 and 2009, but it is also easy to overlook the things that have stayed the same. I have found that the incredible amount of support offered by teachers has never wavered: my professors are available to talk in any of the offices, whether it be English, Foreign Language, or Math. In fact, because of their support, BHSEC professors often become personal mentors to individual students. The overall spirit of BHSEC has also been constant. There is still a commitment to diversity, a comfortable atmosphere, and a sense that our school is simply different.
However, some aspects of Bard have changed a great deal, for better or for worse. Our Lower East Side building now has a newer, more versatile auditorium, wheelchair access, a garden in the yard, and a redesigned cafeteria. The high school science program, which was completely integrated in 2005, is now more organized and less confusing for the students. The Writing and Math Center has moved from the corner of the fifth floor to the back of the library, and has seen an upsurge in student volunteers. We’ve also gained a fantastic computer lab, which provides students with internet and printing capability almost every hour of the day. Through trial-and-error, Bard administrators have achieved the best physical layout for the school.
Students are another issue altogether. The self-righteous half of my Year II mind tells me that my class, along with the classes before it, is more dedicated to BHSEC and to learning than any other grade, and that nobody who passes though Bard after us will be able to fill our shoes. The benevolent half of my Year II mind tells me that every graduating class has these thoughts.
However, I do know that BHSEC has become a brand-name school. That means that parents are more likely to force their offspring to attend Bard against their wishes. In the past, students had to convince their parents that BHSEC was worth their time. Time will tell whether this widespread phenomenon will have any long-term effect on the school.
Another thing that has remained constant: BHSEC’s love for discussing changes within the school. During our annual Community Day, three panels spoke about change during the students’ time at Bard. In the auditorium panel, the overwhelming consensus was that the sense of hope in the student body had dramatically improved since Obama’s election. Year II Cristina Valbuena says, “It was quite informative in the beginning, but…I really felt like I was in an Obama rally the way ‘change’ was being thrown around throughout the whole discussion.” Something else that has definitely stayed the same: the students are overwhelmingly Democrats.
OUR CAFETERIA JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT SWEETER
Zina Huxley-Reicher ’09
Change. As of late, BHSEC has been focusing on it a great deal. As Mr. Peterson mentioned on a Community Day panel, one of the most recent changes that our school has undergone is the switch from Styrofoam to sugarcane lunch trays. Unlike Styrofoam trays, the sugarcane trays are biodegradable. Although discarded trays decompose in landfills, composting them is an option for the future.
The change in lunchtime supplies was brought about largely by the work of members of the Eco Club. The student involvement in this development is one feature that Mr. Peterson lauded to no end: “I am really impressed with the Eco Club. I don’t see enough students taking responsibility for their own school.” Mr. Peterson hopes that more students become invested in the school in the way that the Eco Club members have, not only with this project but also with their daily sorting of the recycling.
Chiara Zaccheo and Diana Chao, co-presidents of the Eco Club, pushed for the tray change by presenting it as a viable component of the school’s long-term environmental goal. They, along with Eco member Abigail Savitch-Lew and others, took on the task of researching the negative effects of Styrofoam and organizing the logistics of the undertaking. They then presented this research, along with information about producers and costs, to the administration. In turn, the administration worked out the change with the Department of Education. This collaboration between students and administrators has been a very positive experience. As Abigail said, “Mr. Peterson has been so supportive.”
Styrofoam’s inability to decompose is not the only reason for the change. Styrofoam is made from the harmful chemical styrene, which is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Although styrene is not supposed to be part of the finished product, there is often some residue in the trays. When a tray comes in contact with intense heat or acid, as it often does, styrene is released. This chemical can be consumed and has potentially dangerous effects. The production of Styrofoam also has 57 chemical byproducts and is the fifth greatest producer of hazardous waste.
The new trays that our cafeteria is using, “Bagasse” trays, are decomposable and are made from sugarcane waste that would ordinarily go unused. Furthermore, according to Evelyn, the trays hold hot food much better than the Styrofoam. “They don’t get soggy and are much sturdier,” she said, “Everybody likes it [the trays]. The kids love it, I love it.” The responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
The one downside is that the trays are almost double the price of the Styrofoam; in order to keep this program going, $75 must be raised per month. The Eco Club is currently working to secure monthly sponsors (neighborhood businesses) in order to do so. The Department of Education has actually been quite supportive of this endeavor, as their policies about sustainability have changed drastically in the last few years. They are footing half of the bill and are working with the Bagasse provider to arrange a cheaper rate so that more schools can transition to sugarcane. We are the third New York City school to make the change.
Mr. Peterson envisions even further change at BHSEC: more student responsibility, a green house on the roof, and a way to grow vegetables for our cafeteria. Evelyn’s goals for the future include replacing the cups in the cafeteria with a healthy and sustainable alternative and a new kitchen. Abigail and the Eco Club hope to expand our current garden and to switch to using only recycled paper.
The sugarcane trays represent one of the first student initiatives to create change. Hopefully, this change will not be the last of its kind.
These trays certainly have excited the students and piqued their curiosity: “Can we eat them?” Unfortunately, the answer is no.
THE ECONOMIC CRISIS BOOSTS COLLEGE ADMISSIONS
Zoe Chaves ’09
A college-level education has always posed a significant financial problem to most American families, and with the current state of the global economy, things seem worse than ever. Endowments and donations have decreased exponentially in the downturn, causing many strong students, especially those hoping to pursue post-graduate studies, to look to state schools for their undergraduate years.
Many colleges have been accused of violating their need-blind policies in subtle ways; some believe that admissions officers at some institutions Googled zip codes this year (to look for average income levels) as a way to skirt need-blind commitments. Programs and special ventures are being cut at even the richest of schools; teaching spots are being left unfilled. Athletic teams are losing funding and cafeterias are losing food trays as colleges struggle to cut both spending and waste.
But there’s good news: the downturn has boosted regular and waitlist acceptance rates across the country. Many private schools, threatened by the financial allure of their public competitors, accepted a higher percentage of applicants this year and have compiled huge waitlists to avoid ending up with a too-small incoming class. The atmosphere of uncertainty has caused many schools to throw out their old admissions models, and many colleges confess that they are admitting students based on interest in their institution. In a New York Times article that ran this past March, several institutions located around the country admitted to looking into each applicant’s ‘history’ with their school—whether they had visited the campus, whether they requested an interview, and other subtle indicators of interest, such as the applicant’s high school’s history with the college.
But even these indicators can be misleading, especially when the high cost of gas and air travel are taken into consideration. In order to save money and time, some students wait until they are admitted to visit favorite, but distant, schools.
Ms. Cheikes shared her opinion on the economic downturn’s impact on the college ‘luck’ of BHSEC’s Class of 2009. She relayed some surprisingly positive information on the financial aid front. Ms. Cheikes observed “nominally higher” admissions rates for this year’s graduating class, which she says are not BHSEC-specific, but are a part of a larger, nationwide trend. Ms. Cheikes said that “we have been very fortunate” in terms of securing money for those students that demonstrate need; “we got great financial aid…and very nice merit scholarships,” she reported. In many cases, merit aid awards were generous enough to allow middle-class kids (who did not demonstrate financial need) to attend pricier schools, but at the end of the day, many middle-class students were still thinking about college choices through the financial ‘lens’.
Ms. Cheikes said that she has already seen “groups and groups” of kids moving off of waitlists at schools that traditionally accept almost none of their waitlisted candidates. Ms. Cheikes is also hopeful about BHSEC’s growing reputation in college admissions offices: “schools want our students and they are giving them the money,” she claims.
The atmosphere of uncertainty has turned the game of college admissions on its head. So at the end of the day, this economic downturn may have a silver lining.