Communication During the Pandemic

By Olivia Barker Dell

As of now, our world is recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 was first reported from Wuhan, China to the World Health Organization on December 31st, 2019. It has been over 500 days since the first report of COVID-19 cases. During the pandemic, everything has shut down, people have stopped traveling to work or to school, attending broadway shows or sporting events, or even meeting face to face. That last one is key, because it hampered our ability to communicate, which in itself is key in our world. Without face-to-face communication, our social lives are diminished, and we resorted to online communication. Apps such as iMessage, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Zoom, Google Meet, Discord, Snapchat, Messenger, and WeChat are just a few ways people have had to communicate in the pandemic. As a teenager starting her first year of high school, communication was a huge issue for a few reasons. First, friendships and school and at the workplace are key, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was much harder to make connections with my classmates. 

I’ve heard from a few friends that have struggled to make friends and communicate. They’ve told me that there are positives and negatives when it comes to communication and social apps. Apps such as Discord, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and Zoom. Freshman Jonah Kau told me that he “uses apps like Discord or just simple messaging on my phone to talk to my friends and stay connected with them. Without these apps I feel like I wouldn’t be as open with my friends and these apps have really helped with talking during the pandemic. When I think about it, we kind of take it for granted and I think that it is a helpful tool.” Tenzin Chemi, another Beacon freshman, said something very similar.“I think they have helped me in making friends during this freshman year being that I’m doing fully remote. Although I’m unable to go to school in person to make friends, I can make friends online with the people from my school,” Chemi said. Even though everyone has different experiences, the most common and important part in all of their experiences was the ability to connect with new and older friends during the pandemic. They also shared with me how they have made connections with their fellow classmates, especially via Instagram and Discord, the two most popular communication apps used by the Beacon freshmen. 

Both Kau and fellow freshman Arcadia Santos Valentine mentioned many positives, but also told me how social media and communication can negatively impact someone’s health. Arcadia said that “one of the major problems is seeing other people living their exciting and socialized lives during the pandemic can make you feel isolated, which can impact your mental health.” This really stuck with me, as this feeling can be created from many different situations, whether it’s being left out of a group chat or not being able to download a key communication app because of your parents or technology. But overall, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives of these communication apps. 

Before the pandemic, Instagram and Snapchat were used for quick communication or just to advertise your life by posting photos and videos on your account. But times have changed, and some now use Instagram and Snapchat for class group chats, meetup planning, video calling, and more. I utilized Instagram almost every day during the pandemic, and I expect to continue to use it daily even when we return to our “normal” social lives. Even though group chats might die out and there might be less users livestreaming on the app, I’m sure that many will continue to use it.   On the other hand, while I’ve definitely kept Snapchat downloaded on my phone even though I might not check my messages every day. I’m more active on Instagram personally, but during the pandemic, I kept daily streaks on Snapchat with many of my middle school friends, and it was nice to connect with them even though we don’t see each other every day anymore. I expect to keep using that tool on Snapchat even after we recover from the pandemic. A slightly different situation lies with Discord, one of the most popular social media apps. Before schools were shut down, I thought of Discord as just a version of iMessage, but with options to make it more useful as a gaming platform. But since the pandemic hit New York City, I’ve learned that Discord offers so much more. I have joined several Discord servers and found you can create voice channels, text channels, minigame channels, add bots to provide special content for things like birthdays and pet ownership, and more. In my opinion, Discord has almost been a second home. On the app, I talk to all of my friends I’ve made this year at beacon. It has a multitude of abilities that suit our needs during the pandemic such as video, text, and voice calls, as well as music, streams, and more. Overall this app has been a very useful tool to my fellow freshmen. 

While apps that I’ve mentioned already skew younger, it’s worth mentioning apps like Facebook and Twitter becoming key for generally older generations. Facebook Messenger provides text, video, and voice chats. I rarely use Facebook Messenger, but I’ve found it useful when connecting with friends outside of the United States. Instead of paying extra for out-of-country calls, I’ve used Facebook Messenger to connect with them for free. Twitter also provides instant messaging, quick posts, and an interesting feed. 

Lastly, let’s talk about the two most used video conferencing apps: Zoom and google meets. These conferencing apps have been the home of my education during the pandemic, and even though school isn’t the most fun all the time,these apps have helped me get to know my friends and teachers. Even though my generation has mostly used these apps for educational purposes, people all over the world use Zoom and Google Meet to connect with each other, whether they live in a different time zone, borough, or neighborhood. 

Now that our nation is recovering from the COVID-19 with millions of people receiving vaccines, our regulations are loosening, and hopefully, we will be able to get back to our normal face-to-face conversations. But until then, it’s certainly been interesting to see what communication has been like during this time.

Important Black Women in History

By Hannah Rajalingam and Talia Willscher

Madam CJ Walker, known to history as Sarah Breedlove, was the first-ever female, self-made millionaire. She was born on December 23, 1867, one of six children. By age 14 she had married a man named Moses McWilliams; this marriage was partly motivated by Walker’s desire to get away from an abusive brother-in-law. So when he died 7 years later, she moved to Missouri to be with her brothers. For the next decade or so Walker worked as a washerwoman and sang in the choir of her church. She eventually worked under Annie Turnbo of the Poro Company. Then, in 1905, Walker moved to Denver and learned basic chemistry working as a cook for a pharmacist. These skills helped her to perfect an ointment that healed “dandruff and other hygiene-related ailments”. In 1906, Walker married Charles Joseph Walker; she started making some local successes with her products with what would later be known as the “Walker Method”  or “Walker System of Beauty Culture” from which she became known as “Madam CJ Walker”. After a couple of years training “beauty culturists” and “Walker agents” through the eastern and southern United States, Madam CJ Walker and her husband opened the Lelia College of Beauty Culture, in 1908, named after their daughter, which drew lots of African-American business to Pittsburgh where they were living at the time. She continued to travel through the US providing career opportunities and economic independence for thousands of African-American women who otherwise would have been consigned to jobs as maids, cooks, laundresses, and farmhands” (Bundles). Madam CJ Walker expanded to the Caribbean and Central America and acquired 25,000 Walker agents by 1919. She was also a philanthropist, giving $1,000 to the African American Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and $5,000 to the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) anti-lynching fund, in 1911 and 1919 respectively. She was politically active speaking out against lynching and for the rights of African-American soldier, even speaking about it when she visited the White House in 1917. (Bundles)

Not many know the name Dr. Gladys West, an essential pioneer in the creation of the technology used in all GPSs today. As a kid, she picked corn, cotton, and tobacco but began to use mathematics as her path out of agriculture once her teachers discovered her aptitude for it. Many years later, West earned a full ride to Virginia State College (currently Virginia State University) since she was valedictorian of her high school class. After West graduated in 1952, she applied for many government jobs, but in a white-male dominated field and a segregated state, her attempts were fruitless. West however, decided to continue to pursue her education and received her master’s in math in 1955. West’s continuous pursuit of government jobs and finally landed her an offer in 1956 from the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia. She was the second African American woman and fourth African American person employed there; West worked with Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) and her work on Project 29V, which helped to establish the motion of Pluto in relation to Neptune “through 5 billion arithmetic calculations and 100 hours of computer calculation” in 1964. Dr. Gladys West managed the project for SEASAT in 1978, the first satellite that orbited the Earth and measured ocean depths, which eventually led to the creation of the GEOSAT. The SEASAT was used, in addition to other data, to make incredibly accurate, detailed “computer simulations of the earth’s surface” The guide that West published in 1986 outlining how to use the GEOSAT to measure geoid heights. In the article “Gladys Mae West (1930- )”, published by Black Past, it states, “Colleagues noted her mathematical brilliance particularly with algorithms, which created efficiencies that transformed calculation timetables.” The calculations and algorithm West created are the reason we have such accurate GPS data today. She went to complete her PhD at 70 years old, while retired, at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. In 1973 West earned a public administration degree from the University of Oklahoma, her second, while she worked at Dahlgren. The Virginia Senate, joint resolution was passed to formally commend “Gladys West for her trailblazing career in mathematics and vital contributions to modern technology.” on February 26, 2018. That very same year, in December Dr. Galdys West was inducted into the Space and Missiles Pioneer Hall of Fame. Today, she still continues to speak with grade school students about the importance of STEM studies. (“Dr. Gladys West”)

In aviation history, the name Bessie Coleman is often overlooked. She was born on January 26th, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. Coleman lived with her twelve brothers and sisters and her parents. Her mother was a maid and her father was a sharecropper, who was of African American and Native American descent. Coleman’s father moved to Oklahoma to escape the discrimination because of his mixed race in 1901, Coleman’s mother didn’t move with him, and the rest of the family also stayed with her. Coleman would help her mother wash laundry and pick cotton growing up. She went on to attend Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston Oklahoma (now named Langston University) at eighteen with her saved up money, which unfortunately only lasted her for one semester. Coleman later moved to Chicago to live with her brothers at 23. She was eventually able to attend Burnham School of Beauty Culture in 1915 and became a manicurist and worked in a local barbershop. Some of Coleman’s brothers ended up serving in WWⅡ as pilots. They would tell Bessie about how French women were allowed to fly. It was this that inspired her to become a pilot. Coleman applied to numerous flight schools in the US but was rejected to the schools she applied to because she was both a woman and African American. Robert Abbot, “a famous African American newspaper publisher”, told Coleman to move to France to learn how to fly. Following his advice, Coleman began to take night French classes since her applications had to be filled out in French. The Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation finally accepted her, where it was located in Le Crotoy, France. Coleman finally got her international pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921. Coleman soon dreamed of opening her own flight school. “She gave speeches and showed films of her air tricks in churches, theaters, and schools to earn money. She refused to speak anywhere that was segregated or discriminated against African Americans.” (Alexander) 1922 marked Coleman’s first public flight as an African American woman. “Loop-de loops” and figure eights were her trademarks, these and more of the fascinating tricks she did became increasingly popular in Europe and the US. Coleman also encouraged women and African-Americans to learn how to fly. February 1923,  a couple of years into her flying career, Coleman got into a plane crash; her engine died mid-flight. She sustained some injuries but was able to fully recover and continue flying in 1925. Coleman was able to use the money she saved up to purchase a plane for herself, “a Jenny – JN-4 with an OX-5 engine”. She returned to Texas to perform but it was during segregation so there were separate entrances for black and white. Coleman refused to perform with the segregated entrances, so her managers eventually gave in and had a single entrance, but the stadium was still segregated in its seating. Despite her death in April 1926, Bessie Coleman’s steadfastness to her beliefs inspired change long after her death. In 1931, the Challenger Pilots’ Association of Chicago began the tradition of flying over Coleman’s grave every year in her honor. In 1977, the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club was formed by a group of African American female pilots. In 1995, “the Bessie Coleman Stamp” was created to commemorate her accomplishments. (Alexander)

Cathay Williams was an African American woman born in 1844 in Independence, Missouri. She was initially a slave, leading to her being forced into serving in the army, doing jobs such as cooking and washing clothes. She later joined the army of her own free will, going under the pseudonym William Cathy. However, after a long stunt in the army, illnesses such as smallpox plagued her, leading to hospitalization in 1868. This trip to the hospital outed her as a woman, and she was discharged. Yet, this setback didn’t stop her. She joined an all black group of soldiers known as the 38th Infantry Regiment, which later became the well-known group the Buffalo Riders. This group mapped out territory, protected white civilians, escorted wagon trains, and fought in skirmishes with Native Americans. Cathay Williams became the first black woman to join the army, a feat that was quite impressive especially because of all she succeeded in doing. 

Phillis Wheatley was born in Senegal/Gambia, West Africa, and at the age of seven, was kidnapped to be sold into slavery. She was sold to Susan Wheatley, who wanted a “frail female child.” The captain of the slave ship had believed Phillis to be ill and wanted to earn a small sum of money off of her before her death, but the Wheatley family was surprised to discover how smart Phillis truly was. She was taught to read and write, which was something most enslaved people were not permitted to do. Despite being educated, however, Phillis still had to do some domestic duties. She studied many subjects and soon published a poem called An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of that Celebrated Divine, and Eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, the Reverend and Learned George Whitefield at the young age of thirteen. Phillis then went on to have written twenty eight poems by the age of eighteen, which she advertised through Boston newspapers with the help of Mrs. Wheatley. She later published a book of poetry, becoming the first African American woman to do so. Wheatley later married a man named John Peters, a free black man. She died later after complications from giving birth to three children (it is believed). In total, she is believed to have written over one hundred and forty five poems, and was an important figure to the role of women in literature. 

Katherine Johnson was born in West Virginia in 1918. When she was thirteen years old, she was already in high school, and she enrolled herself in college at eighteen. She graduated with the highest honors in the class and later went on to teach at a black public school. Later on, when integration in graduate schools was taking place, Katherine and two black men were chosen to be offered spots at Western Virginia University. She eventually got a job analyzing flight data, but when Sputnik, the Soviet satellite was launched into space, Katherine’s job changed. She ended up doing trajectory analysis for Alan Sheperd’s space mission. She also wrote a research report and it was the first time a woman had been credited as the author of one. Then in 1962, while working at NASA, Katherine was called to check the numbers for John Glenn’s space trip. They had already been done on the computer, but she checked them by hand and said they were good to go. Glenn’s space mission was successful and changed the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. She retired in 1986 after thirty three years of work, but became a  symbol of hope for young girls across the nation. The “Hidden Figures” movie of 2016 drew even more attention to Katherine Johnson’s name. She died February 24th, 2020, but her smarts and her dedication changed history and allowed for the United States to move forward in their space technological discoveries. 

The Roaming Black Hole

By Anya Geiling

Astronomers have identified 13 massive wandering black holes in dwarf galaxies less than 1 billion light-years from Earth (siliconrepublic.com). One of them, called B3 1715+425, started out normal. Now, it’s hurtling through space at 2,000 kilometers per second. 

To begin, a black hole is a place in space where gravity is so strong that nothing leaves it. Not even light can escape from this gravitational monster. Black holes have a radius at roughly 12 million kilometers. Earth has a radius of 3,958.8 miles. That is a dramatic difference. 

Ok, but let’s get back to the black hole on the run. B3 1715+425 started out just like any other black hole with a galaxy full of stars around it. Astronomers, however, have proved otherwise. The black hole was stripped, essentially naked, bolting through space at astronomical speeds. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down. 

This black hole in particular is supermassive, which in definition can be millions or billions times larger than our Sun. Black holes are commonly found to be at the center of most galaxies (ours included). James Condon, a lead researcher from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory stated that this roaming black hole instead fled from its larger galaxy and left a trail of debris behind it. But what happened to B3 1715+425’s galaxy? Why did it disappear?

It turns out that galaxies collide. When they do, the black holes at the center of each galaxy combine and become one larger mass. When B3 1715+425 had a galaxy, it seemed to have collided with a much larger galaxy, therefore a much larger black hole. Instead of coming together, the larger black hole destroyed B3 1715+425’s galaxy. B3 1715+425 managed to escape and is slowly losing the stars that feed it. All of this happened over millions of years ago. As of now, B3 1715+425 is still hurtling through space. If it comes our way, we’re in big trouble. 

Quantum Computing

By Daniel Aarao Reis Arturi

Quantum Computing; a term that most have not ever heard, and if you have it’s most likely been dismissed as too esoteric to warrant more than a moment’s discussion. But as we march into the future, quantum computing may prove to transform the world as we know it. 

But what does this boujee sounding term even really mean? Obviously, there is no way to understand quantum fully in the scope of one newspaper article, not even a PhD is enough to fully understand the field (or at least what we have figured out so far), but the core concepts are accessible to anyone. First, it’s pertinent to describe classical computers. Classical computers are basically anything we would consider technology today. All the circuits in your phones, computers, fridges, planes, all that is run by classical computers. And, as anyone who has seen a good 80’s hacking montage can tell you, those computers run on tons and tons of 1’s and 0’s. These 0’s and 1’s answer our complicated questions with billions of combinations of yes’s and no’s; nothing else. 

Intel and QuTech Demonstrate High-Fidelity 'Hot' Qubits for Practical  Quantum Systems | Intel Newsroom

Single Purpose Quantum Chip

So then, what is the quantum part of quantum computing? Because of some physics that might be a little too tedious to explain (google the Stern-Gerlach experiment if you’re curious) electrons are probabilistic. What does that actually mean though? Another term you’ve probably heard is electron spin, an easy way to think about this term is which direction the electron is pointing towards. At any given point of measurement, the electron decides where it’s going to point, up or down. It’s also pretty magical to pause on this point of measurement for a minute. Electrons are so small that nothing interacts with them in any meaningful way; this means that any observation or interaction, either by humans or light, is a measurement. Us perceiving these quantum objects causes them to change their nature, pretty cool huh? So when an electron is measured it stops having an unknown state and settles into the state that it was measured as. This is a completely random decision that our electron makes, and it is this property that is manipulated in quantum computing. 

In classical computing, a bit is a 0 or a 1, but in quantum computing a qubit (a quantum bit) doesn’t follow those same rules. Like our electron, upon measurement, it randomly chooses which state to collapse into. So, through mathematical manipulations implemented through code we change this probability to suit our needs and accomplish certain goals, just like the goals we accomplish with classical computing. So while a classical bit can either be a 0 or a 1, a qubit could have a 40% chance of turning up as a 0 and a 60% chance of turning up as a 1 and we won’t find out until we measure the qubit. This probability is called a superposition, so until the qubit is measured, and collapses into either a 0 or a 1 the qubit is in a superposition of the two. 

So what is actually interesting about this? Why should you be excited about indecisive 0’s and 1’s? So, so many reasons. Let’s take for example cryptography, the science of storing and transmitting data in a particular form so that only those for whom it is intended can read and process it. We all know about hackers, the shadowy figures trying to steal our credit cards. Hackers often obtain information by intercepting it as you send or receive information from another party, like you sending your password to your bank to log in. But how can quantum computing help stop these dastardly crooks? I mentioned before how qubits are in a superposition until a measurement collapses that superposition. So, if our hypothetical hacker snatched your password, that would collapse the superposition making both parties instantly aware that their data had been tampered with. So, a quantum internet might mean goodbye to hackers. 

Developing a topological qubit - Microsoft Quantum

A single qubit

Another of the countless exciting opportunities presented by quantum computing is the opportunities for modeling that we have never had hopes of before. In 2017 the AAAS published an article excitedly talking about the simulation of the largest molecule ever simulated. This molecule was very small, beryllium hydride for those who remember enough of chemistry class to have that mean something. And yet, this feat was monumental. For all the many wondrous materials and compounds that humanity has dreamt up in the past decades (like the special alloys for spacecraft, the new wonders of modern medicine, etc) we’ve had to come up with those materials based on known properties, math, and lots and lots of testing. So what does quantum offer? Well, at the core level of all these breakthroughs is the creation of new compounds that can do new things. And these compounds exist at their most base form, at the quantum level. So using quantum technology we can simulate these compounds as they truly are, not based on what we know about them. This opens up new exciting possibilities about future medications and materials that have the potential to change the world as we know it. 

But, quantum is not all rainbows and sunshine, there’s still a lot of issues. ENIAC, the first computer ever built, only came around in 1943, and that’s honestly about where we are with quantum technology at this moment. We have a lot of ideas and possible applications, and while the field is not quite in its infancy, it’s probably somewhere in the range of a toddler. We still only know how to make quantum computers with up to 65 qubits, and that’s an amazing feat, as compared to classical computers that can billions or trillions of times as many classical bits. It may be a while before the aforementioned applications truly begin to take concrete form in the world around us. Skeptics say that this is one of those technologies that we will always be talking about but never realize, optimists say stop complaining and get to work. 

How Quantum Computers Work

If you couldn’t tell before, I am among the optimists. Just like the first computer ever built, we don’t really know what this technology can bring. The possibilities are as vast and as endless as those that were unleashed with the birth of classical computation. And the most exciting part? We are the first generation to be able to truly participate in the development of this technology, it isn’t just relegated to a bunch of old people sitting in dusty labs. Quantum computing calls for people from a myriad of backgrounds, humanities-based educators to organize education communication, engineers to build new and better quantum hardware, computer scientists that work to create algorithms to better explore and utilize these new tools, physics students that work to unlock the hidden mysteries that abound in the field, mathematicians to come up with new math to explain the curious phenomena that characterize the field. There’s so much to do, so much to learn, it truly is an opportunity for collaboration and intersectionality between fields and people. We have a unique opportunity to define what this field can be, to escape the pitfalls that we have seen in big tech, and further science in a way that is ethical and equitable.  

And you, even as a high school student, can get involved too! MIT has all its lectures open to the public online, the IBM Quantum experience allows for any curious individual to play with real quantum computers themselves and to learn from their extensive documentation, and there are countless papers and textbooks available to those curious enough to care. There are even classes available to high school students, such as the one offered by IBM and The Coding School through zoom, taught by grad students from the most prestigious universities from across the globe. And all these materials: free as air! 

If this article does nothing else, let it give you some wonder and appreciation for the possibilities of mankind, and the discovery of science. Next time you want to skip your math homework, think that maybe, just by being born at the right time, your name might make it into the textbooks of future generations. And if you’re really interested IBM has a whole slew of programs to educate people just like you going on right now, check out the Qiskit Advocates page to learn more about quantum and maybe to get involved in it yourself. The world sucks right now, but let the innovation and magic of this age propel you towards discovery and learning, not just for yourself but for the whole of humanity. 

Qiskit Advocates Webpage:  https://qiskit.org/advocates/

Qiskit Advocates Interest Form: https://airtable.com/shrt7lqrHDWO56W9x

Qubit by Qubit: https://www.qubitbyqubit.org/

IBM Quantum Experience: https://quantum-computing.ibm.com/
Potential of Quantum Computing: https://www.ces.tech/Articles/2020/The-Potential-of-Quantum-Computing.aspx#:~:text=Overview%20Quantum%20computing%20has%20the,currently%20unsolvable%20by%20classical%20computers.

What Marijuana Legalization Can Offer New York

By: Daniel Aarao Reis Arturi

The conversation surrounding the legalization of Marijuana is not a new one; decriminalization began in 1973 in Texas, medical legalization in California in 1996, and of course recreational legalization in Colorado eight years ago. But I’m writing this article today, why? 

One of the most significant aspects of the legalization of marjuana is the way in which those laws disproportionately affect people of color. Black people were found to be 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than their white counterparts despite equal rates of usage, and in some states the number was up to ten times as much. (ACLU) But this is a vast, expansive subject that would require ten articles and a documentary to properly do justice to, additionally last year I wrote another article on the legalization of marijuana that delves into this matter more deeply, if you want to learn more. 

The defining cataclysm of our age has been, as I’m sure no one needs to be told, the coronavirus pandemic. And as those in power have not listened to the 91% of people who believe that marijuana should be legal in some capacity (Pew Research) perhaps they will heed the language of death and money in the coming months. As a country we have all suffered immensely, but here in New York that suffering has been acutely felt. Mornings we were accustomed to spending on crowded trains have been replaced by 24 hours in bed. I even find myself missing the sight our tourists meandering around Times Square. 

We have all felt the human cost of the past months too. I remember doctors and nurses using halloween costumes as makeshift masks in a horrible satire at our federal government. I remember the fear I felt every day knowing that my mother, an essential worker might get sick and not have a bed available at a hospital, let alone a ventilator (another thing we were horribly short on). Or when Trump effectively started a bidding war amongst the states for those very supplies, the panicked mad dash for supplies. 

Of course the most important thing has always been the lives of our fellow human beings, but it is very important to note how money has played into this pandemic. The stimulus checks that, for many, were a too brief reprieve from a long winded disaster. The moratoriums on eviction that have only prevented displacement of many but not even close to all. And those rent payments will still be due, and the financial destruction of many has already happened or is imminent. Small businesses are suffering while big corporations rake in bailout money. 

New York has been one of the states most affected by the virus. Because of how the economies of our major cities are structured New York state holds 4 of the 5 most affected cities (nytimes), including New York City itself. This is a uniquely abrupt recession, and how we respond to it will define our quality of life as a state for years to come. And of course those most vulnerable have been the most affected. Before the pandemic unemployment has been hovering around 2 – 4 percent in the greater New York City area, now that number has multiplied to closer to 12 percent, with poorer neighborhoods impacted far worse than that. 

Our own school system has also been impacted as well, the largest school district in the country requires a lot of resources, resources that the city has not historically been able to provide. This pandemic has pushed the system to the absolute limit. Even earlier this year Mr. Jacobs (C) said that hybrid school wasn’t possible because the school wasn’t granted enough resources to hire new teachers to fill the necessary positions in order to teach two groups of students. Because of these city-wide budget cuts a hiring freeze has been put in effect, but now is a time where schools need more support than ever, not less. But, it’s no secret that the DOE has always purported an inequitable distribution of resources and Beacon has been lucky enough to be on the disproportionately well off side of that inequality. 

In April the DOE was hit with a $707 million budget cut in time where it’s more and more essential to develop new strategies for teaching in a pandemic; strategies that often incur new costs. With such a big package of cuts from the budget it’s not surprising to hear that a lot of very important programs were cut. The wraparound program targeting high need students had their budgets cut, threatening the existence of those programs at many schools where the programs were proven to have positive impacts on the community. Reimbursement for teachers buying supplies has been cut, something additionally impactful now that teachers are finding themselves with far more responsibility. These are two examples of many cuts that we at Beacon will not feel nearly as acutely as those living in lower income communities.

Covid has also incurred many new unexpected costs that further emphasize the city’s desperate need for funding. The city has spent $269 million dollars on 300,000 iPads for the new class of students forced to work from home, along with hotspot connections for all of those new devices. The city is so strapped for cash they have been sending schools the cheapest protective equipment they could find – at the expense of actual functionality. A Queens principal complained of thermometers that display temperatures colder than a corpse, smelly wipes that don’t disinfect, and cheap masks of dubious effectiveness. 

This is why, now more than ever, we need to legalize marijuana. 61% of New Yorkers actively support the legalization of recreational cannabis. In legal states marijuana is an essential service that is helping get people through this tough time, in the same way that liquor stores have stayed open for that very reason. New Yorkers have long (rightfully) complained about the deficiencies present in many of the city’s services. Now, in this time of extreme crisis we as a state need more support from the government, support that we don’t have the resources to fund. Support required across the city, not just in the public school system. 

So how juicy is this big pot of money that other states have been enjoying? Michigan has brought in $35 million between December and July. As of June 2019 Colorado has generated over $1 billion dollars to fund government services. California, while having legalized weed much later than Colorado, has created $1.03 billion in tax revenue, with the industry projected to earn over a billion dollars a year in the coming years. New Jersey, among the latest batch of states to legalize predicts that their marijuana sector may be worth $2 billion a year, a valuable chunk of which will go into the state coffers.

Every state distributes revenue from marijuana sales differently, and despite the budget related problems our school system is having, there are many different city services being threatened by the economic recession we are experiencing. Other states have put those funds to work in very positive ways, with Washington pledging the money towards healthcare, Alaska is funding programs to reduce repeat criminal offenses, some states are distributing the money among local governments, the list goes on. 

The people are calling for the legalization of marijuana. Marijuana has shown itself time and time again to be none of the things our federal government has claimed it to be for so many decades. It has proven itself essential in all the states that it is legal in. The criminalization of marijuana was incentivized by racist pro war ideologies, and has continued to perpetuate the racist system of mass incarceration of black men in this country. Right now we need this. Our state is hurting, as no one needs to tell you. Our schools are hurting, lower income neighborhoods more than anywhere else need support that the city has failed to provide. New York already has such a vibrant and famous marijuana culture, and this pandemic has encouraged larger and larger intakes of marijuana in weed smokers. There is money on the table that we are leaving, when we need every penny we can get. That’s unfair to the New Yorkers who have been financially crippled, to the school systems without the money they need to make the critical adaptations that the pandemic has called for. When will our state legislature finally start representing the will and best interests of their constituents?

Around the Neighborhood

By Isabella Guerriero

COVID-19 affected every neighborhood in New York City this year, so a favorite local spot can be an escape from the harsh reality of the pandemic. Here are a few places New York City teenagers love around the boroughs. Get inspired and maybe one day (wearing a mask of course) visit these spots!

Brooklyn 

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn  

I like this spot because of how soothing waves sound. This place is very calming and pretty.

Prospect Park, Park Slope, Brooklyn  

This is a picture of some friends of mine having a birthday cake in our favorite spot in Prospect Park, Park Slope. Inside the park, and on the horse trail, you can find a formation of fallen logs adjacent to a fenced-in cemetery. This spot is my favorite in the neighborhood because it is private, more protective from the wind/elements than other spots in the park, and is not that easy to access. It is the perfect place in my neighborhood to go and chill with a small group of people. 

Park Slope, Brooklyn 

This is my favorite restaurant in Park Slope because it’s where all my friends hang out and they have a wide selection of delicious Mexican food. 

Park Slope, Brooklyn

It’s my favorite because I have many many memories and pictures in that mirror with my friends, my family, and just like everyone I know and it carries memories of fun nights and happiness.

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn 

This spot is in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Extraordinarily, we all had our best moments here. When I met Bella and her friend group, we strolled around the Greek Festival. I remember when Bella was just young and so was everyone else; almost been three years since we met.  I will forever cherish those memories especially in Fort Hamilton park cause those were predominantly the best.

Queens

Neponsit, Queens

Everyone comes together to see the lights that are worked on for a month and I love to feel the Christmas spirit and everyone’s joy when we watch it get lit up. 

Howard Beach, Queens 

This store is my favorite spot because it has very cute clothes and I love going there whenever I need something new especially since it’s so close to me.

Flushing, Queens

I go here to freshen up my mind and I’ve been living in this area for around 10 years so it’s a safe spot for me. 

Elmhurst, Queens

I live in Queens, and Elmhurst park is a great place to enjoy walking around since it is such a big place. 

Manhattan

Financial District, Manhattan 

The Financial District, my favorite spot is Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport for many reasons. First, the view is beautiful and the back half usually isn’t noisy making it a great place to work or destress and relax. Second, every season new attractions are added to the rooftop — a stage for concerts, personal dining cabins for Covid safe dining, ice rinks, socially distanced private lawns, restaurants and food trucks — so it never gets old. And lastly, every day from around 5:30-7, all the dog owners go to the back half of the pier and let their dogs off the leash so there are dogs running everywhere, playing with each other and the other people, which is the cutest thing in the world. 

Lower East Side, Manhattan 

The basketball courts part of the Martin F. Tanahey park is my favorite spot in Two Bridges (my neighborhood). It’s my go-to hangout spot with my middle school friends and friends from my neighborhood. Even though I do not play basketball a lot of my friends play it for fun, so usually my best friend and I watch them while we have our own conversation. Especially when it’s nice out, we stay out there for hours and eat lunch or even dinner out there. There isn’t much to do in my neighborhood especially in this time of corona so having this outdoor spot has been really good for my social life and just my health in general. Everyone in my neighborhood knows about the “Cherry courts” (since they are on Cherry street) so it’s sort of a local youth hangout.

34th Street, Manhattan 

This is right by 34th street in a little spot by luna coffee. I like this place because whenever I go get drinks around there I sit down in this spot between two fancy restaurants and it looks super cool and I just get to enjoy the scenery by myself.

Although COVID-19 might have ruined and canceled many of our plans for the year 2020, getting out of the house to go to a favorite local spot, (safely of course) to get some fresh air helped a lot of us cope. Hopefully for the upcoming months, despite the cold, we can continue to get some fresh air and support a local favorite, especially with indoor dining options closing. Using these local spots as a way to escape from the harsh reality of what is now life is important, along with taking a breath and enjoying the outdoors. Take care of yourself and happy 2021! 

The Truth About Thanksgiving

By Clementine Paarlberg

On Thanksgiving evening, you most likely sat down with family and friends, passing around the “traditional” foods. You piled up the steaming slices of turkey, a heap of creamy mashed potatoes, and maybe some green beans to add some color to your plate. To top it all off, you flooded your plate with gravy before diving in to devour the bountiful meal on your plate. Maybe each person at your Thanksgiving table went around to proclaim what they were thankful for this year. But for the most part, your mind was focused on the food and the joy or stress of being around family. 

While you sat at your table, your mind drifting between food and family quarrels, not once did you take the time to reflect on why you were even participating in this 3 century-old tradition. In elementary school, you probably learned about how the indigenous people welcomed the English colonists with open arms and the colonists were so grateful that they all came together to eat this big feast known as Thanksgiving. You were taught that the meal celebrated unity and new beginnings. Truthfully, this is a glossed over, whitewashed version of the events surrounding the “joyous” holiday most Americans celebrate each year. 

The real history of Thanksgiving has been twisted into an event that Americans are supposed to be proud of. In reality, Thanksgiving wasn’t one of the first interactions between colonists and the indigenous tribe the Wampanoag near Plymouth. By 1620, European colonists and Wampanoags had been waging conflict for many years. In addition to violence, diseases that came across the ocean with Europeans spread among the Indigenous tribe rapidly. These outbreaks reduced the population of tribes in New England between 1616 and 1619 by almost 90%. In 1615, French explorers arrived near modern-day Plymouth and carried with them a disease that most historians believe was smallpox. After generations of exposure to the disease, most Europeans had developed immunity, but the Wampanoags had never been exposed. Thomas Dermer, an English explorer, described Massachusetts in 1619 as “ancient plantations, not long since populous, now utterly void; in other places, a remnant remains, but not free of sickness.” Surrounding Plymouth were abandoned and disease-ravaged Native American villages. The devastation and disease that European colonists brought left indigenous tribes in fear of coming in contact with them.

However, when spring arrived, the leader of the Wampanoags, Massasoit, chose to create a peace alliance with the settlers. Throughout the spring of 1621, the Wampanoags taught the settlers how to survive on land that wasn’t even their own. By fall there was a feast to commemorate thanks for the harvest that the indigenous people had helped the English to achieve. 

Every year after the original Thanksgiving, indigenous tribes across the colonies continued to be slaughtered and kidnapped in mass numbers until their land was taken over by settlers. Native American culture rapidly disappeared in this country and continues to be forgotten every year that the tradition of Thanksgiving continues. 

Many Native Americans across the country do not celebrate Thanksgiving but instead carry out a National Day of Mourning. This title for the day that is supposed to represent relations between the Indigenous and the colonists is more truthful. It is time that the United States stops turning its back on the truths of its history. The more stories we hear, the more we learn. We must wipe away the white colonial perspective from our minds and listen to indigenous voices and follow the lead of indigenous people. Everyone in the United States lives on indigenous land that was soiled with the blood of the many slaughtered tribes. 

The question you must ask yourself before celebrating Thanksgiving next year is if partaking in the National Day of Mourning is a more reflective and ethical way to spend your time. Even if Thanksgiving to you only means expressing what you are thankful for and spending time with family, the origins of the holiday are splattered with the blood of colonial slaughter. By carrying out a “normal” Thanksgiving you are turning your back on the erasure of Native Americans and being ignorant of the real history of the United States. If you take the time to educate yourself on what really happened between the indigenous people and colonists, you may discover that your history books have it all wrong.    

Harvey Weinstein On Trial: Observations From an Insider

By Cali Morrison Carss

On Monday January 27th, I walked into the courtroom across the hall from my mother’s office into one of the biggest cases in the country currently. Harvey Weinstein, movie mogul and former studio head, is on trial for rape and sexual assault crimes committed in New York (and will later go on to trial in LA). My mother, Meghan Hast, is a prosecutor and works mainly on homicides. She is deputy head of her department and credible in the courtroom. She was chosen to be the second chair prosecutor on the Weinstein case alongside respected prosecutor Joan Illuzi, who is first chair. It is because of this that on that Monday I was able to watch Miriam Haley take the stand and tell her story. 

Ms. Haley is a former TV producer and currently resides in England. In her 20s and early 30s she worked for a well known producer named Micheal White. It was through him, at a movie premiere, that she met Harvey Weinstein. This was the beginning of a long, tragic story told by Haley during her groundbreaking testimony, where she went over every detail and scenario that connected her to the defendant. The experience of watching this was very unique. It’s hard to not believe her when her story seems so painful. I watched my mom ask Ms. Haley questions about nearly everything that linked her to the defendant. This case was most definitely unique to observe and it was clear that the story being told was central and important. The side of the room opposite to me looked to be entirely reporters. They clung onto every question and response, every single one of them with a notebook or computer on their lap. That was when the gravity of the case hit me. This moment was larger than just the case itself, in fact, it would be seen by many as  the first step towards the #MeToo movement’s goals being accomplished.

I was also able to watch a bit of Mr. Cheronis’ cross-examination of Ms. Haley. I personally found the difference in styles from my mom to him fascinating. They asked very similar questions, yet their approaches seemed entirely different. The defense, as should be expected, was more confrontational while crossing Ms Haley; though still interesting to watch. I should have expected the ddefense to be less gentle than the prosecution, seeing as this was not their witness. Both approaches make a lot of sense and I believe did what they were meant to do. The Weinstein case is one that is good to look at from different angles and watching both the prosecution and the defense question the same witness is the perfect way to do that. I got to see both sides of the case from their questions. It makes each team’s objective clearer, which is nice to know when reading about the case.

Now, the case has come to a close and Harvey Weinstein has been  found guilty and sentenced to 23 years in prison. This conviction was a huge victory for Weinstein’s victims and the #MeToo movement as a whole. For them, this is the first domino to fall on their way to justice. He’s a huge one to get out of the way too. Watching this whole case play out was very inspiring to me because it showed me that these women were finally getting peace  and confirmation that their trauma was real. I was incredibly happy that the jury believed the women who told their stories, because that seems to always be a worry with sexual assault cases. It’s good to know that these women were heard and believed. This victory also compliments the credibility of the #MeToo movement. To me, this case was proof that women can band together and make something truly amazing happen, especially when it matters most.

Around the Web

Around The Web. A lively look at the world outside Beacon, from the serious to the strange, to the seriously strange. Take a few minutes to scroll through, and if you stumble on a story of your own, send a link to Arosen@beaconschool.org.  

By Tali Rosen

Volume 5 – April 2, 2020

This is not a prank:

Though it may be April first, the debate on whether or not the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo has a nipple piercing is anything but a joke. That’s right, all across the internet people are speculating if in fact the governors nipple is pierced. Major publications like Vice and the New York Post have looked into the matter. Check it out at the article linked below.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/31/andrew-cuomos-nipples-take-our-minds-off-coronavirus/

What’s that sound?

In neighborhoods throughout the city, at 7pm every night, people have been sticking their heads out their windows and cheering for essential workers including first responders, nurses, doctors, delivery people and others. These individuals are truly what is keeping the city functioning and we are all very grateful. So tomorrow at 7 pm, set an alarm and start clapping. 

https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-apartment-applause-20200401-krgylnadfferrgqqp5tlm6vnay-story.html

Flying Manholes:

Quarantine has its own issues, but at least you are safe from those crazy manholes. Manholes are flying in the streets of New York CIty and it’s not new. For years manholes have exploded. For one man, a manhole crashed through his taxi window resulting in permanent injury, this incident happened on lex and 44th street, that’s not that far from The Beacon School. Stay safe everyone, that is, when we are allowed to leave our houses again.

Going Through Old Clothes? 

If you find yourself going through and cleaning your closet, as I think a lot of us are during quarantine, you may want to think about losing your cozy Canada Goose jacket. Yes their jackets will keep you warm, but it comes at a cost; that is not just referring to their prices that range from $350 to over a thousand dollars. While Canada Goose no longer gets its down from a farm that kept the geese in small cages filled with their own waste and left there for 24 hours without care, the company is still far from cruelty free. Check out the link for more information about how traps are set for coyotes, leading them to eat through their own limbs in an effort to get free, just to give your jacket a nice fur lining on the hood.

https://www.newsweek.com/are-canada-goose-jackets-unethical-controversy-explained-1329557

From the pop hit “Stacy’s Mom” to the soundtrack of Crazy Ex Girlfriend, Adam Schlesinger, who died of CoronaVirus at age 52, left an indelible mark on our culture. We are saddened by the loss. Click the first link to here one of my favorites by them, “Hey Julie”.

Volume 4 – February 26, 2020

Horsing Around

Service horse Fred took to the sky with his handler Ronica Froese. Fred and Froese had two first class tickets to California and the trip was a smashing success. She trained her mini horse and prepared him to accompany her on her vacation. To learn more about Fred and Froese check out the link.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/miniature-horse-on-plane-woman-took-service-animal-flight-could-be-his-last-airlines/

Maven on the Rise 

Maven, a reproductive health care startup is gaining momentum in the healthcare community. The organization gives people easy access to womens and family health experts. People can ask health care providers for referrals, advice or general information all through video chat and messaging. In just a year they have tripled their client base; after raising $45 million dollars worth of funds the company is continuing to grow and provide healthcare and information to women and families.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2020/02/20/maven-raises-45-million–one-of-the-largest-funding-rounds-for-a-female-led-womens-healthcare-company/#44854b471a36

Lost kids Save each other:

Four boys went missing for over a day when a blizzard struck in Alaska. Ages 14, 7, 6 and 2, the boys knew exactly what they had to do to protect the youngest. These boys thought on their feet, huddling around the youngest boy to protect him from the cold. Because of their resourcefulness, all 4 boys returned home safely.

https://www.wgal.com/article/4-children-lost-in-rural-alaska-during-blizzard-found-alive-huddling-around-2-year-old/30790375#

Counting Heads and Tails

Whether you stand your ground or run away scared, if you live in New York City, you have definitely encountered rats. NYCHA, the New York City Housing Authorities, has long promised a solution to the rat and roach problem our city faces but we have yet to see results. In an effort to keep that promise a rat census has been issued and workers have been going around the city beginning to count.https://thecity.nyc/2020/02/nycha-conducting-its-own-census-of-rats-mice-and-roaches.html?utm_campaign=mailchimp&utm_source=daily&utm_medium=newsletter 

Volume 3 – February 12, 2020

Music Man: Paul Simon, who went to public schools in Queens, gives a million dollars to help City kids make music.

https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2020/02/10/paul-simon-music-fellows-program-nyc-schools

Can You Repeat the Question?

Your parents are right, you’re not listening, but not for the reason they think. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/11/well/family/listening-relationships-marriage-closeness-communication-bias.html?referringSource=articleShare

Tik Tok, Not Just for Teens

Doctor in Texas takes unique opportunity and uses the popular app Tik Tok to address teens about sexual education.

Volume 2 – January 29, 2020

When Pigs Fly. Do you get anxious at the airport? Of course you do, who doesn’t? If you find yourself at San Francisco International Airport keep an eye out for LiLou, a four legged animal sporting an adorable pilot cap and hooves painted red. Yes hooves, Lilou is not a therapy dog, but a pig. To see pictures of and learn more about San Francisco’s airport therapy pig check out the link. 

https://www.mirror.co.uk/travel/usa-canada/meet-adorable-therapy-pig-lilou-20861951

Cardi for Congress. Rapper Cardi B is bashed on twitter after announcing that she wants to be a congresswoman after attending some more schooling. People replied to her tweet attacking her grammar and overall use of language. Will beloved rapper Cardi continue to pursue this political path? Only time will tell.

https://mobile.twitter.com/iamcardib/status/1216586012576636928

Snooze you win. Sleep is always wonderful, but have you ever noticed that those January slumbers just feel better than any springtime snooze you could have? Well, it turns out you’re not alone. Data from a new survey shows that Americans report sleeping more when it is dark and cold. Check out the statistics by clicking the link. 

https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2020/01/12/Many-Americans-sleep-more-in-winter/7691578834582/

Family Business. Ever wonder who runs pawnshops and who uses them?  Two reporters explain in words and pictures how they operate, what they offer poor New Yorkers (and learn that ninety percent of pawned jewelry is reclaimed). 

Don’t panic. The best defense (along with washing your hands) is staying informed about the coronavirus.https://www.google.com/amp/s/slate.com/technology/2020/01/coronavirus-outbreak-china-sars-worry-level.amp

Volume 1 – November 19, 2019

Everyone’s school experience looks different. School can be grueling under good conditions, but for some students, they have to worry about their geometry grade as well as were they are sleeping tonight. Reema Amin addresses homelsness among students in New York City.

We have all taken a 15 minute bathroom break. Maybe it just isn’t your day, or you can’t stand that class. Whatever the reason, chances are you’ve done it. Schools may be catching on with a new app to track “peeing students”. Schools are excited but parents are far from thrilled, calling this new app “bathroom big brother”.

Michael Elsen-Rooney exposes what goes on in the school kitchen. Beacons building is new but in older buildings, things get heated in the kitchen. Poor ventilation affects the kitchen staff and can even affect the health grade of the kitchen.  

Going Viral

By Sam Klein Stearns

School is demanding. Whether you go to elementary or college, public or private, there are always due dates looming over you, test results threatening your grades, and endless piles of papers that teachers expect you to do on the daily. As a freshman at Beacon High School, located in the heart of Manhattan adjacent  to the infamously busy Time Square, I can more than vouch for this. It should not be forgotten that all of this work affects student’s mental health, as well.

 With all of this, it can be nice to have an escape – something to look forward to as you slowly churn through your day. For some people, it’s video games; for others, sports. A common one is social media. I know people that will spend the better part of their free time on Instagram or Snapchat alone. I am certainly not excused from this either – a lot of my afternoon is spent texting my friends or scrolling through my Instagram feed. Still, students especially often spend an obscene amount of time hooked to their phones.  In particular, students spend a lot of their time on TikTok, a widely known social media app where people of any age post short video clips scored with popular music. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, here’s why it isn’t, and why kids shouldn’t trust it nearly as much as they do.

First off, let’s examine the basic facts. TikTok is a free app, created by the developer TikTok Inc. and ranked number one in entertainment sites on the App Store. It is rated an almost-perfect 4.7/5 and has 2.2 million reviews. The app’s “about” section contains phrases like, “find an endless stream of short videos that feel personalized,” “the more you watch the better it gets,” and “Instantly Entertaining.” An almost picture-perfect beginning; a casual consumer would drift onto the app, baited by the bright colors and catchy slogans of its intro. But there is some subliminal messaging that’s going on here, especially in the word choice. Terms like “endless stream,” “more…better,” and “instant” try to sway viewers into thinking if you’re on it for longer, you’ll like it more and that its pleasing almost immediately. The words also convey the powerlessness of the app-user : when you’re in a stream, you simply get carried along, never stopping but never having to stop either. The stream controls you, it decides where you go.  There is something both calming and yet unnerving about that. Calming in the sense that TikTok is easy to navigate and you don’t have to do much; unnerving in the sense that the app implies it has full command over you.

But, of course, an app is not just its ads. There is much more to it than creepy subliminal messaging. So, let’s head to another important way to look at TikTok: its background. And that’s where ByteDance comes in. ByteDance is one of the most successful Chinese tech companies; as of November 2018, their apps had over 800 million users. At first glance, it appears that they have created a wide range of apps, with products like “Toutiao,” “TopBuzz,” and “Flipagram” – names that are reminiscent of other platforms such as BuzzFeed and Instagram. But they all seem to focus on a singular idea. Toutiao is a news platform turned media website that now resembles FaceBook. TopBuzz is a content-promoting site focusing on new creators that want to spread their work. Lastly, Flipagram is a photo-editing app that, in specific, allows users to score their videos. Those all sound strangely similar. Media website? Content spreading? Video scoring? That’s right – they are the key ideas of TikTok. It isn’t odd for a company to focus on a specific genre of content, but the almost self-plagiarism that is occurring here is certainly telling about the company. ByteDance eventually bought the popular app “Musical.ly” for roughly a billion US dollars and combined it with their app “Douyin” to create TikTok, which boosted both apps’ popularity greatly. But it gets more interesting. China, as is commonly known, is a strict authoritarian country, that some would call Orwellian in callbacks to the popular book 1984 where the government censors language and tracks citizens via cameras. Controversy in China has bloomed recently due to protests in Hong Kong in opposition of a strict bill China is imposing. The fact that TikTok is based in China (by extension) is similarly unnerving.  Now, there is no direct correlation between China’s Orwellian aspects and this tech company and its video-editing app, as ByteDance released several statements confirming there was neither collusion nor censoring. And, to be fair, videos have been released on the site that are directly offensive to China’s government – and they weren’t taken down. So I’m not going to go full-conspiracy mode and say that ByteDance is run by the Chinese government,  but imagine if you were a parent, and learned that your kid was spending three or four hours a day on an addicting site created and based in a country known for its intrusive policies and lack of humanitarianism. Even if you were positive that there is no correlation between company and government, wouldn’t you still be a little worried? 

All that aside: we still haven’t actually examined the app itself yet. And for all its mysteries,  it could still be a really fun app that promotes being social and sharing your talents. First of all, the structure of the app itself is arranged in five sections: home, discover, create, inbox, and me. The create button is the largest and most obvious one there, it is outlined in red and blue, arranged in a way that makes it pop. The second most prominent is the home (or the explore page), as besides the create button, it is the only one outlined in white. The choice to make these pop is intentional, as it seems that TikTok makes the most profit out of these. The home button pays content producers in views and comments, while for these producers, the create button is how producers make profit. the go-to for making TikTok this money. And speaking of TikTok profit: there seems to be some kind of way to make money off of the app, and for ByteDance itself to do so as well. Enter TikTok Coins. 100 of these are worth $1, and 10,000 are $120. They can be used to purchase Emojis and Diamonds on the app, used to support your favorite creators and show your appreciation for them. In terms of content creators making money, the formula is simply get your videos out to a wide audience and hope that popular celebrities or big brand names approach you and inquire about sponsorships. This system is obviously created for the sole purpose of benefiting first, ByteDance, second, content creators, and last, definitely least, users. Users simply buy appreciation and admiration for their favorite creators; then, said creators benefit from the users not by that admiration, but if they are “in demand,” and no matter what, ByteDance profits – even if it’s at the expense of their users. 

Finally, let’s examine the content that goes into the app. The videos are under one minute, and generally fit under three major categories. The first: short skits, starring one person often dressed in a costume, acting out familiar scenes, often scored by popular “sounds” that rotate around the site for a few days and then are quickly replaced by the next trends. The next category consists of dancing videos, typically where friend groups turn on the camera and perform the most recent dances to the most popular songs. But don’t be deceived – most dances don’t actually require talent, or skill, and simply feature kids twerking or nodding their heads to a catchy beat. The final category is simply videos taken in front of unsuspecting or unknowing recipients, or videos taken from creators’ personal lives, such as in their jobs or schools. None of these seem particularly appealing at first glance – but since they are created by normal people, mostly in normal places, users can relate to them, and therefore, keep scrolling. But these funny, relatable videos aren’t the only thing that make up the app; according to a study by the New York Times of Fox Creek High School, the app is incredibly addicting, and encourages cyberbullying. Furthermore, some of the site’s more questionable videos include underage drinking, overeating, and usage of firecrackers, according to the site’s Wikipedia page. An example of a popular yet questionable trend include creators pretending to have seizures to the song “Lucid Dreams.” Obviously there are other videos that don’t fit these molds – but the fact that these videos are present certainly brings down the app’s reputation.

From it’s questionable background in an authoritative government to it’s manipulative ad campaign to its offensive videos, Tik Tok has proven time and again that it isn’t worth the hours and hours millions of users spend on  it. And yet, the kids who spend the majority of their day on the app aren’t to be blamed. In fact, ByteDance apparently has an AI lab with the sole purpose of structuring content feeds to be addicting. Now, the term ‘addiction’ isn’t something that can be used lightly. But in terms of social media, it is a real thing, and it does affect people. In Beacon, in my day-to-day-life, I often see kids taking time out of their school lives to film videos or dances: in class, kids raise their hands to ‘go to the bathroom’ when they’re actually just going to make TikToks. In the halls, in the three to five minutes we have to get to classes, kids rehearse their dances. It’s more than a cultural phenomenon – it’s taken over kids’ (and adults’) lives, and it needs to be addressed. 

Cited in this piece:

TikTok and China come under scrutiny in congressional hearing

China’s TikTok Blazes New Ground. That could doom it.

High Schools to TikTok: We’re Catching Feelings.

Come Together, Right Now: Finding Community in Strawberry Fields, New York

By Adrian Flynn

Photo taken by Sherry, December 8 2019

Over the past six years that I’ve lived in New York City, one of my favorite things to do has been to make a trip twice a year to Strawberry Fields to pay tribute to John Lennon. Dozens of people of all ages fill the small area in Central Park containing the Imagine mosaic every October 9th and December 8th for the anniversaries of Lennon’s birthday and date of death, respectively. Each time, a dedicated and motley group of musicians, usually with a surplus of guitarists, finds a spot to set up and spends hours playing Lennon’s songs both as a Beatle and as a solo artist, along with other Beatles hits and crowdpleasers. Depending on the weather and temperature, these gatherings can last well into the night, with many dedicated fans and musicians usually sticking it out in the autumn and winter cold.

Being a Beatles fan and a fan of rock from their era, seeing this many people outside each and every year in unity not only for the incredible music but for the ideology of peace advocated by Lennon has been a supportive buttress for my own views on an ever-more complicated world. For everyone there, there is nowhere else to be nor anything else to do, except to enjoy the music, meet people, and proudly show that we still miss John and celebrate his influence on both popular culture and our own lives.

However, this year was particularly special for me. I will be leaving the city soon to attend college, so these would be my last trips to Strawberry Fields for a while. This wasn’t the only reason that it was special this year, though, as I also got to do what I had never dared before: join the musicians. When I arrived this December 8th on the 39th anniversary of Lennon’s passing, I spotted a friend from past gatherings in the inner circle of musicians who waved me in and gave me his guitar, allowing me to join in effortlessly. It was 3:45pm and the crowd was organized messily around us, but then with the arrival of a pianist with her own keyboard, we moved to the benches further from the mosaic, and in the course of just a few minutes, I found myself at the center of the band at a spot that felt nearly like a stage, looking out at the crowd. Playing through hits I knew the chords to like the back of my hand, I suddenly looked up and saw all eyes on me, with the flashes and lenses of all kinds of cellphones and cameras pointed in my direction. At one point, a local TV cameraman shone a bright light in my face and I later appeared fleetingly on the evening news along with my fellow performers.

Frame from CBSN New York Channel 2, December 9 2019

The beauty in the gathering is always the interpersonal and democratic community that forms both in and out of the musician’s circle. My friend, Aaron, and I must have played at least five different guitars throughout the evening, which were passed around seamlessly. People brought out songbooks and lights when we launched into songs we didn’t fully master and held them in front of us. Song recommendations came in from the crowd and we would quickly reach a consensus when opening chords were played followed by a chorus of voices ringing in the first lyrics. I was most proud of initiating “A Day in the Life”, a personal favorite, and then being immediately surrounded by everyone as the resounding voices of the crowd came in with the infamous words “I read the news today, oh boy.” Eventually, each part that each person contributes, both vocally and musically, blends in with the whole, and I like to think that we got loud enough to be heard from the apartment in the Dakota in which Lennon last lived, still inhabited by Yoko Ono, his widow. By the time, well into the night, that my fingers were too numb with cold to play another chord and my voice too drained, I left Central Park knowing not only the name of many musicians and spectators around me, but also their personal concerns and struggles. We entered into each other’s lives in Strawberry Fields as Lennon fans and left as friends with common desires and compassion for one another.

Communities can truly form anywhere, with anyone, and around any aspect of a passion or identity which links one with others. While singing together, we were not classifying ourselves as anything except as human beings who love the music and peace that Lennon espoused throughout his life. While I was lucky enough to find a small and tightly-knit community in these gatherings in Strawberry Fields, one can find and build community anywhere, on any scale. The key to this community, importantly, was the collective effort we all made to come out and physically gather together — truly the best way to intersect with other people’s lives. With social media companies, streaming services, and other technological sources of entertainment all vying for our attention and time, it is crucial whenever possible to “Come Together” and keep meeting with people in person who share our common interests. Meeting people eye-to-eye, face-to-face, is, and will always be, the best way to build a real sense of togetherness and better understand each other. 

John Lennon was born on October 9th, 1940 in Liverpool, England, and passed away on December 8th, 1980 in Manhattan, New York.

Photo taken by Adrian Flynn, December 8 2019

How Our Society Deals with Sex Abuse and Why it’s All Wrong

By Daniel Aarao Res Arturi

In a world plagued by so many pressing issues it can sometimes be difficult to retain compassion for each individual issue. However, the sexual abuse of minors is worth everyone’s rapt attention and absolute empathy. I myself have a very personal relationship with this issue, as I live a sliver of a reflection of misery vicariously through my mother’s stories, as she works in this field.  These aren’t abstract concepts; these children aren’t just a part of a numbers that is a part of a spreadsheet. These are kids with a favorite toy and a favorite cartoon. These kids lived like every other child should, and then suddenly, whether in an instant or over the course of years, they did not. The essential right to childhood was brutally stripped from them in a blinding moment of human savagery and cruelty. And now those same children whose greatest concern was getting their mom to buy them ice cream, have been violently thrown into a world far less innocent. 

 It’s not only childhood which suffers at the hard edges of the words rape and abuse. Trauma is an insidious and (some argue) an inescapable curse. 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) following the rape. That’s a vast amount  of women who are not receiving proper care,  such as therapy. Further, this number does not include the many women who don’t come forward when abused. Trauma can be a horrible thing that can consume your life. When trauma is not properly treated it can lead to a host of other problems like increased drug use (harmful drugs) and social problems. And when we think of rape traditionally we imagine an adult, but to put that emotional and mental weight/damage on a mind not old enough to understand division is something that should trigger empathy within us all.

What Happens When Sex Abuse is Reported

It might have been a worried neighbor, or a teacher who caught one too many hints, but suppose a call has been placed to the police that there is suspicion of a case of sex abuse. hat are the steps that follow that report? First, the police will place a call to the State Central Registry of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). Then, the police will come immediately to the house of the reported victim to do an initial gauging of what happened. Meanwhile the SCR will call the Instant Response Team (IRT), a team comprised of both the police and the Administration of Child Services (ACS), who then sort their cases into two categories. The first being a situation where danger is not imminent, ie the accused does not have access to the child or the family. In this scenario an appointment is made for the family to come in and speak with the police and ACS. If the situation is deemed not urgent the case will be passed onto the DA who will then decide whether or not to drop the case. If the situation is urgent (a parent or someone with regular access to the child is implicated) then the family will need to be seen the same day the call is made. 

After that a team of police and social workers will work together to find out exactly what happened. They’ll check phones, run forensics tests, and most importantly interview everyone involved. The most important of these interviews, and arguably the most difficult (definitely the most nuanced) in the interview held for the victim. It’s important to remember that the victims of child sex abuse are just that – children. It can be both heart wrenchingly sad and as just difficult as pulling teeth to get real, concrete answers about a rape from a child as young as two. Sometimes the situation is a misunderstanding, and a startling exceretion of blood is not evidence of a rape and instead just a horrified girls’ period. Sometimes the case has no perpetrator, and it’s just kids doing things they shouldn’t be. Unfortunately however, more often than not people don’t show up at the precinct and get to walk away with a light conscience. 

After the Report

New York City, however flawed, underfunded, and problematic it may be, does not mess around when it comes to child abuse. That means that after a report is made, interviews are held, and conclusions are drawn, the end is still far from near. After the report and subsequent investigation there is still a lot of work for the civil servants in this field to do. This is where the police and ACS begin to work in more separate ways. The responsibility of the police is to pursue criminal charges, if there are any to be made. This can lead to an arrest and prosecution but only if the victim discloses a time and place of occurence. The responsibilities of ACS are vastly different than this, and ACS needs no kind of disclosure to do their work. ACS will, in the vast majority of instances provide a free or heavily subsidized set of therapy sessions that are just short of mandatory for victims. Beyond this they have two more major responsibilities; follow up visits and family court. After any kind of call is made ACS will hold follow up visits for at least 60 days. That means that at random intervals within that 60 days a representative from ACS will come over to your house and interview your family, will snoop around every nook and cranny in your house, and search for anything even slightly amiss. And random in this context really means random. You could have a social worker banging on your door at 2:00 AM ready to ruin your night and you’ll have to be atent and present. And if anything is amiss those 60 days can be extended and extended until more severe action is taken. The final major responsibility of ACS is to follow up in family court. While criminal court (the kind that the cops deal with) pursues an indictment for the perpetrator (50% surety that they are guilty is necessary for an arrest while they must be guilty beyond reasonable doubt for a prosecution to take place) family court looks for ways to rearrange the family’s living situation to improve their lives. This might mean prescribing anger management classes to a parent, helping a family move out of a dangerous neighborhood, mandating drug tests, placing restraining orders on certain individuals, or in more extreme circumstances taking the children away from the guardian.

One of the largest problems found within the child welfare system is one that pervades countless corners of our society; racism. Racism is not a problem in that ACS won’t answer calls from people of color, they most certainly will. People of color are disproportionately affected by sexual and domestic abuse, as are low income households, the poorest Americans are twelve times more likely to be sexually abused in contrast to the wealthiest. Racism in child services comes in the form of overt suspicion that can have real consequences. Before diving into this there is some important context to know; what is a mandated reporter? Well, as the name implies it is someone who is mandated to report if they see any clues of sexual or domestic abuse. To a mandated reporter everything is a clue, a stray bruise, a day where a child acts strangely, anything can be cause for a report. But who is a mandated reporter? There are many professions that the state of New York recognizes as mandated reporters but most relevantly to the Beacon student body is, of course, teachers. Teachers are required to report if they see anything amiss, but even so think about all the red flags you see in the hallway every day of, if not abuse, at the very least suspicious behaviour. 

So where does the racism aspect come in? It turns out that black and hispanic children are “two to four times more likely to be evaluated and then reported (as suspected abusive head trauma) when compared with white, non-Hispanic patients”. Not only is this unfair, as all children should be treated equally under the law, this kind of racism can have serious consequences. When this might happen to a white parent they are likely to receive love and support as they should, but when something like this happens to a black or hispanic parent the reaction may be vastly different. These worried and confused parents who may have been trying to do nothing more than get their kid some medical attention after an unfortunate accident may be thrown into an expensive and protracted legal battle to keep their children in family court. This happens because child services will often pursue custody of the child as a quick and easy solution to a problem that unfortunately requires much more time and resource consumption to create a viable and fair solution. 

This has many negative consequences for the family involved, in many cases non-for-profit groups aren’t able to swoop in and provide experienced legal help for those families. This means that a lot of times, because of racism, innocent families don’t get the happy endings they deserve. Secondly, the child will be exposed to trauma when in the foster care system and throughout the turbulent process of ACS trying to persecute. Thirdly, it is ridiculous that the state is wasting precious resources, time, and effort, that are much needed across the city, to pursue meaningless cases where a modicum more of investigation could have saved everyone a lot of trouble. There should never be any situation in which two charitable organizations, both intent on helping the community, are pitted against each other to save the same people. 

Why We Don’t Believe Victims

We are programmed to be utterly revulsed by the thought of an adult being aroused by children, so it’s far easier to banish such thoughts to the recesses of places we will never visit or the fictional worlds of crime shows, but this mentality is harmful. Since adults also think this way about sex abuse, a lot of times when a child says something about a neighbor or a familial relation, adults tend to dismiss it out of denial and an honest belief that there is no way that this person that they know could have done this. People don’t seem to process the fact that there is no six year old (my mother has dealt with children younger than two), who can vividly recount a case of sexual abuse, and recounts said story as a lie. The rate of false reporting in cases of sexual abuse is between 2%-6% and for domestic abuse the rate is 4%. If anyone so much as hints at a sexual abuse everyone within earshot should be all over that. There are many times where parents should dismiss comments made by six year olds, “my train is flying”, “meet my pet unicorn mommy”, “I want pizza”, but “I got raped” should be a red flag so large it should be visible from space. It’s already very hard for people to come forward, the traumatic effects of sexual and domestic abuse are severe and deep seated, there is no reason to make it harder on the victims. 

Underfunding in the Protection of Children

In the world we live in there are some realities that we must acknowledge; one of those is that usually the more helpful to the community a profession is the less lucrative it will be. This holds true for teachers, employees of NGOs, and the employees of child welfare protection programs. They all do so much for the community but since they’re not making money in any concrete way their personal yields are less than what is fair. And just like a school that needs money just to maintain itself these child programs too need money to keep operating. There are many steps involved in the process that takes a call and turns it into a case, and those steps require money to operate. In England we see evidence of the consequences of underfunding such a basic and essential service. There children are suffering just as they do anywhere in the world, but because of improper allocation of national resources their child welfare program, even in a wealthy country, is woefully underfunded. And this underfunding has had real and tangible consequences for the people who need those essential services. No one casually needs child services to help them, if you’re at that point you need a lot of help immediately. In England these services have had difficulty answering all of their calls, and when they do it’s only when the situation is really really serious. This is already a glaring problem, any instance of child sex or domestic abuse should be responded to as soon as the call is made, as anyone with half a brain on the street could tell you. A secondary consequence of this underfunding is that social workers who would otherwise be working to find creative solutions to help heal the family are instead forced to act with extreme haste to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible, which often means taking the child away from the parent in the event of any allegations. This is not only a poor solution to a complex and varied set of problems but it also creates a distrust between the social worker, someone who is only trying to help, and the people who should be welcoming this help.

A Closer Look at the SHSAT: How it Helps and Hurts NYC Students

By Tali Lebowitsch

This year only seven out of eight hundred and ninety five seats were offered to black students to attend Stuyvesant High School, a specialized high school in New York City. Out of the other seven specialized high schools in the city, only ten percent of the student body consists of Black and Latinx students, coming from a system that is 70% of that particular demographic. These schools are some of the most elite public schools in the country, that were originally intended to provide equal opportunity for gifted students of any background to receive the quality education they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. These numbers are shocking and reflect a deeply rooted issue of segregation and inequity within the New York City public school system. 

In the 1930s, schools such as Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and Bronx Science began implementing a system of admissions-based testing that would be the sole factor in determining if a seat was offered to an applicant. This test, called the Standardized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), is a uniform test that any student wishing to attend must take. The schools then, based off of a bell curve of results, accept the top performing students in relation to the number of seats available. Theoretically, this test should enable equal opportunity for any student to attend such an elite school, as previous grades and performance have no weight in a student’s chance of being accepted. Serving simply as a measure of a student’s natural intelligence, the test has the potential of being a one-way ticket to the higher education, connections, and resources that would guarantee upward mobility to any student. 

So what does it mean that only seven black students were accepted into one of the most prestigious schools in the country, based off this exam? Does it mean that they are naturally less intelligent and capable of attending these schools? No, the harsh reality is that the system has failed drastically. Instead of creating a rigorous learning environment for a diverse student body, the schools that are highly funded and reputable often only service those who have the financial means to attend. The SHSAT has turned into a make-or-break deal, where immense pressure is placed on students as young as eight or nine to begin preparing for a test that they are told is the determining factor of their lives. Students, sometimes starting in elementary school, invest thousands of dollars and hours in studying and preparing for their seat.

On the other side of the spectrum, students from low-income backgrounds who attend under-funded and under-resourced middle schools, usually aren’t aware of the opportunity available to them. The majority of these students, which are black or brown, don’t know about the exam or have very little resources to help them have the same level of preparation that other students receive. Their middle schools may not provide information about the high school process, or their parents might not have the time or resources to assist their child through the very draining and time-consuming high school process.

What makes the issue more complex is that it’s not that the majority of seats at these specialized High Schools are occupied by white and wealthy students, in fact, the majority of the student body is composed of Asian American children. Asian Americans make up 74% of Stuyvesant’s current student body, although make up only 14% of the citywide population. Additionally, most of these Asian American students are first or second generation immigrants, and half qualify for reduced-price or free lunch, meaning many fall close to or below the poverty line. Intensely preparing for the SHSAT from a very young age has become a cultural custom of the Asian American communities of New York City and every year Asian American kids consistently score the highest and are offered the vast majority of the slots. Therefore, the opportunity of guaranteed upward socio-economic mobility that the SHSAT provides is one that has largely benefited and served Asian American children. 

However, it has become incredibly evident that the current system in place is too flawed to continue to operate the way it does. Many possibilities for how to tackle the inequity within specialized high schools have been raised, but none have satisfied the needs of every group. Last summer, mayor Bill De Blasio announced a plan that would ultimately get rid of the entrance exam in order to broaden the range of students accepted into specialized High Schools schools. “There are talented students all across the five boroughs, but for far too long our specialized high schools have failed to reflect the diversity of our city,” de Blasio said in a speech. This reform was met with immediate backlash from Asian American communities and no further progress on this plan has been enacted. Another reform was announced by de Blasio which would reserve 20% of seats at the seven schools for poor students who tested just below the cutoff score. Again, the Asian American community opposed the potential plan as they believed it deprived many Asian American students who performed higher and deserved their seat. The current debate about what next steps to take is incredibly divided, as it has been made clear that the current system disproportionately disadvantages Black and Latinx students.

Overall, there are many potential solutions to temporarily address the racial and economic disparity within specialized high schools. However, these plans are futile unless the larger issue of segregation and inequity within the New York City School public school system is addressed. The issue of the specialized high schools is the outcome of a system that is incredibly flawed in every way, extending far beyond the specialized high schools. Until the deep-rooted issue of inequality and injustice in education is dealt with, the achievement gap will widen and the SHSAT will continue to benefit few. I believe the issue must be handled by looking at the whole picture and fixing it collectively, but amending the SHSAT is a good place to start.

Ghost Trains: Navigating the Subways as a High Schooler

By Sam Klein Stearns

Transitioning to Beacon from another school can be difficult. As a freshman, I can certainly vouch for these difficulties: from harder courses, to the introduction of PBAs, to the earlier start times, the changes can get overwhelming. One of the most daunting implementations I found was the subway. In terms of finding the correct train to take, it’s fairly straightforward – the 42nd Street station houses various lines going uptown and downtown. But many students (including myself) have to keep up with transfers and express stops, as well as the general unreliability of the MTA. For freshmen who already struggle to keep up with their classes, taking the subway can feel like yet another task to complete, especially at such early hours. There’s no golden solution, no secret way of traveling. However, understanding the subways and how they generally operate is certainly helpful. So, here’s how to maneuver the MTA as a high schooler. 

To begin with, it is important to understand the MTA’s flaws and how they may affect your schedule. The trains’ arrival times seem to be the most common reasons for lateness; arriving at the station just as the train leaves could add an extra five or even ten minutes on to your commute. And although it would seem different, the schedules of each line vary greatly, and, as was stated before, even a one minute change could completely skew your travel time. Confusion in terms of what trains to take and where to switch also leads to many errors. As there are frequent service announcements and alterations to what trains are or aren’t express, the subways you take one day may not be the same as the next. To add on to this, stations are always undergoing maintenance and closing down – and although these changes are typically saved for the night shift, a last-minute construction could also disrupt your morning. 

So there are all the main problems: now what can be done to get around them? First of all, to address arrival times: even though there are no constant, set-in-stone times, there are tools available for use in more places than it may seem. The most obvious of these are the overhead screens scattered along stations that show how long different trains will take to arrive. You can also view these times, as well as service announcements including delays or maintenance times, on several apps. I recommend the NYC Subway app, which has multiple convenient features such as maps, service changes, or travel alerts directly from the social medias of the MTA. Now, school can be hectic, and it isn’t always convenient to check several apps at 6:30 in the morning, so it’s helpful to estimate when trains usually come to your local station. Knowing your route also has some fairly easy solutions. Understanding or even memorizing your main route is fairly easy – I’ve been at Beacon for just over two months and I’m practically already doing it in my sleep. 

But, as is evident, the MTA is far from perfect, so it is important to know that there are alternate routes. And, if you want to be extra, you can even practice those alternate routes on your way to school, especially before SGI on Friday. Another way to accomplish an easier commute is to travel with friends. Not only is it nice having company on what can be a long, tedious ride – as well as this, those people may know more alternate routes that you haven’t heard of yet. 

Knowing these tips is certainly helpful when navigating the complex system that is the MTA. But of course there are simply unavoidable grievances that are nevertheless important to consider. First of all, there is, of course, the dreaded train stop: when your subway simply halts, in the middle of the tunnel, with only a muffled explanation from the driver. Or how about when none of your lines are running, or all the stations near you are shut down, and there is simply no option to get to school. Or even when the train you’re on goes express, and speeds right by the station you need. For these problems, there are no nifty tips that you can rely on, no back-door secrets to help you get to where you need to go. Still, in general, it’s important not to get too angry with the MTA, and not get caught up with the problems, instead focusing on anything you can do. And if all else fails, maybe take a taxi?

New York City’s Education System and Feeder Schools

By Cali Morrison Carss

As the school year begins, there is a noticeable sense of familiarity among the freshmen, even in such a new environment. Groups of students where everyone clearly already knows one another and are comfortable together are abundant at Beacon. While this is not the case for everyone, it seems that much of the student population comes from a select few schools. These schools are known as feeder schools, a term given to a middle school that consistently sends a majority of students to a specific few high schools. Feeder schools are generally characterized as accomplished middle schools in wealthy neighborhoods who send their students to New York’s elite high schools. They might offer familiar faces in the foreign hallways, but they can also ruin a school’s diversity, the lack of which is a serious problem currently facing the city’s education system. While some districts have begun to make strides concerning this issue, the system is still most definitely flawed, and is in need of official reconfiguring.

The high school acceptance system began in the 1980’s and 90’s, and was put in place to give students the option of going to a school other than the one they had been zoned to. The original concept allowed the student to choose their school, but as of recently, it has become more of the schools cherry-picking their students. More schools, including Beacon, now use a screening process to accept students, meaning that middle school grades play a huge part in acceptance. Middle schools are carrying out similar processes, looking at elementary school grades in order to pick and choose their student body. It puts extraordinary pressure on young students, and InsideSchools editor Clara Hemphill goes so far as to say in the NY Times article “A Shadow System Feeds Segregation in New York City Schools” that, “I don’t think anyone who’s gone through the high school application process thinks it’s anything but legalized child abuse.” Such an intense process is clearly stressful at any level, but placing it on middle schools is a lot to ask of families. Also, if an elementary school cannot supply the necessary resources for students to excel to their full potential, it could start a chain reaction of unsatisfactory school pairings. This can unfairly disadvantage poorer neighborhoods, because that isn’t giving those students a fair chance. 

However, some districts have started to combat the issue at hand. District 15, or Park Slope, Redhook, and Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, for example, has just last year introduced a new system for acceptance into middle schools. They have constructed a 2 part lottery, giving first chances to kids in less fortunate neighborhoods. That way, they get a shot at some of the higher achieving middle schools that might not have taken them in with the old system. This new system was created to increase diversity in schools and to give more kids a fair chance at better resources and courses. The lottery approach could act as a successful example to other districts and even the city as a whole to give all students an opportunity at any school.

Overall, New York City has proposed some plans and ideas, but with little follow through. The plans themselves are sound in theory, phasing out the specialized test being one of them, but that could take a long time to actually be implemented in policy. In reality, this is an issue that has roots in historic discrimination that has spanned over many decades and will not be an easy fix. While these elite high schools offer near guarantees of academic success, they do not offer a fair opportunity to black and Latinx students, or students from less fortunate areas. This is an issue that needs to be paid attention to in the city’s education system and it needs to be dealt with immediately.

A Call to Caution

By Adrian Flynn

In the past few months, many Beacon students have freely shared their opinions on two major political incidents: the Covington confrontation and the Jussie Smollett episode. Similar sentiments of outrage were expressed by many liberals across the nation in response to these two events. As we have now learned, both of these incidents were much more complex and nuanced than anyone could have realized at first glance, or at first post. As a consequence, a multitude of the opinions shared by people both at Beacon and around the country now seem to be contradicted by the facts of each case. Even more significantly, the immediate outpour of public reaction uncovers a wider issue: rushes to judgment in our polarized political landscape.

Both the Covington and Smollett incidents gained traction as they circulated on social media. No matter what angle of the political commentary, a narrative was always meant to be illustrated in sharing the video. The short clip of Nick Sandmann and Covington Catholic students in an apparent confrontation with Native American activist and veteran Nathan Phillips was initially circulated on the left for the primary purpose of provoking outrage from people who were susceptible to seeing Sandmann and his classmates as the sole wrongdoers. This was a notion widely held by Beacon students who rushed to post their opinions on the matter. Even the Covington Diocese rushed to criticise the actions of the students. Without defending any incendiary actions by the Covington students (who seemed to move their arms to mimic a tomahawk chop to the beat of Mr. Phillips’ drumming and chanting), further investigation revealed that the initial confrontation was largely caused by a group known as the Hebrew Israelites at the scene. A fuller picture of the incident came to fruition with the full (hour and a half long) version of the originally circulated clip and more videos taken from different angles. Indeed, a recent investigation found that the students “did not instigate” the confrontation, a conclusion which lines up with Sandmann’s comments on the Today Show. Still, the presence of the MAGA hats worn by the Covington students undeniably added another layer of complexity to the incident because of its implications and symbolism, though it likely doesn’t help in assessing exactly what happened in the incident itself. Simply put, the incident as we now understand it does not support a simple conclusion, yet conclusions were drawn from the incident for the purpose of justifying convenient political statements.

Similarly, the Jussie Smollett story has struck a raw nerve with Americans on all sides of the political spectrum. This expression was evident amongst Beacon students who both shared their thoughts on social media and in person at school. Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two men wearing MAGA hats and yelling racial and homophobic slurs, as well as citing their support for President Trump. Of course, at the first break of the story, there was no real way to tell that Smollett had possibly staged the incident. However, in the following days, many media outlets began to report the inconsistencies in Smollett’s report with evidence that he orchestrated the attack, and the story began to unravel from there. Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson then confirmed the staging in a press conference on February 21st. Still, Beacon students and many other people who shared the narrative seem to have not reconciled the fact that they had possibly used false information to justify their political beliefs. Of course, the unique quality of Smollett’s position as an LGBTQ African-American also adds a layer to the incident because of his effort to capitalize on the intense polarization around the stances on people of color and those in the LGBTQ community held by the Trump Administration. It would be unfair to say that this was intentional on their part, but this gets at the main point: we have an issue with rushing to judgment.

It is extremely tempting to share a story relating to a trending topic if it confirms or validates your beliefs. But, as we have seen, if we do not know the facts of the incident at hand in and out, then we cannot speak to it through a political lens. Information flows at lighting speed in the digital age, and instead of digesting the true essence of these two stories, many people used the small amount of information available to support their preconceived beliefs rather than to challenge them. Instantaneous information seems to demand instantaneous conclusions. However, trying to use developing stories and incomplete narratives to support your political views actually undermines them as the facts and information are not always sound. On the contrary, using pieces of news and information to challenge your beliefs actually strengthens them because it forces you to refine them in the wake of new or previously unknown developments.

How do we determine what information is reliable and objective as opposed to news and social media posts that are fraught with bias and factual inconsistencies? In our current political climate, the unbiased truth struggles to shine through because it does not always push a political agenda and seems unappealing to one’s personal conclusion. In order to become more responsible citizens, voters, and consumers of media, we must question how we get our information and challenge the sources on which we rely. While this is a high bar to set in current times, it is one that we must uphold if we are to preserve an informed democracy and a population capable of critical thinking. Rushing to judgment does not serve the purpose of engaging in a serious political discourse nor does it serve as a means to find the truth. In the future, social media activists and Beacon students alike should consider taking a breath when the inevitable next big story hits our feeds, and take time to reflect on all angles before we presume to form our own narrow conclusions.

8 Affordable, Sustainable, and Fashionable Online Stores to Update Your Wardrobe

By Sophie Steinberg

As fast-fashion dominates the styles of most of America, I have found myself gravitating towards smaller businesses that offer the same prices for far better clothes. Many modern online clothing stores are small operations that cultivate a following and appreciation through social media and Instagram. More often than not, their clothes are either handmade or thrifted in America and do not rely on factories for production. I have found comfort in knowing exactly who is making, selling, and inspiring my wardrobe. I would describe my personal style as a mixture of 1970’s chic and grunge (with a few basics in the mix) and recently, I have been intrigued by the following websites…

1. Courtyard LA

Courtyard LA is a online vintage clothing store with a few original pieces. Based in Los Angeles, as you could probably garner from the name, the store resells vintage sweaters, shirts, Levi’s jeans, and more. The owner also put forth her own collection on the site which includes beautiful poet blouses and graphic tees. Prices range from $24 to $165 with a majority of their items falling in the $30-$60 category.

2. Shop Tunnel Vision

Shop Tunnel Vision is an online vintage store that sells clothes for “Deadbeat Lowlife Weirdos,” but don’t let that scare you. The impressive online store includes a blog, original artwork, vintage clothes by decade, links to their Spotify playlists and Tumblr accounts, and plenty of clothing. Sometimes everyone needs a little 2000s diva or goth in their lives. They sell everything from jewelry to down coats, all sourced in the LA area. The business is run by Madeline Pendleton, who is a designer, illustrator, buyer, and owner of the shop. I am so amazed by their site and I am so lucky to have had the privilege of interviewing Madeline who has single-handedly built such an impressive online retailer.

The Beacon Beat: How did this company come about? What did it start out as?

Madeline Pendleton: Tunnel Vision was started in 2012 by me, Madeline, and a business partner I had at the time who left the company in 2013 to pursue her own brand. We started the store as an online store with the intention of selling ethical and recycled clothing to an audience that traditionally would favor more destructive clothing production methods, like fast fashion or big box clothing chains.

TBB: How do you remain sustainable? And what are some challenges you face within that?

MP: We started out wanting to use local production methods only, with our house brand sewer being one of our friends’ moms who was being mistreated by a local factory here in Los Angeles and quit to pursue working for herself. However, as the brand has grown, we have found it increasingly difficult to be both profitable and produce locally. This has led us to branch out and seek overseas production methods that are also eco-conscious and socially responsible. As a result, we work with brands like Bella and Canvas, who makes the blanks we screen print a lot of our products on. They own their own factory overseas with a commitment to ethical production methods. We’ve also partnered with overseas jewelry manufacturers who insure ethical product standards. It is always difficult, though, trying to give our customers prices they are comfortable with, without exploiting laborers. Sometimes, I worry that the fashion industry has gone so far into the side of cheap unfair labor that it’s impossible to exist as a business without it. But, we hold onto our principles as best we can, and it is always a challenge trying to find the balance.

TBB: What do you look for in a piece of clothing when you’re thrifting?

MP: We source our vintage from a variety of places, but we don’t really “thrift”. A lot of our product is purchased by-the-pound at local outlets for clothing that cannot be sold at thrift stores, actually. We literally dig in giant piles or boxes or bins of clothing trying to find the best of the best hidden in there. Sometimes, the bins smell horrible. Sometimes, they are inexplicably wet. Sometimes, there are literal rodents in them. But we always rescue great garments that would otherwise be thrown away and just need a little TLC. These are mostly garments with minor damages that can be repaired, or garments that are out of style or out of date — which is great for a vintage look and works really well for us. We also rely on local rag houses. We look for pieces that are fashionable now and still have some life left in them while telling a story. Fashion is cyclical, and it’s great to find a piece from the original era contemporary fashion references.

TBB: Who is your ideal customer?

MP: Our ideal customer is someone who loves the look of vintage clothes, but has a higher shopping expectation that a Depop or eBay or thrift shop customer, for example. We are looking to target middle class customers who would otherwise be shopping at big box fast fashion retailers, and our goal is to convert them into secondhand customers by presenting the clothing in a shopping manner to which they are accustomed — on a professional website styled with fashion-forward and contemporary accessories.

TBB: Is there one special item/shoe/print/article of clothing that you have been dying to find?

MP: We are always on the lookout for vintage chunky boots and shoes! It is so hard to find them, though, especially in good condition. Even deadstock shoes from other eras are often made from non-leather materials, which means that they peel from sitting even unworn for years. A good shoe is the elusive hard-to-find gem of vintage sourcing.

https://shoptunnelvision.com

3. LA with Love Intimates

LA With Love is a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in handmade and affordable lingerie. Their prices are very reasonable considering lingerie can be expensive. They sell swimsuits, bodysuits, nightgowns, bras, and underwear. Their prices range from $17-$80 with most items being priced somewhere in the middle. The company’s designs are a 2019 take on lingerie while using classics materials and styles.

https://lawithlove.us

4. Shop Daizy Lemonade

This is an Instagram based shop that makes sales through direct messaging and PayPal. The owner recently acquired an appointment-only space for styling vintage clothes. They have a very impressive collection of dresses, tops, and shoes from as early as the 1950’s. Most of her items are anywhere from $17-$50 and dresses are usually around $35. I love Daizy Lemonade because they sell a lot of items in a wide size range. Sometimes online shops only sell clothes that are around the owner’s size, but Daizy Lemonade ensures that everyone feels represented and is able to buy clothes. I’m a Medium-Large for most items and bottoms so it was great to see that the shop was selling very fashionable pants and skirts that I could actually wear.

@shopdaizylemonade on Instagram

5. Tots Apparel

Tots Apparel is a smaller company, in comparison to the other stores on this list because it is owned, designed, and operated by a college student! Unfortunately, the student is taking a break to focus on her studies and creative process until this spring, so head on over to the shop while you can! Tots Apparel combines sportswear and classic prints with the modern Crop Top. Most of the pieces are reworked or altered items from thrift stores and some include the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s Jeans, and Adidas. Among my favorite pieces are her Distressed Levi’s Bralettes and her Neon Green zebra-print crop tops.  The designer, listed on the site as “Baby J” started off selling the clothes she wanted to get rid of in her closet but now the website sells 90’s-inspired items internationally. Based in DC and Atlanta, the store is a great example of the power of the internet, a great sense of style, and originality. All of the items are under $35.

https://www.totsapparel.com

6. Spaced Out Mama

“Spaced Out Mama” is the name of an Etsy and Depop-based thrift store that specializes in 1970s vintage items. Based in Ohio, the owner, Crystal, posts very colorfully stylized photographs of the “new” items in her shop which is how the store originally caught my eye. If your a fan of “That ‘70’s Show” or you love Joni Mitchell, you should definitely check out her Etsy. The shop has everything from vintage dresses, jeans, sweaters, shoes, jumpsuits, and a sale section! Most of the clothing is very colorful and there are many dresses and tops with bold prints. Everything is over the top in the best way! Her items range from $10-$200 with most pieces being priced around $70 or $80. If you feel like having a vintage splurge, this is the place for you

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SpacedOutMama?ref=l2-shop-header-avatar

OR

@spacedoutmama on Depop

7. WANTS (We Are Not The Same)

WANTS is a relatively new online store that specializes in gorgeous accessories and unique and modern business-casual clothing. I found them on Instagram through a model who was wearing their tops. Upon further investigation, I saw that even singer Jorja Smith sports their beautiful blazers! The name of their brand is an acronym for “We Are Not The Same” as the brand encourages individuality and breaking from mainstream fashion. They strongly believe that “everyone should be able to express their style without having to break the bank to do so.” They also only sell a limited number of each item so that you’ll never be caught dead wearing the same thing as someone. Their items range from $30 to $200, but most of their tops and pants are between $40 and $80. They also have an amazing sale section and tend to markdown their pieces. My personal recommendation would be the “Pink Puffed Sleeves Blouse” which is ON SALE for $60.

https://wantsonline.com

8. Shop Hot Lava

Shop Hot Lava is an online store that only features around 70 items but each piece is different yet cohesive. The shop specializes in fun graphic tees, bold pants, and kooky prints. I stumbled on the small shop through one of my favorite models, Lulu Bonfils, who you can find at @louisvuittoncrocs. She sported their Checkerboard Denim Pants that come in a wide range of sizes. I love the style of their clothes because it features simple cuts with really interesting patterns and execution. I have a feeling that if they were to be picked up by another online retailer they would become huge. Their name alone “Hot Lava” makes for awesome t-shirts and frankly, it’s just fun to say.  Their prices range from $17 to $88 dollars with pants being their more expensive items. Check them out before their stuff goes to Urban Outfitters!! Run!

https://shophotlava.com

Why The Police Don’t Go Out Of Their Way To Make Your Day Better

By Alejandro Ingkavet

I recently had the good fortune of an unknown New Yorker finding my wallet and turning it into the police department.

It had been less than 24 hours since I lost it, and I was ecstatic to receive the call that my wallet, along with all the items inside and $150 in cash, had been returned to a station uptown. I was told I could retrieve it whenever I wanted to.

The following day, I made the trip to an Upper West Side precinct to find that none of my possessions were there. They had been sent to police headquarters.

Okay. Not a big deal. I had enough free time to travel to City Hall, where its cold, marble hallways and tall, exposed ceilings greeted me. But the next challenge proved to be more difficult.

“If you have my wallet,” I told the guards, “then I don’t have any sort of personal identification on my person right now.” They found this troubling, as if there was no protocol for this. After I was tested repeatedly to see if I knew my own social security number and date of birth, I was allowed to proceed to the next building, but only because the officers were “having a good day” (normally a birth certificate would have been needed).

Already, through this interaction, they had made it clear who held the power, as if they were doing me a favor by giving my belongings back.

I was able to get everything back that day except for one crucial item: my cash.

I understand that currency moves through a separate system, but I find it pointless to only allow a visitor to claim their money between the hours of 8am and 2:30pm. This is pure police bureaucracy. Do they all have somewhere else to be, or are they just trying to find the most inconvenient hours for you?

When I was finally able to get to their headquarters again, on Election Day, the guards were bored and annoyed, feet up on their desks, acting as if I were the worst problem the entire city was dealing with at the moment. They told me the currency unit was closed because the banks were closed. Okay. Understandable.

I asked when I could come back. They replied with what I already knew: before 2:30 on weekdays. I then inquired, if both my parents work full time and I attend school during those hours, what am I supposed to do?

One guard responded with, “maybe you just forget about it” and laughed. I turned to the other officer, who took me seriously. He told me I’d have to come back on my own time. I asked if he meant I should cut school to pick up my own money. This last remark seemed to personally offend him. I was suddenly told to get out.

I suffered one final indignity: I left, irritated, but not before crashing into the “pull” door and being laughed at as I ran out, humiliated.

I wasn’t so much angry as I was perplexed. This is how the police department treats its guests. In any other industry, customer service is essential to staying in business. Any entrepreneur knows that having a friendly, human connection is key to building a customer base and easily weeding out rude competitors.

If the police department has little to no checks and balances the way the federal government does, how can anyone ever really disagree with them? A lawsuit attempting to tackle anything more than a singular event would only result in embarassed prosecutors as the over 35,000 officers carried on with their lives. No amendments would be enacted to prevent further police misconduct.

You might ask me, if it might help to eliminate cops who abuse their power, why I didn’t report them. This feels like a futile attempt to receive some personal validation for being dealt with in a disrespectful way. It does not provide a chance for any legislation to be created and implemented to build broader change.

Now, I am not advocating for the police to switch to a private sector matter (that can go wrong in many ways). I’m pointing out the deeply flawed system which doesn’t give the police a sense of pushback.

We settle with the service we get because we know it’s in our best interest to do so. Although I am extremely grateful that an unknown New Yorker returned my wallet, this act of good faith was diminished by the very organization which is supposed to model good citizenship. There is no alternative if you want to reclaim lost property. Indeed, now, more than ever, ordinary citizens must understand how vital it is to be treated with courtesy, professionalism, and respect, even if there is no incentive to put “customer” needs first.

We Need to Fix the Subway: The MTA’s Current Problems and Potential Solutions

By Tess Olmi and Jadan Harsch

Photography by Boo Elliot

The subway. The MTA. Whatever you know it as, chances are that either you or someone you know uses it daily. And, although it has been around since 1904 and runs through all five boroughs, including Staten Island, there are still so many problems that make it increasingly difficult, tiresome, and unsafe for commuters to use daily.

“Where the music from the subway / Rose up through the cold steel gate / And danced a tango with the rhythm / Of the lonely drummer in the park” – Adoni Elias Nava (42nd St, Bryant Park)

Why is the system so crowded and congested?

The New York City subway system is an underground transit system carrying thousands daily. Made up of railroad tracks, over 400 stations, and trains that travel throughout all five boroughs. Overall, around 1.757 billion people ride it annually. Most people think of subway systems as fully underground, the F and G line that run through Brooklyn, at one point, as well as many other lines that are currently running, go above ground for a stretch of their commutes.

    Because there are so many people currently using the subway, and it stretches through such far distances, you would imagine that it is a much better resource than, in reality, it is. And although the New York City subway system does happen to be ranked seventh in the top ten best subway systems in the world, the fact is that it could be a lot better than it currently is, with problems such as train control signals, databases, workers, harassment and more. There is a lot that can be improved so that the New York City subway system can reach its full potential.

When has the subway gone wrong?  

    Throughout the years since the subway system has opened, there have been too many incidents to count. I hope that most of you have not been caught in one of these incidents, but on a smaller scale, most everyone who has ridden the subway has either seen something very gross, very scary, or just something unneeded on our morning commutes.

    In July 2017, an F train stopped underground for almost three hours with no light or air-conditioning. The train was packed with passengers, and stopped abruptly in the tunnel. At first, passengers were falsely told that there was a train ahead of them to keep anxiety levels low. Then, after an hour had passed, the conductor told the passengers the truth, which was that the train was experiencing severe malfunctions. People were trying desperately to pry the doors and windows open, just to catch any air that was in the tunnels, which was limited. People even began deciding who would need to be let out first; identifying the elderly, pregnant, and injured.

    Eventually, after an excruciating three hour wait in the dark, hot tunnel, another train arrived behind this F train and pushed it, very slowly, out of the tunnel and into a station. As people were getting off, they were saying that they felt sick, and that they needed to get off of the train. People who were involved in the incident have now taken to calling it “The F Train From Hell”.

    Unfortunately, though, this is not the worst thing that has happened on the subway. Around the same time, in June of 2017, there was an accident on the tracks that left dozens injured, and luckily not dead, although it easily could have. Two cars on an A train on 125th street veered off of the tracks, and went up into smoke and flames. 34 people were injured, and were treated for injuries ranging from minor to extreme. According to a photographer named Kelly Kopp, who was on the smoking train, “People were screaming; people were throwing up because the smoke was so thick.” People on the train have said that they thought that it would be the end of their lives, and that it was the scariest thing that had ever happened to them. Many said that they were reluctant to get back on a train after that, and may be for a long time to come, which is indicative of a need for change. Given the stories, if these issues persist, many would be hesitant to ever step foot on a train ever again.

How do Trains Affect New York City Schools and Workplaces?  

Children, adults, elderly people, musicians, celebrities, and dancers. Everyone commutes on the subway in New York. The trains inconsistency and problems affect many people. But one of the largest groups affected by these problems are children and teachers commuting to schools. Unlike the CW show “Gossip Girl,” most people don’t have a limo awaiting their every need, so the trains are what they rely on. People depend on the trains to be on time in order to get to their destination, not stop in the middle of the tunnel, but to be safe and efficient. Children who go to schools far away from their homes take trains everyday, and if the train is delayed they are late for school and suffer consequences. No matter how early you leave, one cannot account for ridiculous accidents or stalls in which the train sits there for ten minutes to 5 hours, messing up your schedule and your whole day.

What are Some Improvements That Can be Made to The New York City Subway Systems?

  1. Improve train Control signals.

The system that some of the most highly in use trains use is outdated and isn’t the most efficient way to get the trains moving quickly. In today’s subway system, all lines except the L use a system called Fixed Blocking, which is a way of preventing two trains from being at the same station at once. And as this is a safety regulation, the L train is using a different system that is allowing the trains to be closer together, which is more modern and more efficient for commuters, and helping along wait times.

  1. Make trains longer.

Subway cars take up space and time. There are theories that are being in the process of tested, that say the MTA can add more cars to the trains without having to make the station longer. The idea of creating an A section and a B section to the train is how this would work. Whatever station you would be going to you would get on the side of the train you needed, if the stop you needed to get to was called an “A station” then you would get on the “A” side of the car.

  1. Inform passengers of delays through technology

Data management is a big problem. New technology can be built to allow data to come in at real time allowing passengers to know about delays or malfunctions right away. It would also give accurate arrival times which would give people a realistic idea of whether or not they are going to have time to take the train, etc.

  1. Use robots to repair trains

Repairs to trains take time, and in turn slow everything down. Proposals have been made from many companies that have suggested replacing human repairs with robot repairs, which would be done in a different tunnel connecting to the main train networks. This would decrease the time of waiting for the delays by a major chunk.

The subway is a cheap and historically beloved method of commuting. When there are no delays or unforeseen accidents, the trains are great ways to get to work.  Because of this, it is imperative that the city improves the system and takes into consideration the lives that are affected everyday. Local and state governments should allocate funds and promote projects that will better the MTA fix the trains. The next time your conductor says “We are being held momentarily” think about the ways in which the city could fix both the trains and your commute.

Snap Out of It: I Deleted Snapchat and You Should Too

By Anne Isman

After another aimless scroll through Snapchat, landing on a story with a slew of unfamiliar faces in it, I realized how boring it was.  Maybe one image was funny or relevant to me, but given how much content people upload to their Snapchat, viewing an interesting story was a rarity.  Even my own posts were irrelevant to anyone outside of my sphere of friends, if interesting to anyone except myself. Snapchat, which is used daily by 187 million people, is essentially a dumping ground for posts not good enough for Instagram, and with that, followers are privy to the mundane and “unfiltered” moments of their friends’ lives.

I first downloaded Snapchat two years ago to stay in touch with friends abroad.  By simply watching their stories every so often, I was supposedly “keeping in touch” the way Snapchat enabled me to do: watching people’s lives but not actually communicating with them.  Exchanging usernames was our way of remaining connected without putting in any effort to remain friends, which created more distance.

Besides the disconnect, the abundance of the amount of content I looked through daily on the app overwhelmed me, especially since many of those I follow are not necessarily close friends.  As a result, I was essentially watching the lives of people I didn’t really know, which felt invasive. Unfortunately, Snapchat makes it obvious when there are stories yet to be viewed, and I obsessively watched the available stories to clear the top of my feed, so only messages from close friends remained.  I was using Snapchat as a replacement for regular text messaging, a testament to how unnecessary this app’s functions truly are.

To emphasize, nearly every time I opened the app, I found myself looking at someone’s lunch or a photo of a street with a decorative geotag or time stamp on it.  Although I continued to watch these stories, upon every viewing I asked myself why I bothered opening the app in the first place. It was as though the more I watched people’s Snapchat stories, the less I cared about what I was watching–and why should I?  The stories disappear in 24 hours anyway.

Eventually, I decided I was going to just get rid of the app, as I was exhausted by giving my time to something that didn’t really provide me with much in return.  Even Snapchat’s news stories, which I usually scrolled through, could have been read elsewhere. The moment I removed the app from my phone, I was no longer haunted by the blinding yellow square and the ghost suspended inside of it.  

After removing Snapchat, my friends asked me what I would do with all my extra free time, or how I would see what people were doing.  Although I’ve only been without the app for a week, I have no longer had to feel the intense boredom that came with scrolling through story after story in which the geotag was more interesting than the photo.  What I’ve realized by not having Snapchat is that I’m not interested in watching the dull and routine moments of someone else’s everyday life, and I can’t understand why anyone would want to see those moments in my life either.

That said, do yourself a favor and get rid of Snapchat.

The Common Stress: The Ways in Which the College Process Has Bled Into Everyday Life

By Julian Fuchsberg

At lunch tables, in the classroom, or on the walk to the subway, Beacon seniors often find the conversation dominated by college talk. The topic is almost inescapable. Students unite under a common plight as they endure the heavy burden of encroaching deadlines and the myriad of supplemental essays. Most schools boast intensified applications and lower acceptance rates by the year, amplifying the hypercompetitive nature of the process, and making it difficult to avoid the urge to share standardized tests results or college lists. This “stress culture” is compounded by the general diligence of Beacon’s student body, as well as the rigor of the environment, where the average SAT score is nearly 200 points higher than the national median.

Industrious senior Narek Ghazaryan acknowledged that Beacon’s college counselors are beyond helpful in reducing admissions-induced anxiety, though their guidance is often offset by the overbearing frequency of conversations, in and out of the college office, on higher education. “It gets to the point where even mentioning anything college related induces stress,” he put it. 

Beacon senior Noah Vaknin feels some degree of comfort in knowing that “each student faces their own battles in getting into college,” though the continuous dialogue regarding college admissions provokes anxiety. Namely, in the sense that the “constant talk acts as a reminder that there is much so work left to be done.”

Some hold a relatively positive view on college discussions. Lucas Haber, for one, felt that “in general, people are very supportive towards each other and tend to assure others that they will get into colleges that they are applying to.” Nonetheless, he perceives that competition can often get the better of some. Though it is rare that students consciously debase others, Lucas was quick to note how “some people talk about how bad their scores are even when they’re better than other peoples’ scores, which will inevitably make others feel bad.”

Enterprising senior Maxine Slater expressed similar sentiments: “I think a lot of it is unconscious. Simply the language we use can devalue certain schools and estrange students from the college process. Sometimes we don’t consider that others’ goals don’t align—or simply can’t align—with our own.” Maxine went on to suggest that a “broader reconceptualization of the way Beacon students talk, think, and approach college” is necessary to “make college applications more forthcoming and inclusive.” She particularly advocated for greater sensitivity surrounding early-decision admissions, a “contractually-binding process which are not a financial viability for many students.”

As the workload gets more intense—for college applications and for classes—it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s no surprise that Beacon students are concerned about their future, and it’s even less of a surprise that they’re eager to talk about it. It’s difficult to straddle the line between seeking comfort and sympathy and making others feel insecure about their own abilities, especially when surrounded by highly competitive students. Seniors should strive to be more aware and more open when it comes to college-related stress, and to find an appropriate outlet for expressing their frustration.

It’s Time for A New High School Fantasy: Your Own

By Ella Trager

I walked into my little cousin’s glittery, pink-filled, princess decorated room, camouflaged in boy band posters, and she attacked me. Immediately bombarding me with the questions I had expected, she exclaimed, “How’s high school? Is it everything you’ve dreamed of? Tell me about the parties”. First of all, I have never “dreamed” of high school. Nightmares maybe, but never dreams. I didn’t tell her that though, because she still looked up to Cher Horowitz from Clueless, and Hannah Montana. I could see the bright sparkle in her tiny eyes as she imagined the 16 year old girl she would soon become, and I remembered that blazing, toxic sparkle that I once carried in my own eyes. I wanted to tell her that all the drama and fantasies weren’t real. So I’ll tell you now: if you are hiding under your covers awaiting your next day of high school or if you are sitting on your furry carpet with your door glued shut blasting music even after your parents asked you to turn it down, don’t fall into the trap. If you didn’t drop your notebooks and empty looseleaf papers in the wide, crowded hallways on your first day of high school, don’t worry high school’s not over. Yet. Oh, and if you didn’t make eye contact with the tall football player who happens to have crystal blue eyes that helped you pick up your papers, it’s ok. You still have time to fall in love with him. If you walk into lunch on the very first day with your apple juice box and some mysterious, gross looking meat sitting on a blue tray, don’t freak out. You won’t have to be like Cady Heron and sit alone in the bathroom stall. You know what, scratch that. You won’t have gross meat. You won’t have a juice box. And you definitely won’t have a blue tray.

    Why is it that our 12 year old selves consumed these fantasies about the “magical” four years of high school that were soon to come? First, take some time and rewatch The Heathers, Clique and The Breakfast Club (I know, you probably thought that one was accurate), and make a list of how many scenes are true to things you have observed or experienced throughout your high school career. I guarantee you your paper will be blank. We’ve grown up idolizing these films, but they have quickly let us down. Do you really think that there are jocks, geeks, nerds, popular kids and “burnouts” in every high school? No. Do you really think that the captain of the boys basketball team will have silky brown hair and shining blue eyes every time, and also happen to be the most popular boy in school? Oh, and do you really think that there’s not a single girl out there, especially a blonde one, who doesn’t know rules of sports? No. So let me tell you right now, Troy Bolton, Gabriella Montez and Sharpay are setting you up for a false reality. We know, through experience, that not everyday in high school will be all rainbows and sunshine. That coming home to blasting music and gossiping with friends is not the truth. That at the end of each year, the perfect guy won’t always end up with the perfect girl, they won’t always both be straight A students and of course, they might not even be prom king and queen. (What’s with that cheesy stuff anyway?)

    We are all much too often in our heads about being athletic enough, smart enough or popular enough. But where do our expectations come from? Regina George? Patrick Verona? If we don’t check the boxes of what these characters look like or what they accomplish, we feel defeated. Characters rarely seem worried about taking the SATs or the ACTs, joining clubs that look good on applications, failing a math test even when you stayed up all night, or even just fitting in with people that make you happy. I think we can all say we’ve stayed up until at least two in the morning complaining of exhaustion and worried about a letter that will “determine our future.”

We deserve a happy ending.

Not a happy ending where the guy gets the girl. Not a happy ending where the guy or girl gets into Harvard, and just so happens to be with all of his/her friends. Not a happy ending where the perfect couple gets prom king and queen. A real happy ending. A happy ending where making it through was enough to be content. Honestly, if everyone’s high school experience was made into a movie, we would probably only watch 25% of them. So don’t follow the script that you’ve been practicing since you were 12. Write your own story instead.

The Simplification of Social Media


By Esme Laster

Have you ever spent unintentionally long spans of time browsing through social media? It goes as follows: You find that spot on your couch after an entire day of lugging around your 50 pound backpack and immediately slip into your usual collapsed hunch that starts off comfortable and becomes progressively crippling. Your body sinks deeper into the soft pills of fabric as you mindlessly thumb through countless images. Your time here grows longer and longer, you forget about your homework, about your dad in the next room, and as he walks towards you to ask how school was, you look up and realize the 30 minutes that just passed.

For many teens this experience is familiar, and this familiarity is frightening. Adolescence is a pivotal period of time where tangled, confused emotions form something phenomenal and concrete: ourselves. Social media disrupts this process of forming of self that is meant to occur during adolescence.

Further, social media is intended to exist in the mind of its user as something personal. Therefore, social media users choose to personalize and tailor their social media profiles to what they believe to be the embodiment of themselves, or often times, what they wish to be the embodiment of themselves. This seems like an impossible task, as the complexity of an individual cannot be captured through a collection of photographs and videos. However, this is not the task the geniuses behind Instagram and Facebook are handing to us. We are more practically given the task of conveying a general image of ourselves, rather than conveying individuality, we are told to convey conventionality. Presenting teenagers with the opportunity to self-curate or self-invent an online identity becomes dangerous when this online identity overrides one’s true, human identity.  

As these small moments of “social media binging” accompanied by an afternoon snack and a glass of water become more frequent and more casual, and as scrolling becomes more habitual, our online identity becomes larger than the gleam behind a 4 inch screen, it becomes an obsession.

A prime example of this obsession with our online identities is the popularization of the “selfie”. While there are many variations of the selfie, selfies are most commonly used as a way to present ourselves as attractive. The selfie puts a face behind a username, but this face can easily be a mask. Just as it is easy to create a false image of ourselves through our social media profiles, it is easy to manipulate how one truly looks with a single photo in order to appear conventionally beautiful. This need to establish ourselves as beautiful to accredit our online identities, speaks more broadly to America’s obsession with beauty.

American culture has always orbited around some conventional idea of beauty. Most americans associate a certain face, or name with this idea of American beauty, however, it is often the mass representation of this face, or rather, what is a corporately-curated image of beauty, that rigs the minds of many Americans. It is the mass-deliverance of these images that make American people so susceptible to believing that beauty is a single image, or can even be captured in one image. These images of beauty are tactically curated, and tailored to be believed, these images are more than a long blonde woman with creamy skin and an impossibly straight nose, these images are powerful American commodities: they are bought by the American people, and they are sold to the American people.

Social media functions similarly in that social media allows us to portray a single image of ourselves. Even worse, social media makes us believe that our identities can be expressed through one image, or a collection of images. Social media simplifies and minimizes our individuality, and at a time where individuality is being formed, social media can be catastrophic. So, the next time you feel yourself sinking into the seams of your sofa and aimlessly scrolling through images, break the habit: look up at the ceiling, remember the time, and sit up straight.

Barbie, Dora, You, Me, and Us.


By Sophia Gomez


Magazines, TV commercials, Subway ads, and pictures frames; if you have not noticed all feature some of the same faces. You will most likely find the face of an American White citizen front and center. But what is so ideal about this group of people? Are they truly going to make you more inclined to buy a product because they are sponsoring it? Maybe so, but when thinking about why this may be I have arrived to the conclusion that the beauty standards that were constructed in the past around the skin tone of an individual continue to impede our society today. From the brown paper bag test established in the early 1900’s, to skin-lightening products that just last year were an industry worth 4.3 billion dollars; image and representation have been struggling concepts for the marginalized groups of people in the United States. Generations have been able to pass on the ideals of what beauty and being American looks like since the start of childhood. And unfortunately my childhood was a victim of those ideals.

Growing up, a daughter of two immigrants, my dolls all looked like Barbie or were at least a version of her. Although it was not necessarily my mother who handed me these types of dolls, I was somehow able to decide that Barbie was more sophisticated and beautiful than Dora the Explorer. Barbie herself had the life I wanted, full of friends, wealth, status and of course blonde hair. As a result I began to look at other children as guide of achieving an American childhood. I watched the shows all my friends talked about, I wore all the brands my friends wore, I told my mom to pack the same lunch as my friends, and I even asked for the same toys for Christmas as my friends.

As I got older I noticed the role of image in American society. Not only did I continue to follow my plan of accomplishing an American childhood but I also attempted to distance myself from the heritage that my parents had so kindly open me up to. The warm soothing cups of hot chocolate with melted cheese in them that were typically served at the Colombian breakfast table quickly became into cold cups of Nesquik, and the spanish music that roared in the car converted to Hannah Montana songs on repeat. It was only elementary school when these changes took place. A child of 10 years old, and I already took it upon myself to accommodate others, to please and harmonize with those I saw as American and beautiful. At this point you might be asking yourself, aren’t I at fault for having followed the norms and actions of others around me? But the truth is, by human nature we have the tendency to compare, as well as look to others when in a group of people. Whether it is in moments of confusion or moments when someone or something dominates the other, our bodies and minds find the easiest way to defend itself. If you think about it, isn’t easier to have a unified front of people rather than a conflicted and opposing group of people? At 10 years old you would much rather see yourself included with the majority of your class, tv shows, books and dolls without being asked one of the most harmful questions: What are you?

It is time that the image of beauty and the idea of who an American is are no longer interconnected. That the little girl who one day walked to school with magnificent curls and the next walked in with straight hair will not be more “American” because her physical appearance states it so. That I, nor you, will have to explain to our children why they don’t see themselves on TV without being portrayed as the criminal, dangerous, or unintelligent. We must all take a second look at our privileges and power in society, because alone we will be left running in the dirt for years to come. I do not ask for you to tell me I am beautiful because I am exotic and different, but I ask for you to allow space and light for me to enter the world. It is time for those who have been on stage for years to step to the side and allow those who have been misinterpreted, diminished, and forgotten in our society to take the stage. You and I must forget what was taught in the past, You and I must take opportunities, and You and I must choose for ourselves who we are and what we represent.

Added Value Farms: A Red Hook Hidden Gem

By Ruby Paarlberg

Across the street from Ikea and surrounded by sidewalks and parked cars is a flourishing and beautiful green farm. Added Value Farms is a 2.75-acre urban farm located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This site contains both the NYC Compost Project and the Red Hook community farm. Together, these parts of the urban farm are extremely successful at providing the community with fertile soil and fresh produce. Additionally, the whole operation runs completely on renewable energy from solar panels and a windmill.

The community farm prides itself on its extraordinary production rate through the fall, spring, and summer. Last year, 20,000 pounds of produce was harvested. The farm hosts a farmers’ market every week where some of the produce is sold at low cost to members of the community. But, a lot of the fresh produce goes to local food pantries.

Members of the farm staff work both tirelessly and enthusiastically to make sure that the site runs smoothly. There are many jobs during the growing season like seeding, planting, weeding, and harvesting. However, even when crops are not actively growing, the fields need to be prepped for planting or stripped before the winter.

During the growing season, pest control is always a difficult and grueling task. Every season the most threatening pest changes, but whiteflies have kept up an infamous reputation on the farm. Teamwork on the farm ensures that the pests are ultimately defeated.

The environment on the farm is unique and special because all of the employees share a true passion for urban agriculture and its benefits for the community. Nefratia Coleman, the volunteer manager at Added Value and the farm manager at the NYCHA farms, enjoys her job. She particularly loves “meeting new volunteers and people with different backgrounds” when they come to help out on the farm.

In addition to instructing volunteers on Fridays and Saturdays, Added Value hosts elementary school students to participate in farm-based learning or FBL during the school week. Nefratia explained “how cool” it is “to watch the kids do weeding and plant and bug identification.” She believes in the wonders of FBL because it is important for kids to understand that “food doesn’t grow in the supermarket.” She is amazed at how “little people learn so fast.”

Nefratia also loves “helping people in the community.” There are “not many healthy food options in Red Hook,” so she thinks that it is important to provide people with local, fresh and healthy produce. She also remarked that Red Hook is like a “food desert.”

Added Value also has a Youth Empowerment program, where high school students from the community get the opportunity to work on the farm. One of the youth, Cha Cha explained that her favorite job on the farm is “doing compost on the J row,” referring to a particular section of the farm. On the contrary, she said that “detail weeding is challenging.” This is because small weeds can be “tiring.” Similar to Nefratia, she likes the fact that the farm provides her community “with access to healthy food.”

Even in the heart of the Red Hook, Added Value Farm is able to prosper tremendously and supply the local community with unimaginable healthy, organic and fresh food.

To Go Green, Go Vegan

By Phoebe Kamber

 

Is going vegan just another health trend?

NO, going vegan can be a push towards a better Earth!

 

Factory farms are industrial farms that provide 99% of the 10 million animal products the U.S. consumes every year. They are some of the greatest antagonists of our environment. By going vegan, you can diminish their harmful impact.

Meat and Dairy vs. Planet Earth

Raising livestock contributes to 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Not only do many farm animals produce waste in the form of methane gas and nitrous oxide, but the pesticides and energy used to produce the grain to feed these animals combines to create a dangerously high amount of air pollution. Exacerbating this is pollution from the transportation process, as well as from energy expenditure to maintain their feeding areas and grain fields. PETA reports that “producing a little more than 2 pounds of beef causes more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a car for three hours and uses up more energy than leaving your house lights on for the same period of time.” Many people think of air pollution as the grey smoke sneaking out of the back pipes of cars or planes, yet that pollution is miniscule compared to what raising livestock produces on a daily basis.

The meat industry also wastes and contaminates immense amounts of water. Animal feces often runs off into lakes, streams, and rivers, carrying large amounts of bacteria and polluting nitrogen that causes the growth of algae, which deprives marine life oxygen. Animals also require a huge amount of water in their lives: “It takes 100 to 200 times more water to raise a pound of beef than it does to raise a pound of plant foods” . This demonstrates just how much water is wasted on animals in factory farming. It also shows how turning away from meat can reduce water waste.

Animal agriculture also fuels deforestation, as land is cleared to allow space for raising livestock and to grow the grain used to feed them. In the U.S. alone, 80 percent of all farmland is being used for the meat industry, much of it through monoculture or land dedicated to growing only one crop. These monocultures are dangerous for the environment because they are not sustainable; they leave the land to waste away during off seasons and rely on synthetic fertilizers to replenish the nutrients they strip away from the soil. They also require the application of synthetic pesticides, which can be unnecessary in a natural and diverse agricultural environment.

So, Why Veganism?

Taking all of these factors into account, cutting out animal products from one’s diet can have a much larger impact on the environment than one might think. Being vegan can also be very beneficial for one’s health by decreasing one’s intake of harmful chemicals and by making one more conscious of their diet.

Beacon sophomore Helena Rajalingam, who made the switch to veganism one month ago, has found herself enjoying such benefits: “Now that I have to check labels and think about the foods I am eating to make sure they are vegan, I feel myself making a lot more healthy decisions when it comes to meal choices.” Since burgers and classic meat sandwiches are no longer an option, she feels that she has been eating more vegetables. “I didn’t realize how rarely I ate vegetables until I started needing them to bulk up my meals.” Rajalin also says the change wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be; it’s actually been fun for her to go on grocery trips and try new foods. She’s “excited to start cooking more meals for [herself] and experiment with making [her] own vegan substitutes” for meat, which she rarely craves.

Some argue that a vegan diet is too expensive to maintain and lacks enough nutrition. However, going vegan can actually be cheaper than buying meat if one chooses to buy plant-based proteins and meals that one can cook oneself, such as lentils, beans, quinoa, tofu, and rice. All of these foods can be very cheaply bought in bulk and they provide lots of protein. That said, going vegan does take commitment, and one must be willing to be conscious about one’s diet in order to get enough protein and stay healthy.

If going vegan does not seem like a change you are willing to make but you still want to decrease your carbon footprint, there are other dietary alternatives. One is to buy locally-sourced ingredients as opposed to ones shipped from a different continent, as these have fewer food miles and use fewer resources. Additionally, one can go vegetarian or just limit the amount of meat in one’s diet. Even just eating animals that are from organic farms instead of factory farms can significantly reduce related carbon emissions and environmental degradation.

Ultimately, going vegan is an incredibly effective way to live more sustainably. Still, there are many other ways to conserve energy and waste less. It is up to all of us to become conscious eaters, in whatever form we decide that consciousness takes.

Sick of It: The Social & Economic Toll of Standardized Testing

By Maxine Slater

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For the last three hours, my SAT had gone smoothly. The only delays were brought by anxiety-driven inquiries into how best to erase a wrongly-marked bubble, or whether the use of mechanical pencils was permitted.Yet mid-way through substantiating a lofty claim in my SAT essay, I heard a splatter, and turned to my left to find a young man, two seats away from me, covered in his own vomit. He was stooped over in his chair, spit-up clinging to his clothes, hands, and test booklet. The chairs in his vicinity had been hit as well, and the students who sat in them grew horrified at the sight of yellow posits on their clothes, water bottles, and extra calculators. Soon, I became just as disturbed, but not by the vomit itself; what truly alarmed me was my peers’ ability to ignore the incident entirely and return to their tests.  

For many students, the pressure of the clock superseded the wellbeing of another student. They were strangely bewitched by the test, their concentration failing to falter for even a moment. Only one student volunteered to solicit the proctor, and many test-takers ignored her pleas. While the neglect I perceived could, more favorably, be seen as strict observance of testing policies, some students failed to display even the most primitive of reactions upon witnessing the retching fiasco; a mere glance sufficed before they returned to their essays. And while I was emotionally invested in the scene, I was no aberration in regard to test-taking culture: soon, I succumbed to the clock, and found myself writing away while the scent of vomit grew more pungent and disseminated throughout the room. Although the ordeal was eventually handled, it brought to light many issues ailing our nation’s test-obsessed form of student evaluation.

First, empathy is compromised in high-stakes test settings, where helping others comes second to personal success. Students in my room were willing to forgo empathy for the prospect of a higher SAT score. Some test-takers even griped about the incident, grieving suspended testing and a belated exit time while their peer sat covered in his own vomit. And when the sick boy was escorted out of the room to receive a new sweatshirt, he was met with an onslaught of glares and scowls from disgruntled students.  

Secondly, testing-anxiety symptoms such as vomiting are so common under SAT conditions that they can be temporarily dismissed, if not completely ignored. On the whole, the students’ reactions to the incident were apathetic. Most telling was the standard protocol by which the proctor dealt with the situation, indicating that this is a known occurrence: upon the test’s conclusion, the proctor was swift to retrieve a glove and test-booklet-baggie with which she cautiously collected the boy’s testing materials. I can imagine that the College Board has other gadgets and equipment stockpiled- and distributed to its proctors- in the case of anxiety-fueled fiascos similar to the one that took place in my room.

For many Beacon students, high-stakes testing can be debilitating. One student who requested anonymity said that “even hours before an assessment, [she] experiences classic anxiety symptoms: heart palpitations, rapid breathing, and an overwhelming sense of nausea.” If she does not find a way to manage her symptoms by the time the test is administered, she will “severely underperform.” And while she exceeds standards on project-based-assessments, and achieves great success under Beacon’s sensitive PBA-consortium, these alternatives do not exist when regarding the “SAT or ACT.” To complicate the matter, SAT testing accommodations–such as extended time–prove elusive for students who have anxiety.

Another student interviewed, previously confident in his college application, felt disillusioned when his SAT performance did not reflect his capability in the classroom. Unable to reach his goal score, Julian Fuchsberg, the enterprising Beacon junior, was confronted with a new impediment that psychologically “blocked [him] from seeing his college dreams come to fruition.” As many good schools “put faith into standardized tests being an accurate measure of a student’s ability,” Julian felt “pressure to getting that perfect score–which isn’t always attainable for kids who struggle with certain aspects of the SAT.” To him, it is unreasonable that schools can use a “single day’s testing snapshot” to assess “years’ worth of education and classroom performance.” Julian also noted that as test days approach and anxiety surges, many of his peers’ conversations degenerate to mundane discussions of the SAT or ACT.

In addition to compromising peer-to-peer empathy and generating student anxiety, SAT and ACT testing can wage a financial war on low-income families. Each test can cost up to $70, and the cumulative sum of private tutoring or SAT classes can reach upwards of $1,000. Testing materials include calculators that can cost up to $30, posing an indirect testing expense. Students whose families cannot shoulder the economic burden are more likely to test only once, or to forgo preparation. All of this has a substantial impact on low-income students’ test scores: the College Board’s Suite of Assessments Annual Report in 2017 found that students who used an SAT waiver scored on average 60 points lower than those who did not.

Heeding the call to recognize more than standardized test scores, some universities have emphasized their holistic evaluation of student applications or even made their application processes test-optional. SAT and ACT requirements are changing. In 2014, the College Board announced its plans to overhaul the SAT’s timed-essay component and concentrate less on vocabulary, supposedly leveling the playing fields between affluent and low-class test takers. The result was the 1600-scaled, essay-optional SAT that exists today.

While significant efforts have been made to reduce student testing anxiety and curtail the financial toll of standardized testing, some argue that merely fiddling with the design of the test is not enough to deliver substantial change. These critics propose that college admissions processes pay more attention to high school grades and teacher recommendations, and eliminate test scores from their criteria. Others suggest that standardized test scores should simply carry less weight in the process. But at least for now, SAT and ACT scores–which paint an extremely limited portrait of a student’s abilities–will continue to serve as prominent markers of academic merit.

To fairly assess students, the College Board should design a more personalized, accommodating, and fitting approach to educational evaluation. If the current system is not revised, disadvantaged students will be needlessly screened out of application pools, and the SAT, or the “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” will continue to belie its name.

 

References

1 – Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, “Segregation and the SAT,” Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 67:157, http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/students/groups/oslj/files/2012/04/67.1.mickelson.pdf.

2 –  “SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report 2017,” CollegeBoard, https://reports.collegeboard.org/pdf/2017-total-group-sat-suite-assessments-annual-report.pdf.

3 –  Nick Anderson, “SAT to Drop Essay Requirement and Return to Top Score of 1600 in Redesign of Admission Test,” The Washington Post, March 05, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-to-drop-essay-requirement-and-return-to-top-score-of-1600-in-redesign-of-admission-test/2014/03/05/2aa9eee4-a46a-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html?utm_term=.9fa0dbacd1d3.

Consumer vs. Conscience: The Schadenfreude of Disney World

By Sophie Steinberg

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A side view of the Magic Kingdom Castle.

Cold and exhausted after going on soaking river rapids, I began to make my way over a to another part of the Animal Kingdom park. I had just waited over an hour for a 10-minute ride that left me drenched. My trip to Disney World had been thrilling in theory, but I had no idea how much of my time here would be spent simply waiting. While crossing a mostly-plaster “wooden” bridge, I noticed a little button sitting on the railing. I pushed the button immediately, hoping for a “Disney surprise” (maybe Cinderella would pop out of tree) when suddenly, a giant water cannon turned on and sprayed various line-waiters and riders beneath the bridge. I was stunned. Then I pressed the button again. And again. When my father caught up to me and saw me soaking tourists, all of whom were unaware of the angsty teenager behind the water raining down on them, he uttered one word: “Schadenfreude.”

Have you ever felt excited when the know-it-all in your class gets a bad grade or when your least favorite teacher falls ill, and wondered why?

Here I was, staying in the “most magical place on earth,” and I couldn’t help but act like a villain. Simply put, it was schadenfreude: according to Merriam-Webster, schadenfreude is the “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.” The prefix, “schaden,” means harm and the suffix, “freude,” means joy. The word literally translates “harm-joy.”

As my time in Disney World continued, I began to notice the feeling more frequently. When I had Fastpass, a special ticket that allows you to go on an expedited line for a ride, I found myself vindictively looking down upon those in the regular line. Yet when forced to wait in the regular line myself as savvier park-goers went ahead, I felt demeaned. I also envied the people staying at fancier resorts when their bus stops were conveniently located right outside the park, and mine was a quarter of a mile away. I constantly craved a sense of superiority. And the more I analyzed every guest’s status, itinerary, and hotel, the more I came to see Disney World as a microcosm of the class rivalry beyond the park’s walls.

On Disney World’s website, one finds four types of resorts: Value Resorts, Moderate Resort, Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villa Resorts. The Value Resorts range from $110-$180 dollars a night, while the Deluxe Villas range from $503-$1,420 a night. Resorts often categorize visitors by designating the type and location of their theme park transportation. Resorts are also used to make dinner and theater reservations, occasionally determining your seating in these locations.

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Left: A view of Cinderella’s castle in Magic Kingdom.

Right: A statue of Disney’s founder, Walt Disney, and his creation, Mickey Mouse.

Disney World also attracts visitors from across the country and globe. During my stay, I encountered millennials from London, families from Arkansas and West Virginia, and high school class trips from Springfield, Illinois to northern Florida. An international phenomenon, the theme park welcomes people of many different backgrounds, which leaves room for ethnocentric judgement. When asked to describe Disney’s social atmosphere, one of my friends said, “You [have] people from North Dakota with eight kids, and normal families from London or New York that think, what the f**k?” I immediately recalled how upon arrival at Disney World, the staff asked families where they were from. Following everyone’s response, some of the staff shared covert expressions. People judged both each other and each other’s proximity to the park. Disney World’s accessibility is an asset in Hollywood, but in Central Florida it seemed to breed a schadenfreudic response.  

However, Disney World’s financial influence and strategy is not limited to its guests. The theme park dominates industry and employment in Orlando, Florida and surrounding towns. Disney World is the largest “single-site” employer in the country with over 49,000 employees; this translates into 12.1% of the Florida state workforce. The company’s economic reign, like its theme park, has both benefits and downsides for local residents. While boosting the Central Florida economy, Disney also forces Florida to accommodate its needs. Constant construction and road renovations are needed to manage the millions of tourists that pass through Disney each year. Local airports and other important stores are also forced to expand their staff and services to sustain the number of park visitors.

My mother described showing me and my siblings Disney movies like “buying into a product” or a “contract.” Now, I can understand her point. Disney toys, experiences, and theme parks are packaged into a child’s love for a movie. My favorite princess, Tiana, was a staple in our childhood home. I had figurine sets, kitchenware, and video games modeled after the 2010 movie “Princess and the Frog,” one of the last cartoon-animated movies that Disney produced. My love for the movie fueled new consumerism; my family was on the hook for whatever Disney could make.

As a child, I praised and exalted every Disney creation, but when I went to Disney World as a teenager, I saw manipulation in every attraction. It upset me that my childhood memories could be part of such malevolent marketing. Every experience in the park was tainted: Were the cartoon villains really bad or just misunderstood? Was I awful for cheering when they failed? Maybe corporate Disney was looking down, from its ivory tower, upon consumers spending thousands of dollars to feel like “the good guy,” while they stood laughing like “the bad.” I realized that the schadenfreude of Disney went beyond Ursula taking over Ariel’s wedding to Prince Eric in “The Little Mermaid.” I was too happy to see the waiting time for the river rapids ride extend to 120 minutes for those behind me.

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A stained glass window depicting Belle and her Prince from the movie, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Back in the Animal Kingdom on the “wooden” bridge, my father had a turn pushing the button and promptly decided that spraying the people below “was a little too funny.” As we walked away, I saw a little girl discover the button and the tourists were faced again with the unrelenting water cannon. She too, looked overcome with schadenfreude.

The $2 Hot Dog: An Interview with Hot Dog Vendor Al Peacock

By Ruby Paarlberg

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New York City is covered with hot dog stands. They are found in clusters outside of museums and near busy shopping areas. Tourists and city locals alike frequent these stands, usually when they are in need of a quick “bite to eat.”
Just outside of the Natural History Museum on Central Park West and 79th Street, there are seven hot dog stands all open and eager for business. After approaching each stand, I discovered that most charged at least $3 for a hot dog. However, upon closer examination I found one hot dog stand that charged a mere $2 per dog. This stand was not directly in front of the Museum but was instead located on Central Park West and 77th Street. It is run by vendor Al Peacock, who spoke with me about his business.

Unlike the six other vendors in close proximity to the museum, Peacock owns his hot dog cart. This gives him the freedom to relocate to another museum or crowded area at any moment. By the Natural History Museum, he has “developed a clientele,” carving out his own territory on a corner by the park. Here, he is known as the “guy with the good hot dogs.”  He usually sells “150 hot dogs on Saturday and Sunday, and 75 hot dogs during the weekday.” While hot dogs are one of his most popular goods, he also sells “chicken over rice, lamb gyros and Philly cheese steaks.”

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When I asked Peacock about his relatively low prices, he explained to me that he charges less because of his off-center location. The other stands are directly in front of the museum, whereas his stand is around 300 feet away from the main entrance. Still, he gets “most of his business from locals,” including museum workers, taxi drivers and doormen.

Peacock maintains an enthusiastic demeanor, encouraging everyone to try his hot dogs because they are “high-quality.” Even though the hot dogs are sold from a cart rather than a storefront, he advertises them as “better than Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.”

Once a customer has been enticed to purchase his inexpensive and well-made hot dog, Peacock usually sells them a pricey soda. He remarked that “selling sodas is cheap, and no one says no to a drink with their hot dog.” A can of soda goes for $2 while a bottle goes for $3. This revenue allows him to sell an inexpensive hot dog.

While many of the city’s hot dogs are overpriced, Peacock firmly believes in the importance of an affordable hot dog. His high-quality and affordable hot dogs have earned him loyal customers, and keep his business afloat. Hot dog stands are a staple of New York City culture, and vendor Al Peacock is happy to add his own flare to the tradition.

Not a Fan of AP? Try College Now Courses

By Mollie Butler

College Now, a free program offered by John Jay College, is a great way to learn outside the classroom. Although this might seem appealing to students coming from a 7-hour school day, the class is a great way to study things that are not offered in standard public education such as psychology, anthropology and criminal justice. All taught at a college level, these classes can earn you up to 3 college credits and provide an alternative to the strenuous 5-day-a-week AP classes.

The College Now program is set up to mimic college life for high school students, serving as a bridge between the two levels of education. The program allows students to experience a college course workload, navigate a college campus, and participate in classes taught in traditional lecture style. Students also get the perks that come along with working in a CUNY school, gaining access to the library and the database that is connected to all the city colleges while using the campus spaces for studying.

Another benefit of the program is the weight it has on a student’s resume and college application. Universities and employers look to see if students push themselves when it comes to academia. Although College Now classes can be long, they are a great way for students to show a commitment to learning outside the classroom–especially at Beacon, where limited space in AP classes prevents some students from having the opportunity to get AP credits.

Personally, I chose this program as an alternative to the minimal AP classes offered at Beacon. I thought it would be better to push myself in a College Now class I was more interested in than struggle to keep up with the workload of AP Biology. I chose Psychology, not realizing how much I would come to enjoy and be interested in the material the class covered more and more as the semester went on. We did projects such as film psychoanalysis, where our homework was to watch movies. The class became more than just a requirement or a box I was checking off for my future college application but something I wanted to engage in.

The transition between Beacon’s collaborative learning style and John Jay’s traditional college lecture style was something that was hard to get used to at first. However, the change allowed me to glimpse the different type of work I would experience in college.

“It was great to have the opportunity to practice a skill such as taking notes based off what the teacher is saying through the class, knowing I will be needing it when it comes to college. College Now gave me an outlet to sharpen these skills in a less rigorous environment,” said Zoe, a junior who took the psychology course during the fall semester.

Sabene Figueroa, a junior who took a criminal justice class and will soon be taking a sociology class, expressed how “College Now courses refer mostly to textbook readings. Definitely this type of learning is different than Beacon as most of my classes don’t require textbooks, but I also realize the work I will [have] to do in college will be very different than [that in] high school. I want to better prepare myself and adjust any way I can.”

For students who want to challenge themselves in a college environment and don’t want to fill their schedules will AP classes, College Now classes are definitely something to look into.