VOLUME 9, ISSUE 2 (NOVEMBER 2011)

A NEW SPIN

Lucas McGill ’15

As a 9th grader, I was definitely excited walking into BHSEC for the first time. Of course behind that excitement was a little worry. I knew that going to BHSEC was not going to be a walk in the park. I knew I could expect a lot more homework than I was used to, and I was certainly going to have to try harder than I had ever needed to before if I wanted to succeed. On the first day of school I was afflicted with the proverbial butterflies.

However, after attending BHSEC for a couple of months now, I can say that while many of my assumptions did turn out to be correct, and that there is an element of stress, which I’m sure will increase as time goes on, helpful teachers and friends new and old make school a very enjoyable experience. After speaking with some of my fellow 9th graders, I think it’s safe to say that this is a shared opinion.

BHSEC’s environment is challenging but invigorating. Our teachers help us to think for ourselves, and the students are diverse in all possible aspects, ready to debate an idea or prove a point. “BHSEC is a fantastic school, with an intellectually stimulating environment,” says 9th grader Alessandro Bruni. He added that, “The school is diverse, and students are respectful towards one another.” Students enjoy BHSEC but many sometimes feel worried or stressed by the workload. 9th grader Oliver Divone, while admitting to some feelings of stress, explained, “I think BHSEC is a cool school with a lot of good ideas.” Despite the obvious challenges that inevitably accompany school, most new students feel like they are already part of the community. 9th grader Maria Orus remarked, “So far BHSEC has been absolutely amazing and emotionally soothing! Everyone here is just so ready to give a helping hand, to anyone that asks. I just feel very blessed to be part of it all!”

At first one might stress over the amount of work that is required here at BHSEC, but if you ask around, you are sure to find that students have plenty of ways of dealing with their workload already. “I think BHSEC is a fine school, however hard,” says Nathaniel Cain. “There is not too much homework yet, but there is more to come, I am sure of it. I don’t feel stressed,” he predicted. Other students find help with their work from teachers. As Alessandro puts it, “I’m filled with daily exams, and [I have] a tight schedule. Luckily, the teachers are willing to help. So far, I love BHSEC as a school, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.” Other students find support and advice in their close friends. Maria explained, “My friends are just…like angels! They are always there for me, and give me support when I’ve had a rough day.” In fact Jeter Gutierrez even goes so far as to wonder how some can complain about the amount of homework, saying that students will get good grades if they do the homework so they shouldn’t complain and just get it done if they want good grades. A sentiment easier said than done.

As a 9th grader, I can safely say that the incoming students of BHSEC understand, and are prepared to undertake, the amount of work required of them, but this will not stop them from enjoying their experience in high school!

 

 

NEW AMSTERDAM

Nika Sabasteanski ’12

A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: It is a beautiful catastrophe. Le Corbusier

Have you ever ridden the trains without the company of madness? It seems that on every car of every subway there exists a person entirely detached from sanity, to a degree more severe than say…us. There is always someone speaking to their reflection in the window, listening to music with only headphones, or sometimes worse. The entire car unites when the person is identified, silently commiserating with knowing glances or veteran smiles. Below are the sketches of mental illness I have compiled in the last three years. All are at once disturbing, tragic and I hope immensely relatable. None are meant to insult or mock those whom society has discarded; rather I hope to relay my experiences of riding the trains, which are universal in New York.

I am sitting on the Coney Island bound F train with two friends. We are huddled together, telling tales of teachers and homework, so that my back faces the rest of the nearly empty car. One of my companions is distracted from our conversation and her eyes flicker between our discussion and something or someone behind me. Unable to hold it in any longer, she whispers, “That man over there is paying much too much attention to his suitcase.” I immediately thought of the robotic announcements that have been engrained in my consciousness like wartime propaganda, “If you see a suspicious package on the platform or train, notify an MTA employee or police officer. If you see something, say something.” My mind ranked the possible items he had inside his suitcase from eccentric to more than unsettling. I casually made an excuse to turn around, and watched as a young businessman stroked his suitcase.

He appeared relatively normal, wearing a full suit, dress shoes and sunglasses. But he was jittery and was focusing on a silver suitcase that he held at his feet. Suddenly, he jumped from his seat and began pacing his isolated end of the car. We all decided to switch cars when we got to the next stop but before we could he began doing push ups on the seats as if he had been pumped full of testosterone before boarding the train. He then began to punch the poles near him and then the windows of the doors. He punched whatever he could find and lucky for us the doors opened before he made his way to our seat.

More recently, I was coming home and walked onto the car at 2nd Avenue. I saw an available seat on a very crowded train, always a harbinger of trouble, next to man who at first glance seemed only mildly disheveled. I made a calculated judgement to sit at the end of the bench with several buffers in between us. As we approached Brooklyn, he began to speak loudly albeit incoherently at first. I watched his reflection in the window and saw that he was wearing headphones. I figured that he was singing along to his music, but it gradually became apparent that there was no music being fed into his headphones. Rather than singing boisterously, he was saying, “Get up, get up, get up, get up, get up!” the ‘get up’s’ increased in frequency and urgency as he continued. He then began to use his arms, lifting them off his lap and thrusting them into the air, the way you would do to urge someone to get up. I, along with everyone else, assumed he was speaking to the voices in his headphones, and unsettled we all returned to our business.

However, he didn’t stop with the gesticulating or the imperatives and finally out of self-preservation, his closest neighbor removed herself and walked as far away as she could get. He immediately slid into the seat that she had just vacated and nodded his head. “Thank you,” he said with the same tone as a teacher who had just received the answer he was fishing for, for an annoying period of time. I determined from the reflection that there was now only one person between this man and myself. The gentleman seated beside me began packing his briefcase and I established that he was going to be getting off in the near future. I started to pack my backpack as well, shoving my book inside and piling my scarf near the top so that it barely zipped shut. No sooner had I arranged for my own escape, the woman on my right got up. Attempting to maximize the distance between us, I slid over towards the recently abandoned seat. My neighbor who had been packing his bag stood up to get off and looked down at me, “Good move,” he noted to me. “I thought so,” I agreed. Now the man and I sat at opposite ends of the same bench. He continued to argue with himself and I watched him in the window, preparing for him to tell me to get up. My stop came and I got off and never thought of him again until I decided to write this article.

There was the man who used to sit in the Union Square station, holding a small kitten on his lap and the two homeless men that routinely board the R train at 8th St. wherein one begins to beg and the other tells him, “Oh, don’t you start that again.” There was a rabbi who acted as an agent for a violent beggar who went so far as to smash the newspaper out of a passenger’s hand. Then there was the middle aged African American man who when his monetary solicitations were rejected by all the passengers began to rail against white people. As he approached my end of the car, still yelling and cursing about the discrimination he had received from white passengers, I looked down as to not further incite him. He stopped in front of me and I stared at my shoes. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he assured me, “I don’t hate you, just the people who ignore me.” I looked up at him and half-smiled so he wouldn’t think I was one of those people. “I’ll protect you,” he told me. The train took forever to get to Canal Street and he turned his attention from me and screamed, “Oh get me out of this train!” I silently seconded his plea. There was the woman in pajamas who began cursing with words I had never even hear before, while a nearby mother covered the ears of her young daughter, and there was the long-haired blonde man who looked as if he had injected himself with steroids a number of times, without a shirt, who entered the train with a tall woman in stilettos.

Most of them are casualties of a corrupt and unforgiving system, a self-fulfilling prophecy that only breeds more victims. These are the ones who have slipped through the cracks. The only time we get to interact with them is on the trains, those receptacles of fear and convenience that bring us all together. The camaraderie that forms as a result is just as telling of the New York spirit, as the madness that we are attempting to survive.

 

 

SHOULD JUSTIN VERLANDER WIN THE MVP?

Mack Cummings ’13

There is no doubt that Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers should be the recipient of some kind of award for his outstanding performance this season. Let’s examine the facts; he has pitched 34 games with a record of 24-5 (5 no decisions), 251 innings pitched, with an astounding earned run average of 2.40. Definitely some Nintendo numbers, but should he win the Most Valuable Player, and not the Cy Young Award, exclusively awarded to outstanding pitchers?

Verlander and many people are right in that pitchers are players, but they serve a special purpose that is unlike the regular position player. Pitchers control the game. How they pitch on any given day can make the difference between an out and a hit, a win and a loss. Because pitchers serve this unique purpose, they deserve their own award. As a pitcher, you need to possess the proper mechanics and meticulously edit or sometimes tinker with these mechanics to be effective. You also need to have “good stuff”, meaning an arsenal of pitches at your disposal that keeps the batter guessing about your throws and never knowing when that “sinker” is coming his way.

Despite how special pitchers are, the regular position players are consistent, day in and day out, and offer dual roles to the team. To be more specific, regular position players hit and field. Because Verlander is on an American League team, he does not hit at all (minus the two weeks of interleague play). When you look at someone like Curtis Granderson, you can see he is the complete package. This, year he posted his highest batting statistics of his career with 41 homeruns, 136 runs scored, 119 runs batted in, 364 on base percentage and a 262 average. He also played 156 games this year out of the 162 games this season. All of these statistics except batting average are some of the highest in the league. He has made the highlight reel several times for outstanding catches, most of them of him diving in midair and catching balls. His speed on the bases and in the field is also something to be noted. In short, he covers all of the aspects of a typical player.

What it comes down to at the end of the game, with statistics aside, is how much of an effect the players in line have had on the team. Both players have performed astoundingly well this past year and each deserves respectable votes for the MVP race.

It is not uncommon for a pitcher to win the MVP Award, because the Cy Young Award was not given out until 1956, and any MVP Award given to a pitcher before that year should not be counted for this stat. In fact 5 pitchers total have won the MVP since 2010. Around 1956 pitchers became increasingly more defined in their roles as pitchers and therefore more important. Many great pitchers were already emerging and needed to be recognized for their skill.

I personally feel Granderson, or players such as José Bautista or Adrian Gonzalez, other respectable position players, should win the MVP Award and Verlander should win the Cy Young Award. Why? Who else can match the dominance and consistency of Verlander? There have been other great pitchers in the American League, such as Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angeles Angels and CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, but no one could match Verlander, which is why by default Verlander should win. It would be weird to give Verlander the MVP Award and give the Cy Young to someone who does not come close to matching Verlander’s performance: not just in his stats, but his work ethic and his uncanny ability to still throw in the upper nineties at the end of a game. There was no one player quite like Verlander this year and the statistics are there to prove it.

 

 

ARTS REVIEW: AMERICAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: THE FEININGER CONCERT

Lindsay Duddy ’13

On Friday, October 21st, 2011, the American Symphony Orchestra put on a concert at Carnegie Hall in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art. The orchestra played the works of J.S. Bach, Arnold Schoenberg, and Lyonel Feininger.

The orchestra was founded in 1962. Beginning in these early years and remaining to the present day, the orchestra has continued to exceed its audiences’ expectations. Because of the skill of the conductor, Leon Botstein (Bard College president and BHSEC founder) and the professional skills of each and every one of the orchestral members, the orchestra plays as a single entity generating incredible sounds. They maintain the relevance of these classical works in the modern era.

The most unique aspect of the concert was the work of the Bauhaus artist, Lyonel Feininger. Feininger, as an artist, is known for his prominent colors and accentuated shapes within his work. He was born in New York City but as a young adult he moved to Germany to pursue an artistic career. His works captured a myriad of topics, and were done in several different media. Many believe that his work as a comic illustrator and writer greatly contributed to his artistic style and capabilities.

Feininger was not only a visual artist. Mostly likely because of the influence of his musician parents and his early childhood violin lessons, he also composed many works of classical music despite his lack of intense musical education. Before the orchestra began the concert, Botstein gave a lecture that contextualized the music they were about to hear. He explained that within Feininger’s work, the artist linked spirituality and suffering within a single piece. He also singled out the works’ interesting textual qualities and multi-layered feelings that set Feininger’s musical work apart from the music of the other composers and orchestrators that the orchestra played during this concert. Feininger’s three pieces were all extremely different, mirroring the characteristics of his visual art. Throughout Feininger’s life he continuously highlighted who he believed to be his greatest inspiration: Johann Sebastian Bach. Feininger believed that Bach’s music made a mark in each of his own musical and other artistic works. The concert’s mix of both the artist’s genius and the works of his greatest influence, Bach, created a balance between the two men. The energy of the orchestra and the underlying power of Feininger as a musical composer, allowed both entities to unite and create a product that was nothing less than a great success.

 

 

COLLEGE VALIDATION: HOW IT WARPS OUR LIVES

Alexi Block Gorman ’12

It did not dawn on me until two weeks before the early application deadline. Up until that stressful day in mid October, I had employed numerous other theories to account for my symptoms. It occurred to me, finally, as I complained to a sympathetic and equally afflicted Year 2.

“I feel just as exhausted after nine hours of sleep as I do running on five, these days,” I explained, “and I’m as stressed when I have few assignments as I am when I have many. Half the time I’m so drained I feel like I could cry. It’s fine while I’m in class, learning, but afterwards and between classes it feels like being squeezed from the inside out.”

At first I thought I was merely unaccustomed to getting so few hours of sleep, and that once I caught up on Z’s I would be fine, yet the fatigue persisted. I then supposed I was not getting enough protein in my diet and tried to compensate in that respect, with no measurable success. An entire month passed and still there was no change.

So it was not until this tired yet introspective conversation that I realized how virulent an aspect of my life college applications had become. I can hardly be faulted for not recognizing it right away. As someone who was encouraged to only do things she considered fun or challenging, I was unused to the crushing weight of feeling inadequate. I paused after this realization to wrap my head around how this poisonous sense of inferiority was merely the result of being told implicitly at most college tours and by most admissions representatives that I was being held to a high yet unknowable standard.

Therein lies the source of such slowly-awakening agony: an unknowable standard. If you know what is expected of you, you can appreciate your personal growth whether you meet that expectation or not. We college applicants, however, are given no such luxury. We may look at one another and fear that those whom we hold dear are, “the enemy,” but there is a more insidious torment in the unconscious fear that the enemy is none other than our own inadequacies, most of them imagined, but some not.

How had I allowed these pressures, these subliminal messages of college’s dissatisfaction, to taint the most cherished parts of my life? Well, I didn’t let them in, per se; rather, they deviously and imperceptibly wove themselves into my subconscious. Any time I had a genuinely happy thought such as, “Wow, that was an amazing lesson!” the parasites would whisper back, “Oh really? But shouldn’t you be asking yourself if colleges would think that was an amazing lesson? You need to be worrying about whether colleges would approve of your class and what grades you’re getting, not how much you enjoy it!”

It is this parasite that calls into question why you love the things you love at the moment when you want to love without question, this parasite that forces you to defend your livelihood while you are at your absolute weakest and most unsure. If there is any time to call on each other for support it is now, while belief is at its lowest, and questions are at their most devastating. The one and only antibiotic for this parasite seems to be April, and until then we have but one another to carry us along the way.

 

 

LOWER “EATS” SIDE: CIBAO RESTAURANT

Isabel Seckman Gadd ’13

Welcome to Lower “Eats” Side, the Badrvark’s new food column. As a lifelong restaurant attendee and having been raised in the business, I thought I would be well suited for the role. For the inaugural edition, I decided to review a restaurant recommended to me by a fellow Bardvark writer. When she suggested I try Cibao Restaurant, a brightly colored Dominican establishment on the corner of Rivington and Clinton, I was immediately intrigued. I’d eaten plenty of Cuban food in my life, but never had the chance to try Dominican. Cibao proved to be both delightful and dangerous—the kind of restaurant one must only go to if he or she is in a certain mood.

My companion and I ordered a Cuban sandwich, a chicken sandwich, mashed plantains, and a vanilla shake, hoping we’d be able to share it all. The Cuban sandwich (pork, ham, pickles, cheese, and mayonnaise on a nice white loaf) was delicious but very greasy, and only a modest $4.50. I was enjoying it thoroughly until, to my dismay, I found that incredibly fatty parts of the pork had turned into a large mass of a rock hard brown substance. I picked this out and the sandwich was satisfactory. The tenderness of the rest of the pork mixed with the flavors of the pickles and cheese made up for the unfortunate fatty mishap.

The chicken sandwich was also priced $4.50 but quite the opposite of the Cuban—very dry, very plain. On the same bread as the Cuban, it only had Chicken, iceberg lettuce, and some mayonnaise. It wasn’t bad, only incredibly boring. A chicken sandwich is a simple one, but it can easily be made too simple. A splash of hot sauce made it a little more appealing, but it still didn’t live up to my expectations.

The plantains, priced at $5.00, ended up being my favorite part of the meal. I was expecting soft, warm, slightly-caramelized mashed plantains like I’d eaten throughout Central America; instead I was pleasantly surprised with a huge molded pile of slightly dry chopped plantains. As much as I prefer the softer, sweeter incarnation of the dish, I was still satisfied with what I got. With hot sauce, the slight sweetness and the spiciness went together wonderfully and I was picking at them even after I was absolutely full.

The service was great—our waitress was very helpful and very friendly. The restaurant was not as clean as I’d hoped it would be, but it didn’t negatively affect my experience. The atmosphere was bustling and upbeat, with modern Latin (what I am assuming to be Dominican) music playing and quite a few families enjoying their meals.

I would go back—but only if I am in a certain eating mood. This brings me to my major warning before sending any readers to eat there: Cibao is not for vegetarians or the weak-stomached. Almost every dish on the menu is made of meat or fish. The portions are huge. I was only able to eat half of my Cuban sandwich along with a small portion of the plantains and the vanilla shake. If you’re in the mood for heavy, meaty, greasy, intense food, go to Cibao. If you’re looking for a lighter, more gourmet meal, well…wait for next issue.

CIBAO RESTAURANT

72 Clinton St. (On the corner of Clinton and Rivington)

Cuisine: Dominican

Food: ★★★☆☆

Service: ★★★★☆

Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆

Cleanliness ★★★☆☆

Overall: ★★★☆☆

Price: $

Other notes: Few vegetarian options, huge portions.

______________________________________

★ Awful.

★★ Mediocre

★★★ Satisfactory

★★★★ Very good

★★★★★ Fantastic!

$$$$ Very expensive

$$$ Pricy

$$ Manageable

$ Cheap!

 

 

SCHOOL STRESS

Madeleine Webber ’13

Here at BHSEC, stress is no mystery; it is safe to say that we have all experienced it throughout both our academic careers and our personal paths. The symptoms of stress are easily recognizable: binge eating, anxiety, mood swings… etc. However, although the traits are evident, not many people listen to them. In fact, most of the symptoms only cause more stress, which only exacerbates your anxiety over exams, homework, essays and college.

Most stresses, for students, are a result of “homework and standardized tests,” according to Holly Epstein Ojalvo, in her NY Times Learning Network article, “Is School Stressing You Out?” Oljavo briefly mentions a new film called, Race to Nowhere, which focuses on students’ pressures and anxieties to succeed. Because of high school’s rigor and colleges’ demanding and highly selective admissions processes, students are constantly competing to be on top of their class. This constant rivalry only precipitates anxiety and unwanted stress.

According to Oljavo, “stressed-out students are often not engaged in learning.” If a student has too many assignments and obligations, he or she is more likely to do each task half-heartedly rather than excelling in one. Over-stressed students become more concerned with the grade, rather than the their own comprehension of the material. They struggle to complete assignments timely and they often resort to the “memorize and ‘spit back’” method, which is inefficient for retaining the information. Some students even turn to cheating or plagiarism, completely dishonoring their academic integrity, which we all know is highly un-tolerated here at BHSEC.

Studies show that interactions between a student and teacher actually increase the student’s desire to learn. If a student thinks that their “teachers listen to them, want to get to know them and are willing to help with homework,” then they are more likely to engage in class discussions, not cheat, and exhibit less stress, according to Oljavo. These relationships between students and teachers are developed through after school tutoring, advisory periods, and other student/teacher functions. Oljavo refers to advisory periods as a beneficial interaction because it provides a time for students to “discuss personal issues, work on organizational and study skills, and participate in activities that promote coping strategies and social skills.”

In addition to advisory, Eddy Ramírez, in his article from US News and World Report, “Schools Battle Student Stress with Creative Strategies,” also recommends attaining relaxation by meditation to release stress. Ramírez discusses some high schools’ recent efforts to help students relax through “yoga, tai chi, and other increasingly popular anxiety-fighting methods.” Even here, at BHSEC, we have strived to help students with anxiety. Ms. Nardone offers an early morning yoga class twice a week, each grade has an advisory period once a week, and there is designated tutoring after school.

Stress is quite common among students, however it can also be alleviated. Although every person is different, the listed remedies above are recommended to relieve most people’s stress. Of course, these solutions may not work on everyone, seeing that each person has different stress levels due to individual reasons, but they are certainly worth a try.

 

 

TEACHERISMS

Isabel Seckman Gadd ’13

Mr. Gagstetter: “Mr. G: I’m growing a moustache for men’s health awareness month. Anyone else who can grow one is encouraged to as well.”

Dr. Birch: “Everybody appreciates a good goat.”

Mr. Casey: [Pointing to ‘Munchkins’ label on donut box] “I do not believe that a man, a grown man, should be allowed to say this word, so I will call them Diminutive Pastry Orbs! Here, enjoy the Diminutive Pastry Orbs!”

All Teacherisms are printed with the explicit permission from the teachers cited. If you have a funny quote you would like to submit, please post it on the Facebook Teacherisms page or email me at isabelseckmangadd@gmail.com

 

 

ANONYMOUS

I say there is no darkness but ignorance. -William Shakespeare

There is a poster for Roland Emmerich’s newest thriller, Anonymous, hanging on the bulletin board outside the English office. Beside the poster, someone tacked up an article that was featured in the New York Times by James Shapiro, Ph.D, a professor of Shakespeare studies at Columbia University. For those of you who have not spent an inordinate amount of time puzzling over and grappling with the Shakespeare authorship controversy, like myself, you may not be aware that there is an ongoing debate among scholars about who really wrote the most famous 38 plays and 154 sonnets to ever have existed. Classical Stratfordians, named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, like James Shapiro, argue that the son of a glover, fifth grade educated actor William Shakespeare wrote the plays just as we have all believed. The Oxfordians, on the other hand, believe that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, an inspired nobleman, who killed a boy in a duel, possibly had an affair with Queen Elizabeth and was a documented child prodigy, fearful that he would be persecuted for writing, hired Will Shakespeare to sign his name to his plays.

This seemingly cut and dry dialectic is presented by Roland Emmerich in Anonymous, in a way that makes you think that Shakespeare was a money hungry illiterate buffoon who extorted de Vere. It depicts de Vere as a misunderstood poet, shunned by his wife and children whose puritanical ideals did not align with his radical sentiments. In the film, which is action packed and aesthetically riveting, de Vere uses Shakespeare to present political agendas hidden in the plays to stir the audience at the Globe. He manipulates the entire British political system through Richard III enough to incite the crowd and lead them on a march to Elizabeth’s palace where they are overrun by Robert Cecil’s troops. Somewhere in the middle of the decapitations, Oedipal drama, lust, torture and illegitimate children, one forgets who Shakespeare really was. I was fortunate enough to watch this film before its release at the New Yorker Festival, followed by a debate between James Shapiro and Roland Emmerich. After the film ended I felt that I had cheated on Shakespeare by even entertaining the notion that he did not write these plays. I felt ashamed that I had watched him presented as a fool, one who took pleasure in taking credit for another man’s genius.

Let me be clear, before I dig myself in too deeply. I am all for bending the truth for the sake of a good story in literature, film and art. Fiction is becoming a lost genre in contemporary culture, rejected in favor of autobiographies, memoirs and documentaries. We must clarify on episodes of Law and Order that the following events have been based on real life, but that they have been enhanced by the intriguing ribbons of make-believe. Thus my issue with Anonymous is not its historical inaccuracies or even its crude characterizations of Shakespeare and Elizabeth. Of course the movie does not have to be true or correct. It’s a Hollywood film and if you expect something more from it, you will only be disappointed. Shakespeare himself was a firm believer in loosely basing his tragedies off of history. He would have approved of Anonymous’s story-telling abilities. What I take issue with is its blatant attempt to persuade an uniformed and easily persuaded audience that Shakespeare was merely the nom de plume for Sir Edward de Vere.

When I was in middle school, my drama teacher, to introduce us into our new Shakespeare unit in which we were going to perform Twelfth Night or What You Will, wrote on the walls of our black-box theatre the arguments of the Oxfordians and Stratfordians. His evidence for de Vere was so much more compelling and complete than his evidence for Shakespeare, that I don’t believe any of us walked out of that room a Stratfordian. He presented the ‘facts’ in a way that would make us agree with him, as we were only 12 and so easily manipulated by dogmatic teaching. Frankly, the story of Edward de Vere is a fascinating one. He was known for writing brilliantly, marrying the most intellectual woman in England, and having an affair with an African woman whom many Oxfordians believe to be the dark lady in so many Shakespearean sonnets.

Yet his most persuasive argument for me was the contradiction between Will Shakespeare’s upbringing in rural Stratford as an illiterate boy with a fifth grade education who married Anne Hathaway and chose not to educate his daughters, and the unrivaled sophistication of his works. How could a man whose travel was never documented have such an insight into the Elizabethan court, legal proceedings, Italy, banking, Greek philosophy and European history? De Vere on the other hand was a regular in the palace, and was even imprisoned in Tower Bridge for a few years. He was worldly and interesting and everything seemed to click. Shakespeare couldn’t even sign his own name the same way twice for goodness sake. My teacher made Stratfordians seem naïve and idealistic, as if they were clinging onto Gatsby’s green light. The Daisy Buchannan at the end he argued, referring to Shakespeare himself, was no great prize. And thus, an Oxfordian was born.

I told these little facts to everyone who had a spare ear. I could recite each and every one, lay down my counterarguments and then destroy them. It just worked out perfectly; everything could be explained. Even as I played Olivia on the stage, I thought, this independent, witty woman could never have been dreamed up by Shakespeare. My interest in the topic began to fade as I left the world of middle school acting, but I continued to challenge anyone who argued for Shakespeare’s authorship. Then one day, I was having dinner with my father and two of his friends. I noticed that Contested Will by James Shapiro was sitting on their shelf and excited that I might be able to argue against Shakespeare, I brought the topic up. They were much more mature than me and simply recommended that I read it, along with The Will in the Word by Stephen Greenblatt. “Don’t you think it’s a little romantic to be a Stratfordian?” I asked them. All they could say was, “He has a very compelling argument in favor of Shakespeare.” I took them up on their suggestion and purchased the book. I was actually quite open to the possibility that Shakespeare wrote the plays. I realized that I just wanted a reasoned argument to be presented to me, the same way I thought, my drama teacher had presented the Oxfordian case. After the first two chapters, I was a convert, a born again Stratfordian.

I realize that I have presented myself as someone who blows with the wind, but really I had been brainwashed by the allure of de Vere and being 12 and all, I believed exactly what was told to me. It was exciting for me to challenge such a strongly held, traditional interpretation of literature. I was more than willing to accept an alternate view of reality, since I didn’t know what I was forsaking. Now that I have a few logic courses under my belt, and the wisdom of five extra years, I am fairly confident in my ability to evaluate the solidity of arguments. And James Shapiro presented his evidence in such a compelling and rational way that one wondered how the Oxfordians have continued to gain members.

I don’t wish to review his book, although I do recommend it if I haven’t bored you with the topic already, but essentially he took every Oxfordian argument that I had ever considered valid, and artfully but mercilessly destroyed them. He presented the multiple candidates that have been offered up in place of Shakespeare, namely Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere and explained who was behind their promotions. For Bacon, it was a woman by the name of Delia Bacon of no relation to him. She was an unstable young poet who suggested that Bacon’s life paralleled that of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays. Quickly, cipher hunters caught wind of this and built huge machines to find hidden codes in the plays that they could link to Bacon. Their codes often allowed them to manipulate the words into anything they wanted. Bacon was soon forgotten when the ciphers yielded no valid results, in favor of Edward de Vere. Shapiro grapples with the prominent supporters of de Vere, whom he respects. People like Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud and Helen Keller, all found something captivating about this man and the former two argued for him till their deaths. One by one he uncovers the psychology behind each person’s support of de Vere. Each justification was shown to be more projection than actual hard fact.

Bypassing the details for the sake of expediency, Shapiro’s argument is more telling about our modern society than the authorship of the plays. He argues that in Shakespeare’s day, writers wrote from their imaginations. Shakespeare would have picked up stories and customs while in Stratford or while acting in London, a globalized metropolis. He wasn’t illiterate in actuality, nor was he a fool. Rather, Twain and Freud just couldn’t fathom that someone could write pure fiction. Twain himself made sure that he had every experience he wrote about. The problem with de Vere, besides the fact that he was dead before the last few plays were written, is that he fits everything to a tee. He cannot be falsified. He can explain away too much. At a certain point one has to wonder, are we not just looking at his life and molding the pieces to fit Shakespeare’s plays? Is it us, 21st century society, cynics who cannot believe that a man could find so much stored in his mind?

And so I return to the question I so confidently and sarcastically asked my father’s friends that night, “Don’t you think it’s a little romantic to be a Stratfordian?” My answer to myself, and to anyone who feels excited by Anonymous, is: yes, it is, but that does not negate its validity. For what did Shakespeare teach us if not, “The course of true love never did run smooth?” I am a hopeless romantic, this time grounded in fact, who believes that the man who grew up in Stratford, a lowly actor wrote the most penetrating, insightful plays that have ever graced humankind. I dare to put faith in imagination, in a mind so inspired that it could overcome its homely origins, its lack of university education, and all preconceptions. Because if we do not believe in that type of intellectual mobility, than why are we all trying so hard to do it ourselves? As Shakespeare told us, “We are such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded with sleep.” (Tempest, 4.1)

 

 

ANTIQUE METHODS IN A DIGITAL AGE

Micaela Beigel ’14

Snap, click, hiss, the sound of a camera shutter, is being heard a lot around BHSEC’s halls these days. Not the sharp automated click of a digital camera — that’s nothing new, but the long drawn out rasps of an analog film camera. That’s right, good old, by it at the drug store, hand reeled film has been making appearances throughout our school. In the last semester it would seem that the film movement has taken over BHSEC in a wave of nostalgia for an era that many of us are not even old enough to remember. So what has caused the resurgence of this lost art?

I teamed up with BHSEC’s newly formed photography club to answer some questions on this sudden change. From the beginning they make one thing clear, film photography was never dead, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Every college heavily emphasizes a strong film background,” commented one 9th grader passionately. And what he says is true. After some research I found that almost all photography majors in any art college require a sturdy foundation in film photography to continue into a digital class. With this in mind, the group came to a consensus that this trend is not a rebirth. Even if this is true, just how much film photography is taking place around BHSEC? Looking around at the 14 members of the club I spotted 5 film cameras, and when a poll between the 2 methods was take, a staggering 7 of 13 stated that they prefer working with film.

“Film is special because when you are shooting with a roll of film you only have a limited amount of exposures,” said Charlie Shan, a 9th grader.

Maya Moverman, a Year 1, observed that, “We live in a time of instant gratification, there’s something to be said about having to wait to see your pictures. It makes the whole process more important.” The group went on and on, but the general agreement was that because of the limitations of film, it is in a sense more desirable because it makes you understand composition, and intent more specifically. So why now? Why BHSEC?

“It’s because we’re alternative, and open to unique trends, it’s produced limitedly so it’s desired,” Year 1, Cate Kentworthy and co-founder of the club stated. Others nodded in agreement, and noted that the timing of the trend is far from coincidental. Many chimed in that the cause was the partnership between clothing chain, Urban Outfitters and Lomography, the movement often credited for film’s revival. With film being advertised as a new trend, the group is also sure that this is just the beginning and that the fad is sure to spread all over the country. So why is it taking so long? After talking to the photography club, it was clear that even at BHSEC this craze was not born overnight and is still taking awhile, to invade the student body.

“It’s the cost, and the skill set,” Rosa Polin, Year 1, the other co-founder of the club, explained. She discussed how she shoots with a digital camera because one, film photography is an expensive habit to fuel, as a roll of film can run from 3 to 10 dollars, and two, the process of learning how to shoot film properly is often a long one. Even though she prefers the look of a film photograph to that of a digital, shooting digitally is easier and makes the learning process less time consuming.

Overall the group encouraged students to look into film photography and is in favor of the art’s reëmergence. However, most of the group said that they would not be switching from digital to film anytime soon. For members of the student body who are interesting in learning more about film or digital photography, the photography club meets Monday afternoons in room 509 at 3:50.

 

 

THE NEWEST THING IN NEWARK

Isabelle St. Clair ’13

New Jersey: the fun at Six Flags, the drama on the Jersey Shore, the political lows of Governor Chris Christie, the gambling of Atlantic City, the other end of the Lincoln Tunnel, the Garden State, and… the new home of BHSEC Newark, which officially opened this September.

However, we know absolutely nothing about our newest sibling. We are all caught up in our own world of academics, of social assemblies, and of familial activities, that BHSEC Newark might as well be on another planet thousands of miles away. We may share the same curriculum, but we are two separate schools in two separate places with different teachers and unique outlooks on the world. So here is your chance to learn more about it.

Because the school is in Newark there are different requirements for the teachers and the students that come from the state education board and the Newark Public School system. Unlike New York, New Jersey does not give regents exams, but instead the state issues it own high school tests. Although such tests do not truly interfere with the BHSEC curriculum, teachers do have to keep them in mind.

With a little less than 40,000 K-12 students, Newark may be the largest public school system in the state, but compared to New York City’s 1.2 million students it seems small. According to Mr. Peterson this, “Makes a big different in student recruitment”, because, “we have fewer students to choose from when looking for our 9th grade and 11 grade class.” BHSEC Newark now has 80 freshmen and 35 Year Is and by next year the school hopes to have 200 freshman and sophomore students, 60 Year I students, and 35 Year IIs. Mr. Peterson expects that there will be no more than 400 in the entire school in comparison to the 600 students currently enrolled in both BHSEC Manhattan and Queens.

BHSEC Newark currently shares a building with two other high schools. The crowdedness of the school and the challenged urban area make school safety a much bigger concern. Because of the surroundings, the day beings at 8:20 so that the students may return home by 4:00. In addition to the different hours of the school day, the school is a closed campus, so the students must stay inside the building the entire day. While these differences may serve to differentiate our schools, there are many things that bring us together.

Mr. Peterson remarked that BHSEC Newark has a small and wonderful faculty with only two teachers per subject. Many of the teachers have previously educated students at BHSEC such as Dr. Lori Ween and Dr. Ena Harris in English, Dr. Seth Halvorson in Y1 Seminar and Speech and Debate, and Dr. John Weinstein in Chinese. These teachers will not only help BHSEC Newark reach its fullest potential, but will also help the students understand the new curriculum, especially the writing and thinking workshop that they also had in the very beginning of the year. Like all BHSEC schools, Newark has interested students and dedicated parents who are all ready to take on and learn from this school.

Because BHSEC Newark is now in New Jersey, the state has completely changed before our very eyes. It is no longer a state we have no connection to, as the emergence of this school has fostered a new relationship. The New York Times recently included Mr. Peterson in an article on the changing educational standards of Newark resulting from a generous donation $200 million from Mark Zuckerberg among others. There seems to be less resentment towards this new BHSEC branch even though many loved teachers have migrated there, than there was when BHSEC Queens opened. Perhaps, it is because we realize that Newark deserves a BHSEC.

 

 

FROM RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE TO PUBLIC HOUSING: INDEPENDENT STUDIES AT BHSEC

Hannah Frishberg ’13

BHSEC’s independent study system is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of our school. A college-like system unavailable in any other New York City public high school (students I spoke with from Millennium, LaGuardia, Beacon, and the specialized high schools all said that if their schools had an independent study system of any kind they were unaware of it), it allows Year 2 students (and the occasional Year 1) to study a discipline of their interest with the help of a faculty advisor. This year’s studies range from ichthyology, or the study of fish, to the history of public housing.

With a total of 11 studies involving 24 students this semester, Principal Lerner commented that, “11 is down from past years. There have been semesters when that number was in the 20s. With bigger classes, though, teachers have less time to spare and fitting an independent study into their schedule becomes more difficult.” Seeing as teachers are not paid for the extra time they spend in independent studies, budget cuts and the resulting larger class sizes can make independent studies impossible for overloaded teachers. Principal Lerner also noted, however, that there are usually less independent studies in the fall semester, as Year 2s are overloaded with college applications then and have more time in the spring.

While the idea of an independent study is exponentially older than BHSEC, our system began simply when students suggested teachers teach courses unavailable in the catalogue, and assuming the teacher was interested, together the teacher and student would build a curriculum. “We’re actually very liberal about our independent study system,” Principal Lerner commented, “we want to make sure the student is prepared to study their esoteric topic, but then they get to build their own curricula around it.”

Being a diverse and intellectual school, naturally the list of independent studies is just as colorful as BHSEC’s student body. One independent study, History and Dissent in Literature, has students reading, as the course title suggests, dissident literature. This ranges from Voltaire’s Candide to Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat and Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Students in the study meet twice a week and discuss the historical context of their texts as well as writing weekly journals. Another study, The Works of Gabriel García Márquez, has students reading 100 Years of Solitude and other works of the author in Spanish. A third, Globalizatio and International Affairs, actually sends students to various lectures with Bard College’s Globalization and International Affairs Program. Innocence and Heroism in World War 2 has the student involved, watch war film from the 1940s-1960s whilst reading a historical and cultural guide to the era. The independent study Comparative Biology in Ichthyology also includes out of school involvement as the student involved works with a doctoral student at the Natural History Museum studying the ponyfish.

As to the differences between independent studies and taking a real class on the topic, both teachers and students emphasized the smaller size, more personalized feel, and guaranteed interest. Year 2 Juliet Glazer expressed that her independent study, “is more laid back than a class, but I’m more motivated because I’m studying exactly what I want to study and the class is moving at my pace. Since it’s so small, I think I get more out of it”. Year 2 Shannon Grant had similar feelings for the smaller class size, “While independent studies obviously provide a smaller setting for discussion, they also offer a more in-depth look at an aspect of a subject that may or not be touched upon in other classes with the subject.” Year 2 Alyssa Freeman commented on the comparative responsibility and independence of independent studies, saying she feels, “This experience is different than a traditional class or even a seminar because one is entirely responsible for staying on schedule, some may welcome this flexibility, others may feel they need more structure”. Others students spoke of the closer dynamic with teachers and the personalized aspect. Dr. Marion felt that teaching an independent study is, “In a lot of ways very similar. You discuss the same kinds of issues as a class, but the difference is that the students must take ownership of the material. Students in independent studies can’t not do the reading. Principal Lerner also noted the fact that independent studies give students more responsibility, saying the, “big difference between classes and independent studies is who’s driving: studies are student initiated, so they must take charge. We as teachers are their to guide and advise them, help them expand.”

Overall, students’ reactions to their independent studies were unanimously positive. While some admitted to initially joining the independent study because they needed course credits and couldn’t fit any other classes into their schedules, all felt that their independent studies gave them the opportunity to study a topic they were personally interested in, providing them with hands on experience and genuinely engaging texts and subject matter.

 

 

TEACHER FEATURE: MS. RIVIERE

Eliza Fawcett ’15

Ms. Riviere, a new addition to the BHSEC History department, is currently teaching 9th Grade American History and 10th Grade Global History, and is adjusting to the new environment. One of her previous teaching positions was at UAAHC (Urban Assembly Academy of History and Citizenship for Young Men), an all-boys public high school in the South Bronx, and she thus admits that she has definitely noticed the girl-boy ratio at BHSEC. Soft-spoken and pleasant, Ms. Riviere has been interested in history since a young age, she especially liked archaeology as a kid, and is fascinated by individuals’ origins: where they came from and how they developed into their current position in life. She notes that this interest stemmed from her own complex family history.

Petra Riviere was born in Dominica, a Caribbean island close to Martinique, but grew up in New Jersey, where she attended Marylawn, an all-girls high school. Ms. Riviere went on to Haverford College, where she majored in history, and eventually continued on to graduate school at NYU, where she majored in social studies and education.

One of her previous job experiences was working at the educational department of the Bronx Museum, where she taught students through hands-on activities and oral presentations, often sitting on the floor in the, “free-flowing” gallery atmosphere. Ms. Riviere admits that she desired a more structured environment for teaching, and wanted to have more of an idea about what specifically students needed to succeed in the real world, so she became a high school history teacher. Drawn to BHSEC because of its, “smaller intellectual atmosphere that allows students to really work with each other and interact with teachers,” she has noticed that students here are very driven to learn and take initiative in their studies. Although Ms. Riviere says that the adjustment has been a bit difficult, she admits that the school is, “really welcoming”.

Ms. Riviere has taken advantage of a number of history seminars and travel programs over the past couple of summers, which she said have allowed her to bring new material and personal knowledge to her courses (be it her own pictures of Machu Picchu, or interesting travel anecdotes). In 2010, Ms. Riviere attended a NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) seminar in St. Louis, which explored an in-depth analysis of the Harlem Renaissance and its effects nationwide in empowering a post World War I generation. In past years, Ms. Riviere also attended an NEH seminar on Mesoamerican history and culture, a course on Atlantic history at the Johns Hopkins University, and has also made a trip to Peru. All these summer programs have been terrific experiences for her. They are a,” nice time for a teacher to be a student,” but it is not all play she says, “We have homework too!”

Ms. Riviere’s favorite activities outside of school include pencil drawing, she confesses that a recent attempt at ink drawing was “disastrous”, and, unsurprisingly, visiting museums like the Met for the diversity of its subjects and time periods.

Her advice to young aspiring historians is to, “never stop wanting to learn,” and to always, “have your own ideas and opinions, but be open to the ideas and opinions of others.” On a last note, when asked where she would time travel to if given the option, Ms. Riviere conceded that it would have to be, “somewhere with plumbing.”

 

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