YEAR I: A NEW BEGINNING
Nora Miller ’12
It seems like longer than two years ago that I was sitting down to write an article similar to this one. Titled A View From the New, it was an article in which a classmate and I explored the exciting and scary terrain that was BHSEC in the fall of 2008.
Now it’s the fall of 2010, and not a lot has changed in BHSEC, dynamic-wise. The freshmen are still confused and somewhat alienated, the sophomores somewhat sophomoric, and the college students, who seemed for the past two years, mystifyingly overworked, suddenly make a whole lot of sense. After going through the hair-pulling-out anxiety-inducing signature-obsessed ordeal of add-drop week, which caused many actual, tangible tears, I finally understand why my Y2 friends tell me it is so important to have a good number, to add-drop quickly, to stalk professors whose classes you want to get into. All of it was suddenly and scarily true. The lines to get forms signed by the Dean of Studies were horrendous. To get to the lists of available classes without being trampled, was a feat to celebrate. And I suddenly understood why the college students in my freshman Writing and Thinking workshop were so frantic to get their schedules.
But after the trial that was add-drop week calmed down, the class of 2012 was in for a new kind of shock—the actual classes. The school administration is right when they say that things are certainly very different when you’re in the college program. For one thing, the teachers take you a lot more seriously. There’s no more checking and collecting of every single homework assignment. When a seminar teacher is late, the students are expected to run the class themselves. There are lots of rules of conduct we need to learn to follow—the diligence to do response journals even if they aren’t being checked every night, the ability to email a professor if something comes up in the assignment rather than just not doing it, the understanding that although we have more frees, we need to actually spend some of them in the library… doing homework. We are suddenly very much in charge of ourselves, which is both frightening and liberating. It’s the responsibility we’ve been working on earning for the past two years—and it seems that we’ve earned it. But because we have so much responsibility many of us are overwhelmed. That is to say we wanted responsibility but we underestimated the toll it would take.
Mr. Peterson’s retirement made students fear that this year would be different from previous ones. Yet so far, the school year seems to be running smoothly. The college program largely maintains itself—the teachers are intent on teaching, administrative stuff regardless. It is also very tight-knit with Y1s and Y2s largely cohabiting the same classes, with the exception of seminar. Today I was walking down the hallway with a friend talking about word count, and a Y2 automatically said, “Dr. Matthews?” There’s a fantastic unity among students in the college program, one that I feel is really making the transition from the high school program to the college less jolting. Similarly to freshman and sophomores, the Y2s have wisdom to bestow upon the Y1s, wisdom that has made the experience a lot less intimidating.
Dominic Veconi ’11
Dr. Schubert: “Vapor pressure is the second most difficult topic we’re going to study this semester.”
Student: “What’s the most difficult topic?”
Dr. Schubert: “Well, the topic you’re currently working on is always the hardest.” Student: “What should we write [our final] in?”
Dr. Johnson: “Crayon. Blood. I don’t care.”
Student: “Why do you have a bandage?”
Mr. Rubenstein: *with a huge smile* “I cut part of my thumb off this weekend!”
Student: “The sine of 30 degrees is -1/2.”
Dr. Budimir: “WHAT?!?! Hey guys, that makes me wish that I could spin my head around like in that movie, The Shining?”
Student: “The Exorcist?”
Dr. Budimir: “Oh, right. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
*A freshman walks into a college Chinese class*
Ms. Fu: “啊, 你是不是我的學生? 請進, 請進! 你叫什麼名字?”1
Translation: “Ah, are you a student of mine? Come in, come in! What’s your name?”
Freshman: “Uh… can I… borrow a chair?”
Student: “Wait, I think I missed that whole section. How did Lena get pregnant? I completely missed it! How did that happen?”
Ms. Poreba: “Oh… well, I’m not sure if that’s something I should explain right now…”
Dr. Vernoff: “There’s this new right-wing party, the Teabaggers…” *class begins to laugh* “Uh, I mean, the Tea Party. Guess that shows what my thoughts on them are…”
Dr. Mazie: “So Marx is saying that we’re all selling ourselves short. We should be ashamed of ourselves! We are all prostitutes!” *student raises his hand* “Dominic. You are a prostitute.”
*At a parent-teacher conference*
Dr. Clark: “She would be a perfectly good student if not for the necrophilia.” (Dr. Clark meant to say “narcolepsy”)
All Teacherisms are published and transcribed with the explicit permission of the teachers being quoted.
If you have a Teacherism and would like to submit it, join the Facebook group “BHSEC Teacherisms: The Bardvark Column,” or email them to email@example.com.
FROM THE FIRST PPP TO THE FIRST COLLEGE APPLICATION: DIALOGUE BETWEEN A 9TH GRADER AND A YEAR 2
Amelia Holcomb ’12 and Alexi Block Gorman ‘12
Usually, you can pick out the freshmen easily. However, from way that they engage and relate to us, accepting BHSEC and its students, unless you are looking for it, you might not realize the age difference. Some people who don’t recognize a new face would think they might be a transfer student.
BHSEC is a fun and exciting environment to acclimate to, most would say, but not so hard to understand when it comes down to it. “They seem to be into people talking to each other,” ninth-grader Lydia Green aptly observes. “You understand how writing helps you to understand, processing not only how you’re thinking, but also how others are thinking,” replies Maya Kutz, the wise Year Two.
Of course, there are certainly adjustments to be made. Lydia expresses astonishment at some of the things that Maya considers old hat. Lydia exclaimed over the fact that the teachers are there to help: “You can randomly go up to them!” She also could hardly believe how smart everyone was. “In middle school, everyone didn’t really care about anything. They didn’t really try,” she recalled. And while she protests that she hasn’t had a huge change in homework from middle school, she can be sure that that’s coming soon enough. “You intimidated about all the essay writing you’re going to do?” Maya teases Lydia. The Year 2s are just as happy to give serious advice, though. “Use the writing center,” Maya instructs kindly. Hardly original: “Everyone says use the writing center! And to not procrastinate.” Who follows that advice?
9th graders aren’t the only ones experiencing changes. Maya suddenly has to try to balance school and colleges — and the latter encompasses so much time and stress, it’s hard to say which of the two takes more energy. There have also been some changes in the feel of the school since the year twos arrived in 2006. “In 9th grade, it was perfectly okay to leave your backpack around. [When we were in 10th grade] the thief problem made Bard less open.” Then, of course, there’s the mere fact of being a Year 2. “Where did all the older people go?” Maya marvels.
Now that she’s a part of the oldest grade, she looks at the new students with a wistful fondness. “You guys are great, small, cute, and smart,” she says, expressing how hard it is to resist ruffling the younger ones’ hair. Lydia is still intimidated however. “The Year 2’s PPPs made me feel stupid,” she admits. But what is now Lydia’s supposedly foolish PPP may one day be the prompt for a college application essay…
L.E.T. LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS!
James Marlow ’12 and Shannon Grant ’12
Welcome to the first edition of Let’s Exchange Thoughts for this school year! Sgrant and Jmarlow are committed to answering life’s deepest questions, and they need your questions! Feel free to stop us in the halls with a question!
Why does Staten Island exist?
Jmarlow, being a native of Staten Island, finds that there is no reason to the existence of Staten Island. Staten Island represents all that is bad in humanity. Staten Island is the root of all evil. Staten Island should not exist. Sgrant, having some ties to “the root of all evil,” does not find it as awful. While it does boast minor league baseball, the densest Sri Lankan population outside of Sri Lanka and excellent food, it’s the kind of mythical, faraway place, where you have relatives that you only see at irregular family reunions.
How do you guys take your tea?
Sgrant is comfortable with the typical milk and sugar in her tea. Jmarlow, however, steeps his tea until it’s really strong, and puts some milk in it. Sgrant and Jmarlow recommend chai if you’re looking for something different. The sweet, spicy, creamy goodness of it all is too much to resist.
Unicorns or Narwhals?
Which country has the best flag?
After a long, tiring, debate powered by copious amounts of chai, Jmarlow and Sgrant have awarded Uruguay with the world’s prettiest flag. The flag is has blue and white stripes, and in the upper left corner, a beautiful sunburst depicting Inti, the sun god of the Incas. We feel that the world’s worst flag has got to be Libya’s-the whole flag is plain green.
Have a great school year!
Jmarlow and Sgrant
Nika Sabasteanski ‘12
Whenever spring comes to New York I can’t stand the suggestion of the land that come blowing over the river from New Jersey and I’ve got to go. So I went. — Jack Kerouac
On September 11th my mother and I decided to go to my favorite restaurant: Tea and Sympathy in the Village. It’s the kind of place that makes me think, upon entering, “Places like this don’t still exist, do they?” It serves only English food and when I walk in I feel like I am finally at home. I always have the same meal: Welsh Rarebit and a Tizer, and for dessert Treacle Pudding with clotted cream and Rose petal tea. The walls are painted to look like bookshelves and portraits of Queen Elizabeth hang on them with phrases such as “Cod Save the Queen” plastered next to her smug face. Behind the counter there are rows of teapots and teacups along with cakes and cobblers and as I sit in the bay windows on Greenwich Avenue I am reminded of why I love the city.
It’s the old New York that I long for, the innocent time, when high rises weren’t being built and beat poets monopolized the streets. I crave the New York in my grandfather’s stories of growing up in Corona, Queens in the 1940’s and 50’s. When he was a little boy he would deliver milk in the morning and when he got to Louis Armstrong’s house he would sit on Satchmo’s lap, surrounded by all the neighborhood boys and girls and listen to stories and have ice cream. That of course was when he wasn’t sneaking out of his basement window when he was being punished, to play in the streets with his friends, to fight or ride bicycles or do whatever it is kids used to do before everything was manufactured for them in plastic and metal. I am reminded of my own childhood, which seems so romantic when I look back on it, growing up on a block in Brooklyn with 10 other children living next door. We were Hal Roches’ little rascals, building forts out of cardboard boxes and milk crates and going out in rainstorms to swing from the base of the lamppost pretending we were Gene Kelly.
My mother and I left Tea and Sympathy, and walked down the cobble stone streets of the village that go in no particular direction, the kind reminiscent of Paris or the English countryside. Here is a place where time is actually suspended and forgotten. We made it all the way to Christopher Street and we walked up next to the park on the corner of West 4th and as we walked by we heard voices, the most angelic voices coming from inside the fence. They were quiet and easily missed if you were talking or were in a hurry, so we stood on the fence that reached our chins and listened. An old conductor, stooped by time, was leading a chorus of mostly elderly people. The conductor’s body seemingly lifted up by the Latin words of the music. The baton seemed to be stronger then he was, as if its weight would pull him down but instead it straightened his back, closed his eyes, and made him dance with his arms and eyes. We walked into the park and sat down next to one of George Segal’s “Gay Liberation” statues. The chorus was called The Renaissance Street Singers and that they were, a group of men and women enraptured by their rhythm.
We left the park and headed home watching what the Roche Sisters called, “the old industrial skylight,” setting behind the factories. Since it was 9/11 we went up to our roof to light a candle and stare at the beams of light that shoot up from ground zero. The match wouldn’t light since the wind kept blowing it but we sheltered it enough to light it for a moment and held it up to watch the city. From my apartment you can see the Statue of Liberty and her torch seemed to be facing downtown, she too was lighting a candle. I almost wished that the memorial wouldn’t be build, in that moment the lights felt perfect. They shot up into the fog and I asked my mother how far the buildings went up. I pointed to the end of the beam and she laughed remembering how much smaller than that they were.
I never went to the World Trade Center when I was little, the only memory I have of that day was being pulled out of music class when the smoke overwhelmed our neighborhood. School was let out and my friends and I, who used to build castles from boxes and lemonade stands from milk crates, chased smoldering papers that were falling from the sky into our small hands. I caught two, just papers from someone’s desk with names and phone numbers still hot from the flames. They are somewhere in a filing cabinet with the newspaper from that Tuesday that I was never allowed to look at.
School was canceled the next day and while the adults cried and watched the news, the little rascals sat on the stoop and pretended that we knew things that the littlest children weren’t allowed to know. I was seven so I was somewhere in between knowing and Dylan’s “waters of oblivion.” The oldest kids who were ten and eleven shook their heads at our ignorance and pitied our naïveté. Together we planned a funeral. “There’s always food at funerals or at least after,” one of us said and we all agreed, nodding our heads and humming in acknowledgment of our first consensus. Someone took out a box of Nerds from their jean pocket and held it up like an oracle. Another one of us brought chalk and together we made a blue print and invited strays as we journeyed to the end of the block, the smoky air of yesterday still burning our noses. Two or three of us drew shaky rectangles, slanted and with holes where the sidewalk dipped or the chalk died. “There was a point on one,” one of the older kids said with a sense of satisfaction and pride. We handed him the chalk and he took it boldly, drawing a long line extending from the top of the rectangle, as if he were knighting the cement. We stood around the buildings when we were done and held hands. “People say things at funerals,” one of us said, and we nodded again at that infinite bit of wisdom. And so something was said, and we each took a handful of nerds, protesting when someone took an extra candy and sighing when they stuffed it in their mouths to protect it from our need for equity. We understood that they were younger than us though, and we were the mature ones. “Let them have an extra candy” we thought, that’s what people do at things like this.
My father emailed me an article a day or two after 9/11 this year. It was from website called, “Wired Science,” and the story was about the thousands of birds that get caught in the beams of light. They just wander in and never quite figure out how to fly away until the morning when the lights are shut off. The article ends by saying, “It was hard not to think of souls. ” I don’t think they’re souls though, they are birds, wonderful and powerful animals that can fly away or towards anything. They simply got caught in the spotlight, too afraid and too confused to leave. They couldn’t see which way was up and which way was out, they followed a leader into the darkness. The survivors are those birds, and we are all trapped in the web of the lights…until the next morning when the sun rises and the beams fade away and we, “will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past..”
JUSTICE IN COURT: A WORKSHOP BONUS
Hannah Frishberg 13’
While the majority of high school students sat through their third day of school, Dr. Ween’s Writing and Thinking group watched the criminal trial of a man accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, facing up to seven years in prison. As part of a grant gifted to BHSEC from the New York State Supreme Court, four Writing and Thinking groups were selected to go on a field trip to watch justice at work. At the New York State Supreme Court, our group learned of the various court positions (a court stenographer types at least 250 words per minute) and that the jury process is immensely time consuming and disparaging. Our group learned of the perseverant efficiency of the court, and the strict regulations protecting everyone involved.
After the Supreme Court tour was complete, our group walked across the street to the New York City Criminal Court and tiptoed into an ongoing trial. Sitting in the very last pew of the audience, we looked on as the district attorney questioned the only witness, the policeman who had found the defendant slumped over on the steering wheel, his car jutting out and facing the wrong direction in a one way street in the wee hours of the morning. It would seem to be obvious that the accused, a nondescript young Caucasian man, who seemed confused and irritated at our presence, was intoxicated or under the influence of some drug while having driven the vehicle. However, so far there was no evidence to prove he was drunk or in fact driving the vehicle, as he had refused to take the breathalyzer test the night of the incident, and no one had seen him driving the car. A video was shown, recorded on the night of the accused’s arrest, of him standing between two policemen reading him his rights. He swaying and cursing, “I wanna lawyer! Where’s my lawyer? Where’s my lawyer?” In the video the defendant refused to take a breathalyzer or blood test. His father sat with us in the audience, in the second row. The district attorney was fast-talking, the judge observant and authoritative, the witness seemed to know surprisingly little, and the accused remained silent throughout.
This is justice. As decided in our writing and thinking class, “Justice is the correct action and decision for a difficult situation”. Yes, but justice’s meaning is also made clear from our prodigious and unrelenting court system. Justice is the simple fact that we try so hard to hold unbiased court proceedings. Our effort, our vigilant effort at gaining justice is, inherently, justice. The jury process is so painstaking and time consuming, yet every American citizen serves their time in the process, and in this way every American citizen strives to achieve justice within this nation. And that is sufficient justice. Justice is partial to the observer, and has far more in common with the noun freedom than the noun prison. Justice is the process, as imperfect humans, to strive for perfection and equality is to gain it. It should be associated not with all the people it has put away to keep the public safe, but the freedom the public has as a result. And our nation (as are many nations) is just in that we strive to do what is right and good for all. One thing justice is not is selfish.
LEON BOTSTEIN VISITS YEAR ONES
Alexi Block Gorman’12
After Principal Lerner says a few words, remarking that the $300 seats are as usual empty, enjoying the presence of our founder, President of Bard College Leon Botstein takes the microphone. He proceeds to acknowledge our professors as well as our newly promoted staff and then moves right into BHSEC being a national model, pledges of loyalty to our school and the program, and stressing that the relationship of Bard College and Bard High School Early College is “a partnership.” Then the speech moves into a slightly more philosophic arena.
In the spirit of the BHSEC philosophy, he discusses the learning potential of us youngsters, assuring us of his conviction that “you at this stage are ready to do college work.” He argues that the university is the highest aspiration one can achieve since it satisfies both our intellectual curiosity and our résumés. From here the discourse trickles into fairly direct round of insulting the ability of the average high school to properly educate its students and to provide a suitable learning environment. Unlike at your usual high school, he observes, we are here because we choose to be. Elementary school is no more than the practice of authoritarianism, albeit one with “fine objectives,” he says. The high school mindset belittles our ability, it infantilizes students, making us into children when we need to be discovering our potential as rational adults.
The lecture then progresses into a passionate description of what learning should be, what it should mean. Learning is inseparable from emotion, he advises, love what you are doing. High school is designed to be your obligation, but college is crafted to be quite the opposite. Part of the college experience is acknowledging that you might not love every subject you take, but when you take it, when you experience it, on some level you must love it, or at least respect it. What is more, true academic integrity, he implies, comes from learning the subject matter both inside and outside the classroom. Learning does not stop when you leave the classroom, and this, he stresses, is true for teachers as well as students. He points out how Principal Lerner wrote, Dry Manhattan, and how Dean Bruetsaert studies science on her own time. These are the qualities of our professors that define BHSEC.
While the lecture was passionate and well articulated there were certain points that were predictable and longwinded. Yet that is to be expected in such lectures with question and answer sessions. We may not agree with all of Dr. Botstein’s points but we must acknowledge the cogency of his arguments and respect him for what he stands for and the education paradigm that he has envisioned and executed.
WISDOM FROM THE HIGH SCHOOL FORUM
Every year, around October, it’s time for the High School Fair. For those who have never gone, it can only be described as a massive rush of frantic parents through the vast maze of hallways that is Brooklyn Tech, as they attempt to compare and investigate every high school in New York City. BHSEC has its own little table, manned by a small group of devoted staff and students. As might be expected, it is quite popular, receiving attention from all sorts, from over-obsessed parents to uninterested students to people wandering about dazedly. The following is a collection of paraphrased dialogue representing the best of these categories.
The most common is the dominating parent, aggressive towards the Bard rep, the child, and anyone else who looks knowledgeable about their child’s future:
[In response to the minimum requirement of an 85 GPA and fewer than ten absences] “Oh, well, that won’t be a problem. *condescending laugh* My daughter has a 97 GPA and received 4s on all her standardized tests. She’s never absent or late—” etc., etc.
[When another parent tries to listen in and ask questions, too]
“Excuse me, we’re not done yet!”
Child: “So, um, how do—”
Mom: “Anyway, we were also wondering about Bard’s extra-curriculars. What about . . .”
The nosist (“we”) parent:
“Well, we have a high 90s average, and I don’t think we’ve been absent at all, have we? So, if we’re fine there, what can we expect on the test?”
It feels rude to inform them that it is their child, not they, who will be applying.
“And what was your GPA in middle school?”
[In response to hearing that we take care not to rank our students by grade at all]
“Yes, but I’ve heard that the grading is really hard, right? I mean, I read a—like, a brochure—well, anyway, it said that there are some kids who fail. Some kids get Ds and Fs.”
Yes, this is true. Your point being . . .? (And what “brochures” are you reading?)
Then there are the kids who, while their parent asks all the questions, are texting, listening to their ipods, and so forth. (The ideal Bardian).
I’ve also encountered the child who is just as in-your-face as some parents can be:
“So, can you tell me what questions they’ll ask on the test?”
No, that’s sort of the point. You don’t know until you’re taking the test what questions are on it.
One girl came up to the table with a notepad full of questions. One of them:
“What is the school’s hygiene like?”
We’ve had mice? You can’t walk down the hallways without smelling really intense BO? What kind of question is that?
Some parents are so derisive, it’s hard to respond to them calmly and politely.
“Yes, but, tell me honestly, the ‘college credits’ are kind of a joke, right? I mean, they just look good a CV.”
BARDVARK GOING MULTI-MEDIA
Maverick Cummings, ‘13
Good news for our dedicated Bardvark readers and for new BHSEC students: we are going to have our very own Bardvark Webcast, exclusively through the video website Teacher Tube! After school, beginning Monday, October 6th and over the next week or so we will conduct interviews with students discussing their involvement in the webcast. There is already a great buzz about this and we are looking forward to getting this underway.
There are currently six to eight positions available and we are looking to have two anchors preferably a man and a woman to keep the tradition of television/web news. What is most important is the enthusiasm of a team and the ability to make news even more interesting for our viewers. We are also in search of a reliable tech crew to help put it all together and two correspondents who will check facts and help with the production process. Editor-in-Chief, Nika will help us relay the articles and pictures to the webcast, and the tech people will help the anchors, correspondents and me, summarize the articles so that they are presentable for the webcast. The correspondent’s contribution to the Webcast plays a very important role for the news team. Their task will be to provide a second source of information to the viewer in order to not only give more of a perspective to the story but also to retain the journalistic tradition.
The interview process is fairly simple for the anchors. With the help of school and personal equipment, we are recording interviews with students and are having them answer three questions testing them their verbal skills and their general ease on camera. The interesting addition to this Webcast will not only be to report news from our Bardvark paper but to also include breaking news on campus that will have the students up to date about sports, clubs and all Bard events.
We hope to get the first webcast out by late October. In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted and welcome students with lots of energy and dedication.
OIL: NOT SO SLICK
Jack Jenkins ‘12
On September 19th, BP announced on its website that the gushing oil well thousands of feet below sea level in the Gulf of Mexico had finally been contained in a layer of cement, and the issue was officially laid to rest. The cleanup is still continuing and damage claims are being processed at this moment, but the words “oil spill” are slowly starting to disappear from people’s search engines. Case closed. Or is it?
While one can argue that the BP oil spill was one of the most devastating in history, in the grand scheme of things it is insignificant compared to the net total of the oil from all other spills combined. Millions of gallons of oil end up in the world’s oceans every year due to unpredictable mistakes and those mistakes add up. New York Harbor experienced a spill of its own on March 23, 2009, when two ships collided in an attempted rescue mission and one leaked approximately three hundred gallons into the waters. BP can be blamed for not conducting thorough enough safety inspections of their oil rigs, and a similar situation can be avoided in the future with further research and technological achievements. But spills like the one in the New York Harbor are unavoidable, and, although the damage they cause may seem trivial, they occur on a daily basis across the world.
We often like to think that the average oil spill is a mistake, a fluke in the system that it usually foolproof. But some of the worst oil spills in history were actually planned attacks. In the Gulf War, Iraqi forces deliberately sabotaged two American oil tankers, releasing 1.5 million tons of oil into the Persian Gulf. In July of 2006, Israel bombed a Lebanese power plant, spilling 15 thousand tons of oil. It is expected that nations at war should target the oil reserves of their enemies, and it would be irrational to say that proper security systems should always be able to protect against such attacks.
The oil spill in New York Harbor and the planned spills in Lebanon and in the Gulf point to one thing: we have no efficient way of preventing either kind of spill from happening again. One simply cannot prevent human error or international conflicts. Similarly, one cannot expect that a country will always focus on the environment during war. Symptomatic relief seems to be the only alternative.
Our addiction to oil goes hand and hand with water pollution, as well as with air pollution. It is overly optimistic to think otherwise. Why invest ourselves in a resource that is not only destined to hurt the planet in more ways than one, but is also finite, destined to simply run out?
If that doesn’t convince you, think of the issue with this in mind: our grandchildren (or, more realistically), our great grandchildren will probably look back on our generation and say, “Wow, I can’t believe they still used oil, even when they had the capability to further develop other energy sources.” The burning of crude oil is literally a century-old technology. Oil in other forms has been used since pre-history. So, just think of the embarrassment! Here we are, with our massive particle accelerators and thousands of satellites in orbit, with our iPads and gigantic computers that can approximate pi to the nearest billion decimal places, all essentially made using a technology that is old as human society itself. Yet we reserve the right to use oil to power our society, an archaic catalyst propelling a modern society…with a great amount of collateral damage.
RETURNING TO SCHOOL AMID BUDGET CUTS
Juliet Glazer ‘12
September began amid news that BHSEC, along with many other public schools in the city, was facing serious budget deficits for the coming year. Our class sizes were rumored to have been raised, with four teachers lost due to budget cuts and the biggest incoming freshman class yet.
Unique amongst the city’s schools, BHSEC is built upon a partnership with the Department of Education and Bard College. The two entities jointly provide the funding we need. Each year, Bard College raises between two and three thousand dollars per student for BHSEC, providing for college textbooks, science supplies, the salaries of six teachers, adjunct teachers, the College Transfer Office and the learning center. The additional money from Bard also allows for smaller class sizes, which, in the past, have averaged around 20 students.
The Board of Education also provides BHSEC per-student funding each year. This year, however, the funding from the Department of Education was 300 dollars less per student than it had been previously.
New York State faced a budget deficit of 10 billion dollars this year, and in balancing the budget, legislators slashed half a million dollars, in what is known as legislative grants, that would have gone to BHSEC I and II on top of the money from the Department of Education.
In response, BHSEC has had to cut back.
Classes are larger this year, with four teachers gone. Dr. Miranda, the newest English teacher, hired only last year, who taught film classes as well, didn’t return this year. Neither did the newest Chinese teacher, Ms. Huang, also hired last year, nor Dr. Brett, one of the music teachers. In an effort to preserve the Biology, Physics, and Chemistry departments, Dr. Kolkas, who taught astronomy and geology, left as well. “We tried to do as little damage as possible,” said Dean Olson. To make up for this, BHSEC has hired a biology teacher, a physics teacher, and a part-time math teacher, and shifted some staff internally.
This fall, BHSEC not only has fewer teachers but more students. Partially due to an initial programming error at the Department of Education, there are 164 new freshman this year, the largest incoming class yet. Each year, BHSEC accepts more students than will actually come, so that the class ends up being the right number. “For the last couple of years,” Dean Olson explained, “because of changes in the economy and because of the growing prominence of our school, those numbers have been hard to calculate.”
In addition to the larger class sizes, which Dean Olson said the school was trying hard to rectify for next semester, other aspects of BHSEC life we’ve all come to take for granted may disappear, at least temporarily. School busses, field trips, and supplies are all going to be on short order this fall.
BHSEC is working hard to restore its funding. The PTA and generous friends will have to pick up some of the slack. Recently, BHSEC was recently given a matching grant for up to half a million dollars, where for any money donated to the school, an equal amount will be donated by a foundation.
BHSEC is unique among the city’s schools, and requires immense amounts of additional funding. Partly because of this uniqueness, it’s harder for BHSEC to find funding through traditional methods. A lot of educational funding is geared either toward High Schools and K-12, or towards Colleges and Universities. As an Early College, BHSEC doesn’t quite fall into either of these. Bard College and BHSEC are working on redressing this to provide funding in the long term, but for now, it’s important to focus on the coming year. BHSEC has had to tighten its belt this semester, but Dean Olson assured that BHSEC and its mission are here to stay. “It’s really a question of figuring out how to pay our bills,” she said.
CHEATING AT BHSEC?
Hayley Barnett ‘12
Quizzes, tests, exams, reviews: it seems we have an endless supply of ways for teachers to test our knowledge of a subject, and all of them count for some part of our grade. In four years at BHSEC, the average student takes approximately 400 quizzes or tests, and 40 midterm and final exams. Though these numbers seem daunting, students have come up with ways to get around these obstacles, some more morally ambiguous than others.
With all of the rules and regulations in the BHSEC student handbook, it appears cheating is defined concisely: when one tries to copy, steal, or pass another’s work off as their own. But what happens when a student is penalized for cheating, but it doesn’t fall under that definition? “The problem with cheating is that it is too general,” says Y1 student Leah Bronstein. In fact, when 32 students were polled, over 60% said that in a situation where a student from an earlier period of the same class took a quiz before another period, it was okay if the earlier period student told the later period student the general content of the quiz. “They’re just telling you the basics and it’s not verbatim,” Azelia Tannis explains. Kimesha DeCouteau adds, “even if it is more specific, it’s not really cheating”. Alexi Block-Gorman, also an Y1, insists that it is “something the teacher should have told the students.” Professor Martha Rowen of the language department, who teaches many classes where this sort of cheating occurs, believes otherwise. “ I understand that students, especially BHSEC students, are under a lot of pressure, but it’s a question of honor and standing up for your principles.”
In a presentation by Opal Leeman Bartzis and Anne Hayner from Butler University and the University of Notre Dame respectively, Bartzis tells us the Webster definition of plagiarism: “to take and use another person’s ideas for one’s own”, but then goes on to pose the question: “is plagiarism always synonymous with cheating?” In fact, she states that in countries like Mexico, Germany, Costa Rica, and Austria, the American perception of cheating is not applied. Often, European or South American countries will utilize their classmates’ ideas and work together during tests or quizzes. Bartzis and Hayner go on to say that often professors from Mexico do not require citations in the papers they assign to their students. Perhaps the discontinuity between Europe and the United States is a direct result of individualism, a concept that has been all too popular in recent American history.
Whatever the case, many BHSEC students find something morally wrong with cheating through sharing. Freshman Alesha Alexis states it is “unfair. Helping a friend isn’t everything”. Sofia Johnson agrees. “It’s cheating.” she says flatly, “Learn the subject, not the test.” Whether or not you consider it cheating, Ms. Rowen believes learning the content of a test from a student in an earlier period won’t help you. “I find that my earlier period students often do better on their tests, simply because they sit down and actually learn the material (because they know they don’t have another choice) as apposed to asking their friends and not studying”. Many students, though, weren’t as sure in their opinion, rendering this form of cheating a moral grey area. While this is topic with no right or wrong answers, it seems there is no proper replacement to studying material before a quiz or test. While sharing the quiz or test content may work for a short while, there will come a time where it won’t make a difference in your grade. My advice is to study your notes, do some practice problems or sentences: whatever it takes to help you become more comfortable with the material. Remember that teachers and peers are easily utilizable, and that you are never alone when you don’t understand the material. BHSEC is a community that exists so you can get the best out of your education, and when you try to undermine the foundation, it almost always results in an extremely disappointing outcome.
THE TORNADO: EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
Wednesday, November 03, 2010 By Ella Fornari ‘12
On Thursday, September 17th a storm shocked NYC. It was Writing and Thinking week for Bardians, and being at school the whole day, I was unaware of the tornado warnings circling the area. It was a normal day like any other to me until just before six o’clock I saw the sky darken almost instantly.
It was unlike any storm I had seen before. The winds were sweeping vertically across my window. My sister and I sat in front of the window watching in awe of the rain moving almost parallel to the ground. We had never seen such strong winds. , It was so fascinating to watch, but it never occurred to me that the storm would have such a horrible aftermath.
None of the news channels could pinpoint exactly what category this storm was in until it had left Brooklyn for Queens. Because of this I was sceptical when the news surfaced that the storm was actually a tornado. Yes, the winds were very strong, but a tornado? The news channels also announced that the storm had caused the most damage in Park Slope. Since I live there, I was amazed that I had just witnessed a tornado wreaking damage in my very own neighbourhood. I’m no expert on tornadoes, but as an avid viewer of Storm Chasers and someone who has watched The Wizard of Oz it didn’t quite seem to add up. The tornadoes on television seem to consist of one centralized spiral destroying crops or tearing off roofs in the Midwest. When I opened the door to my house, instead of Dorothy finding a Technicolor wonderland, I found utter destruction.
Seeing the aftermath put the storm in perspective. Friends of mine were posting their own pictures of the damage they had seen outside their doors that night. All around the five boroughs thousands of trees had fallen. Some pictures even showed shop front windows near my apartment smashed by the sheer magnitude of the tornado’s winds. My phone rang all night with calls from family members and friends who had been worried by the freak storm. Riding my bike through Prospect Park the following day I saw just how damaging the tornado had been. The number of trees that were ripped from the ground in the park was astounding. Every few seconds I would have to change bike lanes in order to avoid trees and branches that had been broken off during the storm.
As I was riding my bike I considered myself lucky, and felt guilty for not taking it seriously initially. Individuals claimed to have been chased by the monstrous storm, people’s homes and cars were damaged, and one woman in Queens died in the storm when the car she was driving smashed by a falling tree. New Yorkers are still in the process of recovering from the damage.
News reports after the storm hit surveyed the history of tornados in New York City. It seems that funnel clouds are not as rare here as most of us think: since the 1970s, seven tornados have touched down in the city. The next time the sky gets dark in the late afternoon and a storm is in the area, I’ll be taking cover.