VOLUME 9, ISSUE 1 (OCTOBER 2011)

The Bardvark Editorial Board

Nika di Liberto Sabasteanski ’12, Editor-in-Chief: I am a Y2 who loves England, neuroscience, Shakespeare, teapots, polymers, Ingrid Bergman, and pez dispensers. I want to be a pediatric neurologist when I grow up who writes poetry on the side like William Carlos Williams. My favorite song is “Isis” by Bob Dylan and my favorite composer is Vivaldi. I am talented at making Belgian waffles, Eton Mess and Treacle Pudding. I love finding the reasons for complex, intricate systems. The picture included is me age 2 trying to figure out one of those systems: real numbers, specifically the number four. 

 

TEACHERISMS

Isabel Gadd ’12

[Dr Johnson hands out some packets]

Student: “The paper is still warm!”

Johnson: “I was sitting on them in my nest.”

Dr. Birch: “When I went to school we didn’t have air conditioners, but the dinosaurs flapped their tails…”

Student: “Oh, I know it, it’s on the tip of my tongue!”

Dr. Youngren: “So lick the paper.”

Dr. Freund: “Different people are good at different things. For example, I am not very good at breastfeeding. My wife is.”

Mr. Gagstetter: “The first thing I did this morning when I woke up was check my fantasy team.”

 

 

ARAB SPRING MEET HIPSTER FALL

Jack Jenkins ’12

Initially portrayed by the conservative media as trampish lunatics expressing too extreme a political view to be taken seriously, the Occupy Wall Street protesters have gained an incredible amount of momentum in the third week of their activity, inspiring similar protests in hundreds of cities worldwide, including Rome, Sydney and Hong Kong. The days of taking a shower and getting a job, as Bill O’Reilley would see it fit, are now long gone as major players such as Julian Assange, the spokesperson and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, are taking the stage and offering their support.

Whether or not Occupy Wall Street will make a change in the end, the initial stage of most protests wherein all the connectionless agitators can do is take up space and cause a ruckus, has passed. The conversation on the streets will continue until the snow starts falling, barring any unprecedented executive order. But the conversations over the airwaves, newspapers, and institutions have spread like wildfire over ground parched by socioeconomic – and now, political – unrest. A cold winter won’t do much to stop it now.

Wednesday, October 12th, the senior class of BHSEC heard a lecture from professor Bertell Ollman at the United Federation of Teachers building near Zuccotti park, where protestors endured the early morning rain in makeshift tents. Of the many criticisms he had about capitalism, the idea that resonated with us all was Ollman’s dismal prophecy for American society: on account of there being little reason to give Americans jobs anymore – machines and cheaper labor can fill that hole – we have a choice to make: socialism or barbarism.

On that note, the senior class was released and mingled with protestors in Zuccotti Park, a microcosm of one of the societies Ollman predicts (I’ll leave it up to reader to decide which one). The scene is both dismal and inspiring: the protestors that sleep in the park are nearly all unemployed or underemployed, frustrated with their lives and fatigued, but they remain lively, playing music and – because of an issue with the park’s private ownership – staying busy sweeping the park clean.

So at least through all the hardship and contempt coming down on them, and their own malcontent, the protestors have maintained the sense of humor that they, as a primarily young bunch, ought.

 

 

THE THREE SISTERS: WHAT IS A BHSEC

Isabelle St. Clair ’13

BHSEC: Sure, it stands for Bard High School Early College. Yes, it’s the name of a school. But it’s only one of three schools called by that name.

We go to our BHSEC along East Houston Street. We look out our windows and see our East River: brown, murky, and polluted. We know our field and the way the black Astroturf bits fill up in our shoes. We climb our five flights of stairs breathing heavily and forcing our legs to go one after the other. We eat in our small blue cafeteria that is down the hall from the tiny gym. We listen to lectures in our auditorium as we sit on the grey plastic chairs. We are always reading in our library. We know our school. We are barely aware that BHSECs also exist in Queens and Newark. Most of us have never been to our sister schools. Ten years ago BHSEC started in Greenpoint, Brooklyn right across the river and eventually moved to Manhattan. Many of the teaching philosophies that BHSEC implemented were developed at Bard College and Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Seven years later BHSEC Queens opened in Long Island City. And this year BHSEC Newark was launched in New Jersey. Whoa… Now there are three siblings. And so soon! We know what our BHSEC represents, but what about the others? Is this it or will there be more of us?

The mission of the original BHSEC is to provide a rigorous course of study to motivated young adults. BHSEC is an alternative to the traditional high school and is founded on the belief that many young people are ready and eager to do serious college work at age sixteen. BHSEC is unlike other public schools. BHSEC Manhattan, Queens, and Newark share a dream, the opportunity for students to squeeze two years of college into the last two years of high school. We share the hours of homework, the mountains of work that never seem to come to an end. We look to Bard College as our founder, our friend, and our supporter. The college is the parent of each BHSEC, which gave our schools life and leads us on a road of learning, of exploration, of experience. The BHSEC model requires each student to be a high achiever.

Despite our common origins, we are different schools with distinct individuals. We have different principals who run the schools with different guidelines and see each of us in a unique way. There are different facilities that help create our learning environment. There are different teachers who we learn to love as they guide us on our journey through high school. The geography separates us as well, for there is no regular opportunity for students at the different BHSECs to interact. In the end, we may be more different than alike.

From the very moment BHSEC Queens was formed the schools have tried to bring us together. There have been dances, a chance for social interaction, which according to students didn’t precipitate closer ties between the schools. We took all of our entrance exams with students also applying to BHSEC Queens, all of us worried and hoping to get in. The annual Simon’s Rock trip is composed of students of all three schools, even though the students have generally never met before. The two administrations had a Queens/Manhattan Mixer at Simon’s Rock for last year’s Y1s. We even graduate together and receive both our high school diploma and our A.A degree in one another’s presence. Each of these rare moments that we share underscores that fundamentally, we are individual schools.

The emergence of BHSEC Newark came quickly, since it seems as if we have not yet figured out our relationship with BHSEC Queens, the Jan Brady of the BHSECs. Are we expected to form a relationship with the school in Newark? Are we also expected to form relationships with other BHSECs that might emerge? Right now, we are three different schools that are special, discrete, and independent. Although each school is unique, as the BHSEC concept grows, it is important to have a degree of unity as well as common guidance and leadership, so that each BHSEC follows the Simon’s Rock curriculum and protects expectations of quality learning and rigor. Otherwise, the unique idea of BHSEC will be diluted and lost.

 

 

LET’S EXCHANGE THOUGHTS!

James Marlow ’12 and Shannon Grant ’12

What are your favorite fictional marine organisms?

Appreciated by man and Redditor alike, the narwhal holds a special place in the hearts of Jmarlow and Sgrant. Docile in nature, the narwhal enjoys loose tea, knitting and All Things Considered, yet contrary to popular belief, the narwhal is found outside of Park Slope.

If I had to shut myself in a fast food restaurant for a week, which should I pick?

After taking Dr. Marion’s Culture and History of Food last semester, Jmarlow and Sgrant would rather swim across the Bering Strait than electively go to McDonalds. For the purposes of the question, though, Jmarlow would opt for Chipotle, seeing as all the meat is sourced from free-range sources, and it tastes awesome. Sgrant would have to agree, especially with the notion that it tastes perfect.

How does one go about getting those pesky, catchy songs out of their head?

Don’t worry, Sgrant and Jmarlow have been there. Jmarlow isn’t afraid to admit that he has had Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass stuck in his head for the past 3 weeks, but he hasn’t found a remedy for his affliction. Sgrant has similar issues with various songs. There is no cure but we can beat this with the help of some music playing device and willpower!

Are there synonyms for the word synonym?

Sgrant has done some research, and she has found that the only two single words synonymous with synonym are metonym and equivalent. Its only antonym is antonym. We will award you with the first inaugural LET Medal of Honor if you can find another synonym!

Jmarlow and Sgrant are elated to have y’all back, and we’d love to hear questions from you!

 

 

NEW AMSTERDAM

Nika Sabasteanski ’12

On the radio a writer asked me, “Do you remember the first anniversary of September 11th?” No, I thought. I was 8 and it was the first week of third grade. I only remember the missing fliers that still hung, tattered by a year’s worth of weather around the lampposts in my neighborhood. The empty firehouse resembled a wounded lion, still majestic and powerful but legless with a hole in its side. The writer continued to address me, “Don’t you remember the wind that howled through the city that day, whistling between the buildings like so many souls wanting to be remembered?” My uncle recalled this suddenly, “Yes, yes,” he exclaimed, “I walked out of the door and suddenly there was a gust of wind that nearly blew me off my feet.” I could picture the empire state building swaying as it greeted its long lost friends. The trees in Battery park must have swayed as the winds swirled through and the ash that still clung to our city must have lifted, if only for a moment, as its resting ground was disturbed. The wind of spirits must have flown to Brooklyn to visit the dead who walked about, going to work, shrinks, and school. Whitecaps must have lined the East River and small breakers would have slapped soda bottles and beer cans against the rocks.

I felt the wind as we drove along the Jackie Robinson through the cemetery that seems to last for miles. When I was little I used to try to hold my breath when I passed it for fear of allowing all the lonely spirits to enter my lungs. Ultimately though, I would have to take a gulp of air and then perform some ritual to expel the ghosts. The radio was now playing Mozart’s requiem to me and so I turned my head towards the painfully crisp headstones and wept. The director of my scene wanted to induce more crying so he added in a prop that I would only catch glimpses of. The Manhattan skyline appeared over the layers of Earth that stood before me, over the graveyard, the dilapidated trees beaten down by tornadoes and hurricanes. The Chrysler Building seemed to rise as we turned a corner and fell back again on the straightaway. The buildings were silhouetted by the sun and clouds and appeared as charcoal coloured stencils, still majestic but legless and with a giant erasure towards the southern tip. I applauded the director of that scene, awarding him with an Oscar.

I remember the first time that I opened our box of memorabilia if that’s what you call it although that seems more like “Mind the Gap” underwear from Heathrow Airport, a sweatshirt from Nantucket or a piece of maple candy from Maine. The newspaper from September 12th had stood up to 10 years well, yellowing only slightly and maintaining its well defined edges. I saw a GI Joe figure dropping from the perfect day, from what many have called the, “impossibly blue sky.” Its limbs were outstretched clinging to the air like a rope. Something beneath it was frozen an inch above the ground, paused for eternity on the newsprint above its death. I read through that New York Times, and the one from the next day and the next. Each day, the issue apologized for unrelated and frivolous articles that they had already sent to print before Tuesday. Each day a new list of the dead and missing was compiled in categories: North Tower, South Tower, United 93, American 11, United 175, American 77, firefighters, police officers, volunteers and the Pentagon. I realized how much I was unaware of in music class that Tuesday, how much the world died while I went on living.

I don’t wish to dwell on this topic every year when September rolls around. I realize that I have written two previous New Amsterdam articles for this newspaper on 9/11, but I am not trying to write sappy, irrelevant prose to commemorate the anniversary each year to people who would rather move on. I truly believe that every student changed ten years ago, some much more than others. Yet however much or little you lost, September 11th lives a little bit inside all of us, even if it only peaks its head out around this time of year. The world in which we live is a product of it and thus we must address the issue. It may seem redundant to focus on it each year for one article, but my perspective has changed dramatically since last year. Each number we add to the anniversary makes it seem that much more surreal and oddly enough that much closer. I don’t know who said it, but someone suggested that one should read Don Quixote three times, once when they are a small child, a second time as a grownup and finally as an old man or woman. The lesson is simple but the application is more difficult than it would seem. I would like to do this when trying to understand 9/11. We all lived through it as children and understood perhaps that the world was not as black and white as we once thought. Now we are contemplating it as young adults, as the world’s future, attempting to discover what this means for society and politics. Soon we will remember 9/11 as adults and will have to explain it to our children who will only remember the Manhattan skyline with one giant building towering over the others. And then in sixty-five or so years, not to rush it or anything, we will be the elders that everyone else turns to, the ones who remember the world back in the old days. We will be the only one’s left to remember. We will recall what we felt all those years ago in second grade, first grade, kindergarten, and now nursery school because it was that morning not the first week of Year 1 seminar, when we first learned of the human condition.

 

 

WHERE DO YEAR 2’S GO?

Daniel Moon ’13

On September 19th a number of students, mostly Year Ones and their parents, attended the College Transfer Office (CTO) meeting, where Ms. Cheikes, the CTO director and advisor, informed them about the college application process. At this information session, Ms. Cheikes enlightened both parents and students about what colleges are looking for in students, what Y1 students should do to prepare for attending college, and which colleges graduates of the past nine years have frequented.

Two packets of college related information were handed to the audience. One included a statistical data table titled “BHSEC Class of 2011 Data / Where are those 121 graduates now?” The chart showed that out of the 121 graduates of 2011, 22 students (including students who deferred) attended public schools, 95 students (including students who deferred) private schools, and 4 students none of the categories above. The low percentage of students who did not attend college is indicative of the usefulness of the CTO and the reputation of BHSEC to get students into their desired colleges. The data went on to show specifically which schools graduates attended. The data revealed that the majority of students attended some of the top universities in the United States. Many students extended their Bard student careers and went to the prestigious Bard College. Many other students attended Reed, Marist, and Swarthmore College. According to the statistical table, a number of students were accepted to Ivy Leagues such as Harvard University, Columbia University, and Yale University, as well as highly ranked research universities like Duke.

So, like the graduates of 2011, Year 2s at BHSEC who are soon to graduate prepare for college admissions with the hopes of attending their dreams schools. BHSEC informs students about many institutions that can supplement their search for colleges. Such programs include Edgies and The Henry Street Settlement that helps students prepare for standardized tests (SAT & ACT). There are also courses that students can take at BHSEC. These courses include Princeton’s SAT prep and Revolution’s ACT prep.

Another important element to college admissions is federal aid, grants and scholarships. Many students need these types of aids because attending colleges can be expensive. Some of the CTO’s responsibilities are informing students about how to receive federal aid, helping students search for grants and scholarships, and providing other college related costs such as giving fee waivers for standardized tests.

Even more, BHSEC allows colleges to visit and holds informational sessions, which not every school does. The visiting colleges are regularly listed on the board inside the front entrance of the school. The college visits are held in specific periods throughout the day, so unfortunately, the college session that students want to attend might not coincide with their schedules. Luckily, there are so many colleges that visit that students get the chance to attend at least two or three sessions. The college may be one that the student never heard of. Nevertheless, attending never-heard-of-college visits enlarges the possibility of the wide range of colleges out there for the open minded BHSEC student.

 

 

THE BOND THAT KEEPS ON BONDING

Lisa Tandler ’15

Ms. Bond Caldaro is a new teacher for 9th Grade Physics and Math who considers Bard High School Early College to be edutopia. For those of you who couldn’t figure out the etymology, an edutopia is educational utopia. In other words, she is currently in a teacher’s heaven. Ms. Caldaro worked in a Transfer School for a year prior to working at BHSEC, which helps students who’ve hit a few bumps in the road attain their high school diploma.

Bond Caldaro was born in Manhattan and attended high school at Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. She received multiple scholarships towards her education at Skidmore College, a much sought after private liberal arts school. In fact while enrolled, Ms. Caldaro was one of the first two women to receive a full Clare Boothe Luce scholarship, which is meant to help aspiring female scientists gain the opportunity of working in traditionally male dominated fields. She graduated from Skidmore after double majoring in Math and Physics.

Despite our best guesses, she informed us that she was not named after James Bond. Rather, Ms. Caldaro explained to me that her first name represents the bond between her parents. Energetic, exciting, and engaging, she fills the classroom with contagious enthusiasm about learning. Inspired by interacting with others and improving herself constantly, Ms. Caldaro aspires to make a change. She takes the valuable time to listen and digest what her students ask in order to evaluate what they do not understand. She has a special stake in seeing her students succeed though. “I know what it’s like to fail in math. Really fail. By teaching, I would have a chance to change that experience,” Ms. Caldaro described to me. For a discipline that has garnered such a negative reputation, Ms. Caldaro seems to be a voice of actual reform.

Ms. Caldaro genuinely cares about her students’ success, and not just in class. I was waiting for the bus with her, and she gave me tips on staying safe on the train. Furthermore, in tutoring she always answers our questions with patience and enthusiasm. When a student fails a quiz, she will generously allow them to retake it until they get it right, which gives 9th graders a much needed moral boost. Ms. Caldaro is not your typical math teacher who makes you memorize and follow rules. She has her own way of solving problems and BHSEC is very lucky to have her.

Math and Science are not Ms. Caldaro’s only interests, however. She enjoys playing field hockey, swimming, and running. She has even run a marathon (26 miles and 385 yards). In addition she loves to knit, travel, and spend time with her friends. Her musical interests include, “hip hop, rap, and whiny men on pianos.”

Ms. Caldaro’s message to all students in BHSEC is, “By the time you end here, I hope you think differently than when you started and that knowledge will help you navigate through the world.” For a brand new addition to our family, she seems to have grasped our spirit quite well.

 

 

THE BHSEC FACTOR

Jack Jenkins ’12

It’s no mystery that BHSEC Manhattan is a liberal arts oriented high school. By the time students reach the college program, they can choose from a myriad of classes ranging from History of Photography to Immunology. Though a relatively small school, BHSEC usually manages to satisfy students in terms of class options (although there was some grumbling this year about the lack of English classes), and when a subject a student wishes to investigate is not being offered, creating an independent study is always an option. The system put in place at BHSEC certainly appeals as one in a liberal arts college. But does this atmosphere sway students during their time in BHSEC to seek out non-specialized higher education?

Ms.Azeglio, the advisor to lower as well us upperclassmen, is able to observe changes in the aspirations of students as they endure the years at BHSEC. She agrees that BHSEC supports the liberal arts, and advertises itself as such to incoming freshmen classes, “The students that we attract are interested in humanities. We’re competing with Bronx Science and schools like that, that have stronger science programs than us.” Students with specialized careers in mind even before high school tend not to consider BHSEC as seriously as its “competition”. Similarly, BHSEC seniors that graduate into liberal arts colleges may have had that future for themselves in mind when applying to BHSEC.

Ms. Azeglio finds that the root of students’ initial aspirations in 9th grade tends to survive throughout high school. She recalls a group of students who were originally interested in medicine, but as they progressed they discovered that other scientific fields interested them as well. They left BHSEC pursuing a liberal arts education as opposed to one from a research or Ivy League university. For them, it wasn’t so much specific BHSEC classes that caused them to deviate from their ideal careers, in fact, rather it was the atmosphere that challenged convention and nurtured exploration. Their career changes stemmed from a general maturation of their intellect and also from the four leap years that had passed. “They don’t know enough about careers in 9th grade”, Ms. Azeglio explains. “It’s a matter of educating.”

 

 

WHERE ARE THE GUYS? MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM BHSEC?

Alyssa Freeman ‘12

Having made the decision to take the ACTs late last winter, I could not find a testing center in NYC with a spare seat. Desperate, I signed up for a seat at a small, northern Jersey high school where, on the day of, I waited to take the exam with a cohort of students. Not knowing anyone, I sat down at a table in the cafeteria joining a few other stragglers who, like me, did not attend this school. The energy in the room felt different than at BHSEC: more frenetic, louder, sweatier, and there was football equipment lying around, and a hockey stick. I actually thought: “why are there so many boys here?” and then I laughed. The other stragglers looked at me quizzically.

Has anyone noticed the male female ratio at BHSEC?

Apparently we all notice, and frankly it is hard to miss. Here are some statistics: Writer’s Notebook: 16 girls to 8 boys, Toni Morrison Seminar: 18 girls to 8 boys, Calculus sections: 38 girls to 15 boys. The disparity in the gender make up at BHSEC is evidenced in almost every class, with the exception of the most challenging Math and Science courses offered in the college program. Physics with Calculus: 7 girls to 9 boys, and Linear Algebra: 7 girls to 10 boys. Perhaps in this area BHSEC is somehow fostering conventional stereotypes unknowingly, although there are many girls in Calculus. Women traditionally populate more liberal arts colleges than men around the country, and BHSEC is no exception. Do fewer boys apply because they shy away from interviews, preferring schools that do assessments on the basis of a standardized test? Do we need to publicize the rigorous nature of our math and science curriculum? Do we need a football team?

The female population at BHSEC is acutely aware of the imbalance, but opinions about its effect vary. Victoria Amelyanchyk, a Y2 student, said that “ she does not love the ratio but is okay with it.” She is committed to BHSEC, feels it is a great program and will appreciate the advantage of the Associates Degree. Paniz Johari, another Y2 student, said that she notices the difference and, “wishes there were more boys, not only to diversify the community in terms of gender but to also alter opinions. ” Paniz believes that classes would be more interesting if there were more opportunities for debates between the genders.

The question of whether females and males think differently is a longstanding debate within psychology and neuroscience. If we assume there are differences between how males and females think, would an equal presence of both genders create a more stimulating learning environment?

Do we need more gender diversity at BHSEC for social and emotional reasons? Madeline Fried, Y2, would prefer to have more of a balance, but states that she has male friends at Bard whom she connects with. There is a feeling about valuing friendships of the opposite sex at BHSEC, particularly for boys, who have had to adjust to the ratio. A few that I spoke with certainly notice that they are in the minority, but were nonchalant and seemed to rather like having the experience of more female than male friends.

Jonathan Eng, Y2, said that he has more female friends than he did before BHSEC. He was not drawn to BHSEC because of the writing program but rather applied because both of his brothers attended and had positive experiences. Nick Goodman and Jonathan Donovan, both Y2s, were both drawn to BHSEC for the academic challenge and the strong humanities program. They both have developed strong friendships with female students as a result of being at BHSEC. William Wu feels that his opinion as a male student is heard and valued equally regardless of the ratio. He also has an abundance of female friends. Sam Kastner is aware of being a male voice, sometimes the only male voice, in the class. He believes that his opinions are regarded as equal, but does sometimes feel that he needs to represent a male opinion.

The 10th grade students interviewed are closer to the middle school experience and say that the unequal ratio is apparent, but they are adjusting. Boys heavily populated their middle schools, and they miss having more of them to relate to. Is it possible that by Year 2, both male and female students adjust to the uneven ratio? Most Y2 boys said that despite there being more 9th grade boys, they hardly notice the increased male presence.

While the students interviewed noticed the difference, everyone gave the impression that as a school community, we have adapted. Should more of an effort be made to create an equal male female balance, and what would that mean for BHSEC’s selection criteria? Perhaps this needs to be thought about in the context of BHSEC’s continued quest for a diverse student body.

 

 

BHSEC ENTERS THE 5TH GRADE, THE WORLD OF DOUBLE DIGITS

Madeleine Webber ’13

Despite the horrific events that September 11, 2001 will be remembered for, the date is still symbolic as the birth of something wonderful—it is the day that Bard High School Early College was born. Now that it is 2011, we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of our school’s emergence as a leading New York City high school with a national reputation. BHSEC is still a new school; one decade is not a very long time—in fact, every person attending BHSEC is older than his or her school. However, ten years is long enough to watch a school grow academically, functionally and quantitatively. To find out more about the changes in BHSEC over the past several years, I spoke with two of BHSEC’s dedicated faculty members: Dr. Birch, an English teacher and Dean Brutsaert.

While exploring the topic of BHSEC’s tenth anniversary, one question that came to mind was: how has BHSEC changed since its emergence? Dr. Birch immediately noted the quantitative difference since she has been here—“ BHSEC has gotten a lot bigger!” she exclaimed, remarking about the drastic increase in the student body population over the past decade. Furthermore, Dean Brutsaert commented on our principle aesthetics, “fundamentally we haven’t changed at all.” Dean Brutsaert examined how we have stayed true to BHSEC’s original goals and hopes, originally dreamed up by Leon Botstein and put into action by Raymond Peterson. However, she did mention that, “we have gotten better [since our foundation].” Both Dr. Birch and Dean Brutsaert seemed content with BHSEC’s progress and overall current standing over its first decade.

My second question was: “what has been your most amazing moment at BHSEC?” Both Dr. Birch and Dean Brutsaert pondered for a long time about their response but eventually both agreed that seeing alumni was “absolutely incredible.” Dean Brutsaert shared her appreciation for listening to the success stories of our very impressive almuni. However, Dr. Birch could not decide on only one moment; she extended her amazement past alumni and spoke well of the remarkable opportunities here at BHSEC, such as Salmon Rushdie’s lecture last year.

We then discussed BHSEC’s future, as our school enters it tween years. I asked both teachers what their hopes are for the next decade at BHSEC. Dr. Birch wishes to, “hold on to what has been best” as does Dean Brutsaert. Both scholars hope that BHSEC will maintain its integrity and continue to nurture intellectual students and host amazing faculty. Furthermore, Dean Brutsaert hopes to retain BHSEC’s small class size— despite budget cuts and a steadily rising applicant pool—, and with luck gain a pool and gym.

 

 

THE LOGIC OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE COURSES

Hannah Frishberg ‘13

While the amount of foreign languages offered at BHSEC may seem meager, it is the most logical assortment. According to a census taken in 2000, Spanish and Chinese are the two most spoken languages in New York State after English. Out of the 28% the census found to speak a language other than English, a whopping 13.6% (or 2,416,126 people) spoke Spanish, and 2.1% (or 374,627) spoke Chinese. The other commonly taught romance languages Italian and French only represented 2.7% cumulatively (475,080 together), and together Japanese and German speakers made up only 0.7% of New York State.

Obviously many other factors come into play besides population and statistical evidence when choosing a foreign language, but based on the numbers Mandarin Chinese and Spanish are the most rational languages to teach at a New York City high school. To compare, Millennium High School offers students Mandarin and Spanish, Hunter College High School offers French, Latin, and Spanish, Baruch offers only Spanish, LaGuardia offers Italian, French, Spanish, and Japanese, City-As-School offers Italian, Latin, Mandarin, and French, and Urban Academy does not offer any foreign languages. Among the specialized high schools, Brooklyn Tech offers French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Italian, Bronx Science offers Mandarin, French, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish, and Stuyvesant offers French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish.

From this list, Spanish is the most commonly taught foreign language (offered at every high school listed with a foreign language department), Mandarin and French are tied, each represented at six schools, Latin is taught at only four of the schools and Italian taught at five out of the nine listed. That said, Latin has actually seen quite a resurgence as a foreign language in recent years. While Latin was once mandatory at many parochial and public schools, it lost much popularity in the 1960s, somewhat revived in the 1970s, and didn’t truly begin picking up again until the 1980s during many school’s back-to-basics movements. As of 2008, out of the 1,700 separate schools represented by the New York City Department of Education, three dozen taught Latin.

Among American colleges, Spanish is by far the most popular foreign language, taught to a massive 52.2% of all U.S. undergraduates studying a foreign language. French is the second most popular, representing 13.1% of undergraduates, then German in third with 6.0%, Italian with 5.0%, Chinese in fifth with 3.3%, and Latin in sixth at 2.0%. Internationally, English is by far the most popular second language, even considered by some to be the unofficial lingua franca of the planet.

It would be pointless to list all of the advantages and disadvantages of schools teaching certain foreign languages over others, as most people’s opinions on the matter reflect personal preference. In terms of statistical data alone, as a New York City high school, BHSEC’s Latin, Spanish, and Mandarin options for foreign language students is the most logical, reflecting the languages most likely to encounter here, in NYC (while Latin is no longer spoken it is certainly useful in many other ways). Additionally, for such as small school in comparison to Stuyvesant or Brooklyn Tech, the amount of languages we offer is impressive albeit limited by our budget. So, out of the 800 foreign languages spoken in New York City, the foreign language department at BHSEC provides us with access to the two most popular.

 

 

WRITING AND THINKING…IN INDIA

Emma King ’12

This summer, I travelled to India. It was not, however, a vacation or a spiritual quest for enlightenment. I went as one of five interns for ITSA.

ITSA, which stands for Independent Thought and Social Action, is a social action organization co-founded by Jwalin Patel and recent BHSEC alumna, Riana Shah, a student at Swarthmore College. Centered in the city of Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat, ITSA aims to help Indian students attain the critical thinking and analytic skills they need to become independent, emancipated and capable global citizens.

In general, the education system in India is rote, dogmatic, and limiting – students are often simply not given the opportunity or the tools they need to think critically. In response to the rigidity of the system, which was founded during the industrial revolution and aims at creating capable workers, Riana and Jwalin decided to create a program, based on the Writing and Thinking workshops that both BHSEC and Bard College students begin their years with, to assist Indian students to break free and think independently.

This is where I come in. This summer was the second year of ITSA workshops, and the first with interns. The interns (myself, Ana Powell, Max Baird, Mariah Widman, and Juliana Gutierrez) were brought to Ahmedabad, via a seventeen hour flight, to pursue individual internship projects, stay with incredible host families, encounter Indian culture up close and personal and, above all, help to fully establish ITSA and to help it flourish.

Over the three weeks that we had in India, we were given the opportunity to have an overwhelming number of incredible experiences including the opportunity to meet and stay with amazing people. Ana and I became very close to our host family and we miss our host sister, Deeksha, immensely. Most importantly, we began to grow in profound ways. Everything felt like an adventure, from stepping out of the airport into the thick, sweet smelling air, to eating unfamiliar and deliciously extravagant meals. We explored the narrow, woven streets of the old city, and visited an endless series of gorgeous temples, all the while interacting with the people on the roads. Even driving down the street in cars and rickshaws, listening to a symphony of horns was exhilarating, especially since the commuters in Ahmedabad tended to ignore basic drivers’ safety. Everything felt novel and interesting. I could go on forever, but luckily, I don’t have to: each experience was recorded in a blog kept by the interns (check it out at http://www.itsatravellog.blogspot.com).

Yet even the hoards of freely roaming cows couldn’t surpass meeting and getting to know the young students who participated in the workshops. These were motivated students, determined and willing to push themselves far beyond their established comfort zones. Watching them struggle to adapt, learn, find ways to describe their thought processes and to substantiate their identities was, in itself, one of the most intoxicatingly exciting experiences of the trip. In just two workshops, the participants were already exploding into their full potential. They desperately sought each new experience with an enthusiasm that was, in many ways, inspirational. Years of mechanically ossified beliefs were debated, boundaries were demolished, and as the workshops flew by, the students truly changed – as did I.

When I returned to the United States, it was made clear to me that my global perspective was forever altered. I had confronted beauty and incredible ugliness, wealth and utter poverty, remarkable awareness and determined apathy. While inspiring, it was also overwhelming. The paradoxes of India remain pertinent and poignant, even now, months after I returned. Quite frankly, there is more to say about this trip and about ITSA than could ever fit into a relatively short article. Choosing to send in an application to become an intern was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I cannot sum up its worth and importance so neatly. So the next time that you are sitting in a Writing and Thinking workshop at BHSEC, reading Oliver Sacks and Montaigne and wondering when it will be over, remember that we are lucky to take for granted such an experience.

 

 

WHY OUR TEACHERS TEACH US

By Juliet Glazer ’12

When I was deciding where to apply to High School four years ago, my favorite middle school teacher told me that she was worried that at BHSEC, the teachers would be so used to teaching college students that they wouldn’t know how to teach high school. Nothing could have been less true.

At BHSEC, our teachers are far more qualified in their fields than the average high school teacher. Most of them have Ph.D.s, and conduct research and write articles and books. But all of them choose to teach here because they love teaching high school students, albeit high school students who are capable of acting a bit like college students.

I spoke to Dr. Freund, Dr. Mazie (who is spending a semester teaching at Bard College), and Mr. Mikesh, none of whom originally planned to become high school teachers. All three taught as teachers’ assistants as graduate and post-graduate students, and enjoyed the experience. None originally planned to teach high school, but were looking for work when they stumbled across BHSEC.

Mr. Mikesh had taught English to middle school students in Japan after graduating college. He later worked both as a programmer on the game Guild Wars and briefly as an intellectual property lawyer in Seattle before joining the New York Teaching Fellows Program, where he was discovered by Dr. Lerner.

Dr. Mazie was finishing his Ph.D. dissertation when he read an article about BHSEC, which, at the time, had just been founded. He called the school, and within a week, had his teaching job.

Unlike Mr. Mikesh and Dr. Mazie, Dr. Freund, was actually quite certain that he did not want to teach high school. A disaffected student himself, he said he had been “no joy to teach.” He added, “I feared I’d be teaching someone like myself.”

It was Dr. Freund’s wife, a high school teacher herself, who convinced him to apply for a job at BHSEC. “Initially I was just taking a chance with a job,” he said. “Maybe within the first semester I grew to really like it.”

Perhaps BHSEC initially attracted teachers who had degrees but not yet jobs, or who were adventurous enough to try teaching somewhere off the beaten path. Yet most teachers end up staying. Like Dr. Freund, Mr. Mikesh and Dr. Mazie were surprised at how much they enjoyed working at BHSEC.

For Dr. Mazie and Mr. Mikesh, BHSEC was a good fit for a number of reasons. Dr. Mazie said, “the school presented the best teaching environment I had encountered — more engaging than college teaching I had done at the University of Michigan and NYU. The students were a total hoot: sweet, smart and creative. The faculty and administration were committed, wonderful colleagues. And I had the freedom to design my own strange courses and pursue a research agenda that fit exactly my scholarly interests.”

For Mr. Mikesh, the school was an environment in which teachers love teaching so much that they are willing to put their research on the back burner. Because of this he found that many BHSEC teachers have similar interests. He cited BHSEC’s lack of the “publish or perish mentality” that exists at many colleges – the idea that professors must publish in order to stay relevant – as one of the school’s inviting attributes.

The only things Dr. Mazie said that “Big Bard” provides that BHSEC does not are doors on teachers’ offices. “Having an office with a door is something of a revelation,” he said.

Of course, the students are the main reason teachers love BHSEC. Dr. Mazie cited the variety of student opinions at BHSEC as the main difference between BHSEC students and the freshmen he is currently teaching at Bard College.

Dr. Freund called BHSEC students “curious,” and more “raw” than college students. “So much is to be gained if high school is done right,” he added. Likewise, Mr. Mikesh says that he enjoys “having the power to mold people’s thought processes a little.”

Mr. Mikesh praised BHSEC students for being “very mature, way more than the average New York City student,” at least after 9th grade. He said, “I don’t like being a babysitter.” However, he added that, for all of BHSEC students’ maturity, “teenagers are still teenagers, the world over.”

 

 

SOMETHING WICKED (AWESOME) THIS WAY COMES…THE COLLEGE COMMONS

Alexi Block Gorman ’12

The news was received with a roar of applause and much excitement. We are to have a College Commons, a social space reserved for Year One and Year Two students. The Commons has not yet opened, though, and that is because it still awaits a large amount of planning and organization.

Why not just open the Commons and wing it? As Ms. Powell, advisor to the College Commons initiative, says, “We want to do it right.” This Commons is to be run and used primarily by our current Year Ones and Year Twos, but this project is being built to succeed our generation, to carry forth.

Ms. Powell has been developing plans with the Student Union thus far, discussing ideas for the project with the representatives with whom she has diligently worked with for many months. There are numerous thoughts being tossed about, but until a formal board of college students forms, nothing can be set in stone. And yet, as an idea it is quickly gaining substance.

The idea of having a Commons is not new; in fact, two previous Commons have been attempted in the past. However, while both the need and the excitement were there, the means were unavailable. It has mostly been an issue of unused space, since our school is not equipped with an excess of classrooms. Even, our faculty acted as our advocates, making it clear that the college students had the motivation and the self-control to handle a space unto them. While the idea of a College Commons seems to come up annually, it finally left the drawing board this fall.

At the beginning of the year, Dean Brutsaert was able to carve a room out for the College Commons—”a big deal,” Principal Lerner mentions. He entrusted Ms. Powell to adopt the project and see it to fulfillment and suggested that she work with the students. Ms. Powell knew she could get the Student Union on board.

As it stands, the first step toward making the Commons a reality, is to convene a board that will organize and maintain it. To this end Ms. Powell involved the Student Union because it is the largest committed and cohesive representative body of students at our school. After the Student Union’s major success in realizing their plans and ideas for community day, and working with them on the sixteen other projects that they had undertaken, she quickly started brainstorming with them.

Until a board of students does convene (hopefully by mid-October) the plans for the Commons shall remain ambiguous, but suggestions have included bringing in comfortable furniture, how to fundraise the money for such an acquisition, where to move the course “World Drumming” which currently meets in the sought after 209, the last big kink they face, and whether light snacking can occur, provided that there is plan in place by which the students can maintain a clean environment. “There’s a real challenge here to make this work,” Principal Lerner promises, “but we want it to succeed.” When we first came to BHSEC in 9th grade, Mr. Peterson told us that we were going to be treated like adults and that we’d better maintain that respect. In the College Commons is this trust in material form and we must live up to the promise that we made as 9th graders and earn this privilege.

 

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