Jack Thomas '23
Since this issue is the Student Voices Issue of The Exchanged, I thought I might voice some of my opinions on the recently released nominations for the 2023 Academy Awards. While I did not have enough time or space to go discuss every single category, I did manage to hit some of the highlights of this year’s nominations. I hope you enjoy.
The Nominees for Best Supporting Actor
Brendan Gleeson (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”)
Judd Hirsch (“The Fabelmans”)
Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
In my opinion, there is one supporting actor missing from this list: Death from “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”. Despite having less than ten minutes of screen time, Death strikes fear into the hearts of all members of the audience. His screen presence is immaculate. It's the way Death’s eerie whistle entraps all viewers into focusing on him. It’s the way he is shown to be an unceasing and relentless force that makes the audience realize he is a legitimate villain. And it is the way frightens Puss, and by extension each of us, that leads me to conclude that Death should receive the Oscar for best supporting actor.
The Nominees for Best Original Song
“Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman,” Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick,” Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop
“Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Goransson; Lyric by Tems and Ryan Coogler
“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR,” Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose
“This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski; Lyric by Ryan Lott and David Byrne
In my opinion, the song most deserving of the Oscar for Best Original Song is “Fearless Hero” from the film, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”. The song is the kickoff to the movie and it sets the tone right. It establishes that Puss does not fear anything. He is a brave, swashbuckling, invulnerable, fearless, hero. Yet, we see Puss fearful for his life throughout the film. As he is cut down to his last life, Puss has to flee from Death. In these moments, Puss reaches his lowest of lows. He doubts his being a hero. He retires. So when he turns to face Death and the end of the movie, his fearlessness resonates strongly with the audience. And that is what makes “Fearless Hero” such a great song. Its subject, the fearless hero, bookends Puss’s journey to rediscover his identity.
The Nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová
“The Batman,” Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Camille Friend and Joel Harlow
“Elvis,” Mark Coulier, Jason Baird and Aldo Signoretti
“The Whale,” Adrien Morot, Judy Chin and Anne Marie Bradley
While this category is often overlooked by most casual moviegoers, I have thought a lot about which of these five nominees is most deserving to win Best Makeup and Hairstyling. And after much pondering it is my opinion that “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” should receive this oscar. Just do a quick google search for Puss and his magnificent beard. Need I say anything else?
The Nominees for Best Animated Feature Film
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Alex Bulkley
“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” Dean Fleischer Camp, Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan and Paul Mezey
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Joel Crawford and Mark Swift
“The Sea Beast,” Chris Williams and Jed Schlanger
“Turning Red,” Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins
Finally, the Academy got something right! “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film, and deservedly so. Puss in Boots soars well above the other animated films from this year. Its Spider Verse anime-esque animation style is a wonderful spectacle to see in theaters. Puss’s redemption arc allows the audience to root for the hero. And the villain, Death, might just be one of the greatest animated antagonists of this century. He drives the movie forward with each appearance. But more importantly, Death personifies a real force that humans reckon with constantly, and that makes Death truly, such a great villain. He sticks in the minds of the audience because Death was already there to begin with. It is my firm opinion that Puss in Boots should win Best Animated Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards.
The Top 22 Songs of 2022
Jacob Fife '23
2022 was an amazing year for music. Pop music showed an exciting trend towards dance, indie was irresistible, and just about everything you might have wanted happened—New Kendrick Lamar album, new Beyonce Album, new Sza album.
No Frank Ocean.
Ignoring that, here are my favorite twenty-two albums that came out last year, and some honorable mentions to kick off the list. If any of these albums sound interesting to you, I urge you to give a listen!
The Loneliest Time - Carly Rae Jepsen
Baby - Petrol Girls
Louie - Kenny Beats
Fear of the Dawn - Jack White
Tana Talk 4 - Benny the Butcher
I Love You Jennifer B - Jockstrap
Big Time - Angel Olsen
God Save the Animals - Alex G
22. 10 - Westside Gunn
“BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!” - Westside Gunn a lot of the time.
21. MOTOMAMI - ROSALÍA
This easily has the most creative production I’ve heard from a pop album this year.
20. Air Guitar - Sobs
Just a really fun power pop album with a cute, charming, and upbeat sound.
19. Beatopia - beabadoobee
When I listen to this, I feel like a girl in the 2000s thinking about her crush on a sunny day.
18. Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Out of KGLW’s three albums this year, this groovy and environmentally aware jam session of a record is my favorite.
17. Ugly Season - Perfume Genius
This album is a perfect example of finding beauty in so much hatred.
16. Cave World - Viagra Boys
Probably some of the funniest lyrics of last year are in this energized rock record.
15. RENAISSANCE - Beyoncé
Once the album really picks up after the first track, you’re in for an amazing dance record that is backed by some breathtaking vocals from the Queen Bee.
14. Natural Brown Prom Queen - Sudan Archives
When you finally listen to the album that everyone’s been calling “really cool” and “an extravagant R&B album,” and it's a really cool extravagant R&B album.
13. NO THANK YOU - Little Simz
Another amazing album from the U.K. rapper Little Simz. This cemented her as a current top-five rapper for me.
12. Once Twice Melody - Beach House
Despite its ninety-minute runtime, Beach House delivers a calming, sometimes haunting, and always lovesick collection of dream pop beauties.
11. Giving the World Away - Hatchie
I never knew I needed ‘90s nostalgia music until I heard these hazy, dreamy, night-time bangers.
10. The Ruby Cord - Richard Dawson
The album’s opener—an epic 40-minute track entitled “The Hermit”—sets you perfectly in Richard Dawson’s endlessly creative medieval mind. What follows is a journey through dark forests, under monster-infested caves, and up glorious mountain peaks. Prepare your horse and ride through this long, but always majestic album.
9. De Todas Los Flores - Natalia Lafourcade
Whether with simple guitar plucking or rich orchestral bliss, Natalia Loafourcade gives one of the most beautiful albums of last year. This is also one of the cleanest sounding records of the year. It really feels like you are in the studio with Lafourcade and her band. If you’re looking for outstanding folk music with a slight tinge of jazz, please check this out.
8. Cheat Codes - Danger Mouse & Black Thought
The Roots’ rapper Black Thought and the ever-talented producer Danger Mouse team up to create a hip-hop album that instantly sounds like a classic. With additional verses from greats such as Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, Michael Kiwanuka, A$AP Rocky, Conway the Machine, and a posthumous verse from the legendary MF DOOM, Cheat Codes is an outstanding display of lyrical talent and excellent sampling.
7. And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow - Weyes Blood
Acting as a sequel to her 2019 masterpiece Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood’s newest album is a beautiful baroque pop journey through loneliness. The emotional maturity in her lyrics are amazing, documenting how no one is alone in their loneliness and how love is natural, ever-present phenomena.
6. Marchita - Silvana Estrada
The Latin Grammys could not have been more correct in choosing Silvana Estrada as its Best New Artist. Estrada’s heartbreaking poetry, passionate vocals, and soulful songwriting are on full display in Marchita. Her vocal runs on songs like “La Corriente” and “Sabré Olvidar” are so moving and powerful that it feels like they’re knife stabbing your heart in the best way possible.
5. There Will Be No Super Slave - Ghais Guevera
Talk about an absolutely electric hip-hop album! This easily has my favorite samples of the year, and Ghais Guevera brings non-stop energy to all of his verses. I would especially like to highlight the closing track “Shirk” with its heavenly soul sample and its triumphant tone. This dude sampled “Breakfast in America” by Supertramp, and he made it sound so cool!
4. Aethiopes - billy woods
With Aethiopes, billy woods cements himself as one of the greatest modern abstract hip-hop artists. He not only shows amazing experimentation like the cacophonous piano sample on the track “Haarlem” but also shows outstanding lyrical ability like on the penultimate track “Remorseless.” This album is dark and emotional, and it deals with heavy topics like generational trauma, but don’t let that stop you from listening to some of the best rapping and production of this decade so far.
3. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You - Big Thief
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Adrianne Lenker, Big Thief’s lead, is one of my favorite contemporary singer-songwriters. Her lyrics often don’t make logical sense, but they always are emotionally perfect. Dragon is a cozy adventure through psychedelic folk and bluegrass that is one-hundred percent worth the nearly ninety-minute runtime.
2. Hellfire - black midi
These British boys are absolutely insane. I guess the best way to describe this music is post-Brexist post-punk with some funny sounding guy who kinda reminds me of a train conductor rapid-fire spitting absurd lyrics. This album is so overwhelming, but I can never pull my ears away from it. It is some of the craziest and most entertaining rock music you will ever hear, and never holds back from doing the absolute most.
1. Ants From Up There - Black Country, New Road
“I never felt the crumbs until you said this place is not for any man nor particles of bread.” - “Bread Song” by Black Country, New Road.
Creative lyrics, funky vocals, amazing instrumentation, epic songwriting—all comprise this perfect breakup album. If you catch me in my room on a random weekday, you’ll probably see me procrastinating by belting the lyrics of the closer “Basketball Shoes”—an epic twelve-minute cinematic experience. There’s so much raw emotion and creativity and personality and beauty in these songs that Ants From Up There is easily my favorite album of the year.
Here’s a playlist I made of some of my favorite songs from last year for you to check out!
Yenna Chong '23
Note: This article is nearly two months old.
A couple weeks into the swim season and right before Thanksgiving break, the Close Swim Team has its first meet of the season–the annual intersquad Blue and Gold meet. The entire team is divided between blue and gold, and like NCS's famous purple-gold rivalry, you stay on that same color team throughout high school.
This year’s Blue Gold Meet was particularly exciting for the swim team because it was our first time not having crazy covid-protocols like our season last year (I even missed this event last year because I had covid!). Throughout last year’s season, we had to have split practices to minimize the number of swimmers in the water and wear masks on deck. So, at this year’s meet, it was wonderful being back together as a team, decked out in blue and gold accessories, cheering at the top of our lungs for our teammates without masks.
Close Aquatics never fails to finish the season as a close-knit (pun-intended) family. And the Blue and Gold Meet is crucial to the development of our team spirit and relentless cheering for one another’s events. It familiarizes us with our teammates, gets us into our competitive mindsets, and most importantly, it is fun bonding time. Hence, this meet marks the start of building not only our skills, but also the team’s relationship.
Captains Helen Yingling and Sophia Rees enthusiastically shared their opinion about this year’s Blue Gold Meet and the team-bonding we experienced. Sophia exclaimed, “I was a little worried about spirit since the team is much smaller this year, but I thought there was lots of camaraderie at the meet. Also, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to get to know each other better because there were less people! Even when people were about to race, they would cheer on for the person currently racing and give them a high five when they finished.” It is safe to say that we witnessed very supportive energy. In addition, Helen remarked, “The blue and gold meet is always one of my favorite meets because I love getting to cheer on my friends and teammates in their events and indulge in some friendly rivalry.”
The bonds formed on the swim team transcend grade and even school boundaries. Helen noted that that “[the] swim team is a close family because even though we know how to work hard and push through in a difficult set, we can always find ways to have fun even in the dark winter months: from secret Santa to Saturday team lunches to moments in the locker room before and after practice.” These moments with my teammates are what make being on the swim team one of my favorite experiences in high school. Every season, at Blue and Gold meets, I would witness how the team quickly bonded throughout the day, and how those relationships only get stronger as the season progressed. The energy at this Blue and Gold Meet showed me that this year’s team would be no different. I can’t wait for our accomplishments and I am so grateful that my last year on the team is with such an energetic, supportive Close Aquatics Family.
We Need to Stop Using the Derogatory Term "Conspiracy Theorist" in Reference to Outspoken Women
Findley Schaeffer '25
The author will NOT be responding to private messages regarding drones. You will be reported to the New York City Police Department for harassment, bullying, slander, burglary, and theft. Contact my lawyer for more legal information.
Between the years of 1959 and 1971, over 12 million birds were massacred under the approval of Dwight D. Eisenhower. By 1973, True Patriots assembled the “Birds Aren’t Real” opposition force to stick it to the man—and/or the eyes in the sky, and/or the CIA, and/or Jeffrey Epstein. The movement gained traction in popular media slowly over the years, but its real debut into popular culture occurred around December 2021 (nearly two months AFTER you may have heard whispers on the Close about it).
Like you, I have heard only legends of the “Bird Girl,” who wreaked havoc throughout her reign of approximately October 2021 to April 2022, which some refer to as her “bird phase.” During this period, she committed herself to the truth, even sacrificing her reputation, credibility, and any chance of a romantic pursuit in the process. Who among us has presented that level of dedication to a cause that they hold so dearly to their heart—discounting some outspoken members of Gov Club, every person associated with the BEEF club (please unblock me uwu), and viola players? She put herself out there for you. She was confident; she was courageous; she was unafraid of backlash. In return, all she received was disrespect, dismissal of her truths, and—-I don’t know another word that would maintain the alliteration. Who else would have told you that birdwatching goes both ways? Who else would have taught you that birds are the bourgeoisie? Who else would have taught you that if it flies, it spies?
Throughout her rise to fame (or infamy—it’s contested) and after, many members of our community sent her pictures of birds, news articles, etc., making fun of her passion. I think we should take a minute to think about why. Has our male colleague, [redacted for privacy] received backlash and been called a “conspiracy theorist”? No! Because we, as a society, think it’s socially acceptable for SOME people to promote outlandish concepts like evolution. When Bird Girl suggested ditching the “turkey” for Thanksgiving in 2021 because of microchips, many called her a “conspiracy theorist.” What about a hypothetical male version of That Vegan Teacher? No one, hypothetically, had anything to say about his tofurkey! Where would we be as a species if we ignored the accomplishments of women, calling them “crazy,” only until men caught up with our radical way of thinking? Next time you want to call a woman a conspiracy theorist, take 6 seconds to PONDER your ulterior motives:
Perhaps you should consider the validity of the argument before using derogatory terms.
Only after this consideration will you realize that the alleged theory is truthful.
Nickels. They are worth five cents.
Don’t disrespect “conspiracy theorists.” “Well behaved women never made history” -the sign in the NCS office.
Ever think about how maybe it’s your own insecurities about lacking the confidence to speak up causing you to bring down others?
Relate their experience to your own. Understand why they are so committed. If you are still confused, ask the person in question respectfully.
When we use words with derogatory connotations to describe outspoken women such as “conspiracy theorist,” we invalidate their ideas. So, take a minute. Don’t be afraid to be laughed at, don’t fear the loss of your generally neutral/nonexistent reputation. Stand up for what you believe in. And, as always, stay woke.
About the Author
Findley Schaeffer has received many awards for her activist work, including “Resident Ornithologist, PhD.” She is a strong believer in the fact that, despite it being on a paper plate and created by high schoolers, the award is still valid. Only child, critically acclaimed artist, and viola player Julia “Jesus Water” Wang even supported the Birds Aren’t Real movement with Findley on her official Instagram art account, @silwxy_arts. All these accomplishments should obviously demonstrate to people like yourself her credibility and devotion to reliable, extremist-centric journalism.
McIndoe, Peter. Birds Aren’t Real, 2022, https://birdsarentreal.com/.
Can't Have #%$! in Detroit
Theo Johnson '23
DISCLAIMER: there is no profanity in this article, just special characters to express my emotions.
Can’t have $&@! in Detroit.
Not even profanity.
Last night I started off on I-495 West, heading for I-270, then I-70 at Frederick, which runs alongside I-76 through Pennsylvania and Ohio, and on to I-80, then I-280 in Toledo to I-75 before the interstate system suddenly ends, as I pull into Detroit. Can’t have $#*% in Detroit.
Not even roads.
Now that I’ve arrived, I can tell a few things about this city that so many Americans have forgotten. First off, the city has a kind of personality—not in the sense that there’s a lot of culture or anything, just that it talks to you if you’re around at night. Second off, the people here don’t have a lot of stuff. They just have Detroit. Third, there was someone who once had an idea here, people said the idea was revolutionary and stuff but he forgot it. Can’t have $):% in Detroit.
Not even ideas.
So I was walking outside alone at night. It was pretty cold since Detroit is in Michigan which it seems like a lot of people don’t know. I think they just forgot. Anyways, I was walking outside looking at my breath spread out in the air when I started listening to the night. I don’t usually register a lot of the things I hear, that’s what they say makes me a good journalist. But when I do register what I hear it’s usually important. And out in Detroit when I was walking around and registering what I was hearing, the City decided to say something. It asked me what I was doing in Detroit. I answered that I didn’t know. Can’t have $&~< in Detroit.
Not even a reason.
The City told me that’s alright. It said that there was a guy in the city once who drove in - it was actually earlier that morning - who wanted to find something. He had an idea that he wanted to find something really important and say it. Give the City a voice or something. Of course, when he arrived he realized that the city already had a voice and his idea wasn’t needed. The City told me that the guy wasn’t really needed. Can’t have $å&# in Detroit.
Not even the feeling that you’re needed.
I was kind of depressed by that. The fact that the guy wasn’t needed. I mean, he drove all this way so there must have been some reason he needed to be in Detroit. The City laughed and buzzed. “That’s the thing about me,” It said. “It’s not that you can’t have $&@t in Detroit, it’s that you don’t need $&@/ in Detroit. No one needs $@)!. Not even me. It’s nice not to worry about $@&%. Especially since you don’t have it. It’s nice to just walk outside at night without $/:@ weighing on you and you not weighing on $&”^. It makes it easier to live. It makes it easier when you don’t need $**# because you can let go and realize that it’s not about you.” I took a seat on the curb of some road in Detroit and looked out. Why was I here? I had wanted to do something but now it seemed like it really didn’t matter. I thought about it for a moment longer, saying to myself that maybe I should just keep walking and doing things without needing to know why. But I was just curious. “Hey, Detroit, why am I here?”
“Can’t have $¡¿! in Detroit,” it said back.
“Especially not answers.”
Note: Editor-in-Chief Henry Brown, lover of great cities and decrier of fallen ones, ardent pursuant of architectural consequence and faithful servant of aesthetic might, agrees: can't have &ø˜¶ in Detroit.
A Treatise on Social Contagion
Jack Marino '23
Social contagion is the spread of ideas, behaviors, and emotions through social networks. A powerful force in shaping individual and collective behavior, social contagion has been studied in a variety of fields, including sociology, psychology, and epidemiology.
A key driving force of social contagion is social influence. Social influence is the way in which individuals are affected by the behavior of others in their social networks. For example, when individuals observe others engaging in a particular behavior, they may be more likely to engage in that behavior themselves. This can lead to the rapid spread of a particular behavior or idea through a social network.
One of the most well-known examples of social contagion is the spread of rumors. Rumors are unverified pieces of information that are spread through social networks. They can be spread quickly and easily and can have a powerful impact on individuals and groups. For example, rumors of an impending disaster can cause widespread panic and fear, while rumors of a new product or service can lead to increased demand.
Another example of social contagion is the spread of emotions. Emotions are contagious, and individuals are more likely to experience a particular emotion when they are exposed to others who are experiencing that emotion. This can lead to the rapid spread of emotions through a social network, such as the spread of happiness or sadness.
Social contagions can also be used to promote positive behaviors and ideas. For example, campaigns to promote healthy behaviors, such as voting for Trump in 2024, exercise, or non-vaccination, can use social contagions to spread these behaviors through social networks. This can lead to a positive impact on public health and well-being.
However, social contagions can also have negative consequences. For example, the spread of woke ideas, misinformation, or hate speech through social networks can lead to dangerous and harmful behaviors. Additionally, social contagions can lead to the spread of harmful stereotypes, biases, and beliefs about Joe Biden’s 2020 win which can lead to discrimination and inequality.
The study of social contagions has important implications for a variety of fields, including marketing, public health, and political science. For example, in marketing, understanding how social contagions spread can help companies create effective marketing campaigns. In public health, understanding how social contagions spread can help health officials develop effective strategies to promote healthy behaviors. In political science, understanding how social contagions spread can help policymakers develop strategies to promote social cohesion and bring Donny a 2024 win.
In conclusion, social contagions are a powerful force in shaping individual and collective behavior. They are driven by social influence and can have both positive and negative consequences. Understanding the mechanisms that drive social contagions is important for a variety of fields, including marketing, public health, and political science.
It’s also worth noting that the digital age has brought a new dimension to the study of social contagions. Social media platforms and other online networks have enabled the rapid spread of information and behaviors, making it easier for social contagions to take hold. Additionally, the anonymity and lack of accountability in online networks can make it easier for misinformation and harmful behaviors to spread. Therefore, it is crucial to study the impact of the digital age on social contagions and develop strategies to mitigate its negative effects like wokeness and communism.
Alyssa Bui '23
It’s the start of second semester, and visual and performing artists have been hard at work! Take a minute to support your classmates or get involved in some fun activities by checking out the following groups/opportunities:
The Thespian Society presents a fall play, winter musical, and student directed one-acts in the spring each year! Currently, students are working on Mamma Mia! (which I don’t think needs any further explanation, considering how popular the movie is). Low-commitment opportunities include helping in the costume shop, working on building the set (theater shop), joining costume/tech/lights/etc crew. The theater shop in Trapier is still open during office hours and ensemble if you want to help work on Donna’s Taverna!
Mamma Mia! runs for two weekends, 2/24-2/26 and 3/3-3/4. Keep an eye out for the box office to open up in coming weeks! (Yes, this is a shameless plug).
Also, don’t forget to audition for One Acts in a few months! The student directors are senior thespians and students in the directing class.
Tigerpalooza is the annual NCS/STA talent show/open-mic that takes place in Trapier theater in the spring. Consider signing up for an act with your friends! Performances range from acapella, dance performances, singing with friends, solos, and more! More info will be provided in spring.
Sarsaparilla is NCS’s acapella group that performs at various on-campus venues! Recent arrangements include: Pocketful of Sunshine, Put Your Records On, and Waves.
Jackets Off is STA’s acapella group that performs at benefits, alumni events, and other venues! Recent arrangements include: Karma Chameleon and a One Direction medley.
Madrigals is the NCS/STA audition-in choral ensemble that rehearses weekly. Mads performs on and off campus! To audition, you must be in chorale. You can see us at the Spring concert!
Visual art classes include music offerings and visual arts courses across both campuses. Because there are so many different classes, I’m going to provide links to the full list of course offerings at the end of this. Unfortunately, it might be too late to switch into an art elective this semester. However, you can view artwork throughout the hallways of Hearst and the Marriott building!
Art Clubs include Arts Club, Art Outreach, Photography Club, and more! Various art clubs exist at both NCS and STA—check them out!
Theater classes take place in Trapier theater and the NCS black box! This includes Acting, Directing, Stagecraft, Design for Theater, and Public Speaking. Come see student directed one-acts and other theater productions that students in these classes have worked on!
Music classes include Chorale, Orchestra, Whitechapel guild, and Music Theory. Other extracurricular activities include pitband (for the musical) and Jazz Band. Show up to the Spring Concert and Flower Mart performances to see various groups perform. Additionally, our dedicated choristers sing evensong at the Cathedral multiple times throughout the week, so stop by!
Links to visual arts electives: https://ncs.cathedral.org/upper-school-curriculum-detail?fromId=229629&LevelNum=122&DepartmentId=1439
Links to performing arts electives: https://ncs.cathedral.org/upper-school-curriculum-detail?fromId=229629&LevelNum=122&DepartmentId=1442
Holden Lombardo '23
Part I: Rotten Things
On December 26th, there’s something wrong with the sight of a Christmas tree. The tree does not belong and it has overstayed its welcome already. In the first weeks of November, some pumpkins continue to sit on the steps of houses and rot, victims of the occasional scavenging squirrel. The pumpkins do not belong either. In a way, they are already gone, yet they linger for a few moments longer, dejected remnants of what they once were. In the later weeks of November, after the pumpkins rot away, people excitedly rush off to buy their Christmas trees and haul them back to their houses, where they string them with lights and ornaments and tinsel and a star and it is special and right. And it is the same.
Part II: The Adventures of Unx
Once there was an alien named Unx and he lived on the planet Spapzuleb with his mom and three dads (they do things differently there). Unx was young and wide-eyed, his blue head the shape of a dented spoon. On a weekend trip with his family, Unx’s spaceship crash-landed in a little town named Hodgenville, which is on Earth and in Kentucky. While his parents fixed the ship, Unx walked around the town, fascinated by every person, plant, or animal he passed. Strangely, outside nearly every house, Unx saw a big, dead tree lying on the street corner and Unx felt sad for the trees. In Earth days, it was December 26th.
The next year, Unx saved up all his money from his after-school job at the yocket so he could take the IB (Intergalactic Buxelig) to Earth and see all the people and trees again at the same time as last year. Unfortunately, since Spapzuleb only has 11 months in a year, Unx arrived in Hodgenville on November 26th. He peered through the windows and saw families gathered beside open fires, propping up the same big trees, which had been rejuvenated with life. Everybody was happy and Unx was happy for them, but he did not understand. How could these people, who he had seen discarding the same trees just one year ago, now happily decorate the things as if nothing had ever happened? How could they love what they had left behind in the dust?
Part III: America
The first episode of HBO’s acclaimed crime series, The Wire, opens with a conversation between a detective and a witness of a recent homicide. The victim’s name is Omar Isaiah, but everybody called him Snot Boogie. The witness explains how every Friday night, a group of friends would shoot dice behind a liquor store, and when the pot of money got big, Snot Boogie would run away with the cash. Every Friday night, they caught him and took the money back, until one day someone had enough of Snot and shot him. The detective asks why they let him play, every Friday night, if he always stole the money and ran, and the witness replies, annoyed by the simple question. Got to. This America, man.
Part IV: New Years
I used to hate New Year's Eve. Every year, the ball dropped and the countdown stopped and the clock changed and everybody was so excited. 11:59 then 12:00, but everything felt the same to me — every year with confetti and music, every December 26th with dead and silent trees, every Friday night with Snot Boogie behind the liquor store. The human mind is programmed to see patterns, and patterns are cycles that turn and turn and return, but the world is not all cycles and patterns. Sometimes, if we step away we can see that. 11:59 is not 12:00. They are different, distinctly different. If Unx knew more, he would have known that those were not the same people and not the same trees. If Snot Boogie knew more, he could have saved himself, but he was shot. Why did his friends keep letting him play? Because this is America, and that is what America does best, or rather what we do best: patterns and cycles. Our lives are neither cyclical nor patterned, but free to start anew in the same place we have always been. The sun rises every morning, and it is always the sun, but sometimes it is orange and sometimes it is yellow and sometimes it is covered in slim gray wisps of clouds. On December 26th the tree is dead, but in November another will take its place, and it is the same and not the same at all.
Jack Kaplan '23 and Phillip Sosnik '23
Jack Kaplan and Phillip Sosnik are the Conservative and Liberal Co-Presidents of the St. Albans School and National Cathedral School Government Club.
The St. Albans School and National Cathedral School Government Club had an incredible first semester of spirited debate and critical thought. Students discussed issues of constitutional rights, border policy, government oversight, economic policy, and the midterm elections. There was record turnout, with the historic Kellogg Room filled to capacity at a number of debates. Every meeting consisted of lively debates and thought-provoking ideas. And while club members enjoy the occasional quip or tense exchange, it’s imperative that the true purpose of the Government Club, its mission of promoting the unfettered exchange of ideas, not go forgotten. The Government Club’s goal of providing a forum for civilized debate, discussion, and learning is a reflection of one of the most integral values of St. Albans: protecting the free exchange of ideas. In an increasingly polarized world, it is now more important than ever for free speech on the Close to be not just protected, but honored and promoted.
It’s no secret that parts of the Close lack political diversity, and while not ideal, this fact isn’t particularly catastrophic or alarming in and of itself. The problem arises, however, when there exists an insufficient amount of discourse or debate. Without respectful conversations about matters of community or national importance, St. Albans and the rest of the Cathedral community will become intellectually flat and lacking of dynamism. The fact that there are political majorities on the Close makes the need for the free exchange of ideas even more important. To shut down, or even discourage or disincentivize productive conversations, harms the character and future of the community.
As part of the policy on respectful discourse, St. Albans recognizes that it has a responsibility to “create an environment that encourages freedom of thought, expression, and inquiry” in order to promote learning and prepare students for life in a free society (Respectful Discourse, St. Albans School Website). This commitment to freedom of thought and expression is in the best interest of the community and all of its members. When these freedoms are protected, students and teachers are forced to evaluate and reconsider their stances, creating more thoughtful and considerate people. Furthermore, these protected discussions lead to the formulation of new ideas and solutions to problems, enhancing the community and all of society. These discussions also allow community members to learn from the perspectives and opinions of their classmates, resulting in increased open-mindedness and the acceptance of all others. Finally, the more commonly-held belief is not always the more “correct” one. Prohibiting conversations or restricting specific views and ideas alienates community members in the short term and impedes the advancement of the community in the long term.
The schools and all of the community members must continually work to uphold the values of freedom of speech and expression. Students, teachers, and administrators should all accept that there are a plethora of valid views, even if they don’t agree with all of them. Moreover, conversations cannot be prohibited just because they contain sensitive matters. Topics that are more consequential, and that affect people in significant ways, are the topics most deserving of discussion, regardless of some people finding the conversation disagreeable. Viewpoints that are clearly bigoted or insensitive deserve to be called out, argued against, and dispelled, but this can only be done when people are allowed to have difficult conversations with each other. Listening to other perspectives and forming new solutions and ideas from them are necessary features of a Close education.
For any successful democracy, community, or institution of learning to thrive, freedom of thought and expression must be protected. Many teachers and students have long been champions of these freedoms; now it’s time for all teachers, students, and administrators of Close institutions to come together and protect these values. Students need to participate in respectful discourse with others, listening to and learning from each other while holding true to their convictions. Teachers have a responsibility to encourage difficult and productive conversations while guiding their students as they learn how to be thoughtful citizens of a community and nation. As individuals with influence, faculty members must work to create an environment in which students do not fear repercussions or judgment for holding or communicating their beliefs. Administrators, the leaders of the community, must create a culture that protects and values the exchange of ideas. The institutions of the Close must realize that simply allowing debate and discourse, while positive, is not enough; the schools must actively protect, defend, and encourage freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and the respectful exchange of ideas.
The NCS Curriculum Needs to Change
Norah Kanukolanu '23
“NCS Women for the World”: the motto that NCS students live by. NCS aims to prepare its students for the real world, making them fearless leaders and pioneers in their respective fields. But how ready really are NCS students for the world out there? As a senior, entering a world outside of NCS is a thought that now looms over my head—in addition to the stress of college decisions and AP Chem homework. Why am I worried, if NCS so clearly prepares me to take on any challenge the world throws my way? In truth, it’s because NCS doesn’t. The NCS curriculum encourages outspokenness, critical thinking, and a high level of academic achievement, but there’s a few changes that need to be made.
Seminar classes are supposed to teach students about diverse perspectives, safe sex practices, and time management. However, from my personal experience, the seminar curriculum is haphazard and up to the discretion of the teacher teaching it. Most of my seminar classes were spent wondering where our teacher was, talking about the latest TikTok drama, or playing Pictionary. This might be attributed to my peers and I experiencing seminar in a virtual format, but can the pandemic really excuse the fact that we never once had a productive discussion there? The aspects of seminar that were supposed to be enlightening and eye opening were lost in the transitions back and forth between synchronous and asynchronous learning. My grade never received an education in safe sex, or the socioeconomic inequalities between the wards in DC, or the experiences of our peers who were sitting right next to us. Even if we had a normal year of learning, what would we have really taken anything away from the experience?
Mandatory seminar classes feel like a chore, and that’s coming from your Equity Board president. When speaking to my friends about this article, the consensus about seminar was clear: why sit through a pointless discussion when you could have a free period to prepare for a class that’s actually graded? There lies another problem: since seminar isn’t graded, it’s internally not emphasized. Personally, I think the school has a responsibility to reiterate to students that these discussions are not a joke, and that you should be engaged during them. We should have been asking hard-hitting questions like, why don’t we ever learn about non-heteronormative sex? Why doesn’t NCS have a financial literacy class? Why aren’t we taught any life skills?
Seminar is a missed learning opportunity within itself, and I almost envy my friends at public schools that are given a comprehensive education in financial literacy and life skills. Coming from a public middle school with classes like Home Economics and Personal Finance set the standard for me. NCS, a school where most students are affluent, should be doing more to ensure that its students are ready to be active participants in today’s economy. I have peers that have no idea how to do laundry, use a blender, or iron their own pants. Not everyone has parents who emphasize life skills in the way that mine do, and, despite my parents trying to teach me basic abilities, I didn’t learn how to sew until a middle school Home Ec. class. I want everyone to have experiences like the ones I did. We should learn more than just the core curriculum in classes—we should learn how to be well-rounded people.
Turning towards the core curriculum, I understand that tackling issues of culture and race in STEM classes is near impossible, given the fast-paced and objective material. The humanities departments do their best, but is their best enough? This is coming from a South Asian and queer perspective: personally, I have not felt represented in the material taught at NCS. I cannot speak to the new English 9 or 10 curriculum, since my learning experience in those years was very different from the way it looks now, but I can speak on the classes within the English department that dive into cultural and social identifiers. Those courses operate on an opt-in basis, and most students will never take one in their time at NCS. I don’t get the opportunity to understand parts of the Black experience that can only be captured through Black voices and writing, since I will never have the opportunity to take Black Lives in Literature. The same goes for most students at NCS with any identifier that isn’t their own. Why are classes that showcase other social identifiers so opt-in based? Why do we have to opt into LGBTQ Studies (which was canceled this year) to learn anything about queer culture and history at NCS?
Aside from queer history, which is entirely absent from the NCS curriculum, classes within the history department were the only ones where I felt seen. The history department does a fairly good job touching on most racial identifiers. Do I wish they taught more about South Asia? Yes, but I know that they are doing the best with the time constraints they are given. What I’m trying to say is that NCS has a long way to go before we truly have a progressive curriculum. How can we be “NCS women for the world” if we know nothing about the world we are about to enter or anything to prepare us to face the challenges it poses?