By Luccia Moraes
Recently, some school districts in the southern U.S. have been facing the troubling issue of book banning. Some parents and school officials are banding together to eliminate certain texts that discuss topics of racism, sexuality, or other controversial subjects. However, censoring literature can have damaging consequences. Books are a critical part of education and have been used to spread powerful messages and connect people throughout history.
Little by little, more states are increasing restrictions on books that schools and libraries have access to. In one Oklahoma school district, a bill to prevent school libraries from possessing books on gender identity, sexuality, or sexual activity was brought to the State Senate. Books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics and coming of age novels that feature LGBTQ+ characters have been vanishing from shelves, as one parent claims that these books lead students to “question their sexual orientation when they don’t even know what it means.”
Additionally, books about racism and racial discrimination are being banned as well. For example, the Nobel Prize winning book The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, who is a renowned writer, is one of the many books parents in Birdville, Texas, are opposing. One mother says the book is “some of the most explicit material you can imagine." The Bluest Eye is a story about a black girl growing up in the post-Great Depression US, dealing with a difficult life. Isn’t banning books about racism a racist act in itself?
On January 10, a county school board in Tennesse banned the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the holocaust Maus from the eighth-grade curriculum, due to inappropriate language, conspicuously ignoring the necessity for students to learn about such a tragic time in history. Failing to educate kids about the atrocities of World War II can lead to holocaust denial, an increasing concern today.
In Virginia, a local school board moved to hold a book burning for certain books, including Adam Rapp’s 33 Snowfish, one of the American Library Association’s 2004 book picks. A board member defends the act saying, “I think we should burn those books in a fire.” Burning books is particularly troubling because of its direct link to Nazi book burnings which are often associated with fascist, repressive governments. It is harmful to education and to society as a whole to selectively destroy books we don’t like or agree with.
Some alarmed librarians are fighting back. Librarians in Austin, Texas, for example, formed a group called #FReadom Fighters, to spread a message and retaliate against what they call “a war on books.”
Additionally, the president of the Texas Library Association, Mary Woodard, started an anonymous hotline for librarians to call and share the issues they’re facing about book laws and restrictions in their libraries. The Texas Library Association (TLA) also released a statement confirming their opposition to literature censorship in education.
Books are integral to learning. Using profanity as an excuse to remove important books is simply a way to veil prejudice. All students deserve to feel represented through books at their libraries. Moreover, school environments are an appropriate place to expose kids to different perspectives and historical events. We at Council Rock North are fortunate enough to have access to books with a wide range of topics, an opportunity all students around the country are entitled to have too.
By Sophia Kim
The 2020-2021 school year brought unending challenges and lessons. Teachers and students alike felt the pressure of constant adjustment and adaption to the ever-changing world of virtual learning. Now that school is fully in-person again, students are learning to transition back into “normal” classroom settings.
In order to gain insight into what students felt and learned after a year of hybrid learning, I talked to three North students and asked about their experiences. In addition, I interviewed Mrs. McDonald, Biology and Anatomy & Physiology teacher at North, to bring light to a teacher’s perspective.
I first asked the students if they believed virtual learning was effective for them; I wanted to know if students felt they could still learn in isolation. Current senior Caitlin Leach stated that she could still learn in her classes but felt a “disconnect” while learning from home. Leach completed virtual school for the entirety of last year. She explained that although there were difficulties in learning from home, she felt anxious to go to school in-person, especially before the COVID-19 vaccine became available to the public.
In contrast, senior DJ Lepore felt learning from home was ineffective for her; she explained that she is generally able to maintain deeper focus while learning in-person. Lepore participated in hybrid learning for parts of the school year and came to school full-time by the end of the year. Lepore observed that when she came to school, she was able to take a significantly more active role in class. However, she noticed that her teachers had to work hard to give attention to both students at home and those in school, going back and forth between the class in front of them and a computer monitor.
Kate Logan, a North senior, also addressed communication in the virtual year, saying that interaction between teachers and students became more difficult. Logan learned from home for a majority of the school year and attended school in-person for the final marking period. She noted that in a virtual setting, it had become difficult to ask teachers even simple questions after class. While conversing with teachers after class is easily done in an in-person setting, Logan stated that it was surprisingly challenging while learning online. This action, once taken for granted, then required emails and clinic time.
However, Logan believed virtual learning was still effective despite the challenge of communication. She noted that encouraging herself to turn on her Google Meet camera and to communicate with teachers as much as possible helped her to better endure the school year.
She also stated that she felt teachers were more understanding and sympathetic toward students during the virtual year, knowing many kids were struggling with mental health and therefore were not “their best selves” at that time. She found that during the virtual year, teachers were more willing to give students extensions on assignments when needed and often offered to meet with students if anybody wanted to talk. Overall Logan expressed that teachers “acknowledged that it was a rough year.”
When asked about the effects that the hybrid learning model had on their health and overall well-being, whether physical, mental, or emotional, the interviewees expressed mixed views. Leach stated that her mental health benefitted from the virtual setting because the circumstances enabled her to work ahead, permitting her more free time and flexibility. However, Leach stated that this free time began to feel excessive when school clubs and extracurricular activities were put on hiatus. She felt that the resulting lack of community, as well as the inability to talk directly to other students between or during classes, affected her emotional health.
Lepore similarly stated that the inability to see her friends at school affected her mentally. In addition, she found that virtual learning took a toll on her physical health because it caused at-home students to sit for most of the school day.
Like Leach and Lepore, Logan felt that the inability to connect with classmates resulted in the absence of the usual comradery felt between students during a “normal” year. However, Logan felt that her mental health benefitted in some ways because she felt less anxious or nervous at home. She liked the fact that she could control the environment in which she worked and was able to think less about how she physically presented herself while at home. Logan also mentioned that virtual learning benefitted her mental health because she was able to take breaks between classes by going outside or having a snack.
Both Leach and Logan noted realizations they had and valuable lessons they learned during the 2020-2021 school year. Leach learned the importance of taking a break from technology and allowing herself to step back from school work. Learning from home naturally allowed school to integrate into the home, and at times this made it difficult to fully separate the two.
Logan learned the significance of connection, and realized that it does not come naturally. Because of the isolation of virtual learning, Logan learned that it took effort to communicate with others and make connections, when in “normal” situations, these types of interactions come easily. Logan also realized that during the virtual year, every person became somewhat more independent; students began to live more as individual people rather than as a school community. It was a time of isolated growth, which proved to be both challenging and informative.
Finally, I asked which mode of learning the interviewees preferred: virtual (hybrid) or fully in-person. All three of the interviewees responded that in-person learning was preferable.
In order to gain a teacher’s perspective on the virtual year, I also asked Mrs. McDonald, Biology and Anatomy & Physiology teacher at North, about her experience during the virtual year.
I first asked Mrs. McDonald about the major changes she made to curriculum during the virtual year. She stated that she had to “scale the curriculum back considerably” because learning in the virtual setting naturally took more time than learning in a traditional classroom. The hybrid learning model also forced Mrs. McDonald to assign students virtual labs, which she felt were significantly less informative than hands-on labs.
Additionally, she stated that preparation for her classes was extremely tedious because the virtual learning model required her to create and post countless documents in Canvas. Mrs. McDonald explained that her reliance on technology during the virtual year caused her constant anxiety and stress: “Fear of the technology not working was so stressful.” She stated that virtual learning was extremely fragile; any glitch in the technology or loss of internet connection would directly affect a day’s lesson plans.
In addition, according to Mrs. McDonald, teachers did not receive any mandatory training on platforms such as Edpuzzle, Nearpod, Kami, and Canvas, and therefore had to quickly learn how to navigate these platforms and integrate them into their lessons. She asserted that while students were raised with electronics and could adapt to the use of different platforms without much difficulty, a majority of North teachers did not grow up surrounded by this technology and therefore learning to use these various platforms “was not intuitive.” However, Mrs. McDonald is happy to have learned so much about technology through the experience. She claims that she would not have done so if not forced by the “swim or drown” situation.
Because of these frustrations with technology, Mrs. McDonald expressed that she was especially grateful to students who would come into school physically because many of those at home chose not to turn on their cameras. She stated that teaching in-person is a far more rewarding experience than teaching online, and therefore she is ecstatic to have students physically back in class this year. She expressed her love for the “back and forth” conversation that she is able to have with students in class, saying that “kids are intrinsically funny.”
The virtual classroom was unfamiliar territory. Students endured the year without their usual interaction with classmates and friends while teachers utilized new platforms and constantly adapted curriculum to fit the unprecedented conditions. While the past school year forced growth in many ways, it seems that many are happy to be back in school after having learned the difficulties of virtual learning.
By Luccia Moraes
The majority of my closet is made up of clothes I have thrifted. Thrifting is shopping at second hand stores and wearing reused clothes. But it's more than that. While second hand places may be considered to be dirty, gross, or cheap, there are so many benefits to thrifting. By avoiding fast fashion, high prices, and unsustainable clothing, you are actively contributing to helping the environment. Give thrifting a chance; you never know what you might find.
Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Typically fast fashion clothes are made by extremely underpaid--or unpaid--workers in foreign countries, and a lot of the time, those workers are children.
Fast fashion is an extremely ignored issue, and lots of people may be unaware they are contributing to it. One of the reasons it's so popular is that fast fashion clothes are usually very affordable. I'm guilty of it too. But there are better alternatives. Items at thrift stores go as low as a couple dollars for trendy and relevant clothes, while also not supporting abusive production methods.
Another plus to thrifting is its sustainability aspect. Sustainable fashion is a big part of helping eliminate waste and making consistent recycling a reality. We can keep re-wearing, and donating, and continue a cycle, so the same clothes get a second, third and fourth life.
According to The Huffington Post, “In 2018 alone, the worldwide fashion industry contributed 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions [into the atmosphere].” That is significant potential environmental damage that could be avoided.
Clothes are rarely recycled—only about 13% in 2018, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturing, shipping, production, and waste are all environmental costs that come with strictly buying new clothes.
To help you get started, here are some places within half an hour of Newtown to thrift
There are also some online options, if you don’t feel like leaving the house for the day.
Those are my favorite thrift stores, and you should try them out too! Be a part of a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future of fashion. Thrifting is a completely fun experience, and you can buy as much as you want (within reason) without completely emptying your pockets. So next time you need some new clothes, check out a thrift store!
Mask Mandates Are Unjust Laws
By Deborah Revere
Masks Degrade Your Identity
What part of your body most identifies yourself as you? The one true answer to this question should be obvious; it is your face.
In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaims that “[a]ny law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
Does making a personal choice to cover one’s face degrade and damage one’s human personality? Not necessarily. In fact, making a personal choice to do so actually expresses and enriches one’s personality more.
But does forcing others by law to cover their faces damage and degrade their human personalities? Certainly.
Think about your life since the pandemic occurred and the mask mandates were initiated; think about all the times you tried to smile at someone, but remembered with chagrin that they couldn’t see it. What is a government achieving by enforcing such a dreadful law? Is it all really for safety, as most argue? Definitely not.
The real motive is control. It is for control over you and your relationships, and by proxy, your life. Thus, through wearing your mask, whether you’re healthy or sick, you are submitting to the government’s endless hunger for control over you. By wearing your mask, you are the pawn, and the government is king.
Still not convinced of the tyranny? Think about this. The concept of “sick until proven healthy” sounds a lot like “guilty until proven innocent,” doesn’t it? Considering how similar the two phrases are, it’s surprising to see how only the latter is considered tyrannical while the former has been blindly accepted by the masses. By forcing others to comply with a mask mandate, you are submitting to legislation that has infringed upon your autonomy.
Some may argue that wearing a mask is essential to everyday life because the science says that it decreases the risk of otherwise healthy people transmitting COVID-19, and with that, the risk of people dying from or being permanently damaged by COVID-19. This is based on the theory that the virus can be transmitted if one is asymptomatic.
However, as we have all been taught in our science classes, science is a fluid, ever-changing field of study. Science does not have concrete borders or rules; even the theory of evolution still needed to be verified and tested repeatedly before being fully accepted as reality. And if one does their own research--particularly for newer issues such as masks and COVID-19--they will usually find that there are just as many doctors that say that one thing is true as opposed to another.
For example, this study conducted on ten million residents of Wuhan, China, suggests that transmission of COVID-19 from asymptomatic individuals does not occur.
There is also scientific evidence that suggests that masks could actually be harmful to people. For one, in 2008, Dr. Anthony Fauci published a study suggesting that the majority of the deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic were actually from bacterial pneumonia, not the flu virus itself. Several parallels exist in both the 1918 and 2020 pandemics, as detailed here.
Interestingly, this response by a post-mortem examiner to a paper detailing the risks of wearing masks suggests that the same situation is apparent in the case of COVID-19, including the issue of bacterial growth on masks themselves.
The Future of Masks at Council Rock North
As of their meeting on May 20th and concurring with the gubernatorial decision to repeal the Pennsylvania mask mandate, the Council Rock School Board has resolved to make masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year. Members from the board such as Joseph Hidalgo and. Michael Thorwart are also leading a crusade to prevent discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals following this decision.
Regardless of your views on this issue, or mine, most people seem to agree that these are positive steps forward in the course of the pandemic. However, as you start going outside and enjoying your God-given mobility again, I strongly encourage you not to forget what happened in 2020. If I were to explain every instance of government overreach in the COVID-19 pandemic, I’d have to write a book.
First our overlords ordered us to wear no masks, then it was masks for the infected, then masks for everyone, then a face shield and a mask, then mask and pantyhose over your head, then two masks, then two masks and a mask frame.
First our overlords demanded that we wash our hands, then it turned to school closures, then it was statewide lockdowns and curfews.
First our overlords proclaimed it would be three weeks to flatten the curve, then three months, then a year and three months.
It’s time to stop this nationwide maskquerade.
By Anushka Rajmohan
In just a few short days, the life that I have known for my entire conscious existence will end. Not just with my time at North, but my whole childhood spent in Newtown: the days walking around town, the afternoons at Starbucks and Rita’s, the countless evenings spent at Tyler State Park and the nights in small restaurants in town--all of it coming to an end as I walk with my peers at graduation on June 10th.
As I am awaiting this day, naturally I feel the need to reminisce on my time in this community, especially on those who have nurtured the minds of numerous students. Although this time in my youth could never be replaced, it is inevitable that I will find similar replacements in my future: new restaurants for dinners, bigger parks to spend my afternoons, and a brand new town to wander during the days. Life is like this, mere stages in which I will have to live and from which I will move on when it is time.
Even so, one aspect of each stage that cannot be replaced is the people, each of them a unique formation of nucleotides. Because of this, I believe I can rightfully attribute all my confidence, accomplishments, and growth to the people of the North community, which encompasses my peers, my teachers, and everyone I have had the pleasure of interacting with in these past four years.
As the name implies, teachers are meant to teach, to help kids learn information that will push them towards a brighter future. If they are able to accomplish just this, making sure that their students learn what they need to, the teachers have accomplished their jobs. However, the teachers I have encountered did not do this; these teachers went beyond their fixed jobs. These teachers not only taught both my peers and me the curriculum, but they also taught us the importance of thinking.
Instead of teaching us how to think and what to think about it, my teachers showed us the freedom to think about matters and opinions that we want to rather than just what society wants us to believe. Though I do not remember every grammar rule in existence or the exact dates of war, I do have the ability to analyze a given article and offer my opinion on an important historical event. Thanks to my North teachers, I am more than just a robot reciting the curriculum but a real human being who can express her own thoughts and opinions.
This North community is also made up of my peers, some of whom I have only encountered once throughout my time at North and others who have become cherished friends that hopefully will be with me even after we walk across the field, decked out in our blue and white attires.
Since high school occurs during a time when we start to discover for ourselves and our own developing morals what the meanings of “good” and “bad” in the world are, the people around us are incredibly impactful in these years. Such an empathetic, open-minded and diverse group of people is a leading cause of the way I am today; my interests, my hopes and dreams, my outlook on the world, and much more have been influenced, positively too I believe, by my friends.
When I was first introduced to the horrors of the world and sadness and grief that life is made of, the people around me revealed the other side of this: the joy in simple moments, the warmth from hugs and the love that bonds so many people together. For this, I am grateful because without knowing the duality of life, could I have been stuck in a constant state of misery, looking at our world as just something to live on rather than thrive and blossom in? I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know that the colorful lens with which I look at life, filled with greens, yellows, pinks and blues, greys and blacks, is a privilege that I am thankful to have.
Reflecting on these people and my experiences at North, I obviously have mixed feelings. Because of my time at North, I feel prepared for the great beyond. More than prepared, I feel as though I can handle the challenges thrown at me because of the way I have been nurtured and taught in this community. However, there is a bittersweetness in this: although I have been waiting for the time when I could expand my horizons in college, it is sad to have to leave this place of familiarity, comfort and warmth.
In a scary world full of strife and confusion, North has been a nurturing home that I am sad to leave. As prom and the senior trip have all come to an end, the conclusion of our four years here seems much more real now, especially with graduation quickly approaching. Even so, I am certain that as my peers and I all venture off to different colleges and futures, Council Rock North will be the root from which we have branched off and will nourish us well into our futures.
By Sophia Kim
In the past year, and even more so in the past few months, reports of racism against Asian American people have become increasingly prevalent in the news and media. Of course racism against Asian Americans and Asian people has always existed, but it has gained more attention recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the first outbreaks of coronavirus occurred in China, some people have directed hateful, racist language and physical violence toward Asian people, especially those of Chinese, East Asian, and Southeast Asian descent, as blame for the pandemic. These days, I look at social media and become overwhelmed with anger and sadness as I see reports of people violently attacking Asian elderly in broad daylight and hear politicians throw around terms such as “China virus” or “Kung Flu” in professional settings.
The increase in anti-Asian hate crimes first occurred in March and April of 2020 as the coronavirus spread to America. This increase is exemplified through a report by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
According to the report, which took data from between 2019 and 2020, while hate crimes in the US’s 16 largest cities overall decreased by 6%, largely due to the enforcement of lockdown, hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased by 145%. In 2019, three anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in New York City, while 28 were reported in 2020. In LA, the number of hate crimes increased from seven to 15, and in Boston, six to 14.
Additionally, Stop AAPI Hate recorded 3,795 anti-Asian incidents between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021. (STOP AAPI Hate is a nonprofit organization that was created during the COVID-19 pandemic that records acts of hate, harassment, violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US.)
According to STOP AAPI Hate, verbal harassment, shunning or avoidance, and physical assault made up the top three types of discrimination reported.
Attacks on Asian elderly have continued to make headlines in the news: Americans were especially appalled by a series of attacks on Asian elderly in Oakland, California, on January 31, 2021. One video shows a 91 year-old Asian man being violently pushed to the ground. An 84 year-old man was left dead from the injuries he sustained in a similar incident on the same day.
Reports of attacks leave young Asian Americans, including myself, with a very real fear for their parents and grandparents. Although almost 3,800 incidents have been recorded by Stop AAPI Hate, many more incidents have gone unreported.
According to Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data, first-generation immigrants tend to under-report incidents of racism. A 2018 study by the Harvard Opinion Research Program similarly shows that Asian Americans report discrimination in employment, housing, and criminal justice less than other minorities in the US.
Research has shown that language associating Asian people with the COVID-19 pandemic does impact Americans’ perceptions of Asian Americans. This is confirmed by a study coauthored by Rucker Johnson, a public policy professor at UC Berkeley. According to the study, terms such as “China virus” make Asian Americans seem more “foreign,” causing other Americans to act out in racism and violence.
This issue has exacerbated the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype: the idea that Asian Americans will never fully assimilate into American society. This stereotype often prompts people to ask Asian Americans, “No, where are you really from?” or to tell them that they speak English "surprisingly" well.
According to a study coauthored by Richard Lee, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, this stereotype is psychologically harmful and leads to symptoms of depression and lower self-esteem. It is clear how this type of racism can cause Asian Americans to question their place in society. Lee explains, “It essentially denies your sense of being American, denies your feeling like you belong here.”
“China virus” language is not uniquely used by American politicians; politicians world-wide have perpetuated stereotypes and bias against Asian people through racist language. Early in the pandemic, one governor of Italy stated that Italians are generally good at hand-washing and showering, while the Chinese do not follow such hygienic practices and “eat mice live.”
In addition, the education minister of Brazil tweeted that the coronavirus pandemic exemplified the Chinese government’s “plan for world domination.” Dehumanizing language like this may contribute to the increased rate of attacks, threats, and discrimination connected to the pandemic that Asian people around the world have experienced.
The recent Atlanta shooting has created an uproar in the Asian American community amidst this global rise in anti-Asian hate. On March 16th, 2021, a shooter killed eight people in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. The shooter, Robert Aaron Long, first killed three women and one man at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, a suburb of Atlanta.
The victims were Daoyou Feng (age 44), Paul Andre Michels (54), Xiaojie Tan (49), and Delaina Ashley Yaun (33).
Rita Barron, an employee of Gabby’s Boutique directly next door, said she was with a customer when she heard clap-like noises, which were most likely the sounds of gunshots, and women screaming. The shooter next drove to Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta, where he killed four other people in less than one hour after the first shooting.
The victims there were Hyun Jung Grant (age 51), Suncha Kim (69), Soon Chung Park (74), and Yong Ae Yue (63). In total, six out of the eight people killed were Asian women.
While Long claims he killed these people because of his struggles with sex addiction in an attempt to deny that the incident was a hate crime, many following the story believe that these shootings were race and gender-motivated. The site of the first shooting was a strip mall in which other salons and boutiques surrounded Young’s Asian Massage, yet Long chose to target that particular business. He then picked out two other businesses in a separate location that also employed Asian women.
When Cherokee County sheriff Jay Baker reported on the murders at a news conference following Long’s arrest, he talked almost sympathetically, saying that Long “was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”
How can someone defend this murderer? Speaking about the incident in this manner is completely dehumanizing and wholly insensitive to the eight people who were killed and their families who are trying to cope with their losses.
During this time of pain within the Asian American community, it is important that we as a society come up with solutions to lessen the racism that Asian people face in America. The “model minority” stereotype has often prevented society from addressing the racism that Asian people face.
This stereotype perpetuates the belief that all Asian Americans are successful, hardworking, and academically high-achieving, and that they have adapted smoothly into American society. While this may seem like a “good stereotype,” generalizing Asian people in this way is demeaning and blinds people from the discrimination that Asian people face.
Moreover, according to a study published in the Asian American Journal of Psychology, white people who hold the model minority myth are more likely to also have other negative views on Asian Americans. In assuming that all Asians are “well-off” and are not struggling as much as other minority groups, people make the struggles of Asian Americans invisible and exclude them from important conversations.
I asked nine Asian students at CR North about their experiences growing up in their community as a minority. A majority of the students stated that they have faced racism in the form of microaggressions - “small” everyday incidents such as racist insults, nicknames, gestures, and comments.
Several of the interviewees have been the target of phrases such as “Go back to China” and have been called “dog-eater” or “ch**k.” Others have had their race fetishized or used in “curry” jokes.
While these microaggressions seem small in comparison to the physical attacks or hate crimes that have been widely reported in recent months, they have significant psychological impacts on those on the receiving end. As a result of these incidents, these students have grown up uncomfortable in their own skin, “ashamed of [their] ethnicity,” feeling “constant shame of [their] skin color,” “paranoid” of how others view them, “terrified to bring leftovers” from home-cooked meals in fear of being criticized for the smell, and feeling as if they “could be singled out in certain situations” because of their race.
In addition to having to deal with the judgement they might face or already face due to their race, these students fear for the safety of their loved ones due to the actual or perceived racism in the community.
One participant’s parents no longer feel safe going to a particular golf course after facing racist experiences there. Additionally, one interviewee stated that she fears for the safety of her grandparents who live in New York where many attacks against Asian people have occurred. Similarly, another student’s grandmother will be moving in with the interviewee’s family out of her home in Philadelphia due to the increase in Asian hate crimes in American cities.
While I only interviewed a small group of Asian students from North, many of these students are deeply impacted by the racism that they and their families face.
I also asked the students how they think we as a school or community in general can stop racism against Asian people. Several students commented that we should begin by better acknowledging racism, holding people accountable for their mistakes, and recognizing that microaggressions and terms such as “China virus” really are destructive.
Whether in the media or in the incidents we witness first-hand, by allowing racism to go unaddressed, we are allowing the problem to become further perpetuated and normalized.
Others suggested solutions that can be implemented in school. One student stated that education on racism should begin at the elementary and middle-school levels. Another answered that discussions on racism should take place more often in English or history classes so that all students have the opportunity to discuss these problems with others. One student stated that schools should take the initiative to educate students on “what classifies racism as racism and the harms of ‘jokes’ and microaggressions.” Another participant suggested that we could offer more Asian cuisine in the school cafeteria.
While change will inevitably come slowly, we must continue to have these discussions in order to spread awareness of racism against Asian Americans and at least begin to break down harmful stereotypes and beliefs. If we want to build a more just and peaceful world, society must learn to see Asian people as humans first.
By Madison O'Leary
As the days are getting warmer and the college acceptances are rolling in, the cases of the dreaded “senioritis” seem to be on the rise. I, for one, can attest to this fact. However, like so many in the class of 2021, I know that it is still imperative to stay on top of my classes and keep my grades up for those senior final exemptions. With only two months left in the school year, it’s probably in the seniors’ collective best interest to continue working hard. So, I have compiled a list of tips that I have been using to stay motivated for this last stretch of the school year:
1) Set your own deadlines for final projects. Whenever I have been assigned an essay or a presentation project this year, I have been breaking up the work across multiple days. I tell myself that I need to write however many pages, or however many slides each day, and I hold myself accountable for finishing the work. Splitting up my more time-consuming projects across multiple days has been especially helpful this past year, and I have been much less stressed-out as a result. I know that at this stage in the game, it is too easy to put an assignment off to the last minute and put in minimal effort--or, just not do it at all!
2) Make a list of all the upcoming deadlines for end-of-the-year senior events.
Between prom and graduation and the upcoming Disney class trip, we can easily lose track of the payments and forms and deadlines. Canvas can be difficult to navigate, and I know that I’ve almost missed deadlines, or have forgotten that a form was due soon. Adding all of the available due dates for these forms and payments to an individualized planner/schedule has helped me stay organized over the last few weeks, so I would highly recommend investing in one. You
wouldn’t want to miss out on any of these experiences because of a missed deadline!
3) If you have the time, use that extra hour right after school ends to get ahead on assignments. I know that I do not have any motivation to do schoolwork later at night, and starting my work right after school has really helped me stay on top of my various projects. It seems silly, but using this extra time at the end of the day has really helped me remain organized!
I also interviewed some other members from the class of 2021 (Kajal Sitapara, Reeve
Bernstein, Kaylin Lee, and Maren Donegan) to get their perspective on this crazy senior
year and how they’ve been managing any “senioritis” symptoms:
Q: How have you been managing any “senioritis”?
Kajal: I don’t think my senioritis is as bad as others’ when it comes to homework and
stuff but it does make it hard to get out of bed and go to school in person rather than
Reeve: I've been managing senioritis by only letting myself skip homework once or
twice a month
Kaylin: I'm honestly just telling myself that there's only 2 more months left and it would
be really depressing if I failed out now.
Maren: I think a lot of what has been “warding off senioritis” for me is balancing life and
school equally. Exercise definitely helps me to focus and get motivated!
Q: What have you been doing to stay motivated?
Kajal: Going in person and doing my homework as soon as I get home so that I still feel
the effects of “in-school” motivation
Reeve: My motivation mainly comes from prom, Disney, and the fact that we're almost
done the year. Why give up now if we're so close?
Kaylin: To stay motivated, I study and do homework with my friends on FaceTime.
Maren: I know what my goals are, and I know the classes I’m taking right now will be
important for my long term goals
Q: How has your senior year experience been so far?
Kajal: It’s been pretty lonely because a lot of my friends are virtual while I’m in person.
I'm glad our officers decided to host a prom when our school said they wouldn’t!
Reeve: Senior year was definitely not what I thought it would be when I came into North
as a freshman. It went way faster than I thought it would, and even though half was
virtual, I still really enjoyed it!
Kaylin: It's been different than I imagined it would be, but it hasn't been that bad. It
would be nice to see my friends in person, though!
Maren: It’s definitely been different, but it’ll be a good story to tell my grandkids one day!
Q: What are you looking forward to most about the rest of this school year?
Reeve: Definitely looking forward to the garden gala prom and the Disney trip with my
friends! I'm also excited for graduation day!
Kaylin: I'm looking forward to the Disney trip so I can forget about finals for a week!
Maren: Graduation and seeing where all my friends/classmates end up going after high
It seems like the general consensus is the upcoming senior events are keeping
everyone in the class of 2021 on task and motivated. Personally, I’m looking forward to
what the rest of this year has to bring! Good luck to all the seniors, and keep trying to
fight against the dreaded “senioritis”!
What Keeps You Going?
By Lindsay Gottlieb
Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide, self-harm, and mild substance use. You may want to stop reading if these subjects upset you. This article is merely for educational purposes.
After losing someone to suicide and going through her journal in which I read some of the most disturbing material I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes, I figured it was time to write about how much mental health matters to me. My name is Lindsay Gottlieb, I am fifteen years old, and today I’m here to explain why I didn’t give up.
I used to think that alcohol and nicotine would solve my problems— a buzz for a short while, and then back to reality. I actually used to take Benadryl to force myself asleep when I couldn’t stand to be awake. Unfortunately, these are bound to cause larger problems in the future, and I was able to acknowledge this and stop before it got bad. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts since about seventh grade, and it is likely that I still have not experienced the last of them.
The hardest thing about having thoughts to take my life is fighting the urge to act upon them— especially when, in my situation, I had already written a note and thought of a plan. The last unhealthy coping mechanism I plan to talk about is self-harm. I have intentionally cut myself only twice, and both times resulted in immediate regret and major internal conflict: Why are you like this? What went wrong with you? You’re such a defect. You might as well take the next step.
I don’t wish these thoughts on my worst enemy. No one deserves to think that their life is any “less worth.” I’m not here to persuade my reader to pity me and my sob story, as these unhealthy coping mechanisms are a thing of the past. I’m glad to have emerged as a stronger person.
In that vein, recently, I created a Google Form for my peers on social media, asking them why they choose to push forward each day. I knew that many people (including myself) would not be willing to share such sensitive thoughts with their name attached to it, so I left the form completely anonymous, so that people could say what they wanted without worrying. Below are a couple of my favorite responses. (Participants agreed to have their submissions used anonymously in this article.)
I have such appreciation and respect for those who are able to share these kinds of thoughts with me. I have gotten more responses than what I have selected to put in here, but some of them, I believe, should be kept private. As someone who completely understands what it’s like to struggle, I consider myself a resource for my peers. I may not be professionally trained in psychology and therapy, but I have been available to listen when my closest friends have struggled.
In this article, I was able to share some of the thoughts of my fellow students to let them know that they are not alone. However, I haven’t given myself much time to reflect on my initial question: What keeps me going? The best answer I can give is that I’m not entirely sure. I could give the general answer of how my family loves me (and how my cat brings me more happiness than any human I’ve ever met), but I consider this answer to be self-explanatory and universal.
I would prefer to come back to this question in a number of years and answer it more in-depth so that my reflection is more specific to my situation. I have big hopes for the future, and I live to see them one day. When they do happen and eventually are the reason why I wake up each day, well, I’ll get back to you on that one. In the meantime, my “big dreams” are to present myself to the best of my ability, and that’s really all I can ask of someone.
The Senior Experience in 2021
By Anushka Rajmohan
Along with numerous other events, senior year is in the category of countless normal proceedings and special occasions that have been compromised due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated forced closures. Although the class of 2020 felt the full force of this disappointment last year, the class of 2021 has been having their own unique experiences and difficulties this strange senior year.
As a general rule of thumb, senior year tends to be the most exciting for high schoolers, with various events including the senior trip to Disney, senior prom, and of course, graduation day. On top of that, there is the bittersweetness involved in experiencing certain other events for the last time such as Blue and White Night and dances. Even more, senior year is the final year in high school, a year to spend with friends and enjoy the year after three years of hard work. This senior year, however, has looked different from the prior years.
Starting the year fully virtual, members of the class of 2021 had an unusual first last day of the year. Due to obvious safety reasons, Blue and White Night was cancelled, so all students lost an opportunity that usually encouraged a friendly rivalry between the upperclassman and the underclassman in a night of sports and competition. Instead, this year, Blue and White Night was spent as just another October night in everyone’s own homes.
Ruhani Gill, a current senior experiencing this strange senior year, comments on this:
“I feel like there hasn’t been a lot of balance this year without all the experiences you look forward to as a senior. I knew the first half of the year would be very stressful because of college applications on top of school, but I had thought it would be more balanced with all the fun events we would have been able to experience.”
Ruhani is not alone in these thoughts either. Many seniors were looking forward to these fun events in order to achieve a sort of balance for the last year of their high school experience, and with only school work thus far, it has been a disappointment to say the least.
In addition to this, the fall dance (also known as Homecoming during some years) did not occur either. As a lover of these dances and someone who had attended all of them the past three years, Ruhani found it odd to miss the time in which she and her friends would spend four hours of a weekend night dancing and enjoying themselves.
With the past few months having been very disappointing and strange, the class of 2021 looks ahead to the next few months, their last days of high school ahead of them.
Kajal Sitapara, a friend of Ruhani and a senior, shares this sentiment as she admits that “It really sucked--the fact that the [last] senior class never got a prom is disappointing.”
Although these seniors have missed activities from more than half of their senior year, the biggest hits of senior year--Disney, prom, and graduation--have yet to pass and the seniors are hopeful for these special and exciting senior events.
Kajal explained that even though this past year has been filled with many disappointments and even if she is skeptical about the possibility of certain events occurring, she still has hopes that she will be able to end this year strongly:
“I’m super excited for Disney and graduation. The way things have been going, however, I don’t think we’ll have a senior prom.”
With so variables and uncertainties, it has undoubtedly been difficult for this class to keep their optimism; still, they are trudging along this bumpy road of a senior year:
Ruhani says that more than anything, she is excited to graduate: “I don’t know about my expectations for the trip or prom, but I am definitely looking forward to graduating. I think either way, it’s exciting to move on to the next part of our lives.”
It makes sense why many of these seniors would be so eager to graduate and start the next chapter of their lives. Although it has been a rough journey for many this year, it is heartening to see some of these seniors still have hope for the rest of their year. Hopefully, their strange and disappointing year will be able to end on a high note so that they can move onto the next page of their lives happily.
By Lindsay Gottlieb
The COVID-19 virus and the various measures instituted because of it have made 2020 a difficult year for most people, especially those in school. Teachers, with little warning, are forced to figure out a way to teach their class virtually— something rarely even considered until the Coronavirus pandemic. But students, especially children, are often overlooked during this nearly impossible time.
As it is, pandemic or no pandemic, children are sometimes forced to strive to be at the top of their class, which is an unnecessary stressor on its own. But to compete with other children for this title virtually, with little to no social interaction to keep them motivated? That type of pressure on a child is without a doubt unhealthy, taking most of its toll on the child’s mental/emotional health. I know one kindergartener who cries when she is unable to comprehend the complexity of online school.
To physically be in school during the elementary years is a significant contributor to brain development. For example, children need to learn behavioral mannerisms: how to interact nicely with each other and their teacher and to learn problem-solving skills when things do not go as planned.
Children need interactive lessons: connectors and building blocks for math, small group readings, the ability to go up and write their answer on the board, and many other aspects of tactile learning that are important for mannerly behavior in the future.
Kids of these ages, specifically ten and younger need each other. It is important for students to be in an environment with a diverse group of kids of the same age to learn what types of people and personalities they get along with, and how to problem solve when there is someone they do not get along with. When there is a classroom of five kids, with desks spread apart no less than six feet, these types of interactions are impossible.
I volunteer at my synagogue because I excel in working with children. This synagogue functions as a school on Sundays and Wednesdays. I come to Hebrew School on Sundays as an assistant teacher— for half an hour, I work with the older kids and teach them how to read and write basic Hebrew. I spend the remainder of my time, an hour, in a classroom with first grade students. The only thing that could make me happier there is if the pandemic was not here, and social distancing/masks were not a thing.
Since that was my experience in Hebrew School as a young child, I believe every kid has the right to an in-person, interactive educational experience. These seven-year-olds wear face masks and are distanced from each other to protect themselves and their families from contracting a virus that should have been handled long ago.
I asked a friend who has a brother in kindergarten to get the student's opinion about this method of learning. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he feels better in the classroom and likes to be in school because he considers it fun. I have drawn the conclusion from this mini interview as well as my own experience with kids that most, if not all kids, feel negatively toward hybrid and virtual schooling.
While grades might be up with the high volume of students learning from home, this means nothing regarding performance levels. It is without a doubt that students use their advantage of being home to look up answers on tests.
It is difficult enough for neurodivergent students such as myself and those who struggle with ADHD, ADD, OCD, or autism to receive proper education with whatever deficiency with which they may struggle.
Those with learning disabilities experience hardships as well, especially without having one-on-one support they may have in physical school. Children with special needs may not have access to an aid at home to guide them through the school day. Their parents are busy working, and leaving a special needs student alone to figure out online school is degrading, as they are obviously of equal importance as neurotypical students and might not be getting the help they need.
The Coronavirus has caused a great deal of inconvenience to everyone, and we students and teachers need to remain patient with each other as we learn how to navigate this particularly odd school year with no precedent.
Hitting our lowest points leaves us vulnerable to great change— with all of the frustration this school year has caused, resilience will allow us to emerge from this virus more tolerant with each other and more adaptable to change, two qualities that our current world is deprived of. There is a positive aspect that comes out of each trying situation, and we must hold on a little bit longer.