Hosted by Niall McDonald '18 and Charlie Hansen '18
Produced and edited by Alexandre LaBossiere '18
By Matthew Sheets '19
While the rest of the student body packs up its sports bags, I sit outside the US Music Room, my singing rehearsal set to begin four minutes later. I check my OnCampus account and decide to use these paltry minutes to begin working on my English essay. A few crummy sentences later, I look at the time--5:30.
I quickly close my computer and head into rehearsal. Thirty minutes later I leave, walk up the stairs, and grab dinner before attending my second rehearsal of the night, this one for the Upper School Play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Seated with my fellow cast-members, I look around and sigh. Someone complains about her math grade. Another mentions his difficult Voyageur practice. By the time most students get to after-school arts commitments, they are physically and mentally exhausted. With sports practices occupying most of the afternoon, students who take part in arts commitments are left with little time for their schoolwork.
The difficulty of getting homework done is compounded for students who also take part in an arts elective, Chorale, or both; those who wish to participate in such activities are faced with the difficult decision between sleep, studying, and the arts. While some teachers try to accommodate students during tech-week or on concert nights, many are unwilling to grant the necessary extensions or homework breaks that make participation in the arts manageable. “Sometimes I feel like I’m being targeted for what I like to do,” said one STA Sophomore. Why are we as a community so willing to allow students to miss class and move tests for athletic endeavors, while at the same time we leave our artistically-inclined students high and dry?
Regarding athletics, those who participate extensively in the arts have two choices: sports cut, or no sleep. Says NCS junior Isabella Houle, “As long as you have a sports cut, you’re fine.” Unfortunately, most students do not have a cut as an option. NCS junior Zoé Contreras-Villalta described her outlook on sports cuts; “It depends on the situation. Cuts make scheduling easier, but I don’t want to give up sports.” It’s a tough call to make, and the dilemma causes many people to drop something, whether it be the arts or their GPAs. “I know some people who have switched out of Cross Country because they want to do the Play, and it sucks that we have to make that kind of sacrifice,” continued Zoé.
In an ideal world, we would have enough time to participate in whatever we wanted. However, the judgement calls and sacrifices that go into decisions surrounding the arts are some of the most significant of the high school experience. And while we can’t ask for more than twenty-four hours in a day, those who participate in STA-NCS arts can always ask for more extensions and delayed tests.
By Alex Knapper '18
The St. Albans Curriculum is, and always has been, built on the concept of “well-roundedness.” This is why central to school life are requirements like the class credit, the arts credit, and finally, the sports credit. The STA sports credit system works like this: you need to participate in 11 seasons of sports, three during freshman, sophomore, and junior years, and an option of cutting a season Senior year.
While it is understandable that seniors, perhaps needing to focus on the college application process or beginning to look and prepare for their life beyond the Close, are allowed a sports cut in their final year at STA, juniors have no such necessity. Although junior year is busy, juniors are still fully in the crux of St. Albans life, a time in which the sports requirement remains just as sacrosanct as in freshman and sophomore year. Allowing for a junior sports cut could open the floodgates to potential freshman and sophomore sports cuts, events clearly antithetical to the virtues that St. Albans seeks to instill.
To that end, the junior year sports cut impedes on the St. Albans goal of creating a well-rounded man. At least from personal experience, I only got a true grasp on the meaning of brotherhood when I played on a sports team, not in the classroom. Plus, it’s always fun to play a sport. Why cut your junior year when you could be discovering a new hidden talent you might possess?
So, in a nutshell, a junior sports cut is just a bad idea—more than that, it’s unscrupulous. Playing on a team and getting some good exercise while you’re at it is way better than getting an extra hour to do a bit of homework.
By Harry Grigorian '19
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Dogs or cats—which are better? What colors were that dress, blue and black or white and gold? Is there a God? Should high school freshmen take physics or biology? While these existential questions all prompt fruitful debate, Nolan asked me to write about the last one, so that I will.
I guess I’ll be frank. Biology is better for freshmen for a variety of reasons.
First, biology is studying the very basics of human life itself (among other topics). We learn how our bodies work in every aspect, from breathing to our endocrine system. We learn why we need to eat fiber to survive, and how sickle cell and other diseases can affect us. These are all topics pertinent to us. While understanding why a ball dropping goes at a certain speed or how electricity works is certainly interesting, we are not yet academically sophisticated enough as 14 and 15 year olds to learn about the topics in physics that might pertain to our very bodily existence. As we continue to be more curious about our bodies and the life systems around us as we enter high school, a freshman survey course in biology is perfect to quench that academic thirst.
My other point, which I alluded to earlier, is that freshmen are not yet advanced enough in math for a full-year physics course to be worthwhile. Most freshmen have only gotten through Algebra 1 before freshman year, and this seriously hinders a freshman's ability to delve into more challenging topics. In biology however, there is no prerequisite academic requirement for studying challenging topics, as learning advanced biology does not necessitate proficiency in another course. Therefore, why not wait until Junior or Senior year, when students are likely in Precalculus or higher, to take a more advanced level of physics? Quite simply, it allows students to take an unrestricted biology course freshman year and a more advanced physics course as an upperclassman.
And so to answer some of my previous questions: the chicken. Dogs. Black and blue. I think so. Biology.
By Lily Christou '19
For ten years, I went to an all-girls Catholic school, and when I came to highschool at NCS, I was surprised that NCS doesn’t emphasize religion as much as my old school. I assumed that going to an Episcopalian school in the context of the National Cathedral, a major religious landmark, would result in a greater focus on religion in our daily lives, but I do not find it to be true.
At my previous school, religion class was part of our curriculum; we learned about the history of current events relating to Catholicism and Christianity in general, had Mass, in which the main focus was Christianity, and said a prayer every morning/before eating lunch. Although the student body was predominantly Catholic, many students, including myself, practiced other religious branches of Christianity, and some students weren’t Christian at all. I believe that NCS does an outstanding job of welcoming members of the community who practice religions other than Christianity as well as educating the student body about different religions and their holidays or traditions through Chapel and Cathedral, which further unites the community. Not knowing a lot about pretty much any other religion, this aspect of NCS was extremely informative for me, which I appreciate.
I think it’s very important for us to know about all the other major religions even though we go to an Episcopalian school. The curriculum also fulfills this goal as the required course, Living Religions, teaches the students about the major religions in the world. For the other required credit, NCS students can choose among a few religion electives offered. Last year I took one of these electives called Global Ethics, and I found it very interesting and I gained an immense amount of knowledge about ethical issues that countries and people face everyday that we do not learn about otherwise during school. Although this class is technically a religion class, it focuses on ethical issues, as the course title implies, rather than learning about religion. I think that it would be useful for NCS to focus on exposing us more to Episcopalian beliefs, but not necessarily through additional required religion classes (since I think two semesters is reasonable as each students has her own academic aspirations).
I believe that this is important because we go to school in the context of the National Cathedral, and I, for one, don’t fully understand what a typical Episcopalian service would like or even really anything about what Episcopalians specifically believe. When I graduate, I want to be knowledgeable about the religion on which my school is based off of. Likewise, I think that by incorporating Episcopalian traditions into our school, especially during Chapel and Cathedral, this could be achieved.
By Sara Roberts '19
Is there really a difference between English classes at NCS and STA? This is a question that I have asked myself in past years, knowing that upperclassmen can take English electives at either school. I had always wondered: is there a difference in teaching style? Are discussions executed differently? Are we were graded differently in English 9 and 10 classes? Now, in Comparative Literature at STA, I can attest that though some aspects are similar, the two schools definitely have their differences when it comes to English.
NCS English 9 and 10 were pretty similar classes. The discussions were carried by the students, and the teachers only spoke once or twice to in order to fulfill that purpose. Depending on the teacher, participation was a large part of our grades, which were penalized if we spoke too often or not enough. When we were assigned an essay, we were given a prompt, and the teacher usually had a PowerPoint with what they expected from us when we structured our writing. The essay would have three due days —one to turn in our outline, another to submit our rough draft, and the last for our final draft. We spent class periods when our outlines and rough drafts were due workshopping each other's writing, giving and receiving constructive criticism and feedback from our partners.
When I entered Comparative Literature at STA this fall, I knew off the bat that the dynamic would be different. I entered the classroom along with seven other people, wondering where the rest of the class was. I later realized that it was my full class. The first half of the period was spent discussing a writing by Petrarch in small groups, and this was another surprise to me; in English 9 and 10 the most time we spent in small groups was about 15 minutes. We had to choose 5 major motifs and a key passage that summed up the significance of the writing, which is now routine for every new piece of writing we read in the class.
Although class discussions are basically Harkness, the teacher plays a much larger role during them, not only stating their own opinions, but additionally directly asks students to expand on their thoughts and state their personal opinions on the writing. We’ve had one major essay so far, and we were not given any prompt. This concept was completely new to me, but ultimately coming up with an argument without a prompt was not as difficult as I thought it would be.
To sum it all up, in my experience, NCS and STA English take different approaches to teaching, but not one in a better way than the other. In my opinion, I like the way that NCS handles essay writing, because especially as an underclassmen, I needed as much guidance and structure I could get because many aspects of it were new to me. On the other hand, I like the way that STA handles discussions, because, especially with a smaller class, the discussions flow very smoothly and everyone can easily incorporate their ideas. Both schools have very distinguished English programs, and though they are structured differently (and might take a little bit to get used to,) they both taught me how to be a more analytical and comfortable with writing.
Nolan Musselwhite '20
Why do we study the works of authors long dead, examine the histories of nations long fallen, and learn the languages of civilizations long vanished?
There are those who say we shouldn’t; in a modern and evolving society, they say, we ought to look forward, to equip our students with the tools that will allow them to succeed in a technological world: programming, applied sciences, engineering, digital-age mathematics. But, in gazing forward, it is all too easy to forget the past.
Though thousands of years distant, countless aspects of the cultures and languages of Ancient Greece and Rome are deeply imbued in our nation today; in our government, our language, and even our mathematics abound remnants of these early civilizations, serving in their own right as monuments to the societies that shaped the world as we know it. By studying those same societies, we allow ourselves to attain a deeper understanding of our modern world; instead of just understanding the what of life, we can become awakened to the how and the why. Additionally, though we like to call Latin and Ancient Greek “dead languages,” they are actually more alive than ever; look no further than the fields of medicine or law to find derivatives and phrases aplenty. While not only helping one to improve their proficiency in these fields—some doctors and med school students study Ancient Greek, for example—they can also help one to understand the origins of these fields; many of our legal and medical practices today derive from the practices of the ancient Romans and Greeks.
Studying classics can also yield deeper insight in the study of history, as any who pursue both interests can attest. Military history, in particular, is especially central to classical history; until the dawn of modern warfare, the tactics and campaigns of Julius Caesar and other like Romans and Greeks were (and, to some extent, still are) seen as gold standards in military strategy and combat. Without a classical background, a military history aficionado would be lacking in a core aspect of their specialty.
Of course, studying the classics isn’t essential (or even necessary) in all circumstances, and isn’t ideal for every student. However, to anyone interested in and enthusiastic about classical societies, languages, and histories, studying classics can provide a fruitful opportunity for enrichment all across the academic spectrum, both in school and in life. In short, classics are neither dying nor dead, and never have been; rather, they are more crucial to and more deeply imbued in society than they have been since the Classical Age.
By an Anonymous Contributor
Some years ago, I applied to, got into, and enrolled in St. Albans. Everyone knows it’s an all-boys school: my parents and I and all other families applying consider this fact when making a decision about coming to the school. But everyone also knows that there is a coed element to an STA education, contributing to what I call “the best of both worlds.” In Upper School admissions events, STA representatives discuss coed academic opportunities, coed arts programs, and even coed athletic programs, all of which, I would argue from personal experience, enhance an STA career. I myself led an Upper School admissions tour this fall and mentioned these opportunities. But I didn’t mention AmLit specifically. I wonder if any Upper School admissions guides do, and I highly doubt the Lower School guides that took my parents around all those years ago did either.
What if they had? Would it have affected my or anyone else’s decision to come to St. Albans? Not even remotely. But there seems to be something of a false pretense: being an all-boys school with coed opportunities is central to the mission and reputation of STA, and that notion completely ignores the not insignificant coed requirement that rolls around junior year. And I believe it’s important to stay true to that mission I mentioned and the reputation it creates. That would mean that either we make the coed requirement known, altering the mission slightly, or we stay a little closer to that mission as it already exists. I would argue for the latter.
There are reasons STA is an all-boys school that I won’t go into, but I’d point out that many of them are certainly vindicated by the brotherhood that STA students feel during and after their time at STA. That brotherhood forms on the field, in out-of-school activities, and, of course, off-campus altogether, but I would argue that it also forms in the academic realm, which is supposed to be the first priority of an academic institution like STA (think the decision to build Marriott Hall by 2009 rather than a new fields complex or arts center). But in the upperclassman years, students have begun to pursue different academic interests at different levels and thus rarely all take the same class at the same time. As it is now, the only such uniform classes in Forms V and VI are U.S. History and a semester of Encountering God (I wonder what the parallel situation is at NCS). I think single-sex AmLit would be a great way to add to the academic setting in which guys in different language programs, different levels of math, and different electives can come together in the same English curriculum to discuss some of the most important texts in American history.
But why not embark on that important task with girls from NCS? After all, it’s even more important that STA graduates know what it’s like to work with females before entering the real world. But here I would first return to our ostensible mission and the difference between coed opportunities, on which we pride ourselves, and coed requirements, about which we seem to be far from up-front. Second, I would argue that the student that leaves STA without experience interacting with females in a work or cooperative environment is virtually non-existent. I myself have been in four other coed classes, and that number is by no means on the higher end of the spectrum. I’ve also been on an athletic team and in countless choral and theater events with NCS girls. I, and all other STA students, would have ample opportunity to learn with young women and work with them toward a common goal without a coed AmLit.
STA and NCS are different schools with different philosophies. One thing both philosophies have in common is the importance of a single-sex education with coed opportunities, and at STA, that’s typically how it’s framed. But that’s not quite how it is. If an STA student wants to try out an NCS class, good for him! But he shouldn’t be forced to take a class at school he doesn’t go to.
By Ashley Harris '19
Freshman year: NCS girls nervously file into a physics classroom, many wondering why on earth they are forced to take such an intimidating course their first year of high school. This is a reasonable thought process, after all, most schools start by teaching biology so students can take physics and advanced math classes concurrently. However, NCS has chosen a science curriculum that allows students to do more in sophomore chemistry and biology. According to the NCS website, freshman physics is “intended to foster students’ scientific abilities and to provide students with a solid foundation for the continued study of science.” Throughout freshman year, NCS girls study the fundamentals of forces and energy, and once armed with this basic knowledge, they can tackle more complicated subjects with greater competence. Biology is essentially applied chemistry, and chemistry is applied physics: each requires an understanding of the previous subject. Therefore, the most logical way to educate students about biology is to begin by teaching them about the fundamental forces of physics that shape different chemical processes that allow biological systems to function. For example, in freshman physics NCS girls learn about the concept of polarity. In sophomore chemistry, they learn that differences in electronegativity between hydrogen and oxygen cause water molecules to be polar. In biology, they learn that water’s polarity allows for the formation of phospholipid bilayers that make up cellular membranes. Will a biology student who has neither a physics nor chemistry background truly understand what’s happening in biology? If they are forced to merely memorize information rather than truly understanding it, what is the point of even taking the class?
While NCS is not alone in starting with physics, most high schools begin with biology so students can pair physics with more advanced math classes that allow for more in-depth exploration of the subject. However, this curriculum sacrifices a full understanding of biology and even chemistry, depending on when students take it. By making freshman take physics and learn the basics, NCS ensures they are well prepared for chemistry and later biology while still offering advanced physics courses for those who are interested. Basically, don’t worry freshman. There is a reason we put you through this.