THE HANNAH ARENDT CONFERENCE: “DOES THE PRESIDENT MATTER?”
Juan Patrick Soto ’13
On Friday, September 21st, the Year IIs boarded buses awfully early in the morning and drove upstate to Bard College to attend the annual conference run by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities, this year titled ‘Does the President Matter?’ A Conference on the American Age of Political Disrepair. The conference was an opportunity to see Bard College and also to get a sense of academia and what academics do. More importantly, however, it was a chance to hear and air views, and a touchstone from which to begin asking questions.The schedule of speakers included Berkowitz, the Director of the Hannah Arendt Center; Leon Botstein, the President of Bard College; Todd Gitlin, a professor and the author of Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street; Anne Norton, a professor and the author of 95 Theses on Politics, Culture, and Method; Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party; Eric Liu, former Domestic Policy Advisor to President Clinton; and Kevin Gutzman, a professor and the author of James Madison and the Making of America.The day began with an introduction to the subject by Professor Berkowitz, who spoke in particular of one essay of Arendt’s, “What is Freedom?”. One quotation from that essay which Berkowitz noted resonated especially with the theme of the conference: men, writes Arendt, “because they have received the twofold gift of freedom and action can establish a reality of their own.” One way to answer the question ‘does the President matter?’ is to consider his ability to act, his freedom, and to establish a reality of his own.Botstein approached the question from a different angle. Rather than focus on what the president—in the abstract—can do actively, he focused on President Obama’s role as a symbol. Botstein argued that one of the most important aspects of Obama’s election to the presidency was that “the nation partially put aside its racism.” Obama’s presidency is a symbol of progress and a symbol of a shift away from racism. Botstein followed his analysis of Obama’s importance by considering what it means for the president to have symbolic importance. It means that one man can be a shift (e.g. a shift away from racism), but also that such shifts can be dependent upon that man, on the symbol that is, to some degree, the president. After Bostein came a panel titled “Is Occupy Wall Street a Symptom of an Irreparable Loss of Faith in Liberal Democracy?” composed of Todd Gitlin and Anne Norton. They both related anecdotes from Occupy and discussed the importance of free speech and spaces in which to practice it in democracy. Anne Norton raised an important distinction in the definition of public space: she defined public space vs. commons. Public space, she said, is granted by the government. Commons, on the other hand, are had by the people. The example she gave of commons was the sea. Rick Falkvinge (whose last name means ‘falcon-wing’), who spoke next, defined the Internet, essentially, as a commons, something to be possessed or occupied, not granted. Although his talk was largely evangelical (he calls himself a “political evangelist”) and not particularly content-based, he did make an historical argument about liberty and anonymity that was complementary to Norton’s definition of commons. The Internet, Falkvinge argued, should have the same freedoms that have been granted to other media and communications, making it very like a commons, a place where individuals communicate, create, and protest without government intrusion. Otherwise, his talk was interesting mainly for being provocative. In fact, the criticism I would make of Falkvinge is that he seemed more intent on starting arguments than on participating in them. In particularly, he did not defend the details of his position that child pornography ought to be legalized sufficiently. Falkvinge did clarify that the statement was a “stake in the ground position,” meant to start dialogue, and did defend his position briefly, but considering the nature of his statement, he could have been more specific. The last panel which BHSEC students attended, “Should the President Lead or Govern,” was composed of Eric Liu and Kevin Gutzman and was chaired by Dr. Ewing, BHSEC’s Dean of Studies. Liu and Gutzman had very different views of the presidency. Liu answered the question ‘does the president matter?’ with “yes, but not most.” He emphasized the role of the public in government. Gutzman also answered yes, because he argued that the president leads, rules, in fact, rather than governing i.e. carry out his function as the executive. The contrasts between the two made for an interesting discussion. Gutzman, in particular, was sarcastic and entertaining. About liberal disappointment with President Obama, for example, Gutzman said that of course Obama didn’t bring “excitement, miracles, and a reason for being.” In a fitting end to the panel (and to our experience of the conference), one audience member asked a question that attempted to unite what she called the two stories of the panel. First, the “gross expansion of executive power,” and second, the fact the president is at least perceived by some not to matter. The question ‘does the president matter?’ is at least, the audience member said, “intuitively reasonable.” She struggled to understand how these two narratives were possible. Gutzman located the validity of these two narratives in the messianic hopes pinned on the president, in particular, upon Obama. Liu, on the other hand, connected these narratives with the New York Yankees. His analogy compared the liberal disappointment with Obama combined with the increasing power of the presidency with the vast resources of the Yankees and the expectation that each year the team will add another World Series to their current 27. Essentially, Liu argued, citizens’ hopes are raised too high by the size of executive power. The panel then ended, leaving us a good summation of the question that day, ‘does the president matter?’(Video of the conference is available at http://www.totalwebcasting.com/view/?id=bard)
Ms. Caldaro: “If you are nice and you are clean then I will eat your pancakes.”
Student: “Mr. Mikesh, if you were to be a superhero, what would your superhero name be?”Mr. Mikesh: “It would be Brock…Thunder…Beef! Yes, Brock ThunderBeef!”
Student: “Who would your sidekick be?”Mr. Mikesh: “Gee, I hadn’t though of that. All I know is he would have to be good at delivering one-liners, so I could respond with HAHAHA” (in a deep voice with clenched fists at his hips).
Dr. Freund: “If I was fighting a war against the Aztecs and they came at me with rabbits in their hands. I’d be like, bring it on…(to a student) I mean I have a javelin and I have a rabbit, which one do you think I should throw at your face?”
All Teacherisms are printed with the explicit permission of the teachers quoted. If you have a funny Teacherism you’d like to sumit, post it on the Facebook page or email it to me at email@example.com
Jesus Valdez ’16
All BHSEC students already know or will soon come to know that standardized tests aren’t to be taken lightly. They are difficult and frustrating for all students. Standardized tests are scored in congruous ways. The tests are made at high stakes and attempt to eliminate multiple biases that are put on test takers whether it be the school they came from, their race, etc. They’re made to be accurate and to test ability in a certain subject or realm.These tests include ones that students take in our high school years.
Important ones that effect our college applications, the ACT and SAT, that at most times are taken in the spring of eleventh grade, are standardized tests. Scoring high on these tests is essential to our college applications. Even though these sorts of standardized tests are only a piece to the application they can be the game changer needed to enter great schools. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, require relatively high SAT scores and ACT scores to be admitted into some of their highly respected programs.
However, should education revolve around these tests? Are they made truly fairly for all test takers? Many teachers focus their classes on understanding material on these tests and attempt to guide their students to a success of high scores. Yet, this makes a child’s education extremely narrow and controlled. Because of standardized tests teachers are not able to educate their children to a broader curriculum aside from testing. Teachers have to give into the pressure of teaching their kids a strict curriculum force fed to them from a higher order.
This year, in Detroit, Michigan, the teacher’s union has taken a stand against their implemented standardized testing system. This union believed that teachers should be shown trust by being given less boundaries so as to fulfill their teaching potential. In the city of New York students are required to take multiple New York State wide tests (the Regents). At some schools, if a student fails a test they also fail their class and must retake both test and class. If they pass with a mere two out of four grade they are able to advance to the next grade. A fifth grade teacher in New York knows the exact effects that standardized testing has on her children’s education. She said, “The same amount of credit is given to a child who earns a two [50%] on the tests as well as another child who earns a perfect four out of four. It is incredibly ridiculous.” The accuracy of the test is not existent. Some children that may have a lucky testing day may go on to the next grade with even higher difficulty. Of course, there is the other possibility in which intelligent children must repeat a year of school due to a lack of testing ability known as being a bad test taker.
I believe it is corrupt how kids who deserve to advance to the next level of education are deprived of that privilege and children who don’t are given it blindly. Teachers are also affected by standardized testing. In New York City, new teacher reports evaluate a teacher’s performance. From the success or passing rate of their students in correlation to the standardized tests teachers are given some sort of grade. In the same way that testing grades are often an inaccurate representation of a student’s preparedness for the next grade, the reports made on teachers are often inaccurate as well. Analyzing teachers and their real performance is corrupted and altered for untrained eyes to see. Eyes that are solely fixed on the standardized test scores and nothing else.
Unfortunately, standardized tests often does the opposite of what it should have do in our education system. The rating of a student or even a teacher shouldn’t rely on the unjust standardized tests taken today.
LOWER “EATS” SIDE: LITTLE MUNSTER
Isabel Seckman Gadd ’13
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like grilled cheese. Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who shouldn’t eat a grilled cheese sandwich at Little Muenster, a tiny place on Stanton Street specializing in the classic. The menu consists of variations on everyone’s favorite hot sandwich—such as the sirloin patty/cheddar/gruyere/caramelized onion ($8.75) and the more common American cheese/tomato/bacon ($7.25).
My companion and I opted for the Asiago/Parmesan/butternut squash/sage butter sandwich ($8.75), with an add-on of tomato soup ($1.25) and for dessert, bread pudding ($3). The butternut grilled cheese was heavenly, pressed in a soft, crusty white bread that was just greasy enough, and the cheese stayed melted as soft as it could be until I finished eating it. The butternut squash added wonderful sweet tones to the mix as well as a softer, smoother texture than in a classic grilled cheese. I was left licking my fingers wishing for more. The tomato soup side had a perfect consistency and provided a wonderful accompaniment to the grilled cheese – for eating and dipping! The bread pudding proved less satisfactory: it wasn’t really bread pudding. It more resembled a sort of chopped up moist French toast. It was totally lacking the necessary smooshy parts of bread judging – all bread and no pudding.
The atmosphere was wonderful; warm and inviting. The small kitchen opened into the also small dining room. Only a few tables occupied the small space, but I would say it was more cozy than cramped. The giant windows and window seats added to the pleasantness; only the unnecessarily large television mounted on the wall took away from it. Accompanying the quiet chatter of customers and sounds from the kitchen was a great soundtrack: when I first walked in, I heard the opening notes of New Order’s “Ceremony” and I was immediately at ease.
Despite the mouth-watering hot sandwiches and the cozy vibe, the service was pretty mediocre. The one woman behind the counter was inattentive and cold. She didn’t actually look at me or my companion once while we were ordering and when she forgot about our soup and I asked about it, she didn’t look and replied with a simple “Mhmm.” I also observed her completely forget about a neighboring table’s drink orders and then serve them half-heartedly, after they asked. Who knows; she could have just been having a bad day.
I recommend talking a stroll over to Stanton Street and ordering a hot grilled cheese at Little Muenster on a rainy day sometime soon. You’ll feel protected from the rain outside by the big, beautiful windows and the soups and sandwiches will warm you up inside and out.
100 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
Cuisine: American, sandwiches
Food: * * * *
Atmosphere: * * * *
Service: * *
Price: $ $ ½*
LEGEND: Just bad* * …Eh* * * Good* * * * Great* * * * *
Top of the field$ $ $ $ $ Do you own a hedge fund? If not…$ $ $ $ Pretty pricey$ $ $ Manageable $ $ Very reasonable $ Cheap as dirt!
LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS!
Eddie Westerman ’13
In which direction do deer think? Deer tend to think in the left direction. This is because their hooves are tilted towards the left at around 10 degrees and thus their mind follows suit. However, Elks always think up.
If I think hard enough, can I make my feet grow? I used to have very small feet, but now I have medium sized ones. I thought about my feet occasionally and now they are larger. The only logical answer is, yes.
Should we let Pandas go extinct? I don’t think we should stand aside and watch pandas slowly extinct themselves. I care a lot about them and believe we should help them get through their problems and provide therapy.
Why are apples crisp? Apples are crisp because they are full of nutritious crisp atoms. Oh god fresh atoms. At um.
WHAT IS FRACKING?
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of extracting natural gas from deposits deep below the earth’s surface. In a nutshell: fracking involves pumping highly pressurized chemical mixtures into wells, which stretch thousands of feet into the earth. These chemicals create small fractures in the ground, freeing up otherwise trapped gases. While natural gas is a relatively clean burning fuel, its methods of extraction could not be less so. Fracking chemicals tend to remain in the ground, presenting those states which have allowed it in the past with issues of groundwater contamination.
In Colorado, groundwater to be piped into homes became so contaminated that, if lit, it caught fire. In the past year or so, New York State has seen proposals to allow fracking upstate. Although no activity would occur within the New York City watershed, the watershed is nonetheless vulnerable to contamination from chemicals present underground. The protection of New York’s watershed, the largest unfiltered watershed on the planet, is vital. Not only does contaminated water catch fire, but it has been associated with a raft of health problems, ranging from painful migraines, to hair loss, to cancer.
Currently, Governor Cuomo is conducting a health review of the potential threat of fracking in New York State. A public comment period will follow in which we, at ECO Club, suggest that you provide your input. Over the past year, ECO Club has done some work to prevent fracking from taking place here in New York. Last spring, we collected over 200 signatures from BHSEC students for a letter to Governor Cuomo condemning fracking. We also received signatures from members of the Lower East Side community in support of the anti-fracking initiative. Throughout the upcoming year, we plan on continuing our work against fracking, perhaps taking a more active role in combating this destructive practice. We hope you’ll join us!To get involved in the fight against fracking, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Environmental jokeA woman called her husband during the day and asked him to pick up some organic vegetables for that night’s dinner on his way home. The husband arrived at the store and began to search all over for organic vegetables before finally asking the produce guy where they were. The produce guy didn’t know what he was talking about, so the husband said: “These vegetables are for my wife. Have they been sprayed with poisonous chemicals?” To which the produce guy replied, “No, sir, you will have to do that yourself.”
JUNE’S YEAR I TRIP
Nina Chausow, ’13
Four days. Eleven schools. Ninety-something restless teenagers. Sounds a little bit like a reality TV show, doesn’t it? If we were to name said reality show, we would probably mistakenly label it “The Simon’s Rock Experience,” only to remind ourselves that this was the first BHSEC Year I trip not to visit Bard at Simon’s Rock. After much thought, we might appropriately call the trip “BHSEC Takes On Upstate New York.” The teasers for the show would include a perilous bus journey up a steep hill, friends torn apart by hotels in different towns, and the invasion of a certain Vietnamese restaurant. However, the true drama of the show lies inside the reactions to the colleges we visited. As we visited both familiar and unheard of schools, the majority of students were forced not only to rethink judgments, but also to consider possibilities that they had previously rejected. After a long and rain soaked bus ride, a disgruntled group of students arrived at the first and most familiar school, SUNY Binghamton. For many students, touring Binghamton represented their first true exposure to the SUNY system. The tour guides explained the benefits of the SUNY system, including access to all SUNY campus libraries and inter SUNY study abroad opportunities. As the tour groups merged to return to the buses, it became increasingly clear that the biggest talking point for Binghamton was its recreational highlight, Late Night at Bing, a free weekly bonanza involving everything from Build a Bear to bubble tea, and the campus bowling alley. However, another realization surfaced following the first tour. Unlike previous college tours, where we had stood with our parents surrounded by students from all parts of the country and world, we stood with our peers. Instead of listening to parents ask the same questions about AP tests over and over again, we could ask any questions we wanted, supported by the chaperones who knew us well, and receive answers from student guides who had been informed of the unique nature of BHSEC. To complete the first whirlwind of a day, we were set free in Ithaca, where the night ended with a game of Ninja in a town square (although the name of the game was as fiercely disputed as the winner). The next day, although it opened innocuously under some cloud cover and a light hotel breakfast, was looked upon by the majority of students with dread. Ithaca College, Cornell University, Alfred University and SUNY Geneseo, a four college extravaganza where there was something for everyone. Although it was a very taxing day for our feet and minds, the second day was one of the most productive in inspiring new considerations. Ithaca College and SUNY Geneseo proved to be the two underdog successes of the entire trip. While everyone fell in love with how beautiful the Ithaca campus was, many were impressed with the physical and intellectual resources that a small, non-Greek liberal arts college could offer, as well as a free laundry service. Cornell, the biggest name on the trip’s roster, provoked mixed reactions. The university was impressive and exciting, offering a range of both public and private schools inside, as well as a Dragon Day where the architects and engineers face off their skills. However, for some students, the tour guide’s speech about the intellectual symbolism of the campus’ chapel and canned 19th century anecdotes were not exactly inviting. Alfred University, decked in beautiful ceramic pieces created at the New York State College of Ceramics, the school itself offered a great advisory and support system for the students, although several guides didn’t go very far in depth about the academics of the university. SUNY Geneseo, a school not often considered by BHSEC students despite its reputation as a Public Ivy, provoked both the most controversy and interest on the trip. Despite the fact that half of the group was treated to a condescending and slightly sexist guide, and the other to a guide who started an argument with Dr. Marion over the values of high school classes, everyone was pleasantly surprised that they wanted to apply to the school after experiencing a gorgeous sunset at the center of campus. The second half of the trip resembles a blur of visit after visit, big schools and small, one beautiful green lawn after another. Yet each school has something that stands out in the memory of what at that point was quite a sleep deprived college tourer. SUNY Brockport, although quite a bit of the campus was under construction, had the best dorms of the entire trip. The University of Rochester, an eagerly anticipated school, offered astounding research opportunities and a campus enriched by the Eastman School of Music. The Rochester Institute of Technology, with an extremely promising boy-girl ratio, had enough cool machines and scientific resources to make a science geek swoon. Syracuse, a resounding favorite of sports fans and academics alike, enchanted many with a large orange mascot. Hamilton, an idyllic campus disguising an intense liberal arts curriculum, offered an offer that could not be resisted: puppies brought in during finals week. After all the Year Is felt as though we had been tossed through a tunnel of school pennants and information pamphlets, we landed in a heap on the quiet rural campus of Skidmore in the lap of one of our alumni, where we were treated to a view of their great science facilities linked to their world studies minors. The college trip served its ultimate purpose: the grade was exposed to the widest possible range of schools, differing in size, resources, focus and atmosphere. However, beyond the many emotions and opinions displayed relating to the colleges we visited, other communal feelings appeared. Beyond many complaints of heat, hunger, and lack of space on the buses, the grade demonstrated the birth of a feeling reported by many a class of Year I’s: unity, pride and friendship throughout the entire class of 2013. However, although all returned officially “red-flagged,” we know that we stand together as we face the overwhelming task of applying to college.
Everett Pelzman, ‘15
In early July I attended a gathering of young politicians. Applicants were accepted under the following conditions: they had to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, high school students, and have some sort of faith in America, whether this came in the form of pride for America’s fruitions or hope in the face of America’s letdowns.Not only were we politically interested and politically involved, but as high school students we were politically invested. Four years from now, BHSECers will be spread across the nation, galloping into the limelight and fragility of an adult life. Year 2’s might be searching for jobs, learning how to support themselves, exploring a health care plan, peering around the corner at environmental disaster, or enveloping themselves in an American market that is un-American. Whatever state they live in, whatever economic situation or professional trajectory they call their own, it will all be under one president. This important transition (between education and adult life) will occur under the policies of either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. What will be most important to you in four years? The media is swift at directing your attention to certain issues. Will our relationship with Iran be an extraneous matter to you at the age of 22 or 18? Not if we act prematurely, and create an Iran even more unstable than the one that exists today. Mitt Romney’s plan seems to do just that. While he mirrors President Obama in that he plans to give fair warning to Iran and impose a series of debilitating sanctions telling President Ahmadinejad that a military course of action is still on the table, Romney has also said that he will assert the clout of our armed forces through the deployment of aircraft carriers to the waters that surround Iran and the conducting of naval training near Iran’s borders. How will Iran react if they think that America expects war? In addition, Romney approaches the Iran issue assuming that the bordering Arab countries are assets in this de-nuclearizing mission. Earlier in September, however, the Governor responded immediately to embassy attacks in Benghazi, Libya, with a reactionary and insular stab at the White House for its apology to Islamic nations for the anti-Islamic Innocence of Muslims film (produced in America). This apology was actually Hillary Clinton and the administration distancing themselves from the intolerance and disrespect of this film. Romney pounced, suggesting that the administration’s condemnation of the attacks was insufficient and that immediately apologizing for this film was an apology for our values. Governor Romney will have no Arab allies if he continues to believe that (Islamic) “religious tolerance” is “an apology for American values.” While Romney comments on Obama’s unwillingness to meddle with Iran’s business, he offers Iran the delightful choice of war or isolation. Barack Obama counters with: we will prevent you from acquiring nuclear weaponry technology using all means necessary or we can help you become a prosperous nation. Obama observes that Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology has placed the option of medical assistance to its citizens on the table and a pledge to not interfere with “Iran’s internal affairs.” At the age of twenty would you rather be peddling through college or fighting a war in Tehran? As we learn in history class at BHSEC, one war can change a generation—can we take that risk?President Obama is always fighting for the future of young Americans, like when he rescued the auto industry from the depths of its despair, reviving it as opposed to letting it “go bankrupt,” keeping the jobs and wealth in America. Obama’s underrated Credit Card Accountability Act, passed a few years ago, works relentlessly to stop credit card companies from taking advantage of first time consumers lured in by their deceptive services. Obama’s initiative ensures that interest on the balances you owe to the credit card company aren’t hiked up subsequent to a late payment, or due to circumstances which you could not read about because the contract was not available online or wasn’t in plain English or wasn’t even disclosed to the public. Young consumers, whose fees rise steadily while pulsing over their monthly limit, are now notified, before additional purchases, of the rate increased by their credit card company—much needed regulations like these would not carry over into the Romney administration. Moreover, President Obama has done tremendous work for young students, fighting to keep the interest rates on student loans proportional to your income after college graduation, and making Pell Grants a way for impoverished families to send their children to college. Romney would eradicate Pell Grants, and take the quality of the future for young Americans down yet another notch. President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act places young Americans on their parents’ health care plan through age 26, a benefit which aims to ease another burden that the early-twenties present. In addition, those who wish to sign up for a new health care plan cannot be denied because of pre-existing conditions as of 2014, preventive care (vaccinations, immunizations) is covered, and there are no longer caps on how much the insurance companies will pay for your care in your lifetime. As high school students, we are empowered by all of the years still ahead of us. A numbing, distracting American deficit will surely impact us all if we don’t get rid of it. President Obama plans to increase taxes on those who make more than $250,000 to pad our revenue. Mitt Romney has yet to articulate his plan to balance the budget. In conclusion, I might be preaching to the choir, but even the most vocal student supporters for Obama don’t always realize the implications of this election on their lives.
THE POLITICAL OPINIONS OF BHSEC STUDENTS
Danya Levy ‘15
“Romney is a d**k.” This was how one 10th grader responded when questioned about his thoughts on the current presidential campaign. And, although he was the only student to express his thoughts in such a profane manner, he wasn’t alone in disliking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. At BHSEC, the overwhelming majority of students are very liberal, Democratic, and pro-Obama—not a surprise in an elite New York City public school. But this uniform support for President Barack Obama was backed up by a wide variety of reasons cited by students. Many students based their would-be vote simply on their disdain for Governor Romney, often citing his disengagement from the average citizen. As one 10th grader, Jed Lenetsky, explained, “I feel like Mitt Romney isn’t in touch with the normal American, and his interests are only for the rich, and not everyone else.” Some especially expressed their disgust at the Republican candidate’s recently revealed remarks about the “47 percent” that were secretly filmed at a private fundraiser, and found it frightening to imagine such a man in the Oval Office. As one student put it, he supports Obama, “Mostly because the alternative is much, much worse.” Although their support of President Obama’s first term didn’t quite match their fear of a potential Romney presidency, some of those interviewed did positively remark about the president’s efforts. “Everything that Obama has put in place is for a reason, and he worked really hard to put it all in place,” said Cena Loffredo, a sophomore. Despite the undeviating support of President Obama, some students did admit to not being very knowledgeable about the presidential campaign. But many have their basic facts right, and had been reading and learning about the race to the presidency. When one student mistakenly said that Governor Romney had remarked about the 43 percent, not the 47 percent, several students immediately jumped in and corrected him, displaying their acute knowledge of one of the most important recent events in the campaign. Several of those interviewed also demonstrated a knowledge of the latest political satire, whether YouTube videos that AutoTune Governor Romney to make it seem like he is rapping, Saturday Night Live sketches by the skilled cast of the show, or the sharp humor of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. And it is no surprise that the way many high school students keep up with the campaign is through enjoyable humor rather than hard news. But, once again, the majority of the satire mentioned was making fun of Mitt Romney, and almost never President Obama. Such uniform one-sidedness does have an effect on the way BHSEC students view the political landscape. In a city and a school where nearly everyone one encounters is pro-Obama, it is hard to even try to comprehend the reasons behind the Republican platform, or to acknowledge the potential validity of conservative views, and the students readily acknowledge this.
A HISTORY OF BHSEC COURSE GUIDES AND THE U.S. ECONOMY
Hannah Frishberg ’13
I have never had anything so clearly articulate to me the mounting intensity of the current financial crisis as archived BHSEC college course guides. The decreasing size and depth of classes offered over the years is a perfect history of the state of the U.S. economy since BHSEC’s advent in 2001. There are currently 60 courses being taught in the college program for this fall 2012 semester, including seminars and 10 gym classes, but just a decade ago BHSEC’s first course guide offered over 90 electives to choose from. Course titles included Lyric Poetry, Urban Anthropology, The Nineteen Sixties, Myth and Hero in Greek Epic, Ulysses Seminar, Music in New York, a history workshop specifically about the creation of BHSEC, an art class dedicated to creating the mosaic in the entryway, German Idealism, Chinese Civilization, French, ten lab sciences, four psychology courses, five theater courses (Acting Workshop, Theater Studio, Theater Practicum, Theater Production Workshop, and Introduction to Theater), Neuroscience, and Introduction to Law. Such a plethora of options seems almost excessive today, revealing the current course guide to be skin and bone when compared to what it once was.Over the years the number of schedule options has steadily decreased, with the 2006 course guide offering 68 classes (highlights included Evolution of Contemporary American Popular Music, Russian, and Understanding Vietnam), 68 in 2007 (you could take Chinese Calligraphy or God and Caesar), a steady 65 from 2008 – 2010 (imagine Electronic Music and Technoculture, private music instruction for guitar and piano, and Slavery in New York), and then last year, 2011, that number suddenly plummeted to 51. This fall’s 60 courses are 1/6 gym classes (created to satisfy the new DOE eight semester gym requirement), and contains hardly any new classes, especially troubling when you remember that the size of the student body has doubled since its creation. Although old course guides were thick and decorated with pictures and colored paper, the small quantity of print copies handed out at the end of last semester were hardly ten pages long (some older ones have been nearly 20 pages), entirely void of decoration, and only a small percentage of the college students actually received a hard copy (pre-2008 all students would have received a print copy as the guide wasn’t distributed electronically, partially because not everyone had an email).It would be horribly indulged to complain about my BHSEC education, considering it is one of, it not the, best public high school education programs in this country; but it is still sad knowing about all of the opportunities once offered which are available no more. And it’s more than the social want to complain, like we do for sleep or hunger: it is a feeling of emptiness, a truly depressing moment when I realized all of the classes I could have taken, given a better economic climate. Obviously BHSEC is still alive and thriving today, but with class sizes stretched to the largest they’ve ever been, our student population swelled to over 600 students (even though the building capacity is 500 elementary students with faculty), with up to 30 students in a single class, I am still in no position to complain, but I do feel deserved nostalgia for the course guides I missed. By comparison, BHSEC Queens offers even fewer classes than us. Their course guide (which is exclusively print and not distributed electronically), contains a total of 57 classes, with nearly no math or language electives (although they do have a Spanish honors program), multiple four credit science electives (including Zoology and The Chemistry of Food and Cooking), and eight more humanities courses than us (quite less traditional, too, with classes like Intro to Japanese Literature, Internet and Society, and History and Memory).Outside of the Bard College Program, other public school course guides are starkly different. Stuyvesant high school caters to 100s more students than any BHSEC program, making it a bit more understandable that they offer well over 200 classes. Many of these classes are AP, and many have titles which sound more like a Regent exam than a college course (reasonable, since Regent exams often constitute part of your class grade at Stuyvesant). It is strange how easily the woes caused by the financial crisis are overlooked as typical high school complaints. And while the complaints are indeed typical, they are not unmerited, and they have been rightfully growing over the years. When you couldn’t fulfill your English credit this semester due to lack of courses or overfilled classes, when that elective you’d hoped for wasn’t offered, or when there weren’t as many teacher graded assignments because your class had 30 kids in it, it was not because BHSEC is changing its ways or because that’s what’s considered to be the new best form of education: no, it’s because the current global financial crisis is considered to be the largest economic disaster since the Great Depression, and its effecting our public education.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN LEFT WING DISOBEDIENCE
Isabel Seckman Gadd ’13
If you live in New York City and haven’t heard of Occupy Wall Street, then you probably live in a small dark closet completely disconnected from the world with only a few small rocks and a dying houseplant to keep you company. What that makes you… No, I’m not going to bother trying to figure that out. What I will try to figure out is what Occupy means a year later: to leftists like myself, to conservatives, to regular folks walking down the street and noticing some signs, to labor unions and to hedge funds. I have tried, and I continue to, but it’s a difficult task. What I’ve been able to conclude is that what it means is more of an individual concept, and that how it functions is more unified.The Occupy movement served as a vehicle for the protests of many individuals and their individual concerns and campaigns—something greatly criticized by its opponents: that it had no real, central idea. This argument was weak because all of these localized, specific concerns were bound together by one higher, omnipresent concept, that corporate power and corruption in the government (because of corporate involvement, unchecked capitalism and monetary greed) were the true causes of each individual problem. I don’t see what’s wrong with this. Power comes in numbers, and if hordes of people who may have different specific concerns unite under one common goal in solidarity, then there is more power to change things. So, while Occupy meant something different to each individual occupier, it served the same greater purpose for everyone.That said, it has died out a bit. Yes, on the anniversary there was a reigniting of demonstrations and numbers of new arrests—especially of those Occupiers blocking the entrances of the stock exchange—but overall, the force is not as heavy as it was one year ago. Why I do not know. This could be attributed to a lack of a strong central leadership, or to the numbers decreasing because the part timers, like me, haven’t returned as frequently. There are many reasons and it’s probably because of a little bit of each.I must say, I have incredible respect for the fact that it actually happened. There are so many liberals out there who talk the talk and talk about their beliefs and talk about what’s right and what’s wrong and talk about how things need to change, et cetera; but they don’t always walk the walk. Too long had passed since a long-lasting, real, organized left-wing resistance occurred, and it was beautiful that it did. The night of my October arrest last year, I witnessed more than 7,000 people completely shut down Times Square. It was incredible. To think pure commitment to a cause and no fear of retribution (there were other factors too, I’m probably oversimplifying things) pulled enough people into one of the busiest places in the United States of America to completely shut it down from all traffic—human and vehicle—is truly very inspiring.A lot of criticism of the movement finds its foundation in the fact that it didn’t achieve a lot; that it didn’t change much policy. To this I say: Obviously. First of all, not many political movements with the goal of changing long standing, deeply impressed conditions have succeeded in five, six, let alone one year. Second of all, what the occupiers protest are so incredibly deep-set in our society, and have such extreme amounts of power, that it is too strong a force to attempt to bring down quickly. Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of people gave up quickly. Yes, those central to the movement are still fighting hard, but the numbers that used to show up just don’t occur as much anymore.So in retrospect, Occupy Wall Street is a great idea that didn’t always function as well as it could have, but did an amazing job at uniting people for a common purpose and in bringing certain concerns to the mindset of the people as a whole. I’ve had my brawls with the police, whose power lies in money and government and the relationship between the two; and I’ve had my encounters with occupiers with different personal concerns and stories. I’ve figured out a lot from them. I guess the next thing I have to figure out is why some people are stuck in those dark closets and how I can get them out.
TEACHER FEATURE: MIKE NOYES
Willa Glickman, ‘14
In college, Mr. Noyes’ life was changed by an alchemist. “When I was growing up, I wanted to be a writer or an English teacher,” he said. “One third came true.” As an English major at NYU, he was on his way to a future in humanities until he read Alchymisch Philosophisches Bekenntnis Vom Universellen Chaos Der Naturgemässen Alchymie, a treatise by Heinrich Khunrath, who was a 16th century German physician bent on finding a secret material that would provide humans with eternal wisdom. “He mentioned logarithms,” Noyes said. “I was confused, and wanted to get unconfused.” He enrolled in Calculus II at Hunter, and the rest is history. “Also,” he added, “it’s hard to get a job teaching English.”Mr. Noyes was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and lived there until the age of 13, when his family moved to New Hampshire. After attending NYU and Hunter, he went to Colorado to get his PhD, and then lived in Canada for a few years, teaching at a temporary post at the University of Waterloo to “make a name for myself.” He has never taught high school students before, and finds that the biggest change is a slower tempo in class. “In college, you don’t expect back and forth,” he says. “With 120 students, you can’t be interactive. There isn’t enough time. At BHSEC, I usually feel like I am going too slowly, when actually I’m probably going too fast. It takes a while to figure out.” Another difference he has noticed is that his students are engaged. “I can feel them paying attention to me instead of sleeping or watching something on YouTube. In college, the students are more detached.” Though he is still getting used to discussing instead of lecturing, he enjoys the seminar style of his classes. “In Canada, everyone was an engineer and wanted to be given a formula,” he said. “I wanted them to figure out formulas for themselves. Here, people are less focused on the end result and more focused on the process. I try to present context, which is harder, but more important.”In fact, he feels that what frightens students away from math is that it can get hidden under computation and “they find it mindless. People think that a calculator can do math. A calculator can’t do math. It can calculate.” He also believes that the “abstraction” scares people away. “Pulling away from specifics is confusing. What is f(x)? What does it mean?”Personally, he appreciates math’s problem-solving aspect. “I like that sense of starting with the unknown and then putting it together and seeing the result. You know when you’ve won.” On a more poetic level, he likes “the simplicity and complexity of it. You can do amazing things with a few visually simple ideas.” He paused, looking a little sheepish. “Not to be corny, but I think it’s a beautiful subject.”This is Mr. Noyes’ first time teaching a statistics course, but he did his PhD on probability, so he is “familiar with the language.” He believes that the purpose of statistics is to “extract meaning from the huge amounts of data that surrounds us.” When asked for a few examples of statistics in the famed real world, he listed “elections, medicine, the entire business world, and the internet. And sports. And gambling.” He doesn’t believe that statistics are maliciously manipulated that often, but “any information can be portrayed from a certain angle. People see what they want to see within the numbers.” The problem, he says, is that the public “is afraid of numbers” and many do not have the ability to question the data they are presented with. “Everyone should have some level of comfort with mathematical thinking,” he says, “and everyone can pull themselves into the realm of mathematical competence.”When not teaching or pondering the mysteries of calculus, Mr. Noyes spends most of his time with his two kids, ages five and two-and-a-half. He also loves music, football, soccer, and hockey. “And building LEGOs with my son,” he says. “That’s a big pastime.”
ITSA LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE: OUR EXPERIENCE INTERNING IN INDIA
Marisa Lenetsky ’13 and Arden Feil ’14
Everyone at BHSEC is familiar with Writing and Thinking. Many of us don’t think much of it when each year we take a week before classes to participate in workshops that help us develop our writing skills and discover new ways of looking at a particular topic. Whether or not you enjoy these workshops, it cannot be denied that they are part of what makes our school different, what makes our school more than just a place to learn, what makes us a school of critical thinkers and learners. Now imagine a school in India. The Indian education system is based solely on rote memorization, and students have little to no opportunities to express their own opinion. This summer we tried to change that. Along with ten college-aged interns, we travelled to India for six weeks to lead workshops inspired by BHSEC’s Writing and Thinking program with an organization called ITSA. Independent Thought & Social Action International (ITSA) is a youth led non-profit organization based in the U.S. and Ahmedabad, India co-founded by Riana Shah, a BHSEC alumni now a junior at Swarthmore college. ITSA aims to help create the next generation of socially responsible youth by introducing critical thinking and social action to local high school students. As interns, we played an important role in designing and facilitating a series of ten workshops to over sixty students coming from a variety of educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. The title of our particular workshop (one of three that ITSA offered this summer) was “Social Action & Justice,” which focused on different social issues pertinent to Indian society such as environmentalism, corruption, power, gender discrimination, and modern day slavery.As workshop leaders, it was remarkable to watch students begin to develop and gain new understanding about issues they face in their day to day lives. Impassioned discussions about poverty in India led to places that, as workshop leaders, we never expected. One student raised a point in response to a question about ways in which we as a community could help those in slums get real homes. She said, “Why would we do that? They want to live in the slums, if they don’t then why do they have satellites for their televisions?” The development of conversations jumping from straightforward problem solving to controversial issues is what made it so great. There was often disagreement within the group, and this provided a key learning curve for students’ recognitions of the other perspectives and ideas. For many of our students, ITSA’s workshops were the only space they had the ability to voice their opinions. In fact, we encouraged our students to express themselves by constantly reminding them that there is never a right or wrong answer.In addition to helping our students think about these issues in new, critical ways we also introduced them to ways they personally could take action against these issues. We had guests from local NGOs speak about their experiences and showed students different organizations that are making a change worldwide. We even took it to the next step, and executed our own social action initiative. On the final day of our workshops, we painted a public mural along a sixty foot wall next to a busy road. Students had carefully thought out and planned the mural in previous sessions, which addressed the importance of education, specifically for young girls. This mural is just one of ITSA’s many accomplishments this summer. By the end of the workshops, all of our students had developed their own social action projects, which ITSA continues to support while they develop. This summer was only the second year ITSA had been running workshops, and already we have made a significant impact in the city of Ahmedabad.Besides our responsibilities as workshop leaders, being an intern with ITSA gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Indian culture. We met so many wonderful people, traveled to so many unbelievable places, and ate so much amazing food. Each intern had the chance to live with a host family for part of their stay, which allowed us to really experience the Indian lifestyle from a side we wouldn’t have otherwise had. We also got to meet and interact with so many interesting and friendly people, from our engaged and impassioned students to ITSA’s Indian interns who we are still in touch with. When we weren’t busy planning our workshops or working on ITSA, we got to go sightseeing. One of our favorite local places to visit was the Gandhi Ashram where Gandhi lived for a portion of his life. We also traveled to Agra and New Delhi for four days where we went on a tour of the Taj Mahal and other renowned sights. The best part of our traveling was that we really experienced Indian culture, not as a tourist looking in as an outsider, but from a more genuine, local perspective.It’s definitely cliché to say that our time in India was life changing, but it would be wrong to say otherwise. Working with ITSA was truly an amazing experience. Not only did we have a notable impact on our student’s lives, but the experience was also transforming for us. It was rewarding to see how positively our students reacted to critical thinking and social action, and we also learned how capable we are of bringing about change in the world. ITSA’s success this summer is so inspiring, and it’s just the beginning; ITSA will continue to push for progressive education in India and continue to ignite the flame of social change in India’s youth.For questions about ITSA and for more information please like our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ITSAInternational) or ask us more about our experience. Also, check out ITSA’s website (itsainternational.org) and blog (www.itsatravellog.blogspot.com)!
THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS
Emma Evans ’15
When the framers of the US Constitution wrote that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” it is hard to believe that they were speaking about the AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and a .40 caliber Glock handgun that were the source of 70 casualties at the Dark Knight Rises movie premier shooting. At midnight on July 13th, 24-year-old Jamie Holmes used three licensed assault weapons to kill and injure 70 ardent Batman fans in Aurora, Colorado. Holmes had no previous criminal records and was a successful PHD student. He received his artillery weapon permit legally though the state of Colorado and no one would have anticipated that this young man would be any danger to society. The theater showing the premier was only 20 miles from Columbine High School. 13 years prior, two similarly unlikely candidates executed an attack within the walls of their own high school that resulted in 21 wounded students and 13 fatalities including themselves. After the shooting in 1999, a debate over the regulation of gun possession within the United States emerged, and this most recent terrifying assault once again left the public conflicted by gun law controversies in America.The issue of gun ownership and restrictions on weapons in the United States evolved as technological advances allowed guns and other weapons to be more precise and have greater firepower. In 1791 the Nation authorized every individual to own a gun in order to protect themselves, their families, and their rights. These guns were primitive, long, and difficult to maneuver. The most skilled shooter took almost a minute to fire a single shot. Therefore these guns posed very little danger to the general public. Guns developed into more efficient weapons slowly over time. At the conclusion of World War II, the highly industrialized United States had developed firearms that were increasingly lethal and far more accessible to the general public. These weapons required far less skill to use, and resulted in a substantially greater amount of damage. However, it was the 1960s that arguably brought guns to the forefront of America’s attention. This eventful decade saw the assassinations of three national leaders, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy. Americans were appalled that such powerful figures could be so easily gunned down by anonymous killers. Indeed, that the leader of the free world, the president of the United States of America, was not safe in his own country had Americans beginning to question whether such high powered rifles should be so readily obtained. In addition to these shocking events the crime rate in the United States began to accelerate as both drugs and gangs became more prevalent in the inner city. Television news on a daily basis showed people being murdered by drive-bys, store holdups, and home invasions. Many communities felt themselves to be literally under siege by predatory criminals equipped with dangerous weapons. Americans realized something needed to be done. With this urgent issue at hand state governments began to develop their own laws and guidelines restricting civilian’s access to guns. These regulations varied amongst each state depending on location and political perspective. The most stringent laws were concentrated in Northern industrial cities, while the loosest existed in the more rural Midwest. This patchwork quilt of gun restrictions has made it so that some states are more vulnerable to gun related crimes than others. Thus, events much like the shooting in Aurora are much more likely to occur in regions where restrictions on gun possession are looser than those here in New York City, where you must go through a long, extensive application process in order to obtain a gun. Of course, many citizens of Colorado support lenient gun laws because they feel that their constitutional right to bear arms cannot be ignored. Thus the question emerges; can ones sense of safety and security be exchanged for the constitutional right to bear arms? A similar AK-type assault rifle, a shotgun, two handguns, and a tear gas canister were used by Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes.
FACEBOOK’S EFFECTS ON SOCIAL INTERACTION
Fatima Elmansy ’15
Facebook, the social networking site we all know and most of us have, can be useful in a variety of ways. We use it to communicate, keep up with friends, and update friends we have lost touch with about ourselves. People tend to share many things on this social network. They share photos, videos, and status updates for everyone to see. Sometimes, the virtual realm of updating statuses and photos can suck people in, and soon they realize they’ve spent a longer time scrolling through their newsfeed than they intended. Of course, this can disrupt their study time, and begin to take a toll on their academic performance. A study finds that Americans spend, on average, eight hours a month on Facebook. But what else does Facebook affect? Is our non-virtual life ever affected by Facebook? When asked if she thinks Facebook alters social interaction in any way, 10th grader Io Brooks replied, “People used to hear about things from other people, or by seeing them with their own eyes, but now people see pictures on Facebook, or learn about friends in common by seeing a list of mutual friends.” She adds, “Relatively random people will know things about you without you telling them, which changes the entire dynamic of a conversation.” This seems to be an effect that can in fact enhance social interaction, since it gives two people the benefit of skipping introductions when first getting to know each other. However, there’s an important bond created when two people are first interacting and finding out bits of information about each other’s lives, and seeing information on a screen rather than from the actual person can make a relationship weaker. Another important aspect is to consider the loss of connection with the real world due to spending too much time on or Facebook. Does Facebook cripple our ability to interact with the reality? We can find out so many details about a person’s life through their online profiles, but how often do we actually communicate with this person? People might even become so consumed with keeping up with their virtual life and other people’s lives that their actual life begins to suffer. They might even begin to lose interest in their surroundings and interacting with real people outside their computer. People are constantly interacting on Facebook, even having important, heartfelt conversations through Facebook’s chat systems. Brooks commented that she felt a chat was less connected than a face to face conversation, but she didn’t feel like the loss was too dramatic. Another student at BHSEC commented on this difference by saying that, “People often say things via chat they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. A chat where you can’t see someone’s facial expressions gives people the confidence to say things they normally wouldn’t, and even alters the course of the conversation.” This social networking site makes things easier, and can definitely serve an extremely useful purpose when it comes to keeping up with friends or family members who live far away. Facebook can preserve and strengthen long distance relationships, but when it comes to people you see routinely, it can actually weaken your relationships with them. If used for purposes aside from gossiping and searching through the lives of others, the uses of Facebook can be extremely helpful. Brooks even comments, “Facebook is undeniably useful. The group message feature makes organizing plans with a group much easier than sending out emails or group texts, and I’m able to keep up with my sister who’s off at college, and keep in touch with family abroad.” She also adds that she doesn’t usually use Facebook for these purposes, but the features do make things easier when she does. Social networking has become a great part of our world, and has a promising future ahead. Hopefully, people will steadily get onto the path of taking advantage of the effective tools social networking gives us, and use it in moderation to prevent the negative effects it can have on social interaction, while also taking advantage of the benefits it brings to socializing.
Eliza Fawcett, ’15
A new gym requirement implemented at BHSEC mandating that all students must take gym from freshman to senior year has provoked irritation and bewilderment amongst students. But for Aya Abdelaziz, a current freshman at Brandeis University and last year’s Y2 SLT representative, the new policy represents much more.
For her, the requirement is “significant because the D.O.E.’s crackdown on credit distribution is only a piece of a greater picture of the disappearance of autonomy within…New York City’s public school system.” In fact, according to Aya, Dr. Lerner made it clear last year that if BHSEC delayed its adoption of this policy, serious harm could come to the school. She asserts that BHSEC’s long struggles with the D.O.E.—over issues ranging from our hand-crafted curriculum to our restrained student-teacher ratio—are far from over. Even now, she claims, BHSEC “still faces the threat of being forced to house a second public school within its crowded halls.”
In previous years, the physical education requirement at BHSEC was simply to complete four semesters of gym, preferably in 9th and 10th grade. After that, students transitioned to the college program without needing to continue gym, since gym was a requirement for the Regents High School Diploma and not for the Associate of Arts Degree. However, in a recent effort to completely standardize the physical education system, the New York State Board of Education now requires two credits of physical education in order to graduate, where each semester counts as 1/4 of a credit. Thus, in order to gain a high school diploma, BHSEC students must continue gym throughout the college program.
One way of opting out of a traditional gym class is to gain credit through “Athletic P.E.” This entails playing a BHSEC team sport—soccer, volleyball, basketball, tennis, track, or Ultimate Frisbee—after school, but the student-athlete must be at least a sophomore and must have played the school sport for a year. The imposition of this P.E. requirement has riled a majority of the students, especially current Year 2’s who were forced to return to the gym to complete P.E. requirements that they thought they had already fulfilled.
Via email, Aya illustrated the chain of events that led up to BHSEC’s adoption of this policy. Last year, the D.O.E. was in the process of reevaluating how students in the schools under its jurisdiction were fulfilling their credit requirements—and physical education “came under particular inspection.” Based on its research, the D.O.E. set an absolute policy about requirements that withdrew the leniency that BHSEC had previously enjoyed due to space limitations.
According to Aya, an initial arrangement had existed where “schools lacking proper P.E. facilities could obtain a waiver allowing [them] to lower their P.E. requirements.” As we all know, BHSEC’s gym is cramped and undersized, and originally “fell under this category.”But now, the D.O.E. requires all students in all schools—with functional and spacious facilities or not—to take gym courses every year. The biggest problem that this requirement poses for BHSEC is one of physical space. The number of students taking P.E. courses has doubled, but our gym has not grown any larger. The school has had to quickly develop new solutions, including the hiring of two new gym teachers—Mr. McVeigh and Mr. Anaya—and a reconfiguring of our locker system. Now only freshman have their own lockers, and all the upperclassmen must partner up. This system has been greeted with vexation from many students, but as Mr. Gagstetter said, it would “be very difficult to add more lockers to our small building.”
Many BHSEC students were also disappointed and frustrated to learn that they could not gain course credits from commitments to sports teams and clubs outside of the school. But as Mr. Gagstetter remarks, trying to keep track of the individualized physical activities of every student would be “extremely difficult to monitor” and would actually “take away from the integrity of our department.”
Across the board, the announcement of this new D.O.E. requirement has elicited quite negative responses from the student body. Student reactions ranged from surprise and annoyance to anger or even horror. However, even frustrated students acknowledge the reasoning behind this policy, commenting that the D.O.E.’s desire to mandate physical exercise throughout high school is “understandable.”
In fact, in a time when one in every three American adults is obese, and childhood obesity rates have increased threefold in the past thirty years, physical education is all the more important. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, with obesity comes a frightening list of potential health issues including type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, colon, breast, prostate, and endometrial cancers, and hypertension. Due to those reports, a number of high-profile Americans—notably, First Lady Michelle Obama with her Let’s Move! campaign—have rallied to the cause of promoting healthy lifestyles and fighting childhood obesity.
Even without these shocking statistics, everybody knows that running around and getting one’s heart rate up is a crucial and beneficial part of life. For many students, two periods of gym per week might not seem like a rigorous routine in terms of combating potential health problems down the road, but simply exercising regularly does make a difference—both physically and mentally.
In fact, a New York Times article from April of this year reported that since exercise spurs the creation of fresh brain cells, it actually “seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay,” and thus, surprisingly, “does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.” Furthermore, a June 2010 article described a study in which participants who exercised “vigorously” every day of the week experienced an average increase of 0.4 GPA points (on the 4.0 scale) as opposed to their sedentary counterparts.
After considering the incredible problem of obesity and the scientifically-proven benefits of physical exercise, the reasoning behind the D.O.E.’s requirement seems completely valid. However, it is not the principle behind this policy, but its application that miffs many students. The basic fact is that, unlike other high schools in New York, by the time BHSEC students have reached 11th grade, they are prepared to accept the challenges and rewards of a “college program” that allows students to choose their own courses. Consequently, students here have become used to a certain level of academic autonomy and general independence that many other teenagers do not experience until they go to traditional colleges or universities.
Although one Year 2, Hannah Henderson-Charnow, acknowledges that the college program won’t be “irreversibly damaged” by the mandatory gym policy, she does think that some students might be upset “because BHSEC was sold to us on the platform of choice and creating one’s own schedules.” The crux of the issue here is that due to scheduling issues, obligatory gym classes might interfere with certain elective courses in the college program.
This concern is one that Aya also spoke of: “The requirements may come between students and academia by restricting the number of classes available to students to make room for P.E.” Another issue cited by many students is that although the Physical Education Department offers some electives to fulfill gym requirements—capoeira, self-defense, and yoga—there simply is not enough variety, and these specialized courses are only open to college students. Some suggested that the school consider creating other electives, or even diversifying the school teams to include sports like swimming.
A greater range of accepted, credit-worthy physical activities might inspire students to enjoy exercising more, and might even help them discover the sport that best works for them. But the P.E. Department is still adjusting. Mr. Gagstetter acknowledges that “our curriculum is at a crossroads due to this change.”This year is the rocky transition from an old to a new system. But perhaps as the school ages, says the Y2 Hannah, students will accept eight semesters of gym as the norm, “rather than thinking of it as some sort of requirement that destroys our freedom of choice.”
INCREASED CLASS SIZES: HOW ARE THEY AFFECTING YOU?
Joseph Vella, ‘16
As many know, within the past few years there has been a rise in the number of students at BHSEC, mainly due to the increase in popularity of the school. Last year’s freshman class showed a huge spike in numbers with about 190 students instead of the usual 160. Thankfully, this year’s freshman class has dropped back down to that number. Dr. Lerner, principal of BHSEC, said, “If two-hundred students were matched to BHSEC six or seven years ago, only one-hundred would end up coming to the school. The rest would go to specialized schools, boarding schools, etc. Now, more of those students are choosing to come to BHSEC.” With this increase in the student population of BHSEC, and therefore class sizes, one thing that can be agreed upon is that both students and teachers have been greatly affected.One thing that concerns many teachers is that with such large classes they must spend more time outside of school preparing for class and grading work, altogether leading to more exhausting days. Ms. Caldaro, a mathematics teacher at BHSEC, noted that with more students come more difficulties. There is now a whole new class structure, which forces teachers to be more strategic when planning their lessons and giving students feedback, and faculty members feel that they are no longer able to give each student all the help he or she needs. On top of this, with so many kids in their classes it is harder for teachers to detect which ones are more lost than others, knowledge which is necessary for teachers to be able to help their students reach their full potential. With more students in each class, some teachers have also been finding that it is more difficult for students to have their voices heard. However, despite this drawback, larger class size also allows for a more diverse set of ideas to arise during discussions. Matthew Vella, from the BHSEC Class of 2012, said that it is much harder to have discussions in larger classes. Other students also agreed that it is more frustrating to have a discussion with so many people because not all opinions can be voiced, for there are so many that already have to be put on the table. Nonetheless, Ms. Caldaro says that all this pushes the faculty to rethink their teaching styles and discover the most efficient ways to engage their students. This will altogether lead to the improvement and necessary growth of BHSEC.A key question when weighing these different perspectives is how large should a class really be? Ms. Walk, librarian and social studies teacher at BHSEC, has found that she can’t really be sure what the ideal class size is. “No matter what, someone’s voice will be missing,” she said. Unfortunately, increased class sizes also make some students feel that their lack of participation will go unnoticed by teachers. On top of this, other pupils feel less inclined to participate because they figure another student will say the same thing, so they don’t even bother speaking up. Mr. Rubenstein, another mathematics teacher at BHSEC, compared this to people seeing something wrong and figuring they don’t need to do anything about it because someone else will. Some teachers have also had to make their classes more lecture-based as a solution to having to teach so many students. As for how larger class sizes affect school life outside of the classroom, Ms. Walk has noticed that an increased student body leads to a larger amount of students with free periods at any given time, leading to more crowding in the library. With so many students spending their time in the library, it has lost its most crucial characteristic: silence for pupils who are there to study. In order to solve this problem, Ms. Walk is currently trying her best to get a grant to add a “silent strip” to the library for students who are there to seriously work.Ms. Walk also noted that, at first, she worried about how the increase in class size would affect her ability to form a connection with all of her students, but was pleasantly surprised when this concern later proved unfounded. These student-teacher relationships, she noted, “make BHSEC unique.” As far as relationships between students go, some students are concerned about never being able to meet everyone in their year. Sophie Houser, a 10th grader, said, “At the tenth grade town hall meeting at the beginning of the year, I saw kids I had never seen before. It’s sad that I’ll never be able to really know everyone in the grade.”There is no truly definitive research to determine whether or not students struggle more in larger classes. No one can be sure whether or not more students are struggling because of the increased class sizes, or if it’s because with more students comes more students who are having trouble. In spite of these uncertainties and issues, teachers at BHSEC are trying their hardest to circumvent all the obstacles that larger class sizes may create, and this situation will help them learn to be better at what they do. All in all, that which doesn’t kill us can only make us stronger, and so these changes BHSEC is undergoing will only strengthen us over time.
Cena Loffredo’15 and Lilabet Johnstongil ’15
Our equivalent of Teacherisms, but with band names! Basically, Sonic Amusements is an assortment of mildly amusing and real band (or album) names. Yay!1) Popesmashers 2) The 6ths (Wasp’s Nests)3) Wolf in a Spacesuit 4) !!! (pronounced chk chk chk!)5) Cymbals Eat Guitars 6) Eek A Mouse7) Goo is a Moog 8) Driftless Pony Club9) Fat Seagull 10) The Gothic ArchiesIf you have submissions for Sonic Amusements, send them to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Only real bands/albums will be accepted unless you come up with a really, really, really funny fake name. The pressure is on.
Lucas McGill ’15
Neil Young is one of my favorite guitarists, vocalists, and all around musicians of all time. He is a god. First off, he’s one of those artists that is, simply put, at his best when he’s at his worst. If you don’t understand what I mean by this check out his album “On the Beach” (released July 16, 1974). One of his darkest (and best albums), he wrote it while coping with the loss of friends and band mates to heroin, the death of the 60s counterculture, Charles Manson’s actions, and realizing that “making it” or being famous doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. “Now I’m living out here on the beach… but those seagulls are still out of reach.” The album is incredible, depressing on some notes, like “Ambulance Blues”, light on others, like “Walk On,” and all around an excellent summary of Neil Young’s style and talent… as well as his disillusionment with friends who’ve been “talkin’ [him] down.” “I need a crowd of people. But I can’t face them, day to day.”Of course when you get down to it, the message behind a musician isn’t the only thing that matters. A friend of mine once said “Neil Young is as good lyrically as Bob Dylan, but he’s also a better guitarist.” Neil Young is a master on the guitar. Just listen to the solos in “Down by the River”. He commands his instrument masterfully, whether he’s ripping through the chords of “Crime in the City” or playing the mournful melody of “The Needle and the Damage Done”. He wields his guitar like a weapon, with which he can raise your spirits or send you into despair.Secondly, Neil’s voice is quite unique. Not unlike Bob Dylan, his voice is by no means empirically “beautiful” but in the opinion of many, this only adds to the already intense power of his music. Some would call his voice whiny, but I call it powerful. The somber mournful tone conveys the feeling of loss, yet when he breaks into a more cheerful tune, like “Walk On” none of those feelings of happiness are lost in translation. He’s a versatile singer, and all around one of my favorite musicians of all time.I won’t deny that Neil’s had his fare share of songs that fell a little flat, but none of them take away from his musical skills as a gifted artist. Whether he’s sober or optimistic, angry or content, he keeps reminding us why he so deserves to be where he is today, and we’re glad to see that he’s still working today.Neil Young and his band, Crazy Horse, are still alive and kicking today. Having just released their new LP Americana they are currently on tour, headed here to New York. If you want to experience Neil’s powerful guitar riffs and moving performance check him out. Some other great albums to listen to are “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”, “Year of the Horse”, and “Weld”.
GLOBAL FESTIVAL CONCERT REVIEW
Oliver Divone, ‘15
On September 29th the Global Citizen Festival rocked Central Park’s Great Lawn. K’naan, Band of Horses, The Black Keys, The Foo Fighters and Neil Young and Crazy Horse to a crowd of over 60,000 music fans.The Global Festival was a concert with the goal was to raise awareness about poverty all over the world. While tickets were free, not just anyone could get them. In order to obtain tickets, you had to sign up to Global Citizen’s website and read articles as well as post them to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Although more than 71,000 people signed up, only about 30,000 tickets were given away. If you wanted to be sure to get tickets, you could buy them for prices upward of $1,000 dollars, and also be allowed to stand in the VIP section up close to the stage.Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones to get free tickets, and so I went with a few friends.The actual music started at 5:00 PM, but if you wanted to be anywhere near the front you needed to get there much earlier. I got there at about 2:00 PM, and after waiting in line for an hour or so, finally made my way onto the Great Lawn. I got as close to the front of the free ticket area as I could, but there were still about 10 rows of people between me and the metal gate separating our section from the VIP section.After a series of announcements, K’naan went on at 5:00 PM. While he only played three songs, he had wonderful energy and really gave it his all. The first song he played, titled “In The Beginning” was a powerful song with a strong beat emphasized by his own beating of a floor drum. It was a great opening song for the night. He then played “The Seed” and ended his set with “Wavin’ Flag,” a song most people remember as the theme song of the 2008 Olympic Games, during which he tells a story about his journey to America and how he believes that everyone can grow up to be strong like he has become.After another ten minutes of announcements thanking the organizers, the next band up was Band of Horses. They played four songs, and while Band of Horses’ were fun to listen to, the band did not deliver the same energy as K’naan. They started off with “Knock, Knock” which was followed by “The Great Salt Lake.” Their third song of the set, “No One’s Gonna Love You,” was better than their opening two, and by their forth song “The Funeral” it seemed that the Band of Horses had finally found their rhythm. After a big ending to “The Funeral” their set was over and with a farewell they left the stage.The next performance was an unexpected one song set by none other than John Legend. He sat at the piano and played one song, “Imagine” by John Lennon. It was a very moving performance and everyone around me was singing along to the beautiful lyrics and melody.Finally, it was time for the first of the three headlining bands to take the stage. As the Black Keys ran up from back stage and picked up their instruments, a roar came over the crowd as they played their first song, “Howlin’ For You.” The song, great in studio, was just as good live as guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, as well as a backing band consisting of Gus Seyffert on Bass guitar and John Wood on keyboard thundered along with the old blues style melody. Their set continued along with “Next Girl”, “Run Right Back”, “Same Old Thing”, and “Dead and Gone.” The crowd cheered as Auerbach started playing the acoustic beginning to a relatively new song “Little Black Submarines.” As Auerbach switched from acoustic to electric guitar to begin playing the solo, Carney sped up the beat and Auerbach played an explosive Stairway to Heaven like guitar solo. After that, they continued with “Money Maker,” “Strange Times,” “Nova Baby,” and “She’s Long Gone.” At this point, Auerbach thanked everyone for coming and announced that they would be playing a few more songs. “Tighten Up,” “Gold on the Ceiling” and of course “Lonely Boy” all led up the exciting jam of “I Got Mine,” which ended the set and started a small mosh circle to my left. By this time, the sky had gotten dark, as it was about 7:00 PM. It was now time for the Foo Fighters to play. Dave Grohl, lead singer and guitarist of the Foo Fighters came out first, alone with only his voice and his guitar. He announced he really appreciated what everyone was doing that night and stated it was nights like these that he wrote the first song of their set for. The first half of “Times Like These” was solo Dave Grohl, singing from his heart and for the crowd that had been there for already at least four hours. As the last chorus started, the rest of the Foo Fighters came out and played the powerful song together, causing a loud cheer from the crowd. The next song they played was the loud and energetic “All My Life,” which made people start jumping and screaming the words. “My Hero” came next, and after that Dave Grohl made a surprising and confusing announcement, seeming to express that this was the final performance of the Foo Fighters. A few days after the concert, on October 2, Dave Grohl gave a press release explaining that the Foo Fighters are not breaking up, but rather taking a short break before doing any more shows or recording. “I’m not sure when the Foo Fighters are going to play again… but it’s a good thing for all of us to go away for a while,” Grohl says. Regardless, the Foo Fighter’s set was far from over. They launched into a crowd favorite “Learn to Fly,” followed by “Arlandria” and “These Days”, “Walk”, and “Best Of You” were followed by their last song of the night “Everlong” which was amazing as usual and was a great closing song for the Foo Fighters. By this point in the show, I started to see people leaving and going home, which was a mistake if I’ve ever seen one, but to be fair most people were getting pretty tired by the constant jumping and jamming to the last few bands. The next and last band up was the real deal and everyone that missed them was sure to be sorry.Neil Young and Crazy Horse, though old and worn, are the true rock band. Though they only played eight songs, their songs were pulled apart and jammed to by the band for an average of 10 minutes. Neil Young’s guitar solos are truly art, and they never get old. Rocking back and forth in front of the amplifier, Young can really hold his own next to the younger bands that had played previously. The first song was the powerful “Love and Only Love,” which stretched out for eighteen minutes before finally coming to a close. The next song, “Powderfinger,” was another great jam, and was followed by Young’s solute to his home country in the song “Born In Ontario”. “Walk Like a Giant” had another seemingly endless guitar solo in it, and Young really seemed to be able to walk like a giant in front of the 60,000 people. Next up was one of my favorite songs, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” which was followed by “Twisted Road” and “Fuckin’ Up.” The last song of the night was one that I will never forget, “Rockin’ in the Free World.” At this point The Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl and The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach came out to rock in the free world alongside Neil Young with their guitars, as well as members of Band of Horses and K’naan, who came out to help with backing vocals. The show ended with thunderous cheering from the fans that had stayed the whole night, and a final farewell and thank you from all the bands that had played.The Global Festival was a sight to be seen, and was surely one of the greatest concerts I have ever been to. Not only was the music great, but the whole idea that the Global Festival was founded on was very unique, and hopefully for all us music fans there will be another concert like this soon.
RIDE THE IMPALA
Finn Clark, ’16
When the average human being hears the word Impala, they don’t think of much. Because, honestly, hardly anyone knows this group. But allow me to shock you, and introduce you to a wonderful psychedelic rock band, Tame Impala, that specializes in hypnotic melodies. A group of lads formed in the distant land of Peth, Australia has ventured into the great America. It is here that they have just begun to find success. The song worth listening to is It is Not Meant to Be off of the album “InnerSpeaker”. You can find their music most places on the World Wide interWeb. And if you like what you hear, then mayhaps buy their product. Support these guys… they’re honest to god hippies.
MUMFORD AND SONS’ “BABEL”
Elise Graham ’15
On September 25th Mumford and Sons released their second album, “Babel”. Mumford and Sons is an English folk rock band who formed in December of 2007. Marcus Mumford is the lead singer who also plays the drums, guitar, and mandolin. Winston Marshall, nicknamed “Country”, plays banjo, dobro, guitar, and sings. Ted Dwane does string bass, drums, guitar, and sings. Ben Lovett plays keyboard, accordion, drums, and sings. Their first album “Sigh No More” was a fantastic starting point for the band. It was the number one album in most of the US Billboards. The most famous of their songs were “The Cave” and “Little Lion Man”. Both of those songs also held records in numerous charts. After this album’s release, it became clear that more albums are in the works. “Babel” is completely different from “Sigh No More” in many ways. There are more powerful songs than their first album. There’s also more insane banjo in most of the songs. If you listened to it on repeat, you’d know the lyrics already. The songs have such a catchy sound to them and they are all different. They have their own independent beats and poetry. They have more of those rhyming schemes that you hear in “Sigh No More”. Mumford adds a lot of chorus that you didn’t hear in the first album. Together, it sounds like beautiful folk that tells a meaningful story. The first song, “Babel” is a wonderful intro song because of how much similar it is to songs in “Sigh No More”. It starts with that upbeat banjo, guitar, and drums compilation similar to what you’d hear in “The Cave” or “Little Lion Man”. It’s also a great intro because it tells the story of the album. Marcus Mumford seems to be portraying the events of what happened with the Tower of Babel. This story is an old Biblical tale about how the people on Earth built a tall tower to reach the skies and communicate with God. The Almighty didn’t approve and made them all speak different languages and scattered them about the Earth. Mumford seems to agree that people shouldn’t have to strive to be perfect like God. Rituals and prayers don’t matter, so they should be content with the life they have on Earth. His lyrics from “I Will Wait” say “raise my hands, paint my spirit gold”. This line means that people should pray to their God and have their spirit be perfect, clean, and beautiful like gold. From “Hopeless Wanderer”, the lyrics say “I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under”. Here, it’s suggested that the hopeless wanderer will learn to feel pleased with the way Earth is now. They won’t look to the skies or heavens for help. All in all, this album is such a different area Mumford and Sons has explored. The songs are greatly expressed and they show such obvious emotion. Marcus Mumford has a wonderful voice for showing this strong feeling. At some points, he’ll sing softly and then build up to a powerful shout. I’d suggest this album to anyone who loves the classic country because it’s fast paced and sounds rural. I look forward to hearing their future albums.
AWKWARD ARM-DANCING COLLIDES WITH ETHEREAL VOCALS
Isabel Seckman Gadd ’13
This past month, artist and musician David Byrne, best known for his tenure as the Talking Heads front man, joined forces with indie pop musician Annie Clark, a.k.a “St. Vincent” for a collaborative album, Love This Giant. The album features both Byrne’s bizarre yelping and the soft, melodic vocals of talented guitarist Clark, a slew of horns, Clark’s unique guitar style, wild beats, and drums reminiscent of the Talking Head’s 1983 classic “Speaking In Tongues”. While all of these elements are great, they are less than that when fully combined. The songs can feel hectic at times and are hard to follow. The album’s opener “Who” is a perfect example of this phenomenon: the funk-inspired horns and the drums are excellent on their own, but Clark’s vocals do not match the rest of the song at all, and there are too many melody changes between Byrne and Clark. Along with the fun but chaotic album came a tour, including one explosive show at Williamsburg Park on the East River. The live show completely made up for the album’s mishaps. With no opening act, Byrne, Clark, and co. played for two hours in beautiful fall weather, performing almost all of Giant as well as some of Byrne and Clark’s past hits. Byrne has always had a talent for picking an amazing backing band to play with—most notably Bernie Worell (of Parliament-Funkadelic) and Alex Weir in 1983 on Speaking In Tongues and during their subsequent tour. This time, he and Clark’s backing band consisted of a drummer, a keyboardist, and eight horn players all decked out in suits, dancing in synchronization with Byrne. The talent onstage was outstanding—how those horn players were able to play perfectly while rolling on the floor will remain a mystery. The set began with Giant’s opener “Who,” and ended with a very animated rendition of the Talking Head’s classic “Road to Nowhere.” The tracks from Giant performed were fun, but not the highlights of the night. Forty-five minutes in, the opening notes of “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” were heard, and the crowd became ecstatic. The track was one of the Talking Head’s more emotionally packed songs, and this performance brought tears to the eyes of nearly half the audience. Byrne indulged his audience with the crowd pleaser “Burning Down The House” which was predictable but fun. Clark’s shining moments came with two of her performances of St. Vincent tracks: “Cheerleader” and “Save Me From What I Want.” Played live, the chorus of “Cheerleader” was twelve times more powerful than recorded. “Save Me From What I Want” was also played with a more intense sound, as well as being sped up immensely. Both songs were one hundred percent danceable and she was very impressive as a guitarist. Byrne proved himself to have never lost his spark—he is as wild, creative and spastic as ever. One of the greatest experiences of the evening was watching him dance. He is known for his slightly freakish, sort-of-interpretive jerky dancing and arm-flailing with the Talking Heads. Nothing has changed. His energy is only lowered the smallest bit by his age. His performance was not only that of a musician, but also an action hero, a wild animal, and an army commander. He continues to bridge the gap between weird and normal—making the latter seem the former. Byrne is a true artist and a real inspiration to those who strive to be an artist in all fields. While “Love This Giant” may have fallen short of expectations, Byrne and Clark have not. They continue to stand out of the crowd as innovators in their fields, breaking genre laws as well as redefining pop music’s relationship with art.