VOLUME 10, ISSUE 6 (APRIL 2013)

SPRING BREAKERS

Alex Cohen’14

Spring Breakers, a film straight out of the (some would say) twisted psyche of Harmony Korine is a film intended to be a visceral experience, not following traditional plot arcs or character development. This is a “fun” movie, but only for those who enjoy watching a desensitizing quantity of sex, drugs, guns, and alcohol. This is not a film to watch with anyone who belongs to a generation older than X.

The story is simple, four girls bored with their sheltered upper middle class lives on a campus somewhere in the south decide to make their spring break extra special by doing things that they have never done before. However, they have no money, so they must fund their trip with a robbery. For them, illegal activities are enjoyable because they have an element of danger and emulate the hip hop culture they want to be a part of. After arriving in St. Petersburg, a quaint seaside town in Florida that is host to thousands of trashed teenagers for two weeks of the year, the four girls proceed to do an excessive amount of drugs, chug beers all day, and listen to Alien (a hilarious James Franco) rap. After being arrested and bailed out by this very same rapper and dealer, they begin to enter the illicit world they thought they idolized. It is a testament to Korine’s originality that the story does not end with a lesson like: don’t shoot people or pretend to be a gangster.

As the girls delve deeper into drug culture, we meet another equally hilarious and excessive character, Big Arch, Alien’s nemesis. They used to be friends when they were kids, as Big Arch so tenderly states, “He taught me how to swim, I taught him everything else”. Big Arch controls the drug trade in the area, and Alien is selling on his turf. It can’t end well. The film shows that even pampered upper class girls who want to be gangsters can be gangsters, if they can fully fall in love with the thrill. That sentiment also goes for viewers of this film, who can only truly appreciate it if they can understand why a person brought up in safety and comfort would want to shoot and be shot at, and live outside of the rules of society.

 

 

THE VIEW FROM CHINA

Willa Glickman ’14

‪In Shanghai, we went to a restaurant that served an item called “Exploding Silk Eel Ricefield.” Moving down the menu, I saw “The Right Flavor Grim,” “Extreme Fat Spicy Fragrance Face Cattle,” and one simply (and unnervingly) named “Hairy.” Ah yes, I thought, We’ve made it to China.

Our 13-day Chinese Exchange trip took us from Beijing to Xi’an to Changsha to Shanghai. We made up a pack of 23 (a number we all became very familiar with due to our frequent count-offs to make sure that nobody had fallen off the Great Wall or gotten lost in the Beijing Urban Planning Museum), consisting of four chaperones, 16 Bard Manhattan students, and three students from Bard Queens.

No one seemed too impressed with Beijing as a city, what with its intense smog and profusion of grimy cigarette stores. The sprawling capital of 20 million was a little shabby in places, and it seemed like a great deal of its ancient architecture and culture had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

However, it did contain some amazing things. The Forbidden City, where emperors and some 5,000 concubines lived, was beautiful and impressively huge, as was the Great Wall and the Lama Temple, a Buddhist Temple containing a 60 foot Buddha statue carved from a single tree (it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest wooden Buddha in the world).

In fact, most things about Beijing seemed to be huge: huge city, huge population, huge amount of people lined up to look at Mao’s body in his mausoleum in Tiananmen Square (or his Mausoleum, as some of us took to calling it).

Our next city, Xi’an, which used to be known as Chang’an and was one of the largest cities in the world in the 700’s, was more like what I had imagined China to be.

We visited a lot of old roads and markets, and there were vendors everywhere selling dates and walnuts and pounding almonds on top of barrels with huge wooden mallets. People were zipping around on motorbikes and honking and there were small birds singing in bamboo cages. Xi’an is also famous for a certain kind of really large noodle, so we saw a lot of men in white stretching out arm-length noodles and banging them on sheets of tin.

One thing in Xi’an that is perhaps even more famous than the noodles is the Terracotta Army, which was discovered in 1974 by a few farmers looking for water. It consists of over 8,000 clay warriors built to protect the emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife. We walked past some vendors selling whole wolf pelts, and saw the warriors, some of which are still being painstakingly reconstructed by archaeologists.

After Xi’an, we traveled to Changsha to meet our exchange partners and stay with them and their families for four nights. My host family was very hospitable and friendly, and tried to feed me as much as possible. At one point my host mother insisted that I finish an entire bag filled with sugar cane. I got along with my partner very well and we had a good time walking around Changsha.

It was really interesting to see China from an insider’s perspective. For example, my host family was very proud of China’s history and seemed worried that the current trend of Chinese culture was to destroy old things and modernize.

Also, most of the students seemed very stressed about school. I heard from a number of kids that it is impossible to do well in China unless you get into a good university, and the pressure to succeed is huge. The students attend school for six days a week, from about 8AM to 5PM, and my partner took supplementary English classes on Sundays.

After some tearful goodbyes, we traveled to Shanghai, which everyone enjoyed. The city was an odd mix of French architecture (from when the French colonized China), Chinese architecture, and crazy-looking skyscrapers in odd shapes and colors. We spent a peaceful day wandering around and shopping a little and then we went to the airport and got on our 14-hour flight back home.

China was larger and more modern than I had pictured, and there were a few moments when I looked up at the uniform gray cloud that passed for a sky and felt lucky to live in America. However, there were also some truly amazing moments that I felt lucky to have had the chance to witness.

I think my favorite moment was when we were in the Lama Temple. The air was filled with incense and the sound of people praying, and a monk dressed in red robes suddenly appeared from between two elaborately painted red temples with a clear glass in his hand filled with green tea, loose leaves clustered at the bottom.

 

 

MS. FRANCOIS — TEACHER FEATURE

Jed Lenetsky ’15

‪This year has seen the addition of a new Latin teacher, Daphne Francois to the Foreign Language department. Born and raised in Boston, Ms. Francois developed a love for classics at the prestigious Boston Latin School that began when her Greek teacher, Ms. Pagos took her class to see a modern adaptation of the Greek play “Birds” by Aristophanes at the Yale School of Drama.  After graduating from Boston Latin, she went to Wellesley, where stimulating teachers and eventual life mentors inspired Ms. Francois to become a classicist, leading her to get two masters, the first of which, at the University of Cambridge, Kings College, and the second from the University of Austin. After earning her masters, Ms. Francois moved back to Boston where she taught 9th and 11th grade Latin at a charter school for a year.

Currently at BHSEC, Ms. Francois is teaching 9th, 10th, and Year 1 Latin. So far, Ms. Francois’s favorite aspect of teaching at Bard is the “the willingness of students to engage in their material.” She then continued to say, “[This] attests to the fact that classics is still alive, it lives through the students. That is what gets me to school every day.” Ms. Francois’ love and fascination with classics also serves as a testimony to why the field of classics is still alive and well today. One class, before translating a Greek play from Latin to English, she offered her own interpretation of the playwright, passionately telling the story from start to finish. She also believes that the field of classics offers something unique: “There is a logic and reasoning that is necessary for a classicist to grasp in order to understand one of the languages in its deepest meaning. But at the same time, there is a common sense to it. Its logic organizes the brain and forces the reader to come to terms with their native tongue in an effort to learn and understand new concepts.”          

In her free time, Ms. Francois enjoys going to museums, reading books, her favorites being The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Shogun, and Harry Potter. She also enjoys exploring the city, while making the adjustment from a Bostonian to a New Yorker, a transition, which so far has been a relatively smooth one. “They say, ’New Yorkers are mean’ but they’re actually just busy and actually quite nice.” In short, Ms. Francois seems to love and cherish teaching at BHSEC.

 

 

NEIGHBORHOOD PORTRAITS: PARK SLOPE

Sierra Block Gorman ’16

‪Park Slope, Brooklyn, has a surprising amount of Bardians in residence. It may be the family-friendly neighbourhood that produces so many future BHSEC students, or perhaps it is the surplus of wonderful elementary schools that each understand just how “special” your child is. It might even just be the fact that there is a fantastic park (Prospect) nearby. Whatever the case, many local BHSEC students agree that Park Slope is a charming place to grow up.

Park Slope features a centrally located cinema, The Pavilion, for all your movie viewing needs. It even has a cemetery! Green-Wood Cemetery is a beautiful place, frequently visited by the local elementary schools. One can recall doing gravestone rubbings, climbing the tallest hill in Brooklyn and running along cobblestone paths within the fences of Green-Wood.  There is a statue of Minerva atop the tallest hill in Brooklyn (Battle Hill) within Green-Wood cemetery; it is said that Minerva was built to face the Statue of Liberty so that they could gaze upon one another.

However, Park Slope is not all greenery and history. It is also home to many wonderful restaurants and shops, including the ever-entertaining Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store, located at 372 5th Avenue. This amusing shop is the go-to place for all your superhero needs. The front of the shop has shelves stocked with all sorts of invisibility rays and secret identity kits. Come and enjoy services like cape fittings and find out exactly what brand of evil YOU are. However, there is more to this store than it seems. Behind a swing-out shelving unit is a back room is the home of a non-profit organization “dedicated to supporting students with their creative and expository writing skills.”

This super cool store is not the only neighbourhood attraction. There are also many yummy restaurants and cafes nearby, including Crespella (a crepe place), Dumplings and Things (I’d suggest the “things”, they’re really good), and ChipShop, an English food restaurant with amazing chips. Also located nearby is Grand Army Plaza, which hosts a popular farmers market on Saturdays from spring to fall. Grand Army Plaza is also the home of the Brooklyn Central Library. This library has a huge collection, including a kid-friendly teen and children’s section. The front of the library has an amazing black and gold inlay façade.

Another cool place in the area is Brooklyn Boulders, a rock climbing gym. They have all sorts of courses, for everyone from experts to beginners. They also offer classes for teens and kids after school on weekdays. They even have a little shop ideal for stocking up on gear or getting a mid-workout snack. With over 22,000 square feet of rock wall, they are the largest fully dedicated rock climbing gym in New York City.

Overall, Park Slope is an interesting and varied neighbourhood, a nice place to grow up or just to visit.  

 

 

THE PROBLEM WITH THE NOISE MONITORS

Liana Van Nostrand ‘16

‪Until recently, the once vibrant fourth floor hallway was always packed full of students eating, talking, and laughing. Now, the floor is rather desolate during class periods, with only a few clusters of students present. The BHSEC administration and teachers have recently imposed new regulations in the hallway. The first is a ban on eating. My brother (’11) recalled eating in the hallway regularly during his four years at BHSEC. I also enjoyed spending lunch periods there with friends. The library and computer lab are also on the fourth floor, making it easy to print assignments out or return a book. The hallway was a place for students to congregate and enjoy a break from the school day.

After the ban, the atmosphere changed drastically. Instead of students lining one side of the hallway all the way from the computer lab to the social sciences offices, a few small groups of students are spread out. The reduced number of students produces significantly less noise. The noise was the subject of many frustrations of teachers who teach on the fourth floor. The noise problem lead to the implementation of street-light-look-alike noise monitors, officially called “Yacker Trackers” on Amazon.com, by faculty and staff. The devices were the subject of much fascination the first day they were placed in the hallway. I will admit I rushed up to the fixture and avidly read Dr. Freund’s explanation of the monitors upon my first sight of them. However, now when I walk past I hardly notice them. As the days go by they seem to increasingly fade into the wall. So why, you might wonder, has the noise level dramatically decreased? Are the monitors not a smashing success? Doing exactly what they are designed to do?

I beg to differ. I believe credit is due where credit is deserved, and the monitors do not deserve the credit of decreasing noise in the hallways. The ban on food does. The noise was only the result of students congregating in the hallways to eat. The eating was the root of the noise problem. The administration used approaches that were designed to destroy both the product (the noise) and the root (the eating).

Eliminating the root would have killed two birds with one stone. But no harm no foul, right? Either way the problem has been solved? This would be true if the monitors had no effect whatsoever on the student body. However, I think they’ve been more harmful than beneficial. At a recent SLT meeting Dr. Lerner said he believed that the eating and noise in the hallways was an issue of students’ respect for the school. I’ve always found respect to be an incredibly important aspect of the BHSEC community. Teachers often say they do their best to treat us like adults or at least give us more liberties than students at other schools. However, the monitors were the opposite of that level of respect. One student I spoke to said, “We had those same monitors when I was in fourth grade. I feel like they’re treating us like little kids.” I think some students feel that the monitors degrade them to children in the administration’s eyes.

Perhaps, Dr. Lerner was right in saying this issue revolves around respect. Although students may not be happy with the implementation of the light fixtures, there has been no backlash. There may be the occasional grumble when it blinks yellow or red. However, students have not vandalized them or demanded for their removal. This is because we students have a truly profound respect for the school and the administration and faculty. Although the fixtures have not been positively received by students, they are a small price to pay for our time at BHSEC.

 

 

GLEE, SAT SCORES, AND THE COMMON APP: WHAT WE ALL GOT WRONG BEFORE APPLYING TO COLLEGE

Isabel Cruz ’13

‪Britney S. Pierce, a veteran character on Glee famous for her dancing and malapropisms, is currently going through the process of choosing where to apply to college. Although she is currently repeating her senior year after failing to graduate with her peers last season, she managed to get an almost perfect score on her SATs. Ever since getting astronomical test results, Britney has been courted by many of the nation’s finest colleges. In the most recent episode, she is seen considering MIT’s offer of early admission to their String Theory program, without having even submitted an application. She seems less than excited about the offer, however, remarking that she does not want to attend an arts and crafts program in Europe.

Although Glee’s portrayal of the college process is clearly satirical, many of Britney and the other Glee Club members’ conceptions of how it works resonate with those who are almost finished with it or are about to embark upon it.  These characters are operating on commonly held ideas of the college admissions “game,” as insiders like to call it. The Glee Club members with perfect scores are expected to attend Ivy League colleges, or similarly prestigious universities. Characters strive to be the leaders of every club at school in order to impress admissions officers. The most talented dancers and singers have their hearts set on conservatories and art schools. No one worries about financial aid because they believe that if they get into the place of their dreams, it will all work out it in the end.

These notions of the college process, although commonly accepted, are largely misconceptions. In fact, these are the very incorrect ideas that most high school juniors and seniors believe before going into the college process. It is usually only after going to dozens of information sessions, or starting the Common Application, or even hearing back from schools, that one realizes how wrong their conceptions of the application process were.

At BHSEC, we like to think that, because of our intensive CTO training and large networks of support, we go into the process with fewer unrealistic conceptions than the average applicant. Our introduction to the truths of the process begins earlier at BHSEC than at many other places, like McKinley High (Glee’s fictional high school). From the beginning of CTO advisory in second semester of junior year (or arguably even the first semester), our advisors work to dispel common myths about college applications and admissions. A perfect SAT score will not necessarily get you into MIT and a low SAT score does not necessarily mean you are doomed; it’s about more than just test scores. The college search process should be about exploring and finding the right fit for you, not about fixating on colleges that you’ve heard are the “best.” “Best” means something different for everyone. It is not Harvard or bust. Financial aid also needs to be a consideration from the beginning. Every school is different in terms of what they offer and every family is different in terms of what they need.

Even with the invaluable wisdom of Ms. Cheikes and the wonderful brigade of CTO advisors, it is difficult to get everything right in the college process. The errors my peers and I made in thinking about and going through the application process have become increasingly clear as we begin to submit our enrollment deposits and deactivate our Common App accounts. There are several common themes in our reflections on our erroneous impressions of the process. First and foremost, most Y2s agree that the process was much harder than they expected it to be (sorry underclassmen, we don’t mean to scare you – just speaking the truth), especially the personal essay. One would think that it would be easier to talk about one’s hobbies, passions, and experiences than write analytical essays about Virginia Woolf’s scientific aesthetic — but one would be wrong. Many report having done up to ten drafts or more before finding a topic they would even consider submitting an essay on. Although we are told to expect the essay to be difficult, it took me five fruitless drafts or so to understand what “hard” actually meant. Many people regret not starting earlier, which would have given them more time to flesh out ideas.

People report that supplements were also completely different than they had expected. Two or three supplements for a school seems to be manageable, but once one school explodes into ten schools, the workload can become daunting, to the point where some people didn’t know how to start. Unfortunately, many people leave this mountain of supplements to do over winter vacation and EVERYONE REGRETS IT. Very few people regard fondly those memories of sitting in front of the computer feeling overwhelmed, seeking refuge in numerous bags of chips. Looking back, choosing fewer schools, or more schools with fewer supplements, would have made life easier. Hindsight is 20-20, however.

Financial aid is another key aspect of the process that people realize they had incorrect conceptions of. People have a range of experiences with financial aid, but for those who applied for it, most agree that it was much more complicated than expected. I personally did not anticipate having to submit so many forms in so many different ways. Many people who did not have their parents’ help in filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the CSS (College Scholarship Service) profile groan at memories of sorting through tax documents. Now that many are in the process of deciding, the importance of the financial aid package has become incredibly clear. For some, partial or full scholarships enable them to attend their dream schools, or attract them to schools they would not have considered otherwise. Overheard tear-filled phone calls in the CTO with students pleading for their favorite schools to give them the package they need, and ultimately getting nothing, make it clear that, contrary to the beliefs of the Glee Club, just because you get in does not mean that it all works out.

Reflecting back on the process, many of the things I have mentioned are things that our advisors emphasized, but never really sunk in fully. It is not necessarily tragic that we made these errors, however. In such a complex process, it is truly inevitable that one will get something wrong and that is A-okay. The college process is not the “end all be all” process; rather, it prepares us for the next step in our lives as scholars and, gasp, adults. When the enrollment board fills up, and Y2s get ready to don their caps and gowns, it will become clear (as it does every year) that despite the mistakes we made and the misconceptions we had, everything does work out in the end, although often differently than one’s 9th grade self thought it would.

 

 

IMPRESSIONS OF ISTANBUL

Eliza Fawcett ’15

‪“Obama,” my Turkish mother said, smiling and searching for words, “yes, we like him. He is…” From her expression, I could tell that she was trying to say “friendly” or “very warm” – but she finally flung up her hands, laughed, and stated, “He is hot. Crazy hot.”

This was one of the first conversations I had with my Turkish mother, and already she had struck me as endearing, humorous, and generous. We were sitting at home, talking with my Turkish partner over our traditional-style breakfast of olives, cucumbers, cheese, tomatoes, eggs, and tea.

Although BHSEC’s Turkish Exchange Program, in which our American students are paired with Turkish students from Kabataş Erkek Lisesi in Istanbul, is not a language exchange, the language barrier was not much of an issue for me. My partner – as did many others – spoke excellent English, and my Turkish parents spoke enough English that, aided by gestures and expressions, we could have enjoyable conversations.

Istanbul is the major city of Turkey, a country that joins East and West. On its northwestern border, Turkey touches Bulgaria and Greece, while in the south and east it shares borders with Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Istanbul is in the far northwest of the country, and is situated strategically and picturesquely on the Bosphorus, the strait that divides Europe from Asia. The city itself is composed of the “European part” and the “Asian part,” and a few students in the exchange group commuted every day to school from Asia to Europe via a ferry.

Istanbul has seen many civilizations, from some of the earliest human settlements to the Byzantines and later the Ottomans. Even given this diverse history, it was easy to experience a truly “Turkish” culture. In the famous bazaars of the city, shops proudly displayed towers of Turkish delight, mounds of nuts and dried fruit, manifold containers of spices and dry tea leaves, and abundant quantities of intricate scarves, finely-painted mosaics, coffee cups, and gold-rimmed tea glasses. Each shop was a cornucopia of color and beauty.

To me, though, the city seemed to be caught in a truly unique state of cultural flux. On our first day, we walked through the area around Taksim Square, whose wide, cobblestoned streets lined with tall, decorative white buildings (with shops like Lacoste, Sephora, and Swatch) had a distinctly European feeling.  Later, as we traversed the streets from the Spice Bazaar to the Grand Bazaar, we found ourselves in a Middle Eastern atmosphere. Many women wore headscarves or full veils; the buildings were low and grey; the local storefronts were crammed with handbags and clothing lacking brand names.

I soon began to understand that the city’s magnificence and exotic appeal is built upon its sense of simultaneous continuity, contrast, and change. The Hagia Sophia is a prime example of this phenomenon. The structure that we now know was opened in 537 BCE during the Byzantine Empire, and for almost 1000 years served as an Orthodox church. In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Only in 1935, under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who founded the modern Republic of Turkey, was the structure finally converted into a museum.

Standing in the Hagia Sophia was breathtaking: the architecture seemed impossible in its splendor. The massive ceiling vaulted above me, smaller domes supporting larger and larger domes, gold and blue patterns glittering above in stunning intricacy. Huge green discs inscribed in gold with Arabic phrases tilted downwards, shimmering. I was amazed that this had been the home to two very different religions.

Although Atatürk founded a country ruled by a secular government, Islam is an intrinsic part of Istanbul. One cannot walk two or three blocks without coming upon a mosque – or seeing the thin silhouettes of minarets in the distance.

During my first night in Istanbul, I was awoken around 4:30 A.M. by a prolonged, mournful, wailing sound. Confused and half-asleep, I stumbled to the window and finally realized that this was azan– the call to prayer—projecting from the local mosque. Azan occurs about five times a day, and in Istanbul, if one is walking around outside, one can often hear azan coming from mosques from every angle – the pauses in one being covered by the sound from another.

For the BHSEC students, the structure of the day was to meet at the Turkish students’ school, attend a few classes, then join back together to go on a planned outing. In the afternoon, we dispersed for our free time. The school is a converted Ottoman palace located on the edge of the Bosphorus. Many of the American students were quite surprised by the Turkish classes. Students did not seem to pay much attention in their lessons. The fact is, in Turkey, students put more time and effort into weekend cram courses for the national exam than school itself.

The BHSEC students stayed with their families in Istanbul for two eventful weeks. Besides the Hagia Sophia, we visited two other notable religious centers: the Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque, both of which are feats of artistic and architectural genius. The group also saw the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace (the sultan’s palace), Istanbul Modern, and many other places.  

The American exchange students and their partners also took a weekend trip to the Turkish countryside – Çanakkale – where we saw the remains of Troy and the memorial site of Gallipoli, where a famous World War I battle was fought.

These excursions were awe-inspiring and fascinating, but perhaps the most interesting part of the trip for me was simply exploring the streets and the markets, drinking tea, and talking with my lovely Turkish partner.

I will certainly miss the splendor of Istanbul. As one BHSEC student said to me as we slowly left the Blue Mosque, “This is the last time we are going to see something this beautiful for a long time!”

 

 

ACADEMICALLY INCLINED

Oliver Divone ’15

‪Academic integrity is a phrase that seems to be spoken in whispers around the BHSEC community. Many think of it as a horrible crime, one of the worst offenses committable, while others carry it lightly, often laughing it off as the butt of a joke. So what is this “academic integrity” exactly? What happens when it gets violated and, more importantly, who enforces these rules? Well, luckily for the student body, academic integrity is not the witch-hunt it might at first glance appear to be. This is all thanks to the Academic Integrity Board.

Meeting every other week, the Academic Integrity Board is a confidential committee that is made up of both teachers and students. Rules, regulations and acceptable measures are discussed in light of current integrity issues, with the goal of addressing and improving key issues for teachers and students alike. The board also handles current cases that the school administration may be stuck on. For example, we have recently discussed a case where both teachers and students were involved, and our job was to decide the fairest and most efficient way to make sure that something like it did not happen again. Our objective was not to assign blame, but more to figure out the weakest link and fix it so that it will not happen again.

While most BHSEC students have heard of the Academic Integrity Board, they may not know what specifically the academic integrity board can do for them. Along with discussing issues of integrity nature, the board has the ability to hear cases from students who think they have been wrongly accused. The board listens to both sides of the story and then determines if the perpetrator did in fact cheat or if the essay was written in a completely trustworthy and legal manner.

The Academic Integrity Board is something that most colleges have, but most high schools do not, and the board encourages students to come before us and state their side of the story if they think that they have been wrongly accused. As well as hearing student’s cases, the Academic Integrity board also urges students with any questions, suggestions or concerns to contact one of the board members and explain their ideas. While the board aims for perfection, we are still learning, growing and evolving, just like BHSEC itself seems to be constantly doing.

Incidents During The 2012-2013 School Year:

Type of Violation:

Number of Violations:

Plagiarism

23 Cases

Cheating

27 Cases

Lying

4 Cases

Suspicion

11 Cases

Facilitating Academic Dishonesty

3 Cases

 

 

A HISTORY OF THE BARUCH HOUSING DEVELOPMENT

Iolanthe Brooks ’15

‪Every BHSEC student has walked through, by, or at least seen the Baruch Housing Developments that BHSEC nests in. For many of us, the large, monotonous brick buildings have melted into the scenery of our walk to school, and the fact that these buildings have a rich, complex history may not have occurred to many students. In fact, the 17 buildings that make up the development not only have a past built quite literally on a couple men’s lifelong struggles to improve the tenement district, but also are unique among housing projects for their size, age demographics, and crime rates.

 

 

First, it is important to understand the size and scale of the Baruch houses. The development consists of 18 buildings (including an addition built after the others, designed specifically for seniors) that are scattered across 15 blocks. The majority of the buildings are a whopping 14 stories high. Together, the 2,194 apartments are home to around 5,400 residents, making the Baruch Housing Developments the largest NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) development in Manhattan. The houses were designed by Emery Roth and Sons and, as any BHSEC student will attest to, were not built according to any discernible organizational criteria. The result is a massive group of buildings splayed in a somewhat random way across the Lower East Side.

The development was completed in 1959, only 25 years after the founding of NYCHA. It both surrounded and was built on the grounds of the first public bath house in New York City, and the story of the father-son duo that made the bathhouse possible provides the namesake for the buildings. Dr. Simon Baruch, a surgeon and advocate for public health, worked for years to try to convince the city of the merits of public bathhouses. In 1901, with much opposition, he succeeded in pushing the city to open the bathhouse on what is now the field and playground next to BHSEC. Simon Baruch’s son, Bernard Baruch, donated much of the land around the bathhouse to the city in 1939. Bernard Baruch was even more powerful and influential then his father; he acted as an advisor to two presidents (Wilson and FDR) and a confidante for six, as well as coining the term “Cold War”. When the Baruch houses were built twenty years after Bernard Baruch’s donation, and almost 40 years after Dr. Simon Baruch’s death, they paid tribute to both men in a way the bathhouse, which had since fallen into disrepair, couldn’t.

More than 150,000 families are on the waiting list for the Baruch Houses, a number that demonstrates both the immensity and the importance of the buildings. But size—in both building number, height, and number of occupants—is not the only thing that establishes the Baruch houses as a unique NYCHA development. The Baruch houses have a lower crime rate then many other areas containing NYCHA developments. In the seventh precinct, where the Baruch houses (as well as BHSEC) reside, there were a total of eight reported crimes in the week of the 18th through the 24th of April, 2013. This compares to the 16 crimes in the 24th precinct, and 13 in the 32nd precinct, both areas with developments. This is merely an example, not a long-range average, but it shows the huge difference between the Baruch houses and some other developments.

There are two possible causes for the low crime rates; firstly, that the 7th precinct is much smaller then others, and thus has an advantage. Secondly, the age demographics of the Baruch houses are much more diverse and have a higher concentration of seniors then other NYCHA developments. More elderly residents lower crime rates because they do not fill the profile for most perpetrators, the same being true for children and families.

Beyond the statistics, which are largely nonexistent or just rough estimations, the age demographics of the Baruch Houses are tangible in the community. The existence of an entire building solely for seniors alone demonstrates the unusually high concentration of older residents; but it is also clear from the people that we see everyday within or around the Baruch houses that the ages of residents varies greatly. On any given morning it is not surprising to walk by a group of elderly women (and sometimes a man) practicing tai chi in one of the playgrounds. Young children run through the roads between the buildings, a middle aged woman rests on a bench, a sign advertises free interpreters, and a group of young men stand by the picnic table. The Baruch houses seamlessly connect to the city around them, the residents representing the diversity, to a point, of the people of New York City.

In taking over PS 97‘s building and a spot right next to the development, BHSEC has interwoven itself with the Baruch houses’ history. Resident’s reactions have been mixed and largely unrecorded; myths of local teenagers calling in friends from other neighborhoods to beat up BHSECers when the school first opened are largely dismissed by students. After the occasional mugging, the school often sends out a flurry of reminders to not bring valuables to school and to stay safe, suggesting a route from the subway that bypasses the Baruch houses. But the negative connotations these stories and emails give of the Baruch Houses do not reflect the way that the management of either community views the other. BHSEC reaches out, however feebly, each year with community day volunteering; and many students volunteer independently, whether it be by tutoring or planting trees, within the neighborhood throughout the year.

The Baruch Houses Management office greatly supports this growing sense of community between the school and its surroundings: “[BHSEC] has definitely had a positive impact [on the neighborhood],” noted one member of the office staff. As BHSEC grows, it will surely continue to make more of a (hopefully positive) influence on the development.

 

 

CAFFEINE AND BHSEC

Ayla Safran ’15

‪It is common knowledge that most students at BHSEC do not get the recommended amount of sleep on an average school night. When the massive amounts of homework are added to the extracurricular activities, necessary studying, and occasional socializing, there just is not very much of a chance of getting to sleep early. First period starts at 9AM, so most students do not have the option of sleeping in either. As a result, many students turn to caffeine as a way to make up for their lost sleep.

According to Diet Health Club, caffeine is a psychoactive drug commonly used by teenagers around the country, and most people are aware of the potential negative side effects of drinking caffeinated beverages. It is addictive, making it very difficult to stop drinking coffee once one has made it a part of their routine. Ingesting large amounts of caffeine can cause moodiness, anxiety, headaches and jitters. In addition, one little known fact is that caffeine is a diuretic. This means that it causes loss of water from the body, which can lead to dehydration.

Aside from all of this, sometimes drinking caffeine works against its original purpose; many people drink caffeinated beverages in order to make up for lost sleep, but it can actually increase difficulty in maintaining regular sleep patterns. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not actually eliminate the need for sleep; it merely temporarily reduces the sensation of being tired. If one drinks it later in the day, it can make them stay up later and consequently be even more tired the next day.

Despite all of these possible effects of drinking coffee, as well as its bitter taste, one tenth grader said, “I see at least two kids with coffee in my first period class every day.” Seeing as the average class size at BHSEC is about 15 – 25, two students make up a large percentage. A study done in 2012 shows that 37% of people around the country between the ages of 18 and 24 drink coffee on a regular basis. Many of these teenagers are not under as much stress as those at BHSEC, and probably do not lose as much sleep. Does this mean that kids at BHSEC depend even more on caffeine as a way to help them complete their schoolwork?

The results of a survey of a group of BHSEC students showed that each student drinks an average of 563mg of caffeine per week (around four or five cups, depending on the beverage). Considering that an intake of about 25 to 50 milligrams of caffeine is sufficient to cause increased alertness and to reduce fatigue, this is a pretty large number. When asked about her coffee consumption, Io Brooks, a BHSEC sophomore said, “I like the energy that it gives me… but also the way that it tastes, making [coffee] irresistible. I don’t drink it as an aid to studying or when I’m stressed out, just when I’m tired.” This relates to the issue of loss of sleep. One Y1 said that although she does not like coffee, she has become addicted to it and feels the need to drink it every day before school.

The students’ desire for coffee is shown clearly in the fact that the Student Activity Center is frequented mainly for its coffee machine – an installment which is constantly running out of supplies because of the large student customer base. In addition, coffee is not hard to come by outside of school. The Lower East Side is filled with small coffee shops, and every deli sells coffee for a dollar. As Danya Levy, a tenth grader, said, “It’s a coffee culture.”

 

 

THE MYSTERY OF THE MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS: BARD EARLY COLLEGE ACADEMY

Danya Levy ’15

Have you ever trooped down to the cafeteria to get something from your locker after school and seen mysteriously small children laughing and eating at the tables? Surely you’ve wondered who the piles of packed meals are for, and what on Earth these middle school students are doing in our high school (and early college).

Well, look no further, curious student: keep reading and all your questions will be answered.

The students in question are attending the Bard Early College Academy, which was founded in 2005 with the goal of giving back to the Lower East Side community by helping enrich the education of local middle school students. BECA is directed by Adrian Agredo, who oversees, organizes, and sometimes teaches in the program.

As it turns out, the kids involved in the program aren’t the average middle school students. Guidance counselors from surrounding middle schools, including PS 188, PS 140, Tompkins Square Middle School, and several others, recommend students to the program every year that they think are ready to work harder and engage with more complex subject matter. Recommended students that hope to attend the program are required to take another assessment before being accepted. But, of course, it’s not always just the will of the student that is involved: “Even for the most motivated sixth grader,” Mr. Agredo pointed out, “Sometimes it’s their parents who are pushing them to be in the program.”

BECA consists of two programs for the students that are deemed fit for a more advanced education: a school-year program and a summer program. For the school-year program, the students “come here three days a week after school and they’ll take two classes every day,” Mr. Agredo told me. “They’ll have a humanities and math one day, and the next day they’ll have science and, say, a class with Ms. Azeglio which is based on the high school application process, time management, and study skills.” BECA also provides some extracurricular opportunities, such as dance and a class similar to the “Food Politics” course taught at BHSEC. The faculty are also able to take students on “field trips to local colleges, museums and art institutes.”

The summer program is a four-week-long intensive that is “Kind of more like a summer camp,” Mr. Agredo explained. Students attend Monday through Thursday, and the subjects are similar to those studied in the school-year program.  

The classes are much more advanced than those taught at the average middle school; much more critical thinking, analysis, and focus is required of the students. Mostly, the program aims to develop the skills of the students, both academic and extracurricular, and provide them with a unique opportunity to grow. And, Mr. Agredo emphasizes, “It’s not a test-prep program. It really is just offering kids who, when given the opportunity, can perform at a high level and do challenging work.”

The BECA school-year classes are mostly taught by adjuncts, BHSEC graduates, and the occasional BHSEC teacher or guidance counselor. During the summer, many more BHSEC teachers are able to teach in the program.

When asked about her experiences with the program, Delsa, a tenth grader who attended BECA, reported that she felt confused at first, but, in the end, was very happy with the extra educational help and opportunities that the program provided. She also praised the warm environment that the faculty created, saying “It became like a family with the teachers,” and adding that, when she first attended BHSEC as a high school student, it was comforting to already know some of the teachers.

As a result of the advanced education BECA provides, the Academy is a crucial pathway to some of New York City’s elite public high schools for students who otherwise might not be eligible to apply. Every year, around ten BECA graduates are accepted to BHSEC; and many go on to high school careers at other top schools.

As for the funding, “It changes,” Mr. Agredo explained. “It depends on what grants we can receive money from.” The current funding is provided by the New York State Education Department in the form of a grant that is part of the “Extended School Day Initiative.” Most of the other programs funded by this grant, however, have to do with athletics or arts activities; BECA is unique in that is the only program that provides “free academic enrichment.”

The hard work of the organizers and teachers of the Bard Early College Academy certainly gives many students amazing educational opportunities they might not otherwise have access to. BHSEC’s initiative to give back to the community has touched the lives of many students—and it will continue to leave a lasting impact on their lives, and the lives of many others.

 

 

BHSEC’S LITERARY MAGAZINE’S ANNUAL READING

Clara Olshansky ’14

On Thursday, April 11th, BHSEC’s literary magazine, “The Troubadour,” hosted its annual reading event in our auditorium. Four professional authors and six BHSEC Year 2s read their work before an audience of about 50 BHSEC teachers and students. Indeed the turnout was quite a pleasant surprise, slightly exceeding the seating that the club had arranged. Through the combined efforts of Carol Turitz, Lit Mag Editor-In-Chief Esther Mathieu, and the Lit Mag staff, the auditorium is transformed every year into quite the venue: round tables with white tablecloths, flower centerpieces, and, against the wall, a regular banquet of hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and sweets.

The literary magazine, or “lit mag,” is BHSEC’s annual publication of student written and visual work. Each week, the staff meets and discusses work that students submit via email then vote on whether or not it should be published in the final volume; typically submissions consist of poetry, stories, and photography, but they can also include art, comics, and analytical writing.

This year, Year 2s Aliza Yaillen, Alex Athanail, Emma Tilden, and Esther Mathieu read their poetry, Chloe Kekovic read her story, and Avery Warsing read for Bardvark’s own Hannah Frishberg, who had a last minute conflict. Said Tilden, “It’s exciting…It was great to hear other people read [their work] as well, because there are a lot of great writers at Bard and you don’t get to hear that a lot.”

Of the professional writers, Adelle Waldman, first-time novelist whose book The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. comes out this spring, read an endearing chapter about Nathaniel’s unfortunate high school years; memoirist Christa Parravani read a tragic chapter from her book, Her, in which Christa learns of the death of her identical twin; poet Lucas Hunt read the eponymous poem from his collection Lives, telling of many different people in many different places; and novelist Daniel Nayeri read an excerpt from his upcoming The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams, in which a young Zoroastrian named Monkey first meets a girl.

After the reading, as many rushed to fill their plates with snacks, attendants had a chance to socialize with the authors and with each other over cheeses and chocolates.

Started in 2009, the Lit Mag reading began under Editor-in-Chief Nathan Campbell, in an effort for the Lit Mag to interact with the BHSEC community. The tradition has evolved since then, developing something of its own culture. A handful of teachers have become a staple at the readings: for example, Mr. Vartorella has come three out of the four years though this was his first year being directly affiliated with the Lit Mag. Similarly, two out of the four professional authors who read this year, Daniel Nayeri and Luc Hunt, have read at previous years’ readings, demonstrating the relationships that arises between the authors and the school.

One new development this year was, in addition to the tickets (free for BHSEC’s teachers, $5 for BHSEC’s students, and $7 to anyone else), the Lit Mag sold special reading-edition copies of the “Mini-Meme” for $2. For those unfamiliar with the term, the Mini-Meme is usually published by the literary magazine staff halfway through the year, containing all the written but none of the visual work accepted so far. This year, however, the staff withheld its issue until the reading, including in it all this year’s Lit Mag’s writings by the seniors who read at the event.

Current Year 1s will have an opportunity to read work that they have had in any year’s Lit Mag at next year’s reading, and all students are invited to submit their writing and art to bhseclit@gmail.com. If you have any questions about the reading or the magazine, please ask Esther Mathieu, Aliza Yaillen, Ian Holloway, Clara Olshansky (myself), or any member of the club.

 

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