Lauren Lucy Caddell ‘23
With the return of a semblance of normalcy this month across the Close comes the return of school sports, back in full force for the fourth quarter. Both the ISL and IAC sports leagues are now allowing inter-school competitions with certain restrictions. Is the return to competitive sports safe?
With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, most sports followed the example of the leagues’ relaxed guidelines and returned to their normal operations even if it means wearing masks and social distancing during the practices and games. The ISL girls’ league, especially, has been strict in its mask mandate for competitions and practices. Although the IAC, in which STA takes part, has more relaxed mask rules, practices still do not feel normal yet. For example, participants in fall cross country meets were spaced out to allow for safe distancing, which made the races much more individualized. “The main issue with long distance running this year is that one’s teammates motivate one to push himself much harder than he would by himself; thus most people are training a little less rigorously and not reaching their full potential,” STA sophomore John Rhee pointed out. “Also, the meets are smaller which makes them seem less competitive – not to mention it makes pacing more difficult.”
It’s not just cross country that suffered changes to their normal routine – almost every sport had to revise its approach at least slightly, some in more drastic ways than others. The NCS crew team normally practices on the Potomac River in the afternoons, sharing their boathouse with several other schools. But this year, due to each team needing the boathouse to themselves, NCS crew practices start at 5:30 in the morning. The early hour discouraged many rowers, but after several days of settling in, the advantages of early practice were made clear. At first it was a struggle to imagine waking up so early, but now, Makenzie Reilly ‘23 realizes, “By the time school starts I can already say I have completed a two-hour workout and it’s a such a relieving feeling knowing that you have already been so productive at 7:30 in the morning. I also feel much less stressed getting school work done because I now have more time to finish it in the afternoon.”
It’s clear, however, that we aren’t quite back to normal yet. Cross country runners were recently disappointed when their preseason camp in Vermont, a long-standing tradition, was cancelled for the second year in a row due to a Close-wide ban on off-grounds camps for the fall. For many runners, the camp is one of the highlights of the autumn season, and its removal at first confused many runners upset that the schools were being careful so far in advance. But aspects of normal continue to trickle back, slowly but surely, as the schools re-integrate. Even without preseason camp, cross-country meets will most likely return to normal next school year, and some kind of preseason will occur for almost every fall sport that normally has one.
It’s not only the crew team where a COVID-19 adjustment has improved the team’s mindset. Even with the changes in competition restrictions and scheduling, the response to the lengthening of practices and the return of the competitive aspect of school sports has been overwhelmingly positive. Sports have long been a foundation of life on the Close, and having it every day helps boost the sense of normalcy that has been missing on campus for so long.
Elizabeth Khludenev ‘23
The return to full-time, in-person school after spring break has triggered many different feelings and opinions across the Close. Whether it is NCS or STA, we are all (quite ironically) learning to re-adjust to the way our schedules used to be before the pandemic. Many different factors play a role in the positions students take regarding the way our school life will look for the rest of the year.
On one hand, many students are glad to be able to finally see their friends and classmates in different cohorts and learn in real classrooms. Audrey Scott ‘23 said that returning back to school “allows her to talk to some people that she might not have seen in over a year,” and Lindsay Wiegmann ‘23 added that “even something as small as saying ‘Hi’ to someone in the hallways adds to the joy of finally being on campus.” Other than social interactions, many students have expressed that they find it much easier to pay attention when they are sitting in an actual classroom and can talk with their teachers freely rather than through Zoom. In fact, an STA student Holden Lombardo ‘23 stated that he found himself “understanding new topics more easily” when he returned to in-person learning. Overall, the ability to interact with more of their classmates and learn in a regular environment gives students what STA student Teddy Palmore ‘23 calls “an increased sense of normalcy” which, in turn, augments excitement about going to school and learning each day.
On the other hand, a harsher reality hits when many students realize that they feel exhausted after an entire day of academics and sports. Caitlin Hollingshead ‘23 said that she “takes a nap when she gets home from school because she is so tired.” This has been felt by many other students as they transition from hybrid learning to attending classes full time. Walking across campus from class to class surely takes more energy than sitting at a desk and clicking through Zoom lessons all day, especially when there is no week-long break in between, so these sentiments make sense. Jane Puryear ‘23 additionally explains that she “is exhausted either way, whether she is on zoom or in-person.” Whether it is on the same level as Zoom fatigue or not, the in-person schedule is affecting students’ overall tiredness after each school day, but these transitional side effects will surely wear off as we get back into the groove of (almost) regular school.
No one feels only one way about full-time in person learning. While the pros of finally seeing our friends and being in helpful learning environments help us to find joy in our everyday academic lives, downsides like the endless after-school fatigue remind us that this transition is not perfect. Regardless of these sentiments, it is at least encouraging for us all to know that a return to full-time school hints at a long-awaited end to the pandemic and a return to a life resembling the one we knew before the Spring Break of last year.
Hugh Barringer '21
On April 5, I returned to school fresh off of spring break, eagerly awaiting the prospect of packed classrooms and reunions with people I hadn’t seen in over a year. However, until one of my classmates asked me to help him grab some Gatorade for the Tounge that his mother had dropped off, I was oblivious to what would await me just outside of Sam’s Bar. Gazing upon this tent, I was dumbfounded with how amazing the Tounge actually is.
The Tounge, a portmanteau that combines the words “tent” and “lounge,” similar to the normal senior hangout spot called the sky lounge (a.k.a. the Skounge), features everything you could ever need to pass the time – a putting green, a Spikeball net, cornhole, a ping-pong table, and an ever-dwindling supply of lawn chairs. Furthermore, parents of seniors refill the snack table in the Tounge every morning, of which the Senior Class has taken full advantage. As amazing as this setup is, the Tounge can never make up for the Seniors’ lost year, which was the intention of creating the Tounge. There simply is no amount of Spikeball, ping-pong, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts that can make up for what we’ve lost over the past year. Yet, it’s safe to say that all parties involved, whether it’s the faculty at STA or my fellow classmates, have made the best of an incredibly difficult situation.
However, for me, the highlight of the Tounge isn’t the games or snacks – though those are amazing – but the fact that people are always there. During hybrid learning, I can remember multiple instances where, upon arriving early at school to drop my sister off, (aside: the lack of schedule coordination between the schools this year has been abysmal) I sat alone in my classroom and looked at my phone until someone else showed up five minutes before class. I’ve also endured countless study halls *ahem* free periods *ahem* where I was the only senior in the library and many lunches where I couldn’t find another senior in the lunch tent. While these situations might not have been daily, they were frequent enough to make my experience much less enjoyable compared to now. With the Tounge, seniors now want to continue coming to school and connect with their classmates. Even if I arrive at school an hour before my first class, there is always someone in there. In that respect, my favorite time to be in the Tounge is during my free period. With only six or eight people in the tent, the chaos that accompanies periods when everyone is in there – and the friend group sorting that comes with the crowdedness – is gone. In those moments, I experience the STA community at its best, knowing the fact that whatever group of six to eight of my classmates is in a space, I will enjoy and cherish the time I spend with them.
Sammy Dereje '21
The United States’ southern border has long been a point of contention. The multiple layers of complexity afforded to the situation make it easy for many people to say they disagree with each other, even if they agree in principle. But, while we have the luxury to sit around and discuss this issue, thousands and thousands of people are suffering.
One of the most egregious recent events occurring along the southern border involved the separation of children from their parents upon arrival in the United States. While this separation is being resolved by a task force now, there’s no telling how the trauma of these experiences will affect young migrants. Videos of children being afraid of their parents or not wanting to interact with them after being reunited is truly heartbreaking. Regardless of which side of this issue you fall on, I hope everyone can realize that no child should ever have to be subjugated to the treatment that migrant children face right now.
Upwards of 600 children have been stuffed into a room meant for 32, separated by only plastic walls just a few weeks ago. Additionally, Custom and Border Protection’s main processing center for migrant children is currently holding about 4,100 migrants: it’s meant to hold just 250 people under the CDC’s guidelines. These conditions are unacceptable, and something needs to be done. This “something,” however, should not be a blanket statement to close the borders and simply send all migrants back to their country of origin. That solves nothing. Your status as a United States citizen or resident of whatever country does not absolve you of any responsibility towards issues that may not directly affect you. What I mean by this is we cannot allow ourselves to wipe our hands clean and push the southern border off as somebody else’s problem. We cannot tell migrants that their problems are not of our concern; their problems, directly or indirectly, should be treated as if they were ours.
As more and more migrants find their way to the United States’ southern border, it’s becoming increasingly imperative that some action is taken. Whether that action be on the side of the United States, its southern neighbors, or both, the people searching for a better and safer life deserve more. This past March saw U.S. agents encounter a record high of 18,663 unaccompanied minors. Clearly, stripping aid from these southern countries and saying “Don’t come” is not working. Currently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to address some more severe overcrowding by moving unaccompanied minors to larger areas while they work to release them to “sponsors” that tend to be family or close relatives in the United States.
We must look to address this border crisis from a multilateral perspective, giving voices to those who are fleeing their homes and offering solutions or aid to confront this world problem. Just as Rome was not built in a day, we can’t expect a quick fix. It will take time. However, we can’t expect the necessary commitment required of those in charge to find a resolution.
Stella- Grace Ford ‘23
In January, UN Women UK commissioned a study on sexual harassment, interviewing over 1,000 women in the United Kingdom. It found that 97% of women aged 18-24, and 70% of all women experienced harassment in public spaces. News of the study quickly spread due to the seeming absurdity of such a large number. It prompted a trend on Tiktok where women shared stories of instances of harassment, prompting #NotAllMen to trend on Twitter. However, for many of us, the 97% is surprising but not shocking.
If you’re a woman, you know that sexual harassment is just a fact of life. Assault and harassment are also problems for men, but due to their increased prevalence for women, we learn ways to protect ourselves at a very early age. We know not to wear low-cut shirts in dark alleys at night, to always text our friends when we get into male-driven Ubers, and that our male friends have freedom and safety in a way that we don’t. Before I even knew what sex was, I knew to not play in the yard alone because sometimes people like little girls a little too much. Nonetheless, many remain unconvinced of this reality.
We’re all familiar with the “what happened to innocent until proven guilty?”-s and “she doesn’t even have any proof!”-s that resound when sexual assault cases go public. To some extent, they’re right. It’s important for the accused to have trials, and it’s their right as citizens to due process of law. False accusations are very real and very dangerous, but if there’s anything that the 97% study has shown us, it’s that these types of comments are sloppy coverups of the much bigger epidemic of men systemically discrediting victims of harassment. This study doesn’t have specifics or names, and it’s not a public trial before the Senate, but the same voices are saying those same things about the results’ validity. This isn’t Christine Blasey Ford vs Brett Kavanaugh or Monica Lewinsky vs Bill Clinton, yet people still take it upon themselves to insist that somehow the 97% statistic is inaccurate and overexaggerated.
A common issue with the study is that it includes being stared at and having men walk uncomfortably close as sexual harassment - some people consider those unrelated to sexual dynamics. These people don’t understand that sexual harassment isn’t necessarily about sex, but it’s always about power. Harassment is a purposeful strategy for men to demonstrate how they view women as powerless and sexual. Every catcall or uncomfortably long stare is meant to disturb the recipient. Harassment isn’t about women having some innate sexual allure, it’s about men purposefully demeaning women to lift themselves up. When women call out this blatant abuse of power, men close ranks, and the #NotAllMen movement resurfaces. The only thing that #NotAllMen has accomplished is proving that some men are more afraid of admitting their power in society than of harassing women. Movements like these coupled with the widespread public backlash that sexual harassment victims face creates an environment which actively discourages women from coming forward, serving as a tool to enforce the power that men hold. This culture furthers the lack of trust that women have in authority.
We often wonder why victims of sexual assault don’t speak up until their accuser is well-known, claiming that they only seek publicity. But what incentive do we give these women when our reaction to sexual assault is “hmm, I don’t think so”? We’ve taught women every possible method of avoidance and protection, and it clearly hasn’t worked. If we want to actually discourage sexual harassment, we need to stop blaming the victims and shift our focus to the perpetrators. The 97% proves what many of us have already known: female sexual harassment isn’t women’s issue, it’s men’s.
Sasha Perkins ‘22
After hearing almost a year of debate about how George Floyd died, why he died, and if he should have died, one question remains: “why does it matter?”. Why does it matter if a black man was high when he was killed? Why does it matter if he was resisting? Why does it matter if he was guilty? All too often we put black men – the VICTIMS of police brutality – on trial instead of their killers. This learning moment in our nation’s history is a time to turn the lens of accountability away from victims and on onto the people and institutions that perpetrate this behavior.
Over the past month, we have heard Derek Chauvin’s defense attempt to put George Floyd on trial time and time again. They called witnesses testifying that Floyd was killed by an opioid addiction, or somehow high blood pressure took his life. Despite video evidence from multiple angles, the courts continue to preserve this method of defense: “the victim was not slaughtered by the defendant, he slaughtered himself.”
However, the courts are not the only ones responsible for this unjust distribution of accountability. America has a culture of victim blaming: leaving your car unlocked is practically an excuse for thieves to steal it, forgetting to close your kitchen window is an invitation for robbery, and a young women “asks for” rape when she wears provocative clothing. Victims carry the heavy weight of shame on their shoulders as they attempt to rebuild the dignity their perpetrator and society took from them. It’s time for us to turn the lenses of blame into mirrors onto ourselves for reinforcing this behavior. Something as simple as referring to these past few weeks as the “George Floyd trial” subconsciously puts George Floyd on trial. In addition to saying names to honor the victims of police brutality (Breonna Taylor, George Floyd Daute Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Atatianna Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Michelle Cusseaux, Freddie Gray, Janisha Fonville, Eric Gardner, Akai Gurley, Gabriella Nevarez, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Tanisha Anderson), we must hold their murderers accountable by saying their names: Brett Hankinson, Derek Chauvin, Kimberly Ann Potter, Garret Rolfe, Mark Vaughn, Aaron Dean, David Reid, Terrence Mercadal, Amber Guyger, Jeronimo Yanez, Blane Salamoni, Percy Dupra, Anthony Holzhauer, Daniel Pantaleo, Peter Liang, Timothy Loehmann, Darren Wilson, Scott Aldridge, and Bryan Myers.
Furthermore, as the world watches the Derek Chauvin trial unfold, I hold out hope for a conviction. I want to believe justice is possible and that the jurors will see the agonizing video we have all watched on repeat and affirm that Chauvin is guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt. However, hope is risky. We are constantly reminded that the system often protects those it was designed to serve, and rarely serves justice to the citizens who need it most. American history is damning testimony of how people of color have been forced to emotionally detach to protect themselves from heart-wrenching disappointment. The killers of Rodney King, Travon Martin, and Philando Castille all walked free despite overwhelming evidence against them.
George Floyd’s death was caught on multiple cameras from many different angles by smartphones with high quality audio and video. While I hope that the jurors will use their own eyes and ears for the truth, I am hesitant to be confident they won’t acquit.
Teddy Palmore '23
In 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 150%. This deeply troubling surge came with the rise of anti-Chinese rhetoric from high-profile politicians stemming from COVID-19’s origins in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Former President Donald Trump, among others, shamelessly called the novel coronavirus everything ranging from “the China Virus” to “the Kung Flu.” The surge in hate crimes and hate speech against Asians comes as no surprise given the appalling and seemingly unchecked racism from some of the most powerful people in the country.
The oft-quoted aphorism “society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it” rings true for these hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Clearly our society is still at such an early stage of development that racist political rhetoric can cause such a colossal wave of senseless, hate-motivated violence. If society prepares the crime, the most important question we should ask ourselves is this: How do we UN-prepare the crime?
For students on the Close, the answer to this question feels difficult. We often feel powerless in the wake of seemingly distant racial violence. As students with little-to-no political power or influence, oftentimes we might feel that we can do nothing to change our society. However, the reality is that the Close is no exception when it comes to racism. Believing ourselves to be exempt from anti-racist reform only leads to the perpetuation of racism. So how, you might ask, can we on the Close help to stop the seemingly endless cycle of hate in the U.S.? In the absence of political power and money to donate to anti-racist causes, allyship is the best place to start.
A vital element of substantive allyship is self-education. Making an effort to learn about the racism our Asian classmates face can help us detect and prevent it. Learning about anti-Asian hate crimes and the harmful stereotypes that caused them also gives you the ability to thoughtfully discuss the issue with peers. Simply talking about racism can inform everyone involved in the conversation. Passivity will not help society progress past its deep-rooted and pervasive racist sentiments; active self-education is vital so that we can truly and effectively fight to reform societal norms.
Additionally, simply listen. Make sure that your Asian classmates know that they can depend on you for support as an ally. The more people who actively reach out to offer support, the closer our community moves towards becoming a totally accepting place for Asian students and faculty. Being there for your classmates also shows that you care about their well-being.
Complacency does not combat racism. To stop Asian hate, it is everyone’s duty to be an active ally. In order to help as an individual, each person must adopt a mindset of allyship and activism. Thinking with an open mind and listening with open ears are the first steps to ending the environment of racism in America and on the Close. I leave you with a quote from the great Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Kate Robinson ‘21
In the months and weeks leading up to his inauguration, Joe Biden was optimistic. Or at least, he had become practiced at projecting optimism. After his long and arduous battle for “the soul of America,” as he had become fond of saying on the campaign trail, he had won and seemed confident in his ability to take the reins of a divided country. At his inauguration- fittingly themed “America United”- Biden said, “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.” The new President Biden had some caveats as well. “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days… I know the forces that divide us and they are real.”
Three months later, Joe Biden hasn’t given up on unity. But, he has steadily shifted the goalposts. Biden frequently cites his long time in the Senate and his friendships cultivated across the aisle, and his administration hosts frequent meetings with Republican and bipartisan legislators. He has restored some degree of the oft-lauded civility that pundits and institutionalists were left pining over during the Trump years. So far, however, this celebration of bipartisanship has been more of an aesthetic choice than an actual policy commitment.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed through the House and Senate with only Democratic votes. Despite a stated willingness to compromise and meetings with congressional Republicans, the Biden policy team never budged from their original $1.9 trillion proposal. The package did go through some significant changes and adjustments before its passage, most notably when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the proposed $15 minimum wage could not be passed through budget reconciliation, Democrats’ only legislative option for avoiding Republican filibuster. But congressional Republicans had no moderating influence on the bill.
A Biden supporter with the Obama years still fresh in their mind might argue that regardless of what Democrats tried, Republicans would refuse to cooperate on legislation and fall back on the trademark obstruction they employed over the course of Obama’s eight years in office. That supporter wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Democrats, either wiser from their congressional history or traumatized from it, have learned from the bloody months-long saga of fruitless bipartisan Obamacare negotiations, which resulted only in revealing that Republican leadership had no intention of compromising and handing Obama a successful landmark bipartisan deal and made the budding Affordable Care Act steadily less and less popular.
But Biden and Democratic leadership haven’t thrown bipartisan policy to the wind and embraced large scale partisan legislation in a time of crisis. Biden and Press Secretary Jen Psaki would insist the historic relief bill was a victory for unity and bipartisanship, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. The President has cited the package’s remarkably high approval rating across partisan lines, with 62% of voters supporting the $1.9 trillion package over a smaller, more bipartisan relief bill (this poll was conducted by Data for Progress, a well-respected pollster popularly used in progressive politics). But that same poll found that voters still professed the virtues of bipartisanship, with 49% saying the broader concept was important to them. And seemingly, that broader concept is important to Joe Biden too. It just has yet to come into practice.
As Democrats gear up to begin the sausage making process for their equally bold and wide reaching infrastructure bill, the same theatrical gesture towards bipartisanship seems likely. Republicans are currently unified in their opposition to the bill, which is also quite popular across the aisle, but Biden tipped his hat towards negotiation. “Debate is open. Compromise is inevitable,” he stated. But the ambitious bill is also unlikely to face meaningful change as meetings begin with Republicans. As Biden also said, “we will not be open to doing nothing. Inaction is simply not an option.”
Joe Biden is, in many ways, a true institutionalist. As such a longtime veteran of the Senate, he has accrued decades of experience witnessing real deal making. Despite his current press strategy and claims of unity, he clearly knows what actual bipartisan legislation looks like. Either Joe Biden is lying, or after the obstruction of the Obama years and the vitriol of the Trump years, he believes his current legislative strategy is as close as we can get to unity in the America he’s been tasked with governing.
Sage Stretch ‘24
The Paris Climate Agreement was started by the United Nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change with a focus on accountability from nations with high emissions. The agreement was initially accepted in April 2016 with 196 signatories, including the United States under President Obama. In June of 2017, former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, citing concerns about its economic effects. Throughout his presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden promised to rejoin the agreement soon after swearing in. On his Inauguration Day, President Biden fulfilled his promise, taking a necessary and important step not only to prioritize the climate crisis but also to rebuild our international reputation.
The Paris Climate Accord is the first agreement of its size to truly hold countries accountable for their emissions and for exacerbating climate change. It vows to keep the planet under 2°C of warming from pre-industrial temperatures through climate mitigation and calls for countries to take preventative measures in the face of both global warming and increasing disasters, including the resulting massive migrations. When Trump impulsively withdrew from the agreement, it signaled that climate action was not a priority and that the United States would not collaborate on a global solution, which diminished its global authority. The United States further harmed its international standing when prominent U.S. officials denied the well-established science behind climate change. Pressuring developing countries to develop sustainably cannot be done when our government will not admit that we are in a climate crisis. When President Biden re-entered the agreement so quickly after taking office, he signaled to other countries that prioritizing climate action is vital, and that once again, we encourage solving global crises through alliance.
Restoring the international reputation of the United States will be challenging after a pattern of misinformation and false claims put forward by the government, but rejoining the agreement is one step in the right direction. The climate crisis will disproportionately affect those who contributed to it, meaning its costs will not mainly be borne by China, India, the United States, and other populated, developed or developing countries, but rather by disadvantaged communities already suffering from natural disasters, air pollution, overloading waste, and more. By acknowledging its role in global industrialization emissions, the United States takes appropriate responsibility. The Paris Climate Agreement is also signed by 194 other parties in the United Nations, and U.S. support proves our commitment to the United Nations and to the officials and scientists who created and supported this plan. Taken together, these actions help restore our international standing.
Climate action should not be treated as a box to check off the list. Signing the agreement is only one step in the large plan to recommit to solving the climate crisis and to rebuilding our international reputation. Energy conservation and sustainability, waste reduction, and minimizing air pollution are all far from complete, and international reputations are not restored with the stroke of a pen.