By Sara Roberts ‘19
Flag Day is a long-standing and beloved tradition at NCS that takes place the day before commencement. On this day, the whole school is seated around the flagpole to commemorate the seniors as they receive awards and praise for their accomplishments. It is a day of many traditions — the Cathedral bells that accompany the procession, the award of the flag to the Valedictorian, and the distribution of roses from the seniors to their families and friends. One of the most significant traditions of Flag Day is the attire, which has been discussed and changed throughout the years. To those who don’t know, you have to wear white or ivory, whether this is in the form of a dress (with a length that follows the “fingertip” rule, of course!), dress pants, or skirt. As per usual, your shoulders have to be covered, high heels are not encouraged (due to the grass), and open backs and low necklines are not permitted. Seniors traditionally wear long dresses or pants. Their white or ivory dress or skirt cannot be shorter than eight inches from the floor, and one should not be able to see skin above the knee.
This long-established Flag Day attire for seniors has been a topic of conversation at the school in recent years.
More people have been in disagreement about the strict rules of covering shoulders and backs, especially because what we’re wearing already completely conceals our legs. Not everyone is in favor of the norm of wearing long, white dresses because this ensemble gives off the resemblance to wedding dresses, which can be perceived as misogynistic. While I understand the controversies that a dress code for an important end-of-year tradition may raise, I think that the reforms made in recent years (i.e. addition of pants in 2009) to the long-established dress code allow more students to dress in attire they are comfortable wearing. Although most students have worn dresses in the past, I commend the new rules that have let increasing numbers of people break this custom and wear pants instead. I am in favor of the tradition of wearing white or ivory because I think that is a time-honored aspect of the Flag Day, and since it is a day where we honor the many talents of the senior class, I do not think the color of our attire takes away of the empowering aspects of the event. While I do think that some of the strict rules about strap widths and shoulder coverage could be slightly less demanding, I do agree that there needs to be a degree of modesty on a graduation event.
I am thankful for Flag Day and the measures that the school has made to ensure that everyone can fully enjoy it. I am looking forward to this day in four short months when I will be able to see my grade get recognized for their many skills, all while sporting their beautiful Flag Day attire!
By Teddy Hudson ‘21
Over the last decade, the Oscars have been bleeding out. With 2018 marking the broadcast’s lowest recorded viewership ever by 20%, and with the dawn of massive cinematic universes redefining the word “blockbuster” and drawing popular cinema even further away from what is considered “Oscar cinema”, it has become clear that as of recently, people are simply bored with the Oscars. For decades, the show was seen as a celebration of the very best in filmmaking, and yet the 2010s have seen a scramble of desperate decision-making on the Academy’s behalf that has finally culminated in the 2019 nominee pool being one of the most bizarre and confusing nominee pools in years. In 2018, the Academy, in my opinion, made several decisions that had the potential to be groundbreaking. By recognizing excellent genre films such as Get Out and The Shape of Water, the Oscars were expanding the definition of an “Oscar Movie” in a good way: by recognizing more traditional Oscar movies (such as Darkest Hour or Phantom Thread) alongside movies arguably of even higher quality that in the past would have been disregarded simply for being too weird.
There was only one glaring issue in 2018: nobody cared. Viewership plummeted to new lows, and what should have been seen as a fantastic and progressive year for the Oscars was branded a total failure. This provides important context for this year’s nominee pool, which is an essential inversion of last year’s. Many excellent movies that one would normally think of as “Oscar Movies”, such as If Beale Street Could Talk and First Reformed, were passed over entirely. Offbeat but boundary-pushing and wildly creative movies such as Blindspotting and Sorry To Bother You were also ignored, and the final result was a bland, homogenized roster of Best Picture nominees with only a few real highlights. The idea of Bohemian Rhapsody, a boring and safely-played but financially successful biopic, taking a spot away from any of the aforementioned movies is simply startling. Though movies like The Favourite and Roma were still able to secure their rightful nominations, movies such as Vice, Green Book, and Bohemian Rhapsody all feel like the less bold, less creative, but “still pretty good” alternatives to recognizing less popular but more visionary movies such as Hereditary, Blindspotting, and all other movies mentioned above.
Beyond simple nomination blunders and snubs, the Academy has also recently proposed several changes to the Oscars with the clear intent of making the Oscars less “artsy” and more appealing to a general audience, essentially accepting that the only solution to the Oscars’ viewership problem is to heap even more attention on crowd-favorites and blockbusters. The suggested addition of a “Best Popular Film” category, planned to be added this year but postponed due to controversy, is a perfect example of the Academy’s willingness to sacrifice the entire purpose of the Oscars, the recognition of quality movie making, and devote precious time in an already overly long show to give an Oscar to an Avengers movie. I support the Oscars in their attempt to regain public interest, but the answer should not be to directly go against the historic purpose of the show itself.
By Simon Palmore ‘19
Hardly any St. Albans students, surely, would jump at the idea of sex education at St. Albans. They might try to jump out the window and flee campus, but they would hardly jump for joy. Sex ed is awkward. Sex ed can be patronizing. It can even seem pointless. All these adjectives, though, are overshadowed by one other: “crucial.” Sex ed is crucial—and no time is better for learning about sex and sexuality than in freshman year of high school.
St. Albans students spend one semester of their seventh-grade year in a course called “Decisions.” The course mixes sex ed with drug and alcohol education, and it is a required course for all students passing through the Lower School. The course has developed and improved significantly from when current seniors took it to the present: curricula on gender identity and LGBTQ relationships have replaced an abstinence-based approach to teaching about sex and sexuality, bringing the course into the modern day.
Not all St. Albans students pass through the Lower School, though, and thus in any given freshman class, some have been educated on these crucial topics and some have not. This disparity violates an unwritten goal of high school at St. Albans: that all boys, regardless of background, should graduate with the same base of knowledge. Without a high school addition to the current curriculum, the school fails its students in this small but important way.
Sex education often includes, but is not limited to, reproductive anatomy (what is what), reproductive physiology (how things work), safe sex (e.g. contraception and consent), societal attitudes toward sex, and the interpersonal nature of development, both sexually and socially. The first two points are both covered in high school. All St. Albans students take biology as freshmen, and human reproductive anatomy and physiology are part of the syllabus. This is the only required course that teaches this material. As one former freshman biology teacher once said, “Right, so, this may be the only time in your whole lives that you are taught about sex. That is why it is my responsibility, as your teacher, to teach you this content.” Not only is this an unfair burden to place on freshman biology teachers, who already teach a packed curriculum, but the few days that can be devoted to these complex topics are simply insufficient.
The other components of sex education are almost entirely neglected by the Upper School’s curriculum. There is no instruction on all the various forms of contraception, no discussion about sex’s role in society or in our relationships, and no LGBTQ-specific sex ed whatsoever. These lapses are a grave mistake. These topics fall to various clubs, like GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) and ASAP (Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention), who can 0nly educate those who decide to show up and pay attention. It is a shame and a mistake to send eighty young men to college every year without a complete guarantee that they all have the knowledge that one needs to navigate difficult and complicated issues that they will deal with in college and throughout their lives.
This new education would be relatively easy to implement. There is no shortage of adults at St. Albans and in the world that are qualified to teach sex ed. If there is no obvious choice within the school, then the school should hire someone. The course would not need to occupy an entire period in the block schedule. It could meet on a recurring basis during A Day Flex periods, or it could cycle through freshman advisories, or it could occupy any of the other time slots built into the block schedule.
Just this year, the St. Albans community has seen various examples of the need for sex ed. As young men, St. Albans students need to be taught not to suppress or mute themselves, but to channel themselves into adults that can speak openly, honestly, and with knowledge about sex and sexuality. A new sex ed curriculum would not be any sort of strange or unwarranted innovation to the high school experience; rather, it would fill a large, longstanding gap in the St. Albans education.
By Gabi Liebeler ‘20
Imagine for a second that your life is a movie. Now imagine that final scene, the happy ending where you scored the winning shot, you walked out the doors of your high school for the last time, or you picked out the love of your life among the strangers in the crowded train station. What song is playing? It’s probably Africa by Toto, Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix), or even Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Heck it could even be Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) by My Chemical Romance. The song in your final scene has to be perfect.
The perfect song represents community, bringing people together and putting smiles on people’s faces. But the perfect song is not the best song.
The best song is the one that means the most to you when you’re all by yourself. In your worst moments alongside your best, when you’ve never felt happier, never felt sadder, or anywhere in between. The best song ever is the one that brings you home, reminding you of everything in your life rather than just that one perfect moment, that one perfect scene.
In my opinion, the best song ever is Degas Park by Kevin Abstract. If you’re like most people, you probably have never heard this song. You don’t know what Degas Park refers to, and you don’t know who Kevin Abstract is. You don’t need to know any of those things to realize how special this song is. All you need to do is listen.
It starts with these eerie sort of sounds, waves that without fail transport me to the scene of driving along an unoccupied highway. I’m not sure what time it is — sometimes it’s sunset, sometimes it’s pitch black or sunrise. It’s sometime in the 80s or 90s, and when the beat kicks in, someone steps on the gas and the car is moving infinitely fast. Everything has a sepia sort of tint, and my eyes can barely focus on the scenery passing by you at an instantaneous speed.
To my understanding, the lyrics don’t have a concrete meaning. But the initial message falls somewhere along the lines of reminiscing over something that was beautiful, a little bittersweet, and completely ephemeral. It’s about one scene, one time in someone’s life, that one person that got away. You don’t have to be thinking about any of those scenes though, to enjoy the beauty of the song. Everything in life has some of that. Some beauty, some pain, some power to last beyond its occurrence. I think that for every person that listens to it, a different memory is evoked. And that’s exactly the point. I’ve listened to so many songs in my life, and I was lucky enough to come across this one. I can only partially explain as to why it’s the best song I’ve ever heard, and I have to let the music say the rest.
I’m not usually one to say that one song or book or movie is the absolute best. In my opinion, everything like that is subjective. So, take it from me, saying that Degas Park is the best song ever is not something that should be glanced upon lightly. Listen to it. You might hate it, you might skip through looking for the beat drop or the part that’s supposed to make you get up on your feet. No matter how you feel about the song, you should however appreciate how special it is, and why I consider it to be the greatest song ever. I don’t like it because it’s reminiscent of one moment, I love it because it’s reminiscent of all of them.
By William Howe ‘21
Immigration has always been a sensitive and divisive topic within American politics. Looking back to the early twentieth-century, we can see that many of the same debates we are having today have been happening for almost a century in America, though extreme right-wing viewpoints were much more prevalent during that period. In fact, the then Georgia Governor Clifford Walker went as far as to call mass immigration from Europe, particularly Italy, a “stream of poison” for the country. Despite these sentiments, however, most Americans now see Americans of Italian descent as simply fellow americans. The reason for this is that Italian immigrants, along with other European immigrants of the twentieth-century, assimilated successfully into American culture.
Now, how does one become an American? American assimilation is not based on race or ethnicity, but rather a belief in the ideals layed out in the constitution and founding documents of the country. This method of assimilation is rare, and may only be found in the United States. One does not become culturally Japanese by becoming a citizen of Japan, nor is can someone become a “Frenchman” by moving to France. One can, however, be considered an American simply by buying into our core ideals and going through the process to obtain citizenship. The main issue we face now regarding immigration is the difference of assimilative tendencies between more recent immigrants and those of the twentieth-century.
Whereas most immigrants of the twentieth-century accepted that in order to become American one needed to learn English and see themselves as American above racial or ethnic identity, we now have significant portions of the population who do not see themselves as American, but rather as a part of a different cultural identity or nationality currently residing in the U.S. This sentiment creates distance and even animosity towards immigrants due to a lack of familiarity or interaction. Many immigrants coming to the U.S. do not see learning English as a necessity for being an American, which is partially justified as we have no official language. The effect of this, however, is a reduced capacity for communication between immigrants and Americans, which results in Americans “othering” immigrants and not seeing them as a part of the same community. In addition, the remittances sent by immigrants to other countries in many cases create distance between themselves and American society. By sending money earned in the U.S. to other countries, a person places their ties to another country above their ties to America, which reduces one’s desire to assimilate into American society.
My entire mother’s side of my family fled Iran to come to the U.S. after the 1979 revolution, and they are all currently productive members of american society. Despite the differences in government between America and Iran under the Shah, my grandfather bought into the values of liberty and justice for all, spoke English, and even served on an electoral college. His journey is evidence of the positive effects of assimilation into American culture, because in the end American ideals surpass race and national ethnicity to unite all Americans. If we want to resolve tension between immigrants and native-born Americans, we must all agree to adhere to the values and liberties laid out in the constitution as guiding principles for all who live in our great nation above all else. Both parties must play a role in uniting the country and ending hateful rhetoric spewed against both immigrants and critics of mass migration. Immigrants must accept American values and actively seek to assimilate into American society. On the other hand, native-born citizens need to accept immigrants regardless of where they come from as long as they do buy into American core beliefs, because in the end it is our values and not our ethnicities that define us as American.
By Claudia Smith ‘20
On November 17, 2014, the organization called Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard University, claiming Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-American students. Upon hearing about this legal action, the first thought that comes to mind might be that the students suing are simply “sore losers”: individuals who got rejected from their dream school and are now filing a lawsuit to make themselves feel better. However, an analysis of Harvard’s admissions policies, which they have publicized for the purposes of the court case, has confirmed that Harvard, as well as most other colleges, are, in fact, discriminatory when it comes to Asian Americans. College admissions offices implement race-based affirmative action policies with the intention to expand the school’s racial diversity by favoring certain students in admissions over others based on their race. They also attempt to level the playing field for minorities who have been historically underrepresented or excluded, such as Native American, African-American, and Hispanic applicants. While this strategy originates with the desire for fairness for everyone despite their racial backgrounds, these affirmative action policies are ultimately a form of discrimination toward Asian applicants. In order to ensure fundamental fairness in the college process, as well as take a step in the direction of an equal, race-blind society, schools should abandon these racial preferences.
Affirmative action policies ultimately disadvantage Asian-American applicants by requiring them to reach higher academic standards than candidates of other races; this act of holding a certain racial group to an unfair level is a form of discrimination. Studies show that “Asian-American applicants need to have higher grades and test scores than other applicants (including white applicants) to gain admission to top colleges” (Jaschik). Specific test score data from Harvard University displays the population of Asian Harvard students to have the highest overall SAT scores, averaging on each section between 760-800. The data show that white Harvard students earned on average between 730-750 on each section, and Native American, African-American, and Hispanic students’ section score averages, all within the same general range, span from 690-740. While test scores are certainly not even close to all that makes up a student’s application, these statistics imply that Harvard holds Asian students to the highest standard for these numbers. These expectations are a form of unjust treatment towards Asians on the grounds of their race, as they assign labels to students of this race and force them to attain these higher, often times unrealistic goals for standardized testing and GPAs.
In addition to discriminating against Asian applicants, affirmative action hurts its intended beneficiaries, the students who are members of minority groups and who are meant to be favored in the admissions process. Despite their original motive, these policies “cast a pall of illegitimacy over [students’] legitimate achievements” (Barone). The belief, held by peers, faculty, and even hirers at potential internships or jobs, that affirmative action is the only reason for some students’ admission, clouds their recognition of an individual’s actual successes. Instead of improving the lives of these students, the stigma surrounding the issue of affirmative action simply marginalizes them with the assumption that most of those students got accepted to a prestigious school like Harvard because they are a minority, and their achievements are not actually “legitimate”.
Those who argue in favor of race-based affirmative action policies in college admissions maintain that it is necessary and beneficial for two main reasons: the first is that these policies incorporate and ensure diversity on a school’s campus, and the other is that they are a way to counterbalance the wrongs and disadvantages which have faced certain races in the past.
Affirmative action plans certainly allow for students on a campus to be exposed to variety of cultures and backgrounds that differ greatly between races. Thus, the argument that these practices enhance diversity is valid. However, the case that affirmative action helps to somehow compensate for the historical oppression and disadvantages that minority groups have faced is unconvincing, as it groups all the members of certain races together and assumes they have each suffered discrimination and disadvantages in life, while simultaneously assuming that those who are hurt by affirmative action, specifically Asians, have not been troubled at all with these disadvantages. The main reason that this argument is ineffective is that it lacks consideration of a very large, very important group: Asian Americans. Race-based affirmative action policies neglect the fact that Asians have been historically wronged and discriminated against. The Chinese Exclusion Act, approved in 1882, was the first serious law that restrained people from immigrating into the United States. The title of the act is discriminatory, literally selecting only Chinese people and declaring that they should be “excluded”. While this is severe example, it is one of the many historical acts of discrimination against Asians in America. Affirmative action disregards these examples of past oppression and disadvantages Asian-American students in the admissions process despite them. It takes into account the wrongs which other minorities have suffered, yet disadvantages those of Asian descent despite their historical oppression. While some might argue that historical oppression suffered by other minorities has been worse, or to a higher degree, it is impossible to weigh whose historical disadvantage has been the most harmful, as opinions on this will likely differ greatly between members of these different minorities, and this argument always simply ends in these outnumbered groups being pinned against each other. There is no way to assist some students without hurting others wrongfully; therefore, making college admissions race-blind is a crucial step in working towards a “level playing field” because it gives everybody an equal chance at admission in terms of their racial background.
Affirmative action policies are ultimately discriminatory despite their initial good intentions; they work to enhance diversity, but they fail when it comes to helping those who have been previously disadvantaged, as the policies overlook the prejudice and hardship Asian people have faced. Noted by The New York Times, “To continue to condescend to people because of their race based on historical injustices simply promotes those injustices” (O’Hare). As an alternative, colleges could consider implementing race-blind, socio-economic-based affirmative action; economic status has statistical correlation with race and thus could provide as useful to enhance a campus’s diversity. While this form of affirmative action might lead to students with lower test scores being admitted over those with higher ones, this preference would be on the grounds of socio-economic diversity rather than race, and unlike race-based affirmative action, socio-economic-based policies would not outright discriminate against particularly Asian-American applicants.
By Elektra Papathanasiou-Goldstein '20
On June 26, 1980, Larry Griffin, a 41-year-old African-American man, was convicted of murder and executed a year later. After his death, an investigation by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund demonstrated one of the injured victims of the shooting stated that Griffin was innocent but was ignored. Instead, an unreliable eyewitness gave a false testimony, confirmed to be lying by the first police officer at the scene. Not only was the wrong person convicted, but the real criminals were never brought to justice ("NAACP Report"). This case is one of the strongest demonstrations of a miscarriage of justice: the execution of innocent people, often minorities, in the name of the law. The possibility of error inherent in administering the death penalty should be enough to deem it an unjust practice, but its implementation also disproportionately affects minorities. To serve as a more just government to its citizens, the United States must abolish capital punishment.
The very notion that innocent people may be executed negates any supposed benefits of the death penalty – the risk of error in an irreversible death sentence is unacceptable. Considering the risk of a wrongful conviction is so crucial to the death penalty debate because of the irrevocable finality of capital punishment. Since 1973, 164 people on death row have been exonerated after they were shown to be innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced to die, some only a few days before their execution (“Capital Punishment”). Moreover, a 2014 study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that about four percent of death-row inmates are innocent of the crime for which they are sentenced (Sarat). Even if seen as justifiable, the implementation of the death penalty in the current imperfect justice system causes a concerning number of innocent victims. Inadequate legal representation, police and prosecutorial misconduct, or mistaken eyewitness testimonies are not uncommon and can contribute to a wrongful conviction that has the effect of unjustly ending a life (“Death Penalty and Innocence”). Capital punishment forever deprives an individual of due process of law, such as the opportunity to benefit from new evidence or laws that might mitigate a conviction or exonerate them. Miscarriages of justice in capital punishment cases result in the government ultimately taking the life of an innocent citizen, essentially committing the same offense it condemned. While capital punishment remains part of the legal procedure, any miscarriage of justice caused is irredeemable, ultimately resulting in the government taking the life of an innocent citizen, essentially committing the offense it condemned.
Moreover, capital punishment causes racial bias to become a fatal defect in a justice system that already disproportionately affects minorities. A recent Amnesty Report confirmed the impact of racial injustice on capital punishment convictions: although blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, eighty percent of these people were executed for murders involving white victims. In addition, over twenty percent of black defendants executed were convicted by all-white juries, an unsettling reality of the racism underlying death penalty cases ("Race and the Death Penalty"). Another study by the University of North Carolina revealed that race plays a role in deciding who receives the death penalty -- defendants whose victims are white are 3.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those with non-white victims. Dr. Unah, who conducted the study, affirmed: "No matter how the data was analyzed, the race of the victim always emerged as an important factor in who received the death penalty." According to a study commissioned by the Governor of Maryland, “black offenders who kill white victims are at greater risk . . . they are substantially more likely to be charged by the state’s attorney with a capital offense” (“The Case Against the Death Penalty”). Abolishing capital punishment would prevent worst possible outcome of racially biased convictions.
Proponents of the penalty argue that it defends justice by forcing criminals to suffer an appropriate punishment for their crime, while also claiming it serves as an effective deterrent (BBC Ethics). However, this interpretation of justice as “an eye for an eye” is dangerous as the world begins to deviate from deleterious retributive justice. As justice systems move towards rehabilitation, laws should not favor retribution, nor serve to enact revenge. Capital punishment is state vengeance in its simplest form, and doesn’t belong in modern developed justice systems which value rehabilitation.
In regards to the death penalty’s deterrence power, statistics have repeatedly disproven this assertion. Southern states carry out more than eighty percent of executions but have a higher murder rate than any other region – Texas has the most executions in the country but its homicide is twice that of Wisconsin, one of the first states to abolish the penalty (“Does the Death Penalty Serve as a Deterrent for Crime?). The ACLU’s position on deterrence explains why legal consequences don’t impede most offenders from action: “Capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended . . . violence is inflicted by persons unable to appreciate the consequences . . . if the crime is planned, the criminal’s primary concern is escaping arrest, and conviction.” (“The Case Against the Death Penalty”). Capital punishment is an endorsement of outdated retributive justice and has no overall deterrent effect.
The US government should eradicate capital punishment primarily due to the risk of error and discrimination of minorities that it inherently entails. Fortunately, the practice is decreasing in the United States, with four states abolishing the penalty in the past four years and many that authorize it impose it far less. Numbers of death sentences per year have decreased by half in the last 10 years (“Capital Punishment”). However, thirty states still have it and the US remains one of very few developed countries that continues to condone it. The government has the duty to advance its justice system and adhere to reasonable, primarily undisputed international standards. Global evolving standards of decency cannot be dismissed, and the United States must engage with the world not only as a major power, but also by following other countries by ending capital punishment.
By Martín Villagra-Riquelme ‘20
At St. Albans, we preach brotherhood and community above anything else, and while there is a lot of value in these ideals, community can turn into conformity if we don’t have discussions about diversity. While in recent years we have made a lot of progress to be a more inclusive school with effort being put into bringing students in from different backgrounds, there is still work we can do. One of the biggest and most powerful things we can do as a school to cultivate diversity is to establish affinity groups.
By not acknowledging or discussing difference, we become colorblind. While color-blindness seems like the answer, and people who preach it have good intentions, institutionalizing it means you ignore and invalidate parts of someone’s identity and make talking about diversity taboo. Even if it’s unintentional, a colorblind institution can create a baseline image of the average student and those who don’t match it can feel alienated. Speaking from my own experience as a gay latino, I feel this alienation, this distance between myself and this baseline image of what the average student should be: straight and white. By establishing affinity groups, however, we can start to dismantle this baseline image and students from minority groups can have a place to voice their perspectives on diversity and discuss their thoughts on issues that affect them with the rest of the student body.
No matter much we push for the similarities between each student, we are all different;
affinity groups validate the differences between each person by hosting those who want a platform to speak about their own unique experiences. They are also a place where people that are somehow “different” from the majority of the population can let their guard down because they’re surrounded by others who are “different” in the same way.
To put affinity groups in other terms, let’s say you have a group of theatre kids who are in a school that’s majority sports-oriented. These kids might feel alienated in this environment and would probably want to have a theatre group, something like Thespian’s Society. Let’s also say this school is trying to be more inclusive and admitting more theatre kids, but they’re not allowing or haven’t taken the steps yet to start a theatre group. The students push for this but no matter how hard they try some say it might make divisions in the student body and harm the community. See how ridiculous this is? Now change the terms theatre and sports to minority and white.
One of the best things about affinity groups is that they’re not targeted to affect the community of the school. If anything, affinity groups strengthen our bonds with each other, as they aim to dismantle conformity. By acknowledging and discussing differences in students, we can get back to talking about similarities again.
By William Barbee ‘22
St. Albans as an institution of education is unmatched by almost any other school. The amount of required learning thrown onto each student is immense, with students being required as a freshman to take five classes, each one different from the rest. Furthermore, there are a myriad of class options that a student can take, from the basics such as English I or US History to more obscure or refined classes, such as Principles of Protein Engineering or a course literally titled Good and Evil. Let’s not forget the athletic requirement presented at St. Albans, a rigorous 11 seasons of sports, with one semester allowed as a cut to seniors. The goal is to keep the young men fit throughout their time at school and for the rest of their lives, which they do so seemingly well. With all these different options and requirements, it seems students will always be taught with thoroughness and care. Except…
The arts programs at St. Albans are severely lacking, and I’m not talking about the experience itself. This school embodies everything that a proper school is supposed to do: develop students’ interests by exposing them to different subjects. We see this in the academics and athletics, but why not the arts? To receive a diploma from St. Albans, an individual must achieve 17 academic credits (a credit is awarded for completing a course for a full year), 11 seasons of sports, and 1 arts credit (arts credits can vary based on the amount or type of art the individual partakes in). One art credit translates into: a year of Chorale, two semesters of art classes, or performing in two of the plays that are put on every year. While all of these put together may sound like a lot, examining them alone shows how insufficient they are. Most students decide to take one year of Chorale in their tenure at St. Albans in order to “get their arts credit over with”. Instead of learning and taking something out of the experience, most people lazily walk from Sam’s to the music room, where they proceed to either talk or stay on their phones for the whole rehearsal. Even though the students are directly responsible for their behavior in class, I believe the school has a responsibility to instill a curiosity for new things within its pupils.
The Lower School has a drama class for one semester that met sparingly, where students would learn the very basics of acting and theater production. They also have mandatory art and music classes that the young kids must take. One thing all of these classes have in common, however, is that they do not require much effort to achieve a good grade. To get an A in art, you have to show up, not talk, and pick up a pen, pencil, or paintbrush every now and then. While after taking this course you can say that you “did it”, but did you really learn anything from it? And furthermore, did this class spark any more of an interest or appreciation for the arts within yourself? The answer to these is usually a big resounding “no”.
People may be wondering what the big deal is about arts, as most children won’t pursue a career in the arts after school anyway. My response is simple: are any other subjects that aren’t turned into careers valuable after school? Is history valuable to you if you become a scientist? Or is math all that important to a writer? The point of school is not to teach students only what they wish to be taught. The point of school, high school in particular, is to enhance the minds of young people and embolden their talents to the best of their abilities. The arts teaches young men and women to appreciate creation and the beauty of the human experience. By minimally requiring students to examine the arts and by making the arts something you have to pass instead of a learning experience, St. Albans is failing to fully teach their students.
However, I’m not one to sit around and complain about problems; I’d rather spark new solutions. In New York City, there is a school called St. Bernards, an all boys K-8 school of which I am a proud alum. The current headmaster at this school, Stuart Johnson, graduated St. Albans and has implemented many of the things he learned at his time here in New York. One long-standing tradition at St. Bernard’s is the 8th grade play, where the young men perform a full length production of one of Shakespeare’s plays. The school also has required music and arts classes from Kindergarten to 8th Grade, and each class must put on a small original play once a year at various assemblies. This is a beautiful model that I believe can be molded into something that could work at the St. Albans Upper School.
Instead of requiring students to sit through a year of Chorale to achieve a one measly arts credit, I propose changing the system entirely. Students should be required to take at least one arts course over their first three years in high school, whether that be art, music, or acting. When students reach their senior year (preferably in the second semester, so seniors can prioritize school work for colleges in the first semester), they should be required to partake in one of three things: a play, a vocal showcase, or an art gala. The students could be divided into groups of three with roughly 30 people per group, and each individual has to produce something that benefits the group. These performances could be spread out over a few assembly periods where the rest of the students could admire the work the seniors had put in. While this is just a simple, first-draft sort of idea, the implementations could help to develop the artistic community at school.
The arts are very special to myself and many others on the Close, and seeing students who feel they are something to be looked over or skipped is deeply concerning. I hope that the St. Albans community reads this and considers revisiting the arts requirements at the school, making changes that so many of us would love to see.
By Max Ross ‘20
El Salvador, the former Cuscatlán (Land of the Jewel) of the Pipil tribe, has been tarnished by decades of war, gang violence, and natural disaster. Despite the country’s lack of fertile soil it was once a major producer of coffee, but it has since transitioned to service. However, the coffee industry left the country with a major wealth gap, where two percent held most of the country’s wealth. Moreover, social inequality and repressive military regimes led to a civil war from 1980-1992 which killed tens of thousands of civilians. With the 1998 Hurricane and 2001 earthquake, the country’s wounds still fester. Who can fix the country?
Thirty-seven years old, nearly 500,000 followers on instagram, and 540,000 followers on twitter, Nayib Bukele believes he can. He has never attended a political debate and is not a part of the two-party system, yet he won the election.
Nayib Bukele began his political career in 2012 as a member of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) when he ran for mayor in the town of Nuevo Cuscatlán. However, in 2017 Bukele was expelled from the FMLN over allegations of him throwing an apple at the municipal comptroller. Following this incident, he created a political party called “New Ideas,” which garnered too few votes to be recognized. Instead, he chose to join the Grand Assembly for National Unity (GANA). To promote the party, he live-streams and tweets, but he refuses to participate in formal debates.
Bukele has marketed himself as an honest and patriotic man dedicated to ending corruption; however, his actions say otherwise. During his time as mayor he refused to receive a salary but was paid close to one million dollars from family businesses. Moreover, his platform of anti-corruption and habit of criticizing president Cerén’s spending habits is ironic, given that GANA has a history of corruption. His other plans to create thousands of scholarships and to have tax exemptions for the poorest families would create massive debt in the already gargantuan deficit. Even if there was enough funding, Bukele’s party could not pass these measures through the Assembly as GANA only has ten members out of eighty-four. Given that the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) is in power, Bukele may struggle to pass anything left-leaning. In addition, his desire to end gang violence entails no plans and does not address the problem with MS-13.
Exemplified by his fifty-three percent win, Nayib Bukele has convinced the people of his worthiness as president, yet the trust of the people may be misplaced. Sketchy deals, poor policies, and a failure to address gang issues mar the slick image of Nayib Bukele. However, his ebullient spirit and vitality as a candidate may be what the country needs.