LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS
How did the Star Wars start?
The Star Wars originally began on planets but later evolved to the stars. The wars began over a shaak riding dispute.
Would you rather live by a swamp or a forest?
I will have to say a forest. I know that forests are scary at night but a swamp seems even worse. What lies beneath all that mud? Probably something bad. Like whole wheat pancakes ew.
Don’t you think it would be awesome if cats could hang off trees by their tails?
While I feel this question is more of an excuse to share your (admittedly fantastic) idea, I do indeed think it would be awesome. However, there are some problems here. House cats don’t really go outside anyway so they hardly encounter trees. As for non-domesticated cats, I don’t see why they would bother hanging off trees. This question says trees, not branches, and so I am imagining a tiger somehow hanging horizontally off a tree trunk. Why would a tiger even want to do that? Seems like a waste of time.
MUSEUM REVIEW: OUR GLOBAL KITCHEN AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Riley Pearsall ’15
Our Global Kitchen, the American Museum of Natural History’s new temporary exhibit on food, is a splendid feast indeed, filled with many intriguing tidbits arranged in a beautifully crafted space. The museum has really brought out the fine china, so to speak, and if perhaps it is too much to fully digest, you will still come out well-contented and needing to loosen a belt buckle.
Now that the obligatory food metaphors are dispensed with, let’s get to the crux of the matter: this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing exhibits AMNH has ever made. The walls are vibrant hues of green and red, the displays filled with glittering utensils and a thousand charming gimmicks abound: this exhibit was one of the first I’ve seen to make worthwhile scent interactives, including smells of chocolate, cinnamon and various herbs. (Smelling the garlic, however, was tempting fate.) For the opening movies, which were bordered on the left by a row of hydroponic plants, I sat on a chair shaped like a strawberry, which, though trivial, enriched the experience.
The exhibit is best on its small details, which are often quirky and unexpected: square watermelons made in Japan, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (a pepper with a 2,000,000 Scoville index—jalapenos have at most a 5,000 rating) and ice cream molded to look like Jane Austen. The set pieces are also well-made, including items like Farm Set, an art installation by Pascal Bernier depicting infinite chickens in a mirror box to wittily illustrate the factory-style raising of livestock, and an interactive table with videos of food preparation which, while not particularly informative, are pleasing to the eye.
In the big picture, however, Our Global Kitchen may have bit off more than it can chew. The exhibit is a whopping 30,000 words long, comprising five different sections—growing, transporting, cooking, eating and celebrating—with many different moral messages, from the unsustainability of the modern farming system to food as cultural expression to rises in obesity. I normally like to read through exhibits nearly word for word, but there was so much information that I felt hard-pressed to do more than skim most sections. Picking out the quirky gems from the glut of information was easy enough, but I felt a little ungrounded and voyeuristic without a connection to overarching themes.
The interactives also left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. In the kitchen, the primary attraction of the exhibit, I ate a bitter flavor strip and a jellybean while a twenty something lazily explained the science behind the detection of bitterness and the connection between taste and smell. Pleasant enough, but using the entirety of the enormous kitchen for such a small activity felt like overkill. I was also the only person besides the staffer in the kitchen, so while I wanted to explore the additional information scattered around the edges of the room, I was stuck listening to my guide’s five-minute spiel. I did, however, come near the end of the day on a Monday, so the kitchen was likely at low capacity. There is no justification, however, for the interactive that displays Instagrams of meals sent by visitors to the museum’s account. There were enough people taking filtered pictures of their Thai food before AMNH decided to encourage them.
Our Global Kitchen, however, is still an aesthetically pleasing and informative exhibit, and the only complaint is that it could have been better. If we are clamoring for seconds, it must mean that what we have on our plate is pretty damn good.
IF YOU WANT AC/DC, YOU GOT IT…ON ITUNES!
Maverick Cummings ‘13
I will be honest and say that I spent two whole days trying to lift an AC/DC album title or song in order to make a heading for this article. I listened to every AC/DC album from High Voltage through Highway To Hell (in my opinion, their golden age, but Black and Black is without a doubt an amazing album too). I listened closely to Bon Scott’s larynx shredding vocals, Angus Young’s sweet solos, and Phil Rudd’s tight time keeping skills, as well as Malcolm Young and Mark Evan’s musicianship that rounded out the band. Yet I was not inspired enough to come up with a clever article title. Not entirely thrilled with it, but it does not matter: AC/DC has finally joined iTunes! One of Australia’s greatest bands and one of the most influential hard rockers that helped define metal is now available to legally purchase from your own computer.
But honestly, is it that big of a deal? In many ways, yes. For years, hard rockers of all ages have wanted easy access to the great music that for some fans has defined their teenage angst or party years. It is not a question about the group going too commercial; for starters, Black in Back is the second biggest selling album worldwide the music industry has ever seen behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The concern about the band becoming too commercialized is not the reason for the long resistance to joining iTunes. It began with Metallica in 2006 when drummer Lars Ulrich discovered that Metallica’s tunes were being spread illegally online, and he and his other band mates were outraged and very protective of their work. Malcolm Young said it best when he told the New York Times, “It’s like an artist who does a painting. If he thinks it’s a great piece of work, he protects it. It’s the same thing: This is our work.”
There is nothing wrong with an artist being protective of his own work, but if a fan wants to rekindle his love for that work of art, or even a newcomer who is curious about the group’s sound, it is certainly difficult for someone to listen to a band if the work of art is not available to everyone. It is not always convenient to run to a CD or electronics store, and there is no guarantee that the album you want is there. Ordering online can also take days. I had no idea who AC/DC was until I received Highway To Hell for Christmas when I was twelve and since then I have considered Highway To Hell one of the best albums I have ever listened to, and I wanted to be able to sample and even buy more albums online, but up until now I could not. Being as overprotective as some artists or musicians have been in the past is similar to an artist creating masterpiece after masterpiece but refusing to put his work in a gallery or a museum that is available to everyone. Art can only be considered trash or a masterpiece if people are allowed to observe and even appreciate it. I am positive that appreciation for their work is what AC/DC wants. After all, they are still touring and have been releasing new albums steadily since 1974.
AC/DC probably does not care about gaining new fans or receiving a check from iTunes now and then, but we as new fans and old are so appreciative that they have joined the most convenient way to discover and shop for music while still honoring the artists who have poured their heart and soul into their music. Anyone can make an argument that supports Lars Ulrich’s complaints about the digitized music industry, but his band, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles joined iTunes in 2006, 2007, and 2010 respectively. I think we all need to just sit back and listen to one of the best rock bands in history and be spared details about whether it is fair or not. Let there be rock!
GETTING TO KNOW THE BHSEC DEBATE CLUB
Laura Leekin ’15
Though BHSEC may not be the biggest school, or have eight floors like Brooklyn Tech, the intelligence in the school is outstanding. BHSEC is home to many interesting ideas, talented sports teams and great clubs. To name a club in particular, BHSEC’s debate club’s skills are off the charts. For the first time in BHSEC history, this year the club made it to regionals. The debate club was started two years ago by current Year 2 Hannah Frishberg. The club, which meets on Tuesdays in room 309, has about 10 members. During meetings, members discuss strategies that worked for them during the previous week’s tournament and some mistakes that they made during the tournament. Members also discuss world events, and this week they discussed the theory about the world ending (which Russia is terrified about!).
On a different note, the debate club’s first tournament, Metro Hudson League for first time debaters, was October 13th, 2012. Although BHSEC was up against other schools from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Westchester, BHSEC stayed strong and placed first out of sixty. The debate club’s most recent tournament at Park Slope Collegiate, the New York City Urban Debate League, was on December 1st, 2012. BHSEC placed third overall. In each tournament, there is a resolution. In October, the resolution was whether or not developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change. In December, the resolution was whether or not the government should prioritize tax increases over spending cuts. The layout of each tournament is fairly simple – teams are assigned sides and either first or second speaker. The first speaker delivers a four minute speech proposing their argument. This leads to the crossfire, where the speaker asks questions to the opposing team. The second speaker then comes in and delivers their speech, which is a recap of the first speaker’s main points. After the second speaker’s speech ends, the grand crossfire, where all speakers from both teams argue, and lastly the final focus, which consists of previously stated points of the argument and rebuttal. Judges then critique, give speaker points, and turn in ballots. The rounds are graded on a win/lose basis, and based on speaker points. Teams are then ranked and place in the tournament.
The club is a good way to meet new people, prepare for the real career world, and develop new perspectives, and many of the students in the club say they’ve also learned new skills. 10th graders Eliza Fawcett and her tournament partner Isaiah Back-Gaal both agree they now know how to argue both sides of an argument even if they don’t believe a particular side. They also both agree that it is important to be able to articulate persuasively and speak clearly, skills that can be used in any profession. Mojique Tyler, also a 10th grader, believes the club has made him think in ways he didn’t before. Mojique too thinks the skills he’s learned from the club will be helpful in his career path of science.
Debate is everywhere and all around us. One might say debate is what makes the world go round, and it’s true, considering that without debate, the world (including BHSEC!) wouldn’t be as diverse as it is now since everyone would have the same beliefs. Not only does being in the club look good when applying to colleges, BHSEC’s debate club is a place to get informed about world events and voice your opinions. Join today!
Ayla Safran, ’15
Bard High School Early College is known for a very high achieving student body. In fact, in its spring 2012 edition, the New York Observer’s Scooter Magazine ranked BHSEC as the top high school in New York City. BHSEC Manhattan and Queens jointly receive about 4000 applicants form all over the city each year, and there are only about 150 students per grade. That gives the school an acceptance rate of about 4%, making it not only one of the most competitive high schools in the city, but even more competitive than many Ivy League colleges. Harvard University accepts 6% of applicants and Columbia accepts 10%. So, the natural question is: how does BHSEC pick its students?
When applying to BHSEC, it is required that one has a middle school GPA of at least 85%, have missed no more than 10 days of school in the last year, and he or she must have scored either threes or fours (out of four) on the seventh grade state tests (for public school applicants). If these criteria are met, each applicant takes an assessment at either the Manhattan or Queens campus. This test consists of a multiple choice math section and a document-based essay. Based on a student’s score, he/she will either be given an interview date or will be notified that he/she is not receiving an interview. According to Dwight Hodgson, coordinator of admissions, approximately 1200 students are given interviews at BHSEC Manhattan.
Many people believe that the interview is the most difficult part of the process. Zoe Fruchter, an eighth grader who is applying to BHSEC, said that, “The BHSEC interview was very one-on-one and I felt like the teacher really was listening and was involved.”
This can be very stressful. Some other high schools have some sort of interview, but the process differs between the various schools. Beacon high school, for example, has two students interviewed at the same time. This is much less nerve-racking than a one-on-one scenario, but can also take away from the attention given to each individual. While the BHSEC interview is a lot of pressure, Fruchter added that, “It seemed like [the interviewer] wasn’t just asking me a prescribed list of questions but also going off what I was saying. It was actually a great experience.”
It is important to keep in mind that the process for applying to a NYC high school is very different from that for colleges. While a college accepts any applicants that they are willing to have at the school, the high schools simply rank them. BHSEC may only have about 150 students per grade, but according to Hodgson, “Last year we ranked 841 students and ended up with a class of 160… In all honesty, the difference between number 1 on our rank list and number 833 is negligible.”
While many of the ranked students end up going to other high schools due to the placement of BHSEC on their application, the school would be perfectly willing to have them at the school. This means that if a person does not get into BHSEC, the school still may have ranked him/her. In contrast, if one is not accepted to Harvard, for example, it is because the school did not accept him/her.
There is one additional factor to consider. Since the school ranks almost six times the amount of students who end up here, in the end, the school ultimately doesn’t choose the student body. If one does not place BHSEC first or second on his or her high school application, there is little chance of acceptance. This is one reason that there is an appeal process. Those who do not get into a school that they want to go to have the opportunity to go through a second round of application. This adds another variable into what students end up at BHSEC. So, while many of the students are glad to be here, many of them may not have placed it first on their lists, or did not get in during the first round of acceptances. But many agree that the process was worth it. “BHSEC is… great,” announces tenth grader Oliver Divone.
HOW THE WORLD VIEWS BHSEC
Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15
BHSEC students have varying reactions when they first enter the unfamiliar landscape of high school. Most agree, however, that although at first it may seem like we are given impossible amounts of homework, the workload is generally quite manageable. There is time to hang out with friends on the field, in the hallway, or in classrooms. Students are able to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities while still maintaining academic responsibilities. BHSEC has a rigorous but noncompetitive atmosphere that allows students the freedom to pursue their interests.
Yet, regardless of the opinions of BHSEC students themselves, other people often have their own opinions of what life is like at BHSEC. Urban Dictionary, an online dictionary that defines words and phrases based on generally accepted knowledge and opinions, defines BHSEC as the school that, “gives so much work that you can’t socialize unless you are a superhuman. Lunch is spent doing homework. ” While complimenting those of us at BHSEC who do socialize, this definition seems fairly hyperbolic and even comical. It is true that it is common to see students working on homework during lunch at BHSEC, but most students would agree that they are able to make time for their social life amidst the hours spent working. It becomes extremely clear just by walking through the halls that many students do not spend their lunch or free periods doing homework.
But it is not just sources like Urban Dictionary that believe BHSEC kids experience huge amounts of homework. In fact, many students had a similar notion of what the school is like when anticipating becoming a Bardian. One sophomore described the fear she had felt as an eighth grader knowing she would be joining the ranks of 150 other freshmen at BHSEC: “I didn’t think I’d be able to do it.” Many other current BHSEC students admit to having a similar pre-BHSEC mentality. Before entering the school, many future BHSEC students wondered how they were going to juggle the legendary “seven hours of homework per night.” Most agree now that their workload is reasonable, or at least doable.
Although some view BHSEC warily due to the amount of homework assigned, others see BHSEC in a positive light, as an entity entirely removed from the normal New York City public school system. A BHSEC sophomore described that she had, “Thought all the classes would be deep discussions, and there’d be no cliques or aggravating teachers, or anything like that. So, basically, I thought BHSEC was going to be some kind of magical, and very impossible, place.” This student, as well as others, had viewed BHSEC as an exciting new possibility, especially enthralled by the early college program.
The idea of such a unique school compels many to apply. And even those who don’t desire to attend BHSEC see it as place of learning that is quite different from the other public schools. With somewhat fantastical hopes for what BHSEC is like, some students find that the school is not everything that they dreamt it to be. The same sophomore who used to see BHSEC as an exciting, new educational possibility noted, “Now I understand that, even though BHSEC is wonderful and the students here are super interesting, school is school, not fairyland.”
Many New York city students applying to high school, as well as their equally if not more curious parents, view BHSEC less as a school, and more as an exceptional, visionary program, blazing a trail for future early colleges, and even redefining aspects of our country’s education system. There can be no denying that BHSEC is a unique school that, in years to come, may succeed in having radical effects on future high schools. But, again, “school is school.” Despite its early college program and high standards of learning, it is extremely hard for BHSEC, or for any school, to recreate the definition and image of a high school, especially because it is still quite young. BHSEC certainly differs from other schools, a fact that outsiders rightfully latch on to, but many BHSEC students, especially those not yet in the college program, view BHSEC as just another, if slightly more rigorous, New York City high school. This is not to say that students are not motivated and inspired by excellent teachers in ninth and tenth grade; in fact it is quite the contrary. It is not until reaching the college program, however, that many BHSEC students see the school fully realizing the dreams they had had years earlier.
THE STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT
Eli Blumfield ’16
Almost a year ago a massively controversial bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), was to be voted upon by the senate. Though put aside by the House of Representatives on January 20th, 2012, the effects of the bill posed unprecedented effects on how we would interact with the internet, and the freedom of information.
The main purpose of this bill was to mitigate online piracy, the illegal downloading of music, movie, and application files from a third party. The main targets were sites like Torrent Hub, or more popular The Pirate Bay, which is home to over 20 million users that form a network of illegal file sharing. The piracy itself is done through a method of downloading files, or “BitTorrents” called “Bittorrenting”. Bittorrenting works by allowing people to download small portions of large files from multiple different sources. People who have already downloaded the file in question can opt to have their computer open to copy said file, an act called “seeding” a bittorrent. Downloading and seeding allows the network to expand while not having any of the illegal files be hosted in any one place, making bittorrenting the ideal method of sharing files due to the hard to regulate or monitor nature of a vast computer network.
The Stop Online Piracy Act aimed to, simply enough, stop the illegal sharing of files. Doing this, however, would require companies and the government unprecedented rights to regulate the usage of the internet. Torrenting as a system succeeded because of the fact that these files weren’t being distributed by any one source, making it hard for current laws to be enforced. If piracy were to be stopped, it would require radical changes to severely limit the freedom that American people had when browsing the internet. SOPA included notable defense mechanisms against piracy such as blocking sites from appearing on search engines, preventing video streaming including copyrighted content (SOPA, section 201), monitoring and blocking the exchange of money to sites deemed “pirate sites”(SOPA, section 107), disallowing of internet service providers to route computers to pirate sites, and even allowed the justice department to indefinitely shut down any site they viewed in violation of the law. SOPA would to do more than stop piracy, it would tread new ground in the realm of the American government limiting the freedom of internet use that is commonplace.
One of the main reasons for SOPA was piracy’s undeniably negative effects on the revenue of the music industry, which has caused both a decline in the industry’s profitability and a loss in music jobs. The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) released sales figures to illustrate the shift in the marketplace caused by online illegal downloads. According to the industry, in 2012 the sales of albums decreased by 7 percent. Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of the British Recorded Music Industry claimed that “legal downloads are unable to offset the decline in CD sales because they are dwarfed by illegal competition.”
An online hub for information on all things bittorrent, TorrentFreak weighed in on the matter, stating, “Let’s start off with some key figures published by BPI last week regarding UK music sales… In 2010 the BPI reports that there are 281.7 million units sold, which is an all-time record. Never in the history of recorded music have so many pieces of music been sold, but you won’t hear the music industry shouting about that. In fact, the music industry is selling more music year after year and today’s figure is up 27 percent compared to the 221.6 million copies sold in 2006… If we believe the music industry, this drop in sales of CDs can be solely attributed to piracy. This is an interesting conclusion, because one would expect that piracy would mostly have an effect on digital sales.” Debates on the true effect of Piracy clouded judgment, showcasing the divisive nature of the problems the bill addressed.
Opponents of the bill cited what they believed to be absolute breaches of freedom, as well as components of the bill that would diminish the quality of the content the internet could provide. Forbes’ Derek Broes, who testified before congress on the topic of piracy, wrote “Why should you fear SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act)?” an opinion piece addressing the seemingly innocent intentions of the bill and how they could be easily corrupted to allow a stranglehold on the internet. The article’s author, and many others, were taken aback by the bill’s provision that allowed the Justice Department to shut down any website at will. Additional criticisms levied at the law were its ineffectiveness at carefully removing offending content when compared to current systems. At the moment, record companies would directly contact sites that had content in violation of any copyrights, and issue “take down notices” to sites with user generated content such as Facebook or Youtube. Where SOPA-supporters saw this falling flat was dealing with sites like ThePirateBay, who, using the system of BitTorrenting, did not actually host any of the illegal content that they gave their users access to. While SOPA might have allowed for easy dealing with of ThePirateBay by having it be blocked from US computers, it would give free reign to content creators to request that any site be blocked indefinitely, rather than be given the chance to remove the content.
What was thought to be the most dangerous portion of the bill, however, was allowing the government to shut down websites they viewed as infringing copyrights. Derek Broes, in his article on SOPA, brought to attention a popular hypothetical scenario: “If the government, and those behind the government, didn’t like The Huffington Post or Breitbart.com it would now be legally plausible and simple to shut them down. After all, Huffington Post editors at some point in time have posted links to content from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other organizations. These networks could now claim that the Huffington Post was infringing upon their copyrights, and that Huffington editors, under SOPA/PIPA, be charged for each offense and go to jail. Yes, jail.”
These worries resounded through those who held disdain for the bill.
The bill was met with harsh criticism launched through the very medium it aimed to restrict. Some of the largest internet based companies such as Wikipedia and Reddit held blackouts to raise awareness, replacing all content on their domain with a mostly black screen displaying the message “This is what the internet could look like under the Stop Online Piracy Act.” Google used its massively trafficked homepage to display a link to an online petition to stop SOPA. Even more, over a hundred organizations including such powerhouses as The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union publicly voiced their disdain for the bill by adding themselves to an official list of companies opposed to SOPA being passed.
Though those measures were effective at getting the specific bill stopped, the threat is still there: the Legislative branch tried and failed to pass two more similar bills, PIPA and CISPA, while the international bill ACTA was ratified by Japan in October of 2012 and is planned to take effect in over 30 countries including the United States, Britain, and Australia. The possible detrimental effects to the internet due to SOPA and similar bills are apparent, as are the methods of stopping them.
FROM ROCKETS TO KITTENS: TEEN BANDS PLAY AT ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL
Willa Glickman ’14
In a small bar a stone’s throw away from the 2nd Avenue subway station on Houston St., a keyboardist named Lenny hollered into a mic, “Haven’t felt like this in a long while! Haven’t felt this pissed in a long while!”
He was a member of Chasing Rockets, the opening act of the first Teen Concerts NYC show. Teen Concerts NYC was founded by three BHSEC Year 1’s – Rayna Holmes, Alexandra Griffin, and Nadim Silverman, in an attempt to create more opportunities for teenage bands to perform.
Although the founders initially were concerned that the audience would be small, by the time that Chasing Rockets had finished their last saxophone solo, the Hall was filled. Parents, grandmothers, and little siblings migrated upstairs to watch from the balcony, while teenagers bobbed their heads and tapped their feet next to the stage.
Chasing Rockets was followed by Fork in Toaster, a fledgling band whose lead singer, a sophomore at BHSEC, admitted that this was their first time playing outside of a school auditorium. Nevertheless, their frenzied cover of “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes was great. It turned out to be the bassist’s birthday, and when this was announced, she remarked dryly, “I’m getting closer to death. It’s wonderful.”
The next band was Abby Adams, which consisted of Abby herself and a tall bassist in a suit and afro. Abby Adams had a much more acoustic, indie sound than the previous two bands, and played all original songs, including one called “Maybe Baby,” which Abby explained was inspired by “a schmucky ex-boyfriend who used to call me baby a lot.”
Abby Adams was followed by Jappy, an all-boy band who had a lead singer with a voice reminiscent of Eddie Vedder. Their performance included a song called “Soulful Robots”.
Next was Claire’s Diary, a punk all-girl band who used a lot of percussion and screaming. The drummer gave an inspired performance, furiously attacking her instrument with her face obscured in a blur of whipping hair.
They were followed by the calmer Tractor Kitty, an alternative band from Brooklyn made entirely of freshmen. They informed the audience that they had been together since they were fourth graders, and even played a few songs that they had written at that time. “This is an oldie but a goodie,” said the purple-shirted bassist, “I think that’s the term.”
They had perhaps the most interesting instrumental lines of all the bands, and the crowd responded well. “Good. I’m liking this,” said the bassist after finishing a number, and an audience member called out, “Me too!”
However, the crowd favorite had to be Fly Baby, an alternative indie band with a synthesizer, occasional rapping from the drummer, and a Bassist named Blu. They were probably the most experienced band, having had one of their played songs on the HBO show “How to Make it in America,” and they had what had been a fairly still audience up to that point clapping along and enjoying a call and response of “You can’t feel it! Yes we can!” When they ended, the crowd yelled for an encore.
The whole event was very well-organized, from the fast changes between bands to the helpful warnings on Facebook about changes with the F train. This concert promises to be the first of many for Teen Concerts NYC.
THE T TRAIN
Elena Perez ’15
Walking around Manhattan recently, you may have noticed a large quantity of construction up and down the island along Second Avenue. This area is dedicated to the development of the long lost T train, scheduled to open in the December of 2016. The new train line is needed quite desperately in New York City, and it’s easy to see why. Currently, there are 8,244,910 people living in New York City and every day approximately 5.3 million of these people take the subway. There are 26 subway lines available to these 5.3 million people, the same number of train lines available to New York City travelers back in 1940. So it is no wonder passengers have to fight their way for a spot on the subway, squishing together like sardines in a can. Although the New York City population has only increased by 9.6% since the last subway was built, tourism has boomed, and hundreds of buildings have been constructed over the past seventy years, and New York City’s public transportation simply cannot support this incredible rise in building construction and tourism.
It would seem that a new subway line is very much needed to provide transportation to all these new buildings, and help both tourists and New Yorkers navigate the city more effectively. The East side of Manhattan is one place in particular where the solitary green lines running up and down Lexington, filled to the absolute maximum with passengers, cannot support the massive population and tourism attracted by the colossal buildings. In an effort to make our East Side travels more enjoyable, the new T line will run along Second Avenue on the East Side of Manhattan from 125th street in Harlem to Hanover Square in the Financial District. The plan to make a T train has been around since 1929, but then the Great Depression hit, and after that World War II, and then old subways needed repairs, so the plan was abandoned until the construction started again in the early 1970s. However, in 1975 the T-train construction was stopped again due to the looming prospect of the city’s bankruptcy. For the next 32 years the T train was forgotten, until 2007 when adjustments were being made to the Q line and the MTA decided another train on the east side of Manhattan was necessary.
T train construction has not been easy. Below Manhattan there is solid rock. This problem was first brought to attention in 1900 when the first subway construction began. Back then laborers would use dynamite and pickaxes to dig their way through subterranean New York City. Today, the T train is using a 130-ton mechanical worm head filled with whirling steel discs to plow their way through Manhattan’s underground. However, there is still no way to properly mine a tunnel without miners, and miners toil for hours on end with poor working conditions. Apparently the tunnel smells like Emulex explosives and the workers take speedy lunch breaks and relieve themselves as quickly as possible and whenever they can. Despite these conditions, many workers are proud of what they are doing for their city and do not mind the work. Hopefully the T train will be completed on schedule and not abandoned yet again for another thirty plus years, for it is a bit embarrassing that one of the world’s largest cities has made no major public transportation adjustments since 1940.
A BHSEC student’s commute can range anywhere from five minutes to over an hour. In the small survey I conducted of about twenty BHSEC students, I found that as a whole they used 15 out of the 22 New York City subway lines to get to school on a daily basis. When I factored in the alternate routes that these students said they could take, or occasionally took, I found that 22 out of the 23 New York City subway lines were used – and this was only with a small portion of the BHSEC student body. The only unused line within this group was the G train.
However, the subway isn’t the only way students travel from their homes to school. The M14D, M15, and M21 buses were all mentioned numerous times as measures of transportation, along with biking, skateboarding, and walking.
While polling students I looked at the range of difficulty of their daily routes, and the amount of time each one took. I found multiple students who said they traveled for an hour or even more to get to school. Sheryl Taure, a freshman, said it takes her an hour and a half to get to BHSEC from her home in the Bronx. She rides the 5 train for about an hour, and then takes the M14D from Union Square, which adds on another half an hour to her commute. Another student added that she also came from the Bronx and took the 4 train to the M14D and her commute totaled about an hour and forty-five minutes everyday in each direction.
Gaby D’Amato, a Year I, said she took the R to the D to the F which, though she had to transfer twice, took her only an hour. Similarly, Nia Cayenne, a freshman, drives to the Long Island Railroad every morning, then takes the LIRR to Penn Station, walks to 34th Street Herald Square, gets on the F, and then walks the 0.8 miles to school. Though this commute may sound complex, she attests it only takes her an hour.
In many cases, even though a BHSEC student’s commute may seem simple, it doesn’t mean that it is fast. I found it took a student who simply rode the F, without changing, from Brooklyn, around 45 minutes to get to school. Yet, I personally take the B from Prospect Park to Broadway-Lafayette and switch to the F going the other way, and it takes me just over half an hour.
Though commutes may be long, some students chose to look at the advantages. Some trains that go over the bridge offer beautiful views every morning. Also, subway travel teaches you street smarts, and is a part of being a New Yorker. And, last but not least, a longer commute means more time to finish up that math homework on the train! We are BHSEC students after all.
TOM McVEIGH TEACHER FEATURE
Muhammad Yusuf ’16
There’s an instructor among us, perhaps you’ve seen him about in the halls. As a new gym teacher at BHSEC Mr. McVeigh was amazed by our advanced school community. Mr. McVeigh emphasizes the fact that, “Bard is a good challenge,” for both teachers and students. Mr. McVeigh came here from a school where a great majority of students were recent immigrants to the United States. The change from teaching large classes where students were more fluent in body language than English, to small BHSEC classes where everyone not only understands what he’s saying but also express genuine interest in a way his other students simply did not.
During his early years Mr. McVeigh was a New Yorker just like us, growing up in the Bronx. However, for the past five months he’s been living in Hoboken, New Jersey. Working with the National Institute of Dance, Mr. McVeigh has gained his own interpretation of dance, believing that, “Dance doesn’t have a language”. As would be expected from a physical education teacher, Mr. McVeigh is very into sports. Although he doesn’t play soccer often, recently Mr. McVeigh has traveled along the east coast watching USA soccer games, always rooting for his favorite team the New York Red Bulls. Mr. McVeigh also enjoys playing basketball and baseball in his free time. During the weekends he’s mostly, “chilling with friends in Hoboken or back home in the Bronx”. Whether it’s attending a comedy show or commuting home to watch a game with his friends, Mr. McVeigh’s is always up for it.
When he was asked whether he considered Staten Island a legitimate borough or not, he showed his comedic side saying, “I don’t hold judgment on Staten Island”.
Mr. McVeigh is not particularly interested in politics, although he does plan on voting. His mother is a dean at Columbia University.
Let us welcome Mr. McVeigh into our BHSEC community; he’s here to stay.
THE UNSECULAR STDENT: RELIGION AT BHSEC
Willa Glickman ‘14
Aleasha Alexis considers herself a heretic. “I like magic and the supernatural,” she says, “and my parents are always afraid that I’m going to join a cult instead of going to church.”
Aleasha and her sister Alea, both Year I’s, are two of the more than 17 million Seventh Day Adventists worldwide. “Basically what defines Seventh Day Adventism is you go to church on Saturday and you follow the Ten Commandments to a T,” she says. “From sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday you can’t do any work not related to God. You can play Christian games and watch Christian TV, though.”
For a school with a large population of atheists and a secular curriculum, BHSEC has a surprising amount of religious diversity.
Some, like Aleasha, are very secure in their beliefs. When asked if she would continue to practice Seventh Day Adventism as an adult, she replied, “Oh my God, yes. It’s a source of security for me. I pray to God for everything. I think it would be wrong of me not to let my kids have that.” She paused. “If they want to. Whatever.”
Others are less sure. “I could say that I’m Buddhist,” says Halle Hewitt, a Year I. “I don’t like the Christian conception of God because it’s too singular. I don’t want to believe that one thing with one will has control over all life. I think there are many forces, like karma. I like the Quaker belief that God is everywhere. Everything is divine!”
Many students consider themselves atheists, even those who still practice a religion. “I’m kind of practicing Judaism,” says Persephone Mozes, Year I, “but I don’t necessarily believe in God. The logical balance seems to weigh in the opposite direction, and I don’t feel the need to believe in God to be happy about my life. I just like the religion, and the fact that it is based on textual analysis.”
Where Judaism emphasizes ritual, rules, and study, “Hinduism is very free,” says one Year I. “In my home temple there is a picture of Jesus next to a picture of Buddha. It’s very different from the Abrahamic traditions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam. There is less emphasis on text and memorization, and we don’t have sin or tenets we must live by. I think it’s just going about your life with an absolute goal. Just going to school or doing whatever I need to do is being a Hindu.”
When asked what an example of an absolute goal might be, she explained, “The thing about Hinduism is that you can pick your own goals, whether they are finite, like gaining material wealth, or more like gaining enlightenment. It’s hard to understand. I don’t even know what being a good Hindu is. It’s just something I feel.”
Many students found it difficult to pinpoint exactly what they liked about being religious. “You get a feeling…”said Alea. “It’s something to believe in and practice.”
Many mentioned a sense of security. “When I was in 7th grade, I became curious about religion,” said a Year I. “That was a rough time for me, you know, just growing up. I needed some peace, something stable. I started learning more about Hinduism and I meditated. I also was really into Hindu mythology. In some ways it was just fascination with the stories. In other ways it was a search for tranquility.”
Community was also mentioned a number of times. “If I meet someone on the street who looks like he might be Arab, or is also a Muslim, we sort of already know each other,” said one student. “It builds a community.”
Yet that community can be hard to find at BHSEC for some. One student described going to an Islamic group in the 9th grade, “but it was run by all Year 2 girls. After they graduated it fell apart,” he continued.
However, most reported that it is not difficult to be religious in a school where many are not. “Religion takes a back seat when I come here,” says Alea. “But I don’t feel bad, and I don’t feel threatened by other people.”
Religion and schoolwork do clash from time to time, though. Alea mentioned the difficulties of not being able to do homework for half of the weekend, and Aleasha said, “Everything I want to do, it’s always, always on Saturday, and I can never go. Maybe it’s a college fair, or a test, or hanging out with friends…I wanted to go to boarding school, but the tests were on Saturday.”
Holidays can also pose a problem. “The hardest thing is celebrating festivals and holidays. We don’t get days off. Probably the biggest Hindu celebration is tomorrow, and I have to take a biology midterm. Also, family is important in Hinduism. I feel most Hindu when I am celebrating with my family. The celebrations are what keep us together, but it’s hard when my family is all over the world.”
Sometimes students’ morals can clash with their religion, like when Aleasha’s pastor preaches about sexual orientation. “A lady used to come to church and yell at us not to watch anything promoting homosexuality,” Aleasha says. “I would get angry and argue, and sometimes my mom would get mad because we were around people who probably agreed with the lady and the pastor.”
Nevertheless, many students have been able to adapt well to being religious in a modern age. Science even helped one atheist student become agnostic. “Originally, I just didn’t believe in God,” he says, “but I guess the more I learned about chemistry and atoms and stuff, and the more confusing it seemed, the more I believed, because if the universe was without a god it would probably be more organized. I don’t know if I believe in God, but the disorganizedness of the world made me more open to the idea.”
“I really like science, especially astronomy and evolution,” says Aleasha. “I never really separated the two, I just modified them. Being religious doesn’t limit how I look at scientific theories.”
Despite her open-mindedness, Aleasha remains staunchly faithful, and doesn’t quite understand atheists. “I feel like they have to believe in something, even if it’s not God. I can’t fathom not believing in something greater than the human race. I would go crazy without God. What else would you have in a godforsaken world when there is only an occasional nice guy?”
DIVERSITY AT BHSEC
Iolanthe Brooks ’15
We’ve all heard the statistics about BHSEC’S incredible diversity before, whether it be from school assemblies, tours way-back-when, or even from urban dictionary, where BHSEC is defined as having a famously “ethnically diverse student body”. Yet, when was the last time we took a good look around at the racial and economic diversity here at BHSEC? Turns out, many students haven’t.
“BHSEC is extremely diverse,” one student says, and her feelings are representative of much of the school. When asked, students always describe BHSEC as “pretty,” “very,” or “extremely” diverse, and it was only until students had to come up with ballpark figures for the percentage of minority students that some faltered. Most students thought BHSEC was about 50 percent white, but there were some that thought we were only 20 percent white. Even fewer people thought our school was becoming less diverse. Economically, most students thought that around 30 to 40 percent of the students at BHSEC were eligible for free or reduced price lunch, although most people were generally unsure of their answer. “The majority of the people here seem to have money; most students live in expensive parts of Manhattan or in Park Slope,” and “there are a lot of kids that came here from private school… they all have a lot of money,” some students told me, expressing a common sentiment regarding the perceived socioeconomic diversity of BHSEC. Truthfully, last year, 22 percent of BHSEC students were eligible for free or reduced lunch, compared to the 40 percent that people guessed, and 50 percent of BHSEC were white, numbers that would definitely surprise many students. Only one student, a non-white girl, mentioned this concern, “I feel like the school is getting less diverse and more rich. BHSEC is mostly upper-class white kids!” Laughing, she added there’s nothing wrong with the wealthy white demographic, she was simply making an observation.
When asked why they said BHSEC was so diverse, if students responded saying they thought the student body is more than 50 percent white, many students answered with a reasonable, “Well, I think it’s more diverse than most other high schools, where the majority of the student body is all be the same race.” BHSEC still does beat, as some mentioned, many of the other top schools in the city, with one of the smallest majorities of the same race. Brooklyn Tech, as an example, had an Asian majority of 60 percent in the 2010-2011 school year whereas BHSEC was close behind with a 54 percent white majority, both statistics coming from the D.O.E.’s annual Accountability and Overview report.
Although BHSEC was only 10 percent, or less, more diverse then most of the other highly sought after public high schools in New York City, the difference represents BHSEC’s multicultural mix of students. In fact, the school boasts a rich combination of people, from white to Hispanic to Hawaiian! Interestingly, the Manhattan campus’ majority far surpasses Queens and Newark. Last year, BHSEC Queens was 30 percent White, and had an Asian majority of only 32 percent, meaning a fairly well split and very diverse student body. Compared to BHSEC Queens, BHSEC Manhattan is not quite as diverse.
When asked if BHSEC’s diversity worries them, and if the school should acknowledge the gap and act on it, the resounding answer was a definite no. “I don’t think we should aim for high diversity; it damages the image of BHSEC to worry about how diverse we are, because we don’t want to be a diverse school artificially” Jed Lenetsky comments. If BHSEC forced diversity, he argues, the mission of the school would be lost. “The beauty of BHSEC’s diversity is that it happened on its own.” More importantly, perhaps, is the student body’s awareness of diversity in their own group of friends. One student mentioned this, saying that it is more worrisome if people don’t have diverse groups of friends than if BHSEC is not extremely diverse. In other words, from a particularly vocal student, “people need to calm down, seriously, just chill out.”
AN IDEA WORTH SPREADING
Esther Mathieu ’13
I have rarely seen a group of teenagers sit in such still and silent awe. The excitement in the room was audible in the rustlings of murmur that spread from one side to the other, rising gently in volume until, realizing both the noise and the imminent presence of another speaker, the whisperers would abruptly cut off the wave with shushings and shiftings, edging towards the forward half of their chairs. In a moment, we would be hearing about Google Glass, or watching an iPod speaker made only of a yogurt cup, or a piece of matzo, or a potato chip. We would be learning the sutras of Vedic math, or listening to stories of the buildup to the Mars Curiosity Rover. The Ted Youth Conference is about this conglomeration of entirely separate spheres of learning. Its focus is on that excitement, that urge to shift subtly forward as speaker after speaker spills forth a fragment of learning, and then makes way for the next. And, as students went up to introduce speakers, and participated in challenges, and won prizes, the focus of the conferences became, if there had ever been any doubt, abundantly clear. The Ted Youth Conference is for the youth who attend it. We were not a passive audience, but the point, and the end, and the TED Youth conference was completely for us.
When we arrived, Mr. Mikesh met us and pointed us to the long tables of name tags waiting inside. Once we’d gotten them, we were shepherded by the masses of our peers into a long hallway, overlooking a staircase to the floor below. We stood, pressed in tightly against the wall, absentmindedly chatting with the other members of our own group. Eventually, as we waited, a TED volunteer walked over and began an animated conversation. We talked about the speakers, and our school, and college applications, and then he drifted off to encourage another group, and, moments later, we moved inside. The hosts, Kelly Stoetzel and Rives, TED’S Content Director and a slam poet, respectively, moved to the stage, and introduced the event. And then the fun began.
After the first session of talks, the hall emptied out, back into the open space, crowded with teenagers, where we had waited. We were provided now with miniature Chinese food boxes filled with grapes and cheese and sandwiches, and with lemonade drunk through red and white paper straws. After eating quickly, we moved out across the space, where there were various tables set up by different speakers, some with activities, others with mini-talks and small displays. In a small group, I talked to Nina Tandon about growing heart tissue, and to Katherine Kuchenbecker about haptics technology, using a stylus to feel the texture of canvas on a smooth tablet screen. And then, we built a prize-winning truck.
The Spark Truck challenge was simple: use the provided cardboard truck to build a mockup of a vehicle that would bring something to people. We chose to bring solar power to areas in need of disaster relief. We plastered the top of our truck in aluminum foil for solar panels, drew a wall of electrical sockets on the back, put a near-impossible garden inside, and wrote instructions on the outside. And then, after our explanations, we put it from our minds, took Polaroid pictures, and went to a booth about stop-motion animation. When we returned to the hall, students were just finishing up a round of thirty-second stories, for prizes, and Rives and Kelly came out to announce the Spark Truck challenge winner. The hush after our truck was announced the winner was full of the expectation of cheering, while we sat in a laughing, grinning line and, eventually, stood with late whoops to our feet to collect our prizes.
The one lull in the fun of the TED Youth Conference was the limited amount of interaction we had with the other students present. This came, I suspect, mostly from the teenage tendency towards clannishness. Accompanied by our friends, we were all reluctant to branch out to the others around us. So we chatted, but little more. It might have been interesting to see more interaction fostered with each other, rather than just with the work before us. There are, however, only so many things that can be accomplished in one day, and it was quite a day.
The Conference works because it is positive about the audience it is for. The content is chosen not to be simple, but to be interesting. The talks are as diverse as the gathered crowd. And there is ample opportunity to participate, to win prizes, to learn, and to laugh. It is definitely a day focused on education, and what you can do with it. But it only ran dry a few times, when speakers discussed manners or grammar, and then only slightly. For the most part, it held the intent attention of an entire hall full of teenagers, gladly sacrificing a Saturday to TED, and losing nothing, but leaving with heads full of wonder. TED is successful because it is interesting, and it is interesting because it is honest about what it is: it is learning, pure and simple, and excitement in knowledge and what can be done with it.
THE TRUTH BEHIND THE HYPE: GROWING UP IN NYC
Ayla Safran ’15
When asked if they think living in New York City has affected their education, most students hesitated before they could think of anything to say. One tenth grader replied, “I don’t think so, unless we’re learning something about New York City.” This seems to be the general consensus; despite the hype about great NYC public schools, no one could really pinpoint what was so great about the schools themselves. In fact, in a ranking of high schools throughout the country that was composed by US News based on preparation for college, proficiency standards, etc., not a single NYC school made the top twenty!
So, if the education in NYC is not in fact better than anywhere else, why is it that those living here feel so special? One student pointed out that there are a variety of schools to choose from, improving the chance that one will end up at a school which fits their needs; but this factor does not seem surprising because of the massive amount of students in NYC; about 1.1 million, according to the Department of Education. One factor that does seem to be nearly unique to NYC schools is diversity. Not only are there people of all different races and ethnicities in BHSEC, but there are a number of students who grew up and went to school in other countries as well. Clearly, many other school systems both nationally and internationally cannot compare with the diversity of NYC, and most students do not have the opportunity to go to school among such ethnically diverse student bodies.
Another aspect of growing up in New York City is the independence. While many teenagers throughout the country have to be driven to school by their parents every day because there is no other way to get to where they want to go, in NYC most students get to school using public transportation. In fact, many BHSEC students come from different boroughs, requiring that they take multiple trains or busses every day. The students are also surrounded by things which cannot be found anywhere else. One student asserted that, “Because you’re in New York, you’re surrounded by many different museums you can go visit… and you know how to find resources that you couldn’t find in any other city.” This is very true; almost no city in the world has as many museums, galleries, and shows packed so densely into a single city. While high schoolers in areas where there are not so many educational resources surrounding them might spend most of their social lives in their houses, in NYC it is not unusual for a group of kids to meet in Manhattan and go to an event without any parents. In addition, there are lots of opportunities for internships and classes offered at colleges, which are not likely to be found in more suburban areas. The student activities coordinator at BHSEC, Lisa Goldenberg, helps students to find programs for the summer and during the school year. For example, The River Project’s “Marine Biology Internship Program” (MBIP) is a program concerning marine biology in which students are able to conduct research with guidance from professional researchers.
But has growing up in New York City had negative effects on some people as well? One student said that she’s had to learn to be careful in some areas of the city. While being cautious is generally a good thing, this means that even young children have had to learn to be wary in their own city, and they know that they cannot necessarily be completely comfortable. Learning to cross the street properly and avoid fast moving cars may be useful skills, but it is not necessarily safe for a kid to be dashing between moving cars while the streetlight is still red. In addition, while a wide selection of schools is seen as a pro to many, it can also be seen as a con. It is great that students get to choose where they want to go for high school (and often middle school as well), but the process does involve a lot of stress. “You constantly have to be applying to schools… and you don’t have the luxury of staying in one school.” While this does only apply to public schools, New York City public high schools are very competitive, and many are quite elite. As a result, it is difficult for a student to stand out as especially proficient. This, in addition to the application process that many undergo, can put a lot of pressure on kids who could otherwise be focusing on enjoying high school.
Overall, it seems that most teenagers in New York City are not entirely aware of the large effect growing up here has had on their academic education, but understand that their big city childhood has promoted a sense of independence and awareness they could not achieve anywhere else.
PROFESSOR CHO’S CRAZY COMMUNIST CLASS: A CURIOUS SOCIAL EXPERIMENT
Isabel Cruz ’13
To vote yes, or not to vote yes, that was the question. There were so many factors to consider before casting my vote that my head began to spin. Should I risk my midterm grades? Or should I step out of my comfort zone and help bring my class together as a cohesive unit? I felt as if the world was on my shoulders as I pondered the gravity of my impending decision.
Professor Kyung Cho had never expected his Year 2 Seminar class to get to this point. Every year during his unit on Marx, he poses the hypothetical question “Should the class get a group grade” to push his students to consider the practical implications of Communism. Do we really want everyone to have the same things? Are we all truly created equal? Can there be a world without competition?
One could understand his surprise when, in October of this year, one section of his seminar class considered the idea rather seriously. Usually when he asks his Year 2 seminar classes this question, he receives the same response: although everyone claims to trust their classmates, most students would rather get their own grades, because there will inevitably be some “slackers” who freeload on the work of the “overachievers,” bringing down the rest of the class and elevating themselves. Besides, how can anyone be expected to take such a risk with what is arguably the most important midterm grade in our high school careers, the only one that colleges may actually see?
When the question was first posed to the class, we initially had the standard reaction, but as we discussed the matter further, the idea became increasingly attractive. It was, as a classmate of mine pointed out, a great opportunity to bring our class together and create a supportive, communal environment. Although BHSEC is a high school that boasts one of the least competitive atmospheres, it is common knowledge among students and teachers that competition still exists, and more could be done to foster cooperation among the student body. The communal grade presented an opportunity to do just this, and a large part of the class was itching to give it a go. It was to be all or nothing: a single negative vote would strike down the entire proposition. If we were to enter into a communal class in the proper fashion, we would all have to consent explicitly.
The atmosphere was visibly tense as we all played with the scraps of paper on which we were to consent to or deny the communal grade. Pens were clicked and bitten as their owners pondered their decisions. Faint whispers could be detected as friends were consulted for advice. Professor Cho stood up and circulated around the room, collecting votes with his dapper cap. When he came to me, I still had not made up my mind. I looked at the person next to me, who looked equally pained, and decided to throw caution to the wind and vote yes for the heck of it. Someone else would probably vote no anyway.
Professor Cho finished collecting the ballots and began to read them aloud. He unfolded the first slip of paper; it read “yes.” The “yeses” continued to come. At around the twelfth or so vote, Professor Cho looked at the paper, and somberly read, “No.” Everyone looked around, trying to guess whose vote it was. We decided to read the rest of the votes, even though it had already been decided that the communal grade was a no go. The rest of the 24 votes turned out to be yeses; it was really just one vote that decided it all. Out of the silence that overwhelmed the classroom came a faint voice. “I’d like to change my vote,” he said. It turned out that someone had voted no because he had expected others to vote no, but was actually in favor of the idea. There it was decided; the 24 of us had consented to working together as a class for our midterm grade. We walked out of Seminar that day excited, anxious, and determined not to let our classmates down.
A Facebook page was made. Numbers were exchanged. All of the members of the class set the foundation for class communication and cooperation. There was talk of cooperative essay groups and study parties. We were all prepared to come together as a class and elevate the group dynamic to a point of perfect harmony.
When it came down to acting on our plans, however, it turned out that we could not walk the walk. Our class discussions seemed to improve for a while; a wider range of individuals voiced their opinions, and people were more thoroughly prepared for class. No one wanted to be the weak link that would bring down the rest of the class, so everyone was devoted to improving their own work. In this dedication to self-improvement lies the root of the failure of this experiment; we maintained our individualist mindsets, and in doing so, forsook our original goal of communal development. Instead of coalescing into a functional, cooperative community, we remained as separate, intellectual agents, whose individual efforts were to be averaged together for a “communal” grade.
In the end, Professor Cho decided not to mark the group grade on our midterm reports, due to complications with grading caused by the extenuating circumstances of Hurricane Sandy. A wave of disbelief and disappointment swept over the classroom, as the ultimate reality we had all been told to expect came true.
“Well,” a classmate interjected, in the middle of the silence, “do you know what we would have gotten?” Heads popped up in curiosity. “A solid B+,” Professor Cho replied proudly. We looked around at each other with a communal sense of satisfaction. Sure it was not an A, but we were gratified that our collective efforts earned us solid marks.
Despite its ultimate failings, our “Communist experiment,” as it has come to be known, was not all for naught. The very fact that 24 motivated and ambitious students were willing to put their academic fates in the hands of their peers in order to combat competition in their high school is in itself illustrative of a desire for community and collaboration. This particular experiment in cooperative learning may not have been successful, but hopefully it has set a precedent for other curious students to follow, hopefully with more success. If anything, Professor Cho’s “crazy Communist class” is a reminder that BHSEC still has room for improvement when it comes to matters of competition and communalism, but has the right culture among the student body to foster a more cooperative community.
NEW MUSEUM REVIEW
Danya Levy ‘15
If you leave BHSEC and walk along Houston, past the F train subway stations, then take a left on Bowery, you may be surprised to see a modern building that looks like several giant silver boxes haphazardly stacked on top of each other, with a giant rose peeking out from behind a wall, a stark contrast against the shorter beige and grey buildings that surround it.
This is the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and, surprisingly enough, not that many BHSEC students know about it, despite its close proximity to our school. The New Museum is the only museum in all of New York City that devotes itself solely to presenting contemporary art from all over the world, and it has received considerable publicity lately for its daring and interactive exhibits.
Last year’s “Carsten Höller: Experience,” was wildly popular, and drew vast crowds of people who were not normally museumgoers, eager to try out the upside-down goggles, glass slide, saline water tank, and mirror carousel that the exhibit promised. But although the exhibit was so crowded that one had to wait in line for an hour to take the ten-second-plunge down the slide, it was not a great success among museum critics, who called out its interactive features as an unnecessary and excessive way to make the art more entertaining.
The current exhibits, although less interactive, seem to provide more of an insight into the nature of art and its potential for social commentary than the thrill of flying through a glass tunnel. When one first enters the museum, they are stepping into an exhibit without even buying a ticket: “Jonathan Horowitz: Your Land/My Land: Election ’12,” has taken over the lobby. The floor is covered with half blue and half red carpeting; a flat screen TV in the center plays the latest election news; portraits of the candidates hang from the ceiling off towards the side, and a computer provides a forum for visitors to leave comments.
The exhibit is supposed to “provides a location for people to gather and watch coverage of as well as talk about the presidential election,” and the sharply divided carpeting does seem like an exciting place to discuss politics. But when I visited, most of the museumgoers seemed simply passing through, and although the installation was visually interesting, it didn’t seem at that time to be serving its supposed function.
Past the lobby and the cafeteria, a glass wall with large, inscrutable letters and designs that span from floor to ceiling, painted on in large swirls of black paint, separates the rest of the first floor from another exhibit, “Judith Bernstein: HARD.” This installation includes a selection of the artist’s works from over the course of several decades, and the first word that comes to mind to describe it is “phallic.”
Bernstein has created, in “explosive gestural strokes,” different interpretations of, well, the penis. In one painting, bullets take the place of semen; in another, colorful and wild brushstrokes create abstract allusions to nude men and women among other designs. To the observant visitor, these pieces provide an often not-so-subtle reflection on sexuality and gender roles in our society; but, after all, to the average high school student, they may just seem ridiculous, and a cause for giggles.
The messages of “Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos,” the exhibit that has taken over the second, third and fourth floors of the museum, are most certainly less clear.
The expansive exhibit includes artwork of a wide range of mediums, from bright red, shiny ceramics to 3-D photographs. A model of a young girl in a tutu doing an arabesque, with purple underwear showing, stands on a plastic platform; a fake palm tree hangs, upside down, from a white tiled room, beside a cage of birds that seem real, but, upon closer inspection, are frozen; yarn paintings, in bold color, adorn the walls, as do detailed drawings of plants and wildlife, especially various leaves and crustaceans.
Some of the pieces are also bizarrely abstract: a fluffy white creation, looking something like a round shaggy dog, puffs out and in every couple seconds, as if it is breathing, and the metallic and bright ceramics of the fourth floor sharply contrast the nature-inspired visuals of the second.
Often, the titles are what really pulls the art together: a 3-D photograph of a mother, carrying two infants, is titled “Propaganda”. “Atheism” is a found chair, covered in heavy felt, part of its top sliced off, revealing the straw and wood inside.
How this all fits together is hard to puzzle out, but the stark visuals and contrasting pieces certainly affect visitors on a deep level, even if they’re not quite sure how. Complex, compelling, and healthily confusing, these exhibits are definitely worth visiting. If, you know, you’re into that sort of thing.
The New Museum is just over a mile from BHSEC at 235 Bowery, and has free admission for anyone under 18.
ONE TREE, TWO BRANCHES
Melanie K. ’15, BHSEC Queens
BHSEC Queens, fortunately for those of us who go there, was more or less unaffected by Hurricane Sandy. You guys at BHSEC Manhattan, though, weren’t so lucky. From November 7th to November 9th, BHSEC Manhattan and Queens joined together, making BHSEC history.
Everyone was oddly excited to see some new faces around the school. I heard snags of heated conversations as I hustled to my locker (foreseeing clogged hallways), most about the alien race of Bardians coming to visit. Me, I was mostly worried about getting through the hallways without getting squished (that’s hard enough as it is at my height with 600 kids). Despite myself, I will admit that I was looking forward to the new students, at least a little.
Personally, I didn’t get to talk to many of you, which was a little disappointing. I don’t know what I expected (I think it was something along the lines of everyone coming together, holding hands, and singing kumbaya), but the two schools remained essentially segregated. Even at shared lunchtimes, BHSEC Manhattan kids stuck together and BHSEC Queens kids stuck together and gawked at the BHSEC Manhattan kids from afar. We all kept to ourselves, except for those rare, extroverted types that always seem to be able to seamlessly slip themselves into any conversation.
We all had mixed feelings towards the BHSEC Manhattan kids. Some of us were mildly interested in them, others followed them around whispering and giggling. Some of us welcomed the change willingly, and some of us grumbled a bit whenever a bemused Manhattan kids couldn’t find the auditorium. Me, I was a little frightened (is there some sort of law in your school that sets a height minimum?) but I feigned friendliness and tried to help anyone who was lost with a big smile plastered on my face. Which reminds me, if I helped you and you got lost, I’m really sorry (I’m directionally challenged and don’t actually know where I’m going half the time, even though I’ve been going here for over a year now).
Once, I had a free period by myself (I think it was Friday). Usually, I just sit and study by myself in a corner, but as there were an extra 600 kids, all the best corners were full. So, for whatever reason, I thought the noisy cafeteria was a better alternative to a quiet corner. Once there, I felt like I was the one in a foreign school. I didn’t know a single person in an entire sea of faces, which was a little overwhelming. I sat, like an idiot, coloring in the white spaces of my marble notebook in with a marker to keep myself busy, when a group of kids asked to sit at my table with me. At first, I felt all special. I mean, these kids were saying hello to me? But, looking around, I realized it was because there was no other option: all the tables were full, and I just happened to be at the emptiest one. I felt like a moron; they all engaged in lively conversation while I just kept staring at my notebook. One of them mentioned that she needed a tissue, and meaning to be friendly, I got up and got her one. No, I awkwardly leapt out of my seat, tripped over my foot, and handed her the tissue with a mumble (smooth, Melanie). I thought of a million things to say (“How do you like BHSEC Queens? Need help finding anything? What’s BHSEC Manhattan like?”) but was too shy to say anything.
I wish I would have said something. It would be wonderful to meet some of you, perhaps under different conditions. Our schools ignore one another’s existence, which is a shame. The thing is, we’re not so different. Sure, we may go to schools in different boroughs and dress differently (different can be good, guys), but we’re all Bardians (that counts for something, right?). We’re just two branches on the same tree, not different species of trees altogether. Hopefully, should we ever meet again, we’ll keep that in mind and take the time to get to know each other.
So, what did you guys think of BHSEC Queens? Let us know (if you want to, of course) at email@example.com, and we may just include your anecdote in a section of The Hype Journal.
IS BHSEC A WRITING SCHOOL?
Eliza Fawcett ’15
The languages that we speak define and unite us. Here at BHSEC, our language is one of “Private Free Writes”, “Focused Free Writes”, “Text Explosions”, and “Thought Chains.” These phrases act as the distinctive vocabulary—the lingua franca—of the school. A history teacher’s request for a FFW may be echoed in a physics, English, math, or art class, so much so that it becomes a common refrain throughout the school. Although often met with groans or sighs, FFWs are something of an inside joke, an experience that only we Bardians share. This vocabulary of FFWs is significant because it prompts the scholarly activities—“thinking through writing, discussion, and inquiry,” as our mission statement puts it—that make our school what it is.
So, are we a writing school? Given this framework, the short answer would be a firm yes. Posed this very question, students and teachers answered with an instant affirmative, claiming that BHSEC is “absolutely,” and “without a doubt” a writing school. The extent to which writing is ingrained in the BHSEC curriculum is unusual when compared to high schools across the country, let alone the city. Our teachers readily attest to this fact: Mr. Mikesh says that, “Our students are asked to write more, and with a deeper level of analysis, than any other high school student I’ve ever met.” Even incoming freshman who have been forewarned (“Be prepared to write, write, write!”) are often surprised by the amount of writing that, at BHSEC, is considered the norm.
BHSEC’s emphasis on writing is far more practical than many students might realize. Swept along in the fast-paced, sometimes turbulent current of tests, grades, and homework, it can be easy to forget about—or simply ignore—how important learning to write in high school really is. High school may be just a small step in the long and winding path of life. But learning how to write well and properly, at this formative age, significantly affects the direction of that path. For students, knowing how to write well analytically is, in many cases, the cornerstone of a successful and interesting life after graduating from BHSEC. As Dr. Birch says, “Your ability to write is your single most important skill when you leave here.” Furthermore, she continues, when you write, “you discover what you think.” It’s all connected.
Many aspects of the BHSEC approach to education – the Writing and Thinking week at the beginning of the year, our characteristically small class sizes and seminar-style classes in the college program – are specifically designed to promote writing and enable thoughtful participation and feedback from teachers and students alike.
Thus, it seems that our general image as a writing school is incontestable and obvious. Yet, I feel that there are some incongruences with that image that often remains unspoken—or, ironically, unwritten. Yes, as BHSEC students, we are writing continually; but that writing is all analytical. By focusing so intensely, at least in the high school program, on analytical writing, creative writing seems to fall to the wayside. For all of BHSEC’s emphasis on writing, creative writing—except for a few electives in the college program—is not a significant part of our curriculum. As one sophomore said, “Half of writing is fiction.” So as a self-proclaimed writing school, why are we only focusing on the non-fiction half?
The absence of creative writing stands out, and many students feel strongly about it. A sentiment shared amongst many students is that, simply, they “want more of it.” One sophomore said that she “would definitely appreciate a larger emphasis on creative writing.” Another pointed to the fact that, at least by 10th grade, “We’ve learned the basics of writing, so now we should be able to write more of what we want.” In fact, the absence of creative writing may be undermining our school’s image, proposed another student, who said, “I feel that if this was truly a writing school, we would do more creative writing.” He continued by saying that teachers “try to make up for the lack of fiction with Private Free Writes.” Most students interviewed had done just one creative writing piece last year, or none at all. As still another commented, “The times that we did write creatively I tried to savor.”
There are other indicators of BHSEC’s surprising marginalization of creative writing. Only 20% of students asked knew the true name of our literary magazine (The Troubadour), with some offering guesses such as “The Bardvark?” and, oddly, “The Reading Owl?”
It seems to make sense that, as a writing school, BHSEC attempt to strike some sort of balance between analytical and creative writing. After all, and especially at this age, creative writing is an important form of personal expression. It’s not a matter of assigning a short story every week, or of devoting three months to memoir writing. The simple fact is that, as BHSEC students, we are so preoccupied with work that if creative writing is not assigned in class, it is unlikely that we will have time to write anything outside of school.
These student concerns are not alien to many teachers. Most of it, actually, comes down to time. Teachers have only 200 minutes per week to teach a skill, and because of those limitations, Dr. Birch says, “we prioritize analytical writing.” As she points out, learning to write well analytically “is really a discipline,” requiring time, energy, and practice. Ultimately, analytical writing is emphasized in most schools simply because of its concrete benefits later in life. To give an analogy, Dr. Birch compares forms of writing to a basket that contains, say, chocolate-chip cookies, brownies, and hard-boiled eggs. In a college-preparatory sense, “some [forms of writing] are just more nutritious than others.”
Few would disagree that analytical writing is an essential skill. As a school, however—and especially as a writing school—I believe it is important for us to be more aware of this severe deficiency in creative writing. Perhaps when crafting the curriculum, teachers might consider throwing in a short story or poetry assignment, so that, as one sophomore said, it’s not an endless cycle of “essay-essay-essay.”
REFLECTIONS OF A BHSEC ALUMNA
Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10
Last week in Econometrics, a guy in the front row asked a good question: “What’s the difference between the t-tests and the F-test,” he asked. “Why would they produce different results?”—It was a very good question, pointing out a potential contradiction between the two tests, but I didn’t have the intuition to solve the puzzle.
Behind me, someone raised their hand with an answer: “Well, the t-tests test each coefficient individually, while the F-test tests the model as a whole.”
It was an answer straight out of the textbook, an answer that addressed definitions but also conveyed a lack of understanding.
I didn’t have a good answer of my own, but I did understand what it was that I didn’t understand. I understood that the questioner in the front row had thought more deeply about the concepts behind the statistics, and had gotten stuck exactly where I had.
Coming to college from BHSEC, what surprised me most was many students’ willingness to settle for superficial understanding. BHSEC taught me not to be satisfied with memorizing formulas or surface-level definitions. BHSEC taught me that learning something by rote doesn’t really count as learning.
In other words, BHSEC taught me critical thinking. During high school, I had a hazy notion of critical thinking as something vital that cropped up a lot in Year 1 Seminar. Since then, my definition of critical thinking has solidified. To me, critical thinking means asking why until I reach the core of an idea. It means that I know when I understand something, and I know when I don’t.
Although BHSEC is known for the Humanities—for things like Writing & Thinking—the most important skill I learned at BHSEC was how to do things like Multivariable Calculus & Thinking. It’s not so unusual to bring critical thinking to a piece of literature or a historical analysis, but it’s unusual, and essential, to bring critical thinking to chemistry, linear algebra, and econometrics.
At many colleges, introductory classes like calculus and chemistry are taught in lecture halls. Lecture halls lend themselves to PowerPoint slides, and PowerPoint slides lend themselves to bullet lists of facts. Proofs are sidelined, intuition is sidelined, and questions—beyond the rhetorical—are sidelined. This is not every course, and it’s not every professor, but it’s too many. Real learning is a one-on-one between you and your textbook. But if you haven’t learned how to think critically, it’s tough, even with the best of textbooks.
Why is critical thinking valuable in school? It’s not because it enables you to learn information more fully. Last spring, I fully understood that the partial derivative of the expenditure function with respect to price is Hicksian demand. Today, I don’t understand much more of that last sentence than you do. But taking the time to dig through the concept of an expenditure function, rather than just memorizing the rule, paid off. The process of critical thinking is learning in itself, learning that can be applied in other areas.
We’ve heard the statistics; in a ranking of 31 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, U.S. students finished 25th in math and 17th in science. It’s clear that we need more mathematicians and scientists: statisticians, biomedical engineers, mechanical engineers, and computer scientists, to name a few. But not all math and science majors are equal. Specifically, we need people who have learned to think critically about science and math, who study concepts rather than formulas, and ask why more than what. Those people are going to come from places like BHSEC.