VOLUME 10, ISSUE 5 (MARCH 2013)

THE LOWDOWN ON SCRAP ART MAGAZINE

Niki Rice ’14 and Nora Delf ’14

For those who don’t know, what is Scrap?

Scrap is a student-organized art magazine, the intent of which is to showcase student artwork in a tangible and wide-reaching way. But we do lots of other things too! We try to make BHSEC students’ lives generally artier by doing things like planning our upcoming gallery event at 72, putting up white paper and providing crayons on our bulletin board, etc.

How is Scrap different this year? 

Scrap this year is under new management since our founders graduated. We are trying to make Scrap a more active presence in our community. Particularly, we are expanding our presence in social media platforms. In addition, for the first time in Scrap’s history, we are planning on releasing two issues this year, rather than one.

What are Scrap’s goals for the future? 

Scrap’s primary goal for this coming semester is successfully printing two magazines, which would be a great step for us. We’re all looking forward to our gallery event, which is also new territory for Scrap. Our primary goal is having Scrap reach a wider audience, which includes a diverse range of student artwork, as well as a variety of students who are interested in seeing Scrap in the end.

So, what is this gallery event?

It’s on March 22, and it’s at a teen-space called 72. It’s a gallery-type thing, and students can bring their own art to the event to display, for reduced admission. It’ll be fun: there’s going to be music, and dancing, and art, and face painting. We’re pretty excited about it. People can check our Facebook to see the event and get more details.

How is Scrap different from Lit Mag? 

Our magazines each have their own intentions, constructions and audiences, and that is primarily where they differ. We are different publications, ours focusing on exhibiting student talent specifically in visual arts. Scrap is mostly focused on the aesthetic qualities of each page, and so our magazine contains no literature, as it would hinder our main focus.

How can students get a copy of Scrap? 

Scrap will be available to buy (for $5) at BHSEC. Every member of Scrap will be carrying magazines around, and most likely advertising it with great vigor. They aren’t available at any one place, but we will make sure they’re not hard to find. The Fall 2012 issue will also be available to download as a PDF on our website, scrapartmagazine.com.

 

How does Scrap decide what to print?

Usually we look for two things: firstly, we like to see that some thought and time has been put into the piece. Secondly, we look for pairs among submissions that resonate with each other in some way, be it through color, theme or direction. Often, a piece will be omitted despite that fact that it displays talent, because there isn’t a compatible piece.

Does Scrap accept all mediums?

Yes! We love sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, and anything else. We do not accept literature, but if a collage, or something of that nature, has words on it we don’t turn it away. You can email artwork to scrapartmagazine.com, give it to a member of Scrap (Odette Blaisdell, Nora Delf, Niki Rice, Noa Street-Sachs, Maggie Duffy, Emma Butensky, Marisol Sharpe, Belen Sundberg, Francesca Craft, Alex Ruiz), or leave it in the Scrap box in the art room, which we check regularly. 

 

 

TEACHERISMS

Isabel Gadd ’13

Mr. Mueller: “I can be flexible on this, but be aware that there are limits to my liberality.”

10th grade Latin student: “Is liberality even a word?”

(laughter)

Mr. Mueller: “You realize that you’re laughing at you own ignorance of the English language, right?”

Mr. Noyes: “I’m not going to give you this integral for homework because youth is fleeting.”

(Sort of a Teacherism) A student sent an email to Mr. Mueller asking for an extension and the email I received in return was an in-depth definition of conscience.

All Teacherisms are published with the explicit permission of the Teachers quoted. If you have a funny quote, submit it to the Facebook page or email me at isabelseckmangadd@gmail.com

 

LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS!

Eddie Westerman ’13

What’s your favorite type of fruit, and which fruits have strong medicinal properties?

I love nearly all fruit except for papayas. My favorite fruit would have to be nectarines, grapefruits, mangoes, or very good strawberries. All of those are beneficial to the immune system. Coconuts and cherries are rich in vitamins. Oranges are rumored to help you sleep better, and pomegranate seeds aid in decision making. 

If you had to pick one inanimate object, which would you become for a year or so?

If I was a watch I would get to move about a lot while still resting. Kind of like being in a stroller. I can’t say that doesn’t have appeal. 

Do you generally use glue sticks or bottled glue?

Glue sticks!  Always! 

 

 

BHSEC’S DRESS CODE (OR LACK THEREOF)

Elena Perez ’15

The ways people dress help define the culture they belong to. Our clothes often reflect a mixture of our background, environment and trends. The BHSEC student body represents a vast variety of cultures, ethnicities and thus clothing styles. A walk down the fourth floor hallway often feels like a mixture of converse, velvet and flannel. Having no dress code obviously allows for a lot of creative freedom at BHSEC. This makes way for a very interesting array of ensembles as you take a gander down the fourth floor.

However, most schools do not permit such freedom with student fashion.  Most public schools have some form of dress code: hemlines cannot be shorter than your fingertips; no spaghetti straps; no belly-button shirts or crop tops, and no flip-flops. Furthermore, many schools have adopted either extremely strict dress codes, limiting the students to polos and khakis or uniforms. In fact, uniforms seem to be on the rise, seeing a national increase from only 12% of public school requiring them in the 1999 to 2000 school year, to 18.9% requiring them in the 2009-2010 school year. Many public schools have felt the need to adopt a uniform to reduce the amount of exposed skin.

Although Bardians should not wear anything to school that they would not feel comfortable wearing around their grandmothers, some of our visitors do feel we go around showing a bit too much skin. A couple of our Turkish exchange students from the Kabatas High School did feel a bit uncomfortable surrounded by the variety of clothes. During their speech they said it was encouraged to dress plainly in their school as to not distract them from their studies. Most foreign students who were used to wearing jeans and t-shirts felt many outfits were a bit too skimpy.

However, the general consensus amongst Bardians seems to be a very strong positive attitude about our lack of dress code. BHSEC is an early college so the administration does try to treat the student body as much like adults as possible, giving us a lot of freedom in exchange for the heavy work-load. Students should not have to be stressed about whether or not what they’re wearing is appropriate, nor scared that they might not be able to afford sets of uniforms. In addition, developing your own style fosters creativity and promotes self-expression, and it is quite sad that students in other schools do not have this freedom. Vibrant clothes and unique new styles keep the school culture interesting and diverse. It would be very boring to walk down a hallway with everyone wearing the same uniform.

 

 

BHSEC’S ANNUAL WU FUND DINNER

Nathan Drucker ’14

On Friday, February 22, within two hours after its last use as a gymnasium, BHSEC’s school auditorium had been transformed into an evening of Chinese festivities. Red table cloths, lunar New Year lanterns, a buffet table, and student performances all contributed to the atmosphere native only to the Wu Fund Dinner.

About 150 students and parents attended the dinner, which raised $6,000 (or 37,297.20 Chinese yuan), to be donated to BHSEC’s Chinese program.

This turnout would have Wynne Wu, in whose memory the dinner was begun, very proud. Professor Wu, who died in 2010, was a founding member of BHSEC and its Chinese department in which hundreds have been enrolled over the past several years.

Despite being postponed for several weeks due to unfortunate weather conditions, spirits at the Wu Fund Dinner were high. The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from Dr. Lerner and the late Professor Wu’s husband. Mr. Ducett then discussed the future of the Chinese program and the upcoming BHSEC Chinese exchange program which will be partially funded by the money raised at the Wu Fund Dinner. While parents listened, performing students rehearsed their acts in the Student Activity Center.

Soon, a quick line of parents and faculty formed around the buffet table, at which a myriad of Chinese food was served. Shrimp dumplings, pork shumai, glass noodles, bak choi, and many other delicacies did not disappoint. Unfortunately for many students, most of this food was gone by the time they had left the Student Activities Center.

After eating, students began to perform their acts on stage. Featured at the Wu Fund Dinner was a variety of performances, including authentic Chinese songs and poetry. A highlight was the Chinese version of “I Want It That Way” featuring seniors Jonathan Cantor, Isabel Cruz, Jane Rossman, and Hannah Henderson-Charnow. In addition, to this music video were the songs “Gong Xi, Gong Xi” performed by a Chinese class of freshman, traditional poems read by individuals or pairs of Chinese students and finally, BHSEC’s Chinese Choir singing Chinese Superstar Richie Ren’s “Kan Guo Lai.”

After a student’s recitation of a traditional poem, one parent stated “I can’t think of a more meaningful way to honor a dedicated teacher.”

Like this parent, I believe that the Wu Fund Dinner is a meaningful way to celebrate the Chinese New Year, honor Professor Wu, and raise money for the Chinese program here at BHSEC. While maintaining a very celebratory spirit, no attendee failed to remember the dedication of Professor Wu. As a student, not only was the food good and the performances entertaining, but it was enjoyable to see faculty in a non-academic atmosphere. It was certainly not your average Friday night, and I would recommend that anyone who can attend the Wu Fund Dinner next year does so.

 

 

BARD WINS BIG AT DEBATE STATE CHAMPS

Liana Van Nostrand ’16

The weekend of March 10th to 11th was no ordinary weekend for New York State debaters. This past weekend was the New York State Debate Coaches Association State Championship, which is arguably one of the most prestigious and difficult tournaments of the year. All year at various regional tournaments, debaters work towards gaining enough “points” to qualify for the statewide championship. This year, four BHSEC debaters attended. The first team was Eliza Fawcett ’15 and Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15, and the second team Mojique Tyler ’15 and Max Neuman ’16. The Friday portion of the tournament was cancelled due to snow, so students arrived at The Horace Mann School in the Bronx early on Saturday.

The official start time for the event was 8am, but rounds did not begin until at least 9:30 (typical of large debate tournaments). For an hour and a half, 310 debaters waited anxiously in the brightly lit cafeteria. The competitors were grouped by age, experience and style of debate. There was also a middle school division where debaters in the sixth grade vied for the title of state champion in their division. Isaiah Back-Gaal identified this period of time as the hardest part of the day, stating, “With every passing minute I became more and more anxious as I repeatedly second guessed my main arguments and wondered if I really had prepared enough”. Shortly after, the debaters had no more time to worry because schedules (known as schematics) that detail where a round is held and who is debating, were posted. Upon the posting of schematics, the cafeteria became disorderly and frenzied. Debaters grabbed research, evidence, and speeches before pulling on winter coats. Although the cafeteria was in Fisher Hall, the public forum debates were held across campus at Tillinghast Hall.

For the majority of the day, BHSEC debaters were involved in preliminary rounds. There were four preliminary rounds. In each round, the teams either debated to support or oppose the resolution. The resolution under consideration at the tournament was, “On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States”. After debating for four rounds and running around campus, the debaters were physically and intellectually drained. However, the tournament was not yet over. Once again there was a significant pause before the tournament directors revealed who had advanced to elimination rounds. Elimination rounds work differently than preliminary rounds. Only the top four teams in the novice public forum division would advance to the semi-finals. After waiting two hours to find out, it was announced that Isaiah Back-Gaal and Eliza Fawcett had won enough preliminary rounds, three out of four, and had been awarded enough speaker points to advance. Although exhausted, the entire team was excited. Max Neuman described the moment the team discovered that Eliza and Isaiah would be debating in the semi-finals as one of the best parts of the day and as a “huge rush”.

Although very exciting, debating in the semi-finals was also nerve-wracking. Usually a debate round consists of two teams, a judge and no spectators. However, in elimination rounds teammates come to support one another, there is a panel of three judges, and debaters from other schools watch as well. Even with twenty or so spectators present, Isaiah and Eliza were not fazed. Instead, Isaiah said that they were anxious at first, “due to the higher stakes of the debate, although Eliza and I did not let this psych us out, reminding ourselves that this was just another round”. Although the opposing Poly Prep team defeated them, Eliza said that the loss “actually did not put much of a dampener on the day. Certainly, it would have been nice to have gone farther, but there’s always next year! I was incredibly happy and proud that we made it as far as we did”. Isaiah and Eliza not only received a trophy for making it to the semi-finals, they also received speaker awards. Isaiah received the third place speaker award, and with one half of a point less, Eliza received the fifth place speaker award. Together they had the second highest total number of speaker points in the novice public forum division.

These awards and BHSEC’s participation in the event are reflective not only of achievement on an individual level, but achievement as a team. Although BHSEC’s debate program is still young and growing, after this tournament they will be viewed as a force to be reckoned with among the debate community. Even other schools seemed to take notice of BHSEC’s skills. One debater from Bronx Science, Isaiah reports, “congratulated us on our debating, commenting that we debated quite well for a ‘hippie school’.” The BHSEC team will certainly be retaining its current members. Isaiah, Eliza, and Max agreed they would definitely join debate again. Even though this year’s ended mere days ago, Max said he is already “definitely shooting for next year’s tournament”.  

 

 

TEACHER FEATURE: DR. HOLBROOK

Nina Chausow ’13

The mystique surrounding the arrival of Dr. Zachary Holbrook to BHSEC for the spring semester was much increased by the title of his seminar, “Ghosts, Vampires and Endless Love: The Persistence of the Gothic.” Enabled by the Peterson Visiting Professorship in the Humanities Endowment, Dr. Holbrook and his dramatically named class arrived as a gift from Mr. Peterson, for whom the endowment was established in honor of in 2010. The endowment enables the school to hire a distinguished humanities scholar every year in order to teach a college seminar. As Dr. Holbrook describes it, the position allows the selected professor to “bring a unique perspective to education.” In comparison with the clearly named “Essays of Montaigne” course offered the previous year, no one knew quite what to expect in the group of mostly seniors enrolled in the class, ranging from those who were already hardcore fans of vampires from Dracula to Buffy to others necessarily fulfilling English credits. What we have experienced so far has surpassed my expectations, if not everyone else’s as well. Dr. Holbrook’s class has lived beyond its name, utilizing the alluring topics of ghosts, vampires, and love as the foundation for creating a deeper understanding of the development, lifetime, and lingering legacy of the literary Gothic.

Although Dr. Holbrook appears comfortable and adept at engaging high school (early college) students in the morning hours, this course is in fact his first experience teaching at a high school. Dr. Holbrook commented, however, that the “transition period was not extremely difficult,” as the students he encountered here are in fact “more engaged than most of the NYU students.” Admittedly a high compliment to a group of mostly second semester seniors, he commented that at NYU, he had primarily “been teaching required courses. Teaching my own course to students who chose it is a blast.” Dr. Holbrook also mentioned that his undergraduate experience at Bard College had prepared him for the level of engagement and curiosity from all students in the Bard network, as he “felt Bard here.” This is not only Dr. Holbrook’s first class for high school students, but also his first time teaching this specific, self-designed course. As a British and Romantic Poetry concentrator, he chose to teach this course on the Gothic in order to “pair the literary history and development of the Gothic with the contemporary Gothic manifestations that lives on.” Dr. Holbrook peppers the classes with pop culture references, opening the door with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comments in order to aid students in connecting the Gothic to everything from A Passage to India to the occasional dreaded Twilight references. Beyond guiding his students in connecting occasionally distant concepts to modern texts, Dr. Holbrook also stresses close reading skills, and encourages us to grapple with every aspect of texts, from poetic meter to word choice.

Although he shows no supernatural tendencies, Dr. Holbrook possesses more interesting talents than your average vampire. He enjoys singing and playing the piano, skills he has put to good use in his video game “Harp and Chrysanthemum.” In writing the plotline, the music and designing the landscape of the game, Dr. Holbrook enjoyed the freedom of holding “complete creative control of the project,” as well as the “unlimited creative outlets as a fantasy nerd.” Finally, like any good Gothic character, Dr. Holbrook harbors a (not so dark) secret. Currently working on an interactive novel, he is forbidden by mysterious supernatural powers from revealing any more information about the project.

 

 

AN HONEST LOOK AT OUR STUDENT UNION

Iolanthe Brooks ’15

On a Monday afternoon, in a sunny room on the far north side of BHSEC, a Year 2 scribbles frantically on a dry erase board as 15 other students nod, laugh, and spout ideas full of incentives, coffee machines, bylaws, meetings, and memberships. Students from all four grades laugh at a ninth grader’s joke and the dry erase-boarder’s miserable spelling.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, this is one of the Students’ Union’s many meetings. A club with a widespread reputation that is not always positive, the Students’ Union elicits very diverse responses from students, members, and faculty alike. Out of ten, rated by students as poorly as four and only as well as seven, the club has been the recipient of endless criticism recently.

The basis of many students’ complaints is the inefficiency of the SU. “They attempt to, and put in a lot of effort to,… make improvements, but often times these improvements are executed poorly,” says Jed Lenetsky ’15. To many it seems that the Students’ Union is an ambiguous group, out of the sight and mind of the student body, that does not accomplish much, apart from the occasional Town Hall. Students are not in contact with the club, nor do they care much about it; by quietly meeting each week, the Students’ Union isolates itself from the very population it is trying to represent. They fade into the hectic mural of BHSEC’s clubs, as important or unimportant as the rest. “If the SU was cut, [BHSEC] would function,” Anna Goldelman, a Students’ Union representative and club secretary, confesses. The Students’ Union seems to be struggling to even be noticed, which is surprising for a club that tries to be the voice of the student body.

In a testament to the poor efficiency of the Student Government system, many of those interviewed could not even name their representatives, much less explain what function they served. After some brief uncertainty, Isaiah Back-Gaal ’15 realized who his representative was, but it took him several seconds (and a quite confused expression) to figure it out. Embarrassed, he admitted he didn’t know what to come to representatives about. Other students displayed a similar confusion, which signifies that the SU is failing in its most important task: to allow the students’ voices to be heard. If students don’t feel that they are able to go to their reps if they have concerns, then the Students’ Union is not doing its job.

The flaws of the Students’ Union were quite clear to many of the students interviewed. Off the top of their heads, they were able to cite the lack of organization, the poor execution of events, the inability to represent students’ ideas, and the general unimportance of the 16 students that meet every other Monday. Yet a whole other side to these critiques becomes clear when talking to the Students’ Union members.

“The amount of time I’ve spent in this club…” sighs Niyanta Chhetri, a Y1 who has been on the Students’ Union for almost three years. The hours add up quickly, with long meetings weekly or bimonthly (depending on your status as a General Assembly member or Core Council member). “We spend time with the coffee machine, fundraisers, parent teachers conferences…” as well as work in Advisories and at home. In all, some Students’ Union representatives spend over eight hours a month on Students’ Union work. With a solid base of fifteen to twenty reps showing up for bimonthly meetings, more than 120 hours are put into the Students’ Union monthly. For a seemingly failing club, it demands a lot of time and effort.

Students’ Union members don’t deny that the club has flaws, often expressing more frustration about the club then outside students. “We don’t really do [everything an SU should do], we do fundraisers and behind-the-scenes work, like the coffee machine,” notes Anna Goldelman. Although the reps have fought for more drastic changes in the past, and taken on many different kinds of projects, those interviewed all circled back to the same tasks—fundraising and the coffee machine.

Members remain optimistic, despite their complaints, about the many possibilities of what this organization can accomplish. “The Students’ Union should be for the benefit of the students, but sometimes [in practice] it is not,” Anna says. “It definitely could do more.” To the members of the Students’ Union, raising money is not enough. They define their club, in a perfect world, as a way to, in Anna’s words, “represent the student’s opinions and use those ideas to help the students.” She sees the progress the SU has made towards this goal, but also the huge distance it has yet to cover. The club has certainly not negatively affected the school, but the few things it has achieved are small compared to the high hopes of those that dedicate so much time to its cause.

So whose fault is it that this club, one that is given hundreds of hours of work a semester, one that is still supported and loved by many of its members, one that has such potential, is doing so poorly in the eyes of so many? Some reps blame the Administration for stunting many of the SU’s ideas; others blame the reps for their lack of enthusiasm at times; yet others blame the students for their lack of participation, and the system as a whole is often blamed for its lack of efficiency.

All these points are valid. The communication between the Administration and the SU is weak. It sometimes takes weeks for messages and questions to travel from representatives to Dr. Lerner and then back to the SU. Many representatives are not as faithful as the fifteen to twenty students that come weekly; attendance shows only about 28% of members actually showing up, and even less are arriving for coffee machine shifts or out-of-meeting work hours. “I’m very passionate about Students’ Union,” says one rep who admits to only attending a few meetings. “[Well,] I’m mildly passionate about it.”

Leila Eliot, a ninth grade SU member, notes that she “likes what [the SU] stands for,” but doesn’t have time for all the meetings. The truth is, many other reps feel the same way and are not as willing to give up the amount of time and effort to the SU that its most dedicated members sacrifice..

Students also play a part in the flaws of the Students’ Union system. As Isaiah exemplified, many students don’t know how to approach SU members, or what issues they should be sharing with them. Because of this scarcity of information and the lack of students dropping in on the open meetings, the Students’ Union is left somewhat in the dark about what issues to address and which changes to make.

At its heart, the flaws of the SU stem from its trial-and-error groundwork. With an outdated and ignored set of bylaws, the Student Union basically operates as a mish-mash of slow moving debates over small details that give nothing back to the student body. “There’s so many people [in the SU] and everyone has a different opinion,” says Alberta Devor, a tenth grade rep. This factor makes the meetings long and ineffective. Anna Goldelman adds, “there’s so much feuding between the different factions [within the SU]” that it is hard to get anywhere.

The disparity between the number of complaints students had about the SU and the number of reps and students that regularly show up to put in their opinions and change the club’s track record of inaction is perhaps a clue to the club’s failing. Other than a small core of dedicated people, the SU reps have proven unreliable and the BHSEC population uninterested. No one seems to have the time to organize more events, or even show up to the open club meetings. The complaints about the SU, both by reps and students, are justified. But they stem from a lack of enthusiasm that all of BHSEC, students, reps, and administration included, could work on. As Alberta said, the Students’ Union’s just trying to “keep the school cool.” Plus, without the sometimes-open, sometimes-not coffee machine, BHSEC wouldn’t quite be BHSEC.  

 

 

SENIORITIS: TRUTH OR FICTION?

Chloe Kekovic ’13

As a preface to this article, I feel that readers should know I submitted this on the last day it could be due, and at the latest possible hour. Which, in some ways, could be reflective of how my second semester senior year is going: I still do the work, still care about it enough to do a solid job, yet somehow find myself scrambling at the last possible minute. Is it Netflix? Is it Facebook? Is it books I’ve been wanting to read for pleasure the past three years, but had to put them off to write essays, solve equations, and write lab reports? Not quite; it’s simply that I am burnt out, exhausted. As I shuffle through the stacks of work that I’ve collected over the course of my BHSEC career, I can’t help but to be amazed at everything I’ve completed in such a short period of time. I’ve created things, solved things, failed things, achieved things. So yes, I will postpone things until a later date, because I am contented in doing so. 

However, Leon Botstein believes that this final stretch should be the point in which Year 2s produce their greatest work. Indeed, the term ‘Senioritis’ can’t really exist at a school which doesn’t even label their graduating class as seniors. We are college students, and if this was the second year at a traditional college, there would be no slacking, no calling it quits, no laying down and watching reruns of Dawson’s Creek. And indeed, many of my fellow Year 2s – myself included – are elated to do our senior inquiry projects, to have a final chance to showcase all that we have learned, and apply it through a lens of our choosing. There’s still a ‘but’ however, still a thought that lingers. Why should I care? Why do I still have to prove myself? 

To put it simply, because this is what we signed up for. We signed up to be members of an elite community, a community in which thinking, questioning, pondering, and stressing never stops. And even as I write this article at this late point in time, I’m getting serious anxiety hoping that it will be well-written, that I’ll do work I’m proud of. Because BHSEC has curated me into a thoughtful individual, one who has to think hard and inquisitively about the world around us. I recall at a Year 2 meeting, Dean Ewing said that BHSEC students have to “Question everything”. And indeed, thinking never stops, the conversations we enter in our classes never are fully answered, and therefore, even though it is incredibly tempting to just roll over and call it quits, I can’t. There are still two-odd months left in my BHSEC career, and I owe it to myself to see it through. 

 

 

RESPECT FOR ALL

Ayla Safran ’15

If you take a look around the halls of BHSEC, it is hard not to notice the “Respect for All” campaign. Before you even walk past the security desk, on the way up the front stairs and into the school, a large poster grabs your attention with the words written in red paint. Surrounding the banner are dozens of colorful index cards, which hold a variety of handwritings. Many people stop to read some of the cards, interested in the good deeds that their peers have witnessed and written down. Still, more people walk past the colorful display without giving it a second glance.

The purpose of BHSEC’s Respect for All month (February 11th through March 11th) was to tackle the standard issue of bullying in a different way. According to Lisa Goldenberg, the Student Activities Coordinator as well as the Students’ Union faculty advisor, “Each year, New York City schools promote ‘Respect for All Week.’ The Students’ Union and the Random Acts of Kindness Club are leading a month-long school-wide campaign to recognize acts of kindness.”

These two groups of students put up fliers all over the school, trying to bring attention to the issue of respect. Although the idea itself sounds pretty standard, the approach was somewhat unusual and brought with it the possibility of some sort of change. In a Students’ Union General Assembly meeting on February 4th, the principles behind Respect for All were discussed. In working together, the Students’ Union and Random Acts of Kindness club hoped to bring awareness to and help find strategies around resolving conflict. The main approach to this was to make an announcement during the week’s advisories.

Lisa Goldenberg typed up a memo to be read during advisory announcements, instructing the students to “Acknowledge, in writing, acts of kindness they have witnessed at school”. This was interpreted in different ways, and some students were vey specific, writing things such as “Casey always gives gum to everyone” or “Alfie Crooks’s accent reminds me of a cool turtle!” Others were very vague, only writing down short statements like “student helps Eco Board” and “students sharing headphones”. In addition, the cards were decorated in different ways, ranging from sloppily written fragments to sentences accompanied by intricate illustrations. One index card features a large drawing of a cupcake, while another shows two stick figures listening to music.

The campaign was very well intended, but as often happens, it was not as effective as the Students’ Union and Random Acts of Kindness club had hoped. One 10th grader said apologetically, “I didn’t think that much about [Respect for All Month]. I didn’t really notice it going on… I don’t know what that says about it.” Many students seemed to share this opinion, and another sophomore admitted that the only time that she thought of the project was when she was asked to fill out her index card in advisory.

One Year 1 disagreed, stating, “I definitely noticed the index cards in the front of the school… I do think that [the campaign] was effective because it brought respect to my mind, and we talked about it in advisory.”

The idea of writing good deeds down on index cards – while taken as a joke by some people – was a fun and creative idea to get the students engaged, and one student suggested that in the future, the project should have more interactive aspects to keep people aware of it throughout the duration of the month. This way, people would pay more attention and maybe take it more seriously. Whether or not everyone got something out of Respect for All Month, one person who had an anonymous compliment written about her on an index card, confided that seeing that someone had noticed her good deed made her day. If everyone who was written about felt this way, the project can be considered a success.

 

 

BHSEC AND CIGARETTES

Fatima Elmansy ’14

Statistics have shown that every day, about 3,000 kids under the age of 18 start smoking and about 4.5 million total adolescents in the United States smoke. At BHSEC, it’s not uncommon to find smokers within the school. People often start smoking because of stress, social habit, or pick up on it from their parents and friends. When asked about what people thought the percentage of people who smoked in our school was, answers ranged from 35-60%. The workload at BHSEC is usually pretty heavy, and the students here are stressed out even more than most teenagers. Cigarettes, known for their stress-relieving/relaxing chemicals, are definitely something most people find themselves turning to. So in a school where most of the students are stressed, it’s bound to have an influence on an increase in smokers.

When non-smokers were asked about their thoughts on BHSEC and smoking, one student said, “My mom had cancer, which the doctor told her was onset by her smoking habits, so I just don’t get smoking. It doesn’t make anyone look ‘cool’.” Other non-smokers at BHSEC said they don’t see a point to it or don’t get why people would smoke. Some students agree that a stressful school environment has definitely had a lot of people turn to smoking. One student, against the idea of smoking cigarettes, doesn’t justify the stressful environment as a reason to start smoking, saying, “I think smoking sets you up for future problems that are a lot more difficult than the problems students face at school today.”

While some students have a strong stance against the idea of smoking, many in fact do smoke. One student disagreed that stress-levels had much to do with it, saying in fact that the already present smoking scene in our school makes it easier for others to be influenced.” This already present smoking scene does go along with the fact that BHSEC is a stressful school to be in. However, in most high schools it’s not uncommon for teenagers to smoke, as teens are generally more susceptible to influences.

One student remarked on her first experience smoking, saying it began before high school: “I was offered one [cigarette] the summer before I started high school. It was just a social thing.” She also spoke about the effects going to BHSEC has on people picking up on this habit, saying, “It definitely has more of an effect. There also aren’t that many people in our school so it’s easier for the amount of smokers to seem amplified.”

Most Americans who smoke generally started as teenagers, and it’s uncommon for people to just start smoking on their own, so social influence is always a big contributing effect, whether the stress of BHSEC gives students that extra push to begin or not.

 

 

INTER-BHSEC DEBATE

Hannah Frishberg ’13

For two years now the Bard College Debate Union has been funding an annual tournament where local high schools from the Red Hook (Upstate, not Brooklyn) and Rhinebeck area compete against students from all three BHSEC campuses. BHSEC Queens and Newark may be our sister schools but it is no secret that, save for emergencies, there is very little interaction between the BHSECs. Thus the Bard Debate tournament serves as a rare opportunity for bonding with our outer-borough and Jersey brethren.

Afterschool on February 28th, students from BHSEC Manhattan met up with Newark and Queens students (and their coaches) at Penn Station. From the start the cultural differences between the schools were stark. Racially, all schools were diverse, but predictable reflective of Newark’s demographics, BHSEC Newark has the inverse ethnic breakup of BHSEC Manhattan: while BHSEC Manhattan is 53% white, 90% of students in the BHSEC Newark district are either black or Latino. Some of the Newark students also wore uniforms as part of a loosely enforced dress code which is entirely absent at either BHSEC Queens or Manhattan. Only three students, all female, came from Queens, likely reflective of their more conservative student body (parents are less willing to sign permission slips for the trip), again predictable considering how incredibly diverse Queens is.

Throughout the trip there was no tension between the BHSECs. Despite our geographic and age differences (students from every grade were present) all students were mature and interacted amicably. I didn’t even hear a single jab at Jersey. This was even more impressive considering debate teams were mixed, meaning that most teams had one student from every school, and teams weren’t revealed until the night before the tournament.

At the tournament itself, there were two rounds of World Schools Debate, judged by teachers and students from the Bard Debate Union. The difference between the Upstate debate and most city tournaments was shocking. In terms of style, city tournaments usually use the Public Forum, Policy, or Lincoln Douglas styles of debate, which are far more evidence based than the World Schools format. City tournaments (which involve students from all around the tri-state area, but mainly from inner city schools) are cutthroat, defined by “spreading” (speed reading), statistical evidence, aggressive cross fires (where opponents heatedly debate topics in a question answer format) and blunt judge criticism. At the Bard Debate tournament, Rhinebeck and Red Hook schools relied mainly on moral arguments, Leon Botstein himself emphasized before the tournament began that “everyone is a winner”, and there were no cross fires and very little opponent criticism.

The first resolution (the statement argued during a round of debate) exposed a deep cultural difference between the BHSECs and our opponents, it being Resolved The personal possession of handguns should be outlawed in the United States. Sides are assigned randomly and without team preference, but the arguments chosen by the Rhinebeck team we faced in the first round, arguing to uphold the resolution, would likely never be used by city kids. Focused mainly on Bible quotes, the justification of violence, and an emphasis on personal safety, our opponents’ arguments were quite foreign concepts to my teammates and I, all of us having grown up in an urban environment where there are precincts within the mile and guns are not commodities for the majority. In contrast, while our judge contemplated the results, our opponents spoke casually of their parents’ and friends’ gun collections. Clearly the two teams came to the resolution with very different life experiences.

The second resolution (Resolved: The federal government should require two years of civil service for all U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 24) again hugely contrasted debaters’ different upbringings. While BHSEC does not even have a community service requirement, let alone encourage military involvement after graduation, one Rhinebeck opponent is entering a ROTC program in the fall and plans on joining the army after college. Consistently, BHSEC students’ arguments during the second resolution focused mainly on the monetary problems attached to a civil service requirement, while upstate students focused on its benefits to increased national patriotism.

The BHSEC’s dominated at the awards ceremony, bringing three out of five top team awards and seven out of the ten top speaker awards. After the ceremony the Bard Debate Union debated the civil service resolution, their arguments interestingly devoid of moral and statistical basis and instead had a conceptual foundation, with mainly philosophical and sociological references.

All in all, the Bard Debate tournament is a hugely insightful and fun event which will hopefully continue to be an annual happening. It unites the BHSECs though speech, through two hour Amtrak rides, and through the fact that nearly everyone’s name was mispronounced during the awards ceremony.

 

 

REVISITING AN OLD CLASSIC: ARMY OF SHADOWS

Alex Cohen ’14

Jean-Pierre Melville was more than a two-named Frenchman, and even more than an acclaimed director; he was actually in the French Resistance. His masterpiece, Army of Shadows (1969) is about as personal as a fiction can be. Take out of your mind the classic Rambo-esque notions of what a resistance movie is like. There are no explosions, no derailed trains, no dead Nazis; if this film came out today, it would have been called Glorious Busterds. But the characters of the film are far from glorious. If anything, they behave like nihilistic gangsters, albeit ones with a moral code who know that their hustle will end in death.

The protagonist, played by ex-wrestler Lino Ventura, is almost executed at the beginning of the film in a German prison, and yet again by firing squad in another jail later on. He escapes by running into a barber shop and asking for a shave, not knowing whether the person trimming his scruff is a friend or an enemy. The film rarely shows evidence of the Germans themselves, occasionally dropping one or two officers in a bar to remind us of the setting and the justness of the protagonists’ cause, but mostly we see evidence of the bleak future in store for the resistance fighters.

Their cause is one of the best in history, considering the monstrosity of the German war machine at the time, but simultaneously they lay their lives down in the cause of justice they are cursed to be forgotten. This is the tone of the film, with one character, upon being questioned as to the potential people he might tell of his involvement in the resistance, “I only have one brother, and although I love him dearly, I do not share with him any of my deeper feelings.” When this character visits his brother for the last time, he narrates that, “it is sad that he will never know of my sacrifice” and it comes as a surprise to us when we learn that this brother is actually the leader of the resistance in the area. This might make us, the viewer, feel better, but neither brother knows the truth, and both die in obscurity.

It is not a spoiler to say that most of the characters we learn to respect over the two hours of the film do not make it out, because the film is drenched in existentialism down to its core. In one scene, a character is led to a pit, where a sadistic German tells him to run to the end of a corridor while he is shot at. If he makes it to the end, he can expect another execution later. This character is confronted with a choice that would make Jean-Paul Sartre (another two named Frenchman) wince: whether it is worth it to run at all.

The acting is always underdone, and even the most emotional confrontations are never dramatic enough for the Oscars, but if ever there was a person qualified to make a film about the French resistance, it would be Melville. Army of Shadows was re-released, and finally released in the United States in 2006, and runs a little over two hours. If you don’t like reading or don’t speak French, try to slug out some subtitles or learn a new language.

 

 

BASQUIAT AT THE GAGOSIAN

Jane Rossman ’13

The show at the Gagosian is stunning. The artworks are madeall the more striking by the number of paintings and the large space. Theimmensity of the Gagosian, a white cube gallery, allows it to hold over fiftyof Basquiat’s paintings. The artworks span his lifetime, representing hisinterests from poetry to human anatomy, using symbols and words. At first theexhibition feels too harsh, the style primitive while poetic, but that is thecharm of Jean-Michel Basquiat. His artwork is intense, influenced by his life,mind, and overwhelming talent. In 1988 Basquiat died at the age of 27, leaving around1,000 paintings and 1,000 drawings. He left home when he was fifteen and lived ahomeless existence in Washington Square Park or at various friends and girlfriends’apartments. His mother was mentally unstable and his father was difficult toimpress. Basquiat started his career through graffiti. With his friend from theCity-As-School, Al Diaz, he created the persona SAMO (Same Old Shit) and wrotewitty philosophical poems around lower Manhattan and on the subway.  This burst of creative aphorisms,statements on culture, and critiques of religion, was refreshing among theinane graffiti scribbles, and they propelled SAMO to fame. At this timeBasquiat was living in his girlfriend’s apartment, and could not stop paintingon everything—refrigerators, wood found on the side of the street, walls. Usingthe world around him as a canvas became a main theme in Basquiat’s art. Notonly were some paintings at the Gagosian on found wood, but also many ofBasquiat’s works were interpretations of famous artworks and artists thatinspired him, such as Picasso, the Mona Lisa, or Willem de Kooning. Hisartworks speak to his life; being of Haitian descent many of his paintingsdiscuss his concerns in the African diaspora. He related his history to hiscurrent state as an artist of lower Manhattan. One painting had the writing‘Madonna’ on it crossed out with the word ‘Venus’ written above it. At the timeof the painting Basquiat was having an affair with Madonna. Basquiat frequentlycalled his girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk his Venus, and this painting was homageto their relationship, in spite of his infidelity. Riddle Me This, Batman was eerie in its biting correlation torecent events. There are no labels inthe galleries. I did not know who Basquiat was and I did not know his history,and that he died much before the shooting in Colorado. Therefore, the crayonedimage of the Joker and a bat with the words “cowards will give to get rid ofyou” scrawled below him and a drunk man in the corner laughing struck meimmediately as a reaction to the Batman killing, while really it was made longbefore.

Basquiat had his first show in 1980. Once Basquiat revealedhimself as SAMO, his fame began to rise through exhibitions at P.S. 1 and atthe Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli in Italy, until Annina Nosei invited him to bein her show “Public Address,” then, to use her gallery basement as a studio,and then became his primary dealer. In eight years he grew to be one of themost influential neoexpressionist painters in history. He was dubbed “TheRadiant Child” by an article in Artforum andgrew to have immensely close relationships with artists such as Keith Haring, ShengKapharoah, and especially Andy Warhol. He really was a genius child; he wastrilingual, eloquent, witty, and incredibly talented observer. And he was achild. He could not handle the fame and the money. He lived by his own rules,and soon was too wrapped in his inability to balance the tough art world andhis earlier life in New York. He often turned to heroin to focus. He could notface the press’s criticism, calling his art boring while he was not on drugs. Helived in L.A. for some time, to get away from the stress of the center of theart world, and he would travel to Hawaii to get clean. His guide through mostof these difficult times was Andy Warhol. The two were incredibly close; Warholwas Basquiat’s idol and frequent inspiration, and Warhol had a slight crush onBasquiat. Before Andy Warhol died, the two artists had a collaborative show thatwas bashed by the press. They had a falling out, and never reconciled due toWarhol’s untimely and shocking death.

Many of the paintings at the Gagosian are from the end of Basquiat’scareer. The painting Chinese New Yearis three paneled, black, with the words ‘Chinese New Year’ painted in redunderneath a terrifying face in the same red. The artwork is beautiful in itssimplicity and arresting style. But it is emotionally piercing because ofcontext. Toward the end of his life Basquiat would often grab Chinese food withhis girlfriend in the spare moments he had. She was one of the few people hewas not paranoid around and could connect with during his dark, drug infused days.All of this, however, is not provided by the Gagosian. The person at the deskhands the visitor a sheet of paper with a short summary on Jean-MichelBasquiat. Very quick. We do not read about Basquiat’s intense fear prompted bythe police beating and death of the young black graffiti artist, Michael Stewart,we do not hear about his love of Jazz and his participation in the band Gray,playing a clarinet that he never learned how to play, and we do not know thecontext of every piece nor what time in his life it was made. What the Gagosiansucceeds in is provoking a strong desire to find out everything about the artand the artist. The gallery presents Basquiat’s art beautifully. Objects areshown no matter the size. Every visitor seeing this collection of stunningartworks will want to know, who is Jean-Michel Basquiat?

 

 

INDEPENDENT STUDIES

Eliza Fawcett ’15

Perhaps only at BHSEC would a high school senior be able to say, “My independent study is a comparative literature class of the Old Testament and The New York Times,” as Year 2 Jane Rossman did the other day. Once a week, Jane and Esther Mathieu, another Year 2, meet with Dr. Mazie to discuss current events in relation to the “prophets” section of the Bible. By comparing and contrasting the two texts—one ever evolving, the other the product of an age long ago—the trio unearths surprising connections as well as interesting dichotomies. To illustrate how this cross-examination might play out, Jane described some of their most fascinating discussions. “When reading Judges, the story of the Israelites conquering the promised land,” she recalled, “the problems of Gaza were incredibly prevalent in the news.” Furthermore, their “reading [of] the heart warming stories of Ruth and the beautiful love story in Song of Solomon” was juxtaposed with “the recent bleak news of Newtown.”

For Jane, this independent study has given her a “new outlook on life” and an increased awareness of both current news and the Bible. Better yet, the affect of this independent study is shared: Dr. Mazie also commented that their independent study has “changed my way of thinking” and that their discussions about Newtown with the “biblical lens” significantly influenced the direction of one of his own blog posts.

For BHSEC students and teachers alike, independent studies represent an incredible opportunity for intimate academic discourse and research. Working one-on-one or in small groups, students have the ability to, under the tutelage and supervision of a teacher, chose their own topic—and method—of study. Not all teachers accept propositions for independent studies since, as Dr. Mazie pointed out, these independent studies necessitate time and energy on the teacher’s part in addition to their regular workload. But the independent studies that do develop into existence are very fruitful indeed: “there is a certain richness to the communication and student-teacher relationship,” said Dr. Mazie, “that you don’t have in a regular classroom.”

This semester, 42 BHSEC students are involved in 20 separate independent studies (respectively) with topics ranging from the general (“Painting”) to the hyper-specific (“American vs. German-Language Musical Theatre”). BHSEC students are using independent studies to their best advantage, delving into new fields of academia and expanding their intellectual vocabularies. As Dr. Mazie further pointed out, “The fact that BHSEC has so many independent studies is a reflection of the diversity of interests that students bring and the energy of the faculty to work with them.” A number of students, for example, are using this opportunity to learn languages which are not offered as regular courses due, in many cases, to budget limitations. Various students are tackling Ancient Greek, Japanese, conversational French, and American Sign Language in their independent studies. For Hannah Henderson-Charnow, a Year 2, taking Japanese was a way to build off her study of Chinese—and a take a step closer to becoming, as she says, a “triple-threat” – being able to speak Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Most independent studies meet once a week and involve a rigorous amount of reading, writing, and discussion, but not more than students are able to handle. A large final project is also required: for many, that means a 15-page paper at the end of the semester.

For many students, independent studies fit easily into BHSEC’s academic environment and exemplify the school’s educational philosophy. As Y2 Magdalena Stoyantcheva, who is studying information literacy, said, “BHSEC fosters a lot of trust in students…they want us to be passionate and hardworking so they are willing to let us do the things that make us happy.” Jane pointed to the way in which independent studies illustrate the “incredibly unique” student-teacher relations at BHSEC. “Because of how comfortable I feel explaining my thoughts and theories [to Dr. Mazie],” she said, “the conversations are never awkward and always interesting.” For Hannah, independent studies are “characteristic” of the BHSEC environment “because we pride ourselves on inquiry and intellectual curiosity.”

Yet when asked if students are more engaged in independent studies than regular classes, many students answered in far more practical terms. “Certainly…since there are only three people total in the ‘class’!” said Eddie Westerman, a Y2 who is studying Cold War science fiction. Or, as Hannah put it bluntly, “The intimacy makes failures more pronounced.” Those who do not put effort into the independent study, she continued, “are humiliated.”

While independent studies are an exciting way for students to explore their personal interests in an academic context, they can also be—and are—used by students as a way to fulfill graduation requirements. This allows students the chance to transform their mundane, required studies into opportunities for intellectual discovery. As Magdalena reasoned, “I needed to take fourteen credits this semester and I was stuck at twelve. I decided to do an independent study so that I could enjoy what I was learning.”

Not all independent studies fulfill course requirements, though. As Eddie pointed out, “independent studies are much less supported than they were in the past.” His independent study does not fulfill course requirements, and only supplies credits towards graduation.

Nevertheless, through independent studies BHSEC students and teachers are clearly reveling in and enhancing their academic experiences.

 

 

THE ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF THE SPAIN TRIP

Danya Levy ’15

After six hours on a plane, the fifteen students who had bravely embarked on the BHSEC trip to Spain emerged into a very different world. Jetlagged and groggy, we could barely get a good look at Madrid before we stepped into a bus and were whisked across the Spanish countryside.Thus began our numerous adventures and misadventures. When we arrived in Salamanca, a small university city, we could barely believe what we saw. All the buildings were made out of beige, beautiful stone, there were narrow, winding cobblestone streets, and beautiful cathedrals with intricate carvings sprouted out of nowhere. 

We were given some time to unpack and explore our new home: a hostel run by a convent. Most of us got quaint single rooms (while several students roomed together), all decorated with paintings or sculptures of Jesus Christ in some shape or form. We would see the friendly, elderly nuns shuffling around periodically, and were happy to learn that the basement had Wi-Fi. 

Once we were settled, it was time to get our first real glimpse of Salamanca. We embarked on a walking tour, and marveled at the park and cathedral that were situated moments away from the convent. Both the Old and New Cathedrals were great feats of human engineering and architecture that presented quite a feast for the eyes, and the bakeries, churro stands, and coffee shops were quaint and inviting.

On our second day, we were introduced to the educational aspect of our trip. Every day, we had four of five hours of Spanish class at the Enforex international school. A short walk from the convent, the school was situated in a beautiful stone complex that, with its carpeted stairwells and gorgeous courtyard, made BHSEC look quite shabby. 

We were split into two small groups, which meant lots of individual attention from our two amazing teachers, Alba and Maria. They were funny and entertaining and very helpful. Perhaps most importantly, they didn’t speak English—or, if they did, they pretended not to. Our classes were full of conversation and games, all in Spanish, and we felt our language skills improving more in a week than they had perhaps in a year. 

In addition to helping us with grammar and vocabulary, Alba and Maria also taught us plenty about the culture and how to get around in Salamanca. They told us where to find thrift stores, restaurants, and the best churros in the city. We learned from them where and how to haggle, how to give and receive compliments, and much more.

We returned from classes every day to the convent, ate lunch, and had a several-hour-long siesta. We would nap, use the Internet in the basement, read and hang out in our rooms. Then, reenergized, we would embark most days on a specific activity. On one of these days, we went on a walking tour of the city’s important landmarks to literature, including a gorgeous hidden garden with amazing views of the city. We visited an Art Deco museum full of exhibits of creepy dolls, and learned more about Salamanca’s cathedrals.

After the activities, there was always plenty of time to wander around on our own. We visited thrift shops, ate delicious churros dipped in hot chocolate, and sat in cafes drinking tea and observing the passersby. We did plenty of shopping, chatted with local residents, and tried all kinds of Spanish food—especially ham sandwiches.

Being in Spain was certainly overwhelming. The language and cultural barrier was sometimes hard to deal with—but we always had each other to rely on, and, even when we were lost in the narrow streets and couldn’t seem to find our way to the convent, always managed to have a good time. 

And, the more time we spent in Salamanca, the more exciting and endearing things we discovered. We learned that, in several of our bathrooms in the convent, spoons were taped to the space between the cabinets and the walls. While wandering around, we discovered that vending machines in Spain sell much more than just soda and candy. We learned that one of the cathedrals had an astronaut hidden in the centuries-old carvings that had been put there during a recent renovation, and had lots of fun talking to all the international students, from many different countries, at our school.

The weeklong trip included a daytrip to the town of Segovia, where we wandered around an enormous cathedral with unbelievably high ceilings and gorgeous stained glass, visited the ruins of the Jewish ghetto, and saw amazingly tall Roman aqueducts. 

And on our last day, we visited Madrid, where we went to the famous Prado museum, gazed upon the legendary Picasso painting Guernica, saw the famous palace and city hall, and stood in the geographic center of Spain. Perhaps most excitingly, we witnessed—and eventually walked through—a protest against the bad economy and government corruption that thousands of people participated in. 

On our last day, we were certainly very sad to leave. It seemed as though we had been in Spain for far more than a week. We had learned so much about the language and culture, and had become used to our exciting routine. After all, how would we survive school without our daily siesta?

 

 

TEENAGERS AND CELL PHONES

Willa Glickman ’14

There are 103.3 cell phones per 100 people in America, according to a study by the International Telecommunications Union in 2012. Not every single person has a cell phone, but there are enough people with more than one that on average, every person has 1.003 phones.

In other countries this number can be even higher. In Germany, for example, 139.7% of the population has a cell phone, and in Russia, the number is a whopping 160%.

BHSEC students had a lot to say about what the appeal of cell phones is. Many mentioned their usefulness while trying to meet a friend in a new place or during an emergency, but some thought that their social aspect was the most enticing.

“Cell phones allow you to come into contact with virtually anyone you know at any time,” said Ryan Levitt, Y1, “At any time I can talk to someone that maybe I don’t get to talk to very often, and if I need to share something pressing I have the opportunity to do so.”

Halle Hewitt, Y1, also appreciated the sense of connectedness. “I think cell phones are great for finding people, and it’s nice to have contact with people that you might not ever see,” she said. “You can be reached wherever you are.”

However, they both saw dangers in the constant contact that cell phones allow. “That feeling of always being in contact is almost intoxicating,” said Ryan. “It can get to the point where you never have a lone moment, because you’re always plugged in, and it’s difficult to imagine being without other people.”

“I think that while a little use of cell phones is great, people use them too much,” said Halle. “They’re texting at their friends’ houses and can get totally absorbed in the phone and forget about life.”

Most students who were interviewed agreed that texting is preferable to calling on the phone because it is less personal. “I don’t like talking on the phone,” said Norah Eltantawy, Y1. “Texting is less awkward, and it gives you time to think so that you don’t sound stupid.”

“I think people like texting because it’s a lot less scary,” said Halle. “On the phone you actually have to be present and say things in real time. Texting is a lot more casual.”

However, whether or not that casualness is actually positive is still up for debate. “I feel like some people abuse it,” said Norah. “If you want to lie, it’s easier over text because it’s less personal.”

She also worried about the result of a world where no one is in an uncomfortable social situation. “Cell phones and texting avoid awkward situations, but sometimes you need awkward situations. For example, cell phones are useful because you can avoid having to talk to someone’s parents, which is awkward, but maybe if you talked to your friend’s parents you would have a better relationship.”

Halle was concerned about the advertising aspect of smartphones. “I think it’s become another way to get people to buy things, especially with iPhones and all these apps. They’re like portable TV’s, and people are very attached to them.”

Of the impact of cell phones on society, she said that perhaps we have taken a step forward, because “things are done more quickly,” but “maybe it’s sad that everything is so convenient and we are trying to entertain ourselves all the time.”

She thinks that while it’s difficult to moderate cell phone use, in the end, “It’s your choice, I guess.”

Ryan also believed that the effects of technology are up to the user. “I think that the cell phone is an incredible social tool. It’s important to acknowledge that technology is inherently neutral and it’s how people use it that really matters. It’s not whether cell phones or texting is good or bad – it’s if people have the autonomy to put them away.”

 

 

REFLECTIONS FROM A BHSEC ALUMNUS: ON SEMINAR BOOKS AND THEIR VALUE

Will Glovinsky ’08

In reflecting on the many formative benefits of attending BHSEC, it may seem a tad small-minded or worldly to single out for praise that stack of trade paperbacks we call Seminar books, which are the only quintessential BHSEC offering that could be acquired elsewhere, and could even (rue the day!) be sold. Yet I firmly believe that these books, which are yours in perpetuity, constitute one of the great uncelebrated treasures of a BHSEC education.

Now, I am not referring precisely to the exact titles on the Seminar syllabus, but it’s true that they are by every measure gems. Even if the lapidaries in question are nearly all dead white males, it is always worthwhile to know the greats, and know them well. It’s incredible how many people champion or denigrate the likes of Marx, Darwin, or Freud without bothering to read even a page of their original works. And on the literary side, what really surpasses the run from Homer and Sophocles to Austen, Kafka, and Woolf?

But, the Great Books’ greatness notwithstanding, what I find singular about BHSEC’s approach to them is its insistence that you read fresh copies, and the implied suggestion that you keep them as your own. My entire scholastic experience tells me that this policy is more or less anathema to US public school protocol, which for reasons of economy demands that books be returned at semester’s end. Tight budgets are undoubtedly a factor in this practice as a whole, but I’ve noticed in countless news articles how even deep-pocketed districts prefer to spend large sums on Smart boards and iPads rather than shell out for books. Their belief, I suppose, is that the future lies in these technologies rather than in truckloads of Penguin Classics. It is our good fortune that BHSEC has both the wherewithal and sense to buck this trend.

Of course, the primary reason for providing personal copies is that students can mark them up with impunity, creating a running marginalia from the Greeks on down. That this commentary is your own, and not the chatter of previous generations of students, is certainly a boon to the reader and the greater Seminar experience.

As an alumnus, however, what strikes me most about these books is not their usage for class but rather their legacy after graduation. There is something miraculous and pluripotential about Seminar books: those dog-eared paperbacks of Plato and Woolf can become the germ of a respectable library that grows and reflects the things that come to matter to you, that grows with you. You can stretch out from Pride and Prejudice into the great novels of youth and marriage by Goethe and Dickens. Or you can move from Michael Frayn’s meditation on the quantum to Brian Greene’s Elegant Universe and a shelf of expensive physics textbooks. Dante’s religious humor might foreshadow the bloody grace of Flannery O’Connor. Who knows? Marx might lead to economics, Kafka to entomology.

Jorge Luís Borges said he always imagined paradise to be a kind of library; perhaps it follows that a life surrounded by books is a kind of paradise. Today, however, a disreputable duo by the names of Kindle and Nook threaten to eject us from this paradise or, worse, render it a mere curiosity. For the fact is that any of the aforementioned literary connections could be made just as well on an e-reader, and with greater convenience. Everything is instantly available from the cloud, and you don’t have to lug ebooks in small heavy boxes when you move. Plus ebooks are often cheaper, sometimes much cheaper. So it has become a fair question: why bother with bound books at all?

I might cite aesthetic considerations, the joys of lending, or the ease of annotation, but the best reason is this: on a shelf, a book beckons. It reminds you to read and, more importantly, it reminds you to reread. As the French literary theorist Roland Barthes observed, “Those who neglect to reread are forever destined to read the same story.” A bookshelf is in many ways a monument to this epigram, to the ideal that books are not like other commodities that are “consumed” and discarded, but rather should be lived with and revisited as we change. This is especially the case with Seminar’s weighty titles, which will surely yield different reading experiences and impart new meanings with time. I, for one, have noticed how Marx’s notion of alienated labor is a lot less abstract when one is no longer a student, and also that a few entanglements with bureaucracy’s red tape will forever alter K.’s ordeal in The Trial. But the essence of the joy is that the rereading is your own, and by revisiting books you graph your own plot through time and space.

Perhaps this is why, finally, Seminar books are wonderful portals to the past. The German critic Walter Benjamin once penned a quiet, ruminative piece called “Unpacking My Library” in which he notes how each of his volumes conjures up, like Proust’s madeleine, “memories of the rooms where these books had been housed, of my student’s den in Munich, of my room in Bern, of the solitude of Iseltwald on the Lake of Brienz, and finally of my boyhood room.”  And so it is with Seminar books for me: they always carry the residue of the first reading. Euripides is forever redolent of mornings on the M14D, and Dante always teases out from my shoe a few more of those black rubber Astroturf motes, and Civilization and Its Discontents never gets any less weird, no matter how much Freud I read.

So treasure your books, and maybe say thank you when you get them, and whatever you do don’t take them to the Strand.

 

 

THE LANGUAGES WE SPEAK

Isabelle St. Clair ’13

With help from Dr. Anderson, BHSEC’s Director of Institutional Research and Evaluation, I dived into data tables to make sense of these different languages and explore a different side of BHSEC. According to Dr. Anderson, Dr. Olson, and the tables, there are currently 46 different home languages, a total of both Manhattan and Queens students. Not surprisingly English is the main language spoken by precisely 69% of Manhattan students and 60% of Queens students. The second home language following English is Spanish, accounting for 8% of Manhattan and Queens students. The third is Bengali: 3% of Manhattan students and 8% of Queens students.  More interestingly, the fourth most common language spoken solely at home differed in each campus: BHSEC Manhattan’s is Cantonese – 2% of the students – and BHSEC Queens’ is Polish – 4% of the students. These percentages are fascinating, but even more so are the rough numbers. 12 BHSEC Manhattan students speak Cantonese at home compared to 10 BHSEC Queens students. 6 BHSEC students speak Polish compared to the 26 Polish speakers at BHSEC Queens. This vast difference in Polish speakers can be attributed to the proximity of the school to a prominent Polish neighborhood. But these are only 4 out of 46 languages.

There are other home languages, but these are either spoken in very few or only one household. In BHSEC Manhattan, the more familiar languages spoken at home include Mandarin, Arabic, French, Russian, and German. The less common languages are Japanese, Korean, Bulgarian, Hebrew, and Ukrainian. And even less common are Nepali, Serbo-Croatian, Vietnamese, Greek, Hindi, Lithuanian, and Swedish. In addition, there were languages I had never heard of before like Ibo, a language spoken in southeastern Nigeria; Shina; Dardic, a language spoken by a plurality of people in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan; and Tamil, a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by the Tamil people of South India and North-east Sri Lanka.

I think that it is important to look at all of these languages and compare them to a greater scale. There has never been an exact tally of how many languages are spoken in New York City, but it is believed that there are roughly 800 different languages (according to the 2000 census, interestingly enough, language count is only done by the census every 50 years). This greatly exceeds the 176 spoken by student’s in the city’s entire public school system and the 138 spoken by the residents in Queens, the most diverse borough in the New York City area and the 46 spoken by BHSEC students. In a percentage: 40% of all public school students speak a different language at home, compared with the 31% of BHSEC Manhattan students.

I talked at great length about BHSEC Manhattan and BHSEC Queens, but I must not ignore our newest sister school, BHSEC Newark. Even though the school is just across the Hudson River, BHSC Newark has an extremely different language composition. Because it is a fairly new school the data, unfortunately, is incomplete. Nevertheless, I learned the top language spoken at home was English, then Spanish, then Portuguese, and finally Haitian Creole. This language diversity and its contrast to both New York schools, informs us about the particular demographics of the city and of the schools’ neighborhood. According to the data table no one at BHSEC Manhattan speaks Portuguese or Haitian Creole and at BHSEC Queens one student speaks Portuguese and 5 speak Haitian Creole. Clearly, the different BHSECs draw students from all different linguistic backgrounds.

It is very important that we keep in mind that more students may speak other languages, listed above or not. As Dr. Anderson pointed out, there may be students who speak these languages, one or more at home, but when filling out the school’s survey only listed the main language. For example, a household might speak English, Portuguese, and Spanish, but the family indicated that Spanish was the prominent language. Or another would be that a student takes language classes outside of school and doesn’t speak the language at home. There are limits to the amount of information the students and their families are able to share with the school, and thus the amount of information that the school knows about the student.

All of these languages add an important part to the three BHSECs. Language is fused with culture, and the various languages BHSEC students know and speak at home become a part of BHSEC’s growing diversity. And, according to Dr. Anderson, in 2010 44 distinct languages were spoken at home and 23% of students spoke a language that was not English. In 2012, that percentage rose to 31% of students, essentially a 7% increase in home languages other than English. Clearly, BHSEC is growing linguistically.

 

QUADROPHONICS

 

THE JOY FORMIDABLE’S WOLF’S LAW

Travis Coles ’15

From North Wales, the Joy Formidable are a very interesting band who formed in 2007. Wolf’s Law is their second album. Their first album, The Big Roar, out in 2011, was very good. Led by singles “Whirring” and “Cradle,” The Big Roar had a huge sound. While touring for The Big Roar, The Joy Formidable made a stop by the TV show Conan, which drew my attention. Their presence playing “Whirring” was unprecedented for a trio with a weird name from a weird background; they were awesome. And they did an outro to the song full of energy, where singer Ritzy Bryan hit a gong with her guitar over and over, and it was fantastic. Later, I saw them open for the Foo Fighters. They were the first of two opening bands, something very hard to do. They played to about half of Madison Square Garden for only 30 minutes, but they were very impressive. They brought the same energy they brought on Conan, and I could feel Bryan’s energy from section 426, very far from the stage.

So of course I had expectations for this album. And my expectations were fulfilled. The first song on the album, the single “This Ladder is Ours,” is a loud and energetic song that gets the album going fast. “Cholla” follows it, with a big sound and a catchy chorus (probably my favorite song on the album). “Tendons,” “Little Blimp,” and “Bats” are rock songs that keep the album rolling at a fast pace. “Silent Treatment,” an acoustic song, breaks everything down but still manages to be loud. Bryan sings “I’ll take the easy cynicism, less talking more reason.” It is a pretty good description of the album, one full with instrumentals like in “Maw Maw Song,” “The Leopard & The Lung,” and “The Hurdle.” The final song on the album “The Turnaround,” is pretty nice, but the hidden track within it is as good as any song they’ve made. The track shares the same name as the album, and starts out with soft piano before breaking into a loud outro.

The Joy Formidable are a very loud band, even though you might not realize it right away. For a trio from North Wales, they do make a lot of noise. They have been making a great case for themselves as one of the better live bands around today. The energy in this album is palpable. Bryan is a very good guitarist, even though she looks too innocent for the role of guitar hero. A lot of magazines talk about how The Joy Formidable have the sound of a band that will eventually fill arenas, and that they are ambitious enough to do just that. Bryan sings on “This Ladder Is Ours” about her dreams; “We can be anybody else, hold on to the fringe, jump through from the past.”

She knows that they can get as big as they want. All I know is that this is a great album that is better than their first and will likely end up being one of the better albums of 2013.

 

 

A CLOSER LOOK AT SHEMP

Oliver Divone ’15

While you most likely have not heard of the teenage band Shemp, you probably will soon if you enjoy the teen rock-show scene. Shemp, a band self-described as “a revolving door group of multi-instrumentalists” has a classic New York rock group sound. For example, on their first song on their debut album, “Bob Costas,” their singer sounds like a mix between Lou Reed from the Velvet Underground and Black Francis from the Pixies. This creates a feeling of angst and aggression while still having practical and emotional undertow feelings, something that is not as common as one might think coming from a group of teenagers.

The group has an interesting and unusual lineup as well. While Shemp has eight members, (Alex McGrath, Anthony Dean, Charlie Kirby, Devon Bonadonna, Jonny Greeman, Kyle Bokert, Michael Bianco, and Nick Viagas) not all of them play and write each song. Every song sounds a little bit different because they each play and write for different tracks. This allows the band to have a multitude of different sounds and attitudes.

The name Shemp is also an unusual one. Shemp comes from the often forgotten member of the proto-punk ground The Stooges, Shemp Howard. Shemp’s influences consist of punk bands like The Stooges, as well as Pavement, The Strokes, The Pixies and Can.

Shemp released their debut album My Night’s Entertainment earlier this year in February, and it includes such songs as the previously mentioned “Bob Costas,” a modern day rock song that brings up memories of The Strokes with stronger punk roots. It addresses the famous news anchor’s problems and issues. Other songs and sounds include the peppier sounding “The Aquatic Misgivings of the Dreaded Undertow,” as well as the more grunge orientated “Hobo God.”

Shemp has played venues such as Tribeca’s 72, and they publically say on their Facebook page that they “will play anywhere, anytime, for anybody, for anything.” While they are based in the Westchester area, they are frequents of the Manhattan scene. Keep an eye out for Shemp, as they will probably be playing in an area near you soon enough!

 

 

SANT CLAUS, THE PISTONS, AND POST-MODERNISM

Alexandra Griffin ’14

Okay, so maybe the title “Santa Claus, The Pistons, and Post-Modernism” isn’t the most accurate description of what this article is about. But these three seemingly unrelated things all came together on December 15th at Webster Hall. “Give me some ideas to free style about!” shouted Noah Chenfeld of The Box Story, one of the six teen bands playing at a hurricane relief concert at Webster Hall. The audience replied excitedly with shouts of “let’s hear about the Pistons!” and “Santa Claus!” and “breast milk!”, and of course, from a BHSEC student, “post-modernism!” Chenfeld spun all these suggestions into a impressive five minute, completely improvised rap – even finding rhymes for “post-modernism,” which is certainly an impressive feat.

Chenfeld’s performance was part of a Hurricane Sandy relief concert that he organized at Webster Hall this past December. It was a touching act of New York City teens helping each other out – six young NYC based bands performed, and all the proceeds ($15 a ticket) went to help public schools rebuild after Sandy. The money was distributed to various schools by The Fund for Public Schools. While I heard comments that the concert room looked and felt a little like a bar mitzvah, the expansive space allowed high schoolers from around the city a chance to mingle and talk. The large space served another purpose as well; a handful of charity clubs from different high schools set up stands, handed out flyers, and accepted donations. The line up of the show ranged from solo guitarists to five person rock bands, ultimately coming together for a diverse and engaging performance. 

Noah Chenfeld was back with his freestyle rapping this past Sunday at Rockwood Music Hall, in another all-teen concert. This one, though, was organized by Rayna Holmes, Nadim Silverman, and myself. A few months ago we started the organization Teen Concerts NYC, which provides performance opportunities for young musicians in NYC. The show last Sunday, entitled “March On” (pun intended!) was the second one of it’s kind. Seven bands performed: Pink Veins, Brownie, Atomiclock, Noah Chenfeld, The Gradients, Sedgewick St., and Yabadum. They were all incredible, and all quite different. Pink Veins and Sedgewick St. both had strong female vocalists, although Sedgewick St. was much more soft and jazzy. Two of the performers rapped: Brownie (aka Spencer Brownstein) and Noah Chenfeld. Atomiclock (with BHSEC sophomore Nick Healey on drums) and the Gradients, both indie-rock/alternative all-boy bands, also gave energetic and impressive performances. Yabadum closed the concert with several upbeat songs that had the whole audience clapping. You can find all these bands on Facebook; they’re worth checking out. 

I think, in the end, it all comes down to building networks. The concert at Webster Hall and the past two concerts at Rockwood Music Hall have shown me the tremendous and diverse talent possessed by teen musicians. Rayna, Nadim, and I hear from new bands every week who are looking for opportunities to perform (we even recently received a request from an Australian band). Shows like these not only give bands a chance to perform outside the 21 and up bar scene, but they also connect bands with other performance opportunities and other like-minded musicians. With the right networks in place, it doesn’t need to be so hard for young New York musicians to share their music and play professional venues. 

 

 

LIL B’S “I’M GAY,” AND HOMOPHOBIA’S ROLE IN HIP-HOP CULTURE

Few artists inspire as much controversy as Lil B, “the Basedgod,” who seems to set fires to simply watch them burn. People either hate him or completely idolize him, yelling mottos such as “thank you Basedgod!,” “Lil B is the rawest,” and the like. The prolific California rapper has released so much music in the last two years that collecting all of it is an almost impossible task. A mix tape is released by the self-proclaimed “Basedgod” nearly every week, and feature simple, repetitive “Based Freestyles,” which refer to stream of consciousness raps. His approach to writing is fascinating, as is the way in which he chooses to present himself. Lil B (born Brandon McCartney) tends to sport bright, skintight neon-colored t-shirts, torn skinny jeans, and a destroyed pair of Vans skateboarding sneakers. 

In his earliest mix tapes, Lil B performs what he titles “dumb music,” where “dumb” is used as a word that represent the highest level of praise. His use of the phrase “Based” has the same purpose. His early song titles include “I Own Swag,” “Look Like Jesus,” and “Wonton Soup,” which are all parodies of what is the stereotypical standard of rap music and the culture that surrounds it. He jokingly pokes fun of the misogyny (“Hoes on My Dick”), violence (“Hood Story”), and negative undertones that have traditionally been explored in the genre. Even his signature vocals, which consist of the laid-back repetition of simple phrases such as “I’m Miley Cyrus” and “Swag Justin Bieber” are reminiscent of rappers such as Soulja Boy and Gucci Mane, who represent all of the stereotypes of the culture.

With his most recent (and only) full-length album, I’m Gay, Lil B surpasses most expectations. Gone are the namedropping parodies that are found in his earlier work. In this work, they are replaced by social commentary, and not only regarding acceptance of all sexual orientations. Themes such as poverty, the American legal system, and religion are looked at with a sense of positivity that recalls a child. 

Though, lyrically, he is not a particularly talented rapper (in the song “Trapped in Prison,” he boasts “I’m nicer than grandma with a cup of iced tea/you can see I’ve got ice like ice”), he’s left a huge impression on rap music, and the industry as a whole. Hip-hop has fostered a homophobic atmosphere for most of its run as a genre, and with this album, Lil B sets out to destroy this. Expectedly, the album, and its creator, however, has faced highly homophobic retorts (when the rapper The Game heard about Lil B’s choice to name his major label debut “I’m Gay, he  started to laugh hysterically). Though it may take a while to change hip-hop culture, this album has certainly helped and will continue to break down barriers and cause the hip-hop community to rethink how it regards and values homosexuality. Whether or not Lil B is a skilled rapper, along with his “Based Music,” and idealistic optimism, he is here to stay.

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