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Word from the Wise: Alex Schneider

By Alex Schneider
Published: December 2008

When my favorite Denebers asked me to write this column, the first thing I did (besides responding, “no and pretending that I had been run over by a garbage truck) was visit the archives on Denebola’s website and pull up an article that, I would argue, is one of the better opinion pieces published on these pages.

The opening line reads, “This will most likely be the last article I write for Denebola, unless I turn out to be one of those alumni that gets roped into ‘Ëœhelping out’ when I’m all the way in another state.

Those of you who follow Denebola history – and I know you’re out there – will recognize that this passage is taken from former Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Friedman’s final article in Denebola (until, ironically, her “Word from the Wise last month).  Aside from her initial sarcasm, she said some pretty profound things in that article, such as the following anecdote that I intend to quote at length, both because of its relevance and to fill the required word count.

“As Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Denebola, I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback. ‘ËœThere are seven typos on page one,’ is a favorite, said with such venom that one would assume that this mistake was something I had done to purposely upset the readers.

“’ËœYou got the track team records wrong,’ is fairly popular, too, again said with an air of assumption that we mess these things up to satisfy our own sick urges to make the team look bad. Also the occasional, especially uncreative, ‘ËœYour paper sucks!’ seemed a good way to cover all bases.

“These criticisms were never accompanied by their counterparts. I can promise no one ever said: ‘ËœOver 2000 words on page one are spelled correctly,’ or ‘ËœGood job getting the boys’ baseball record correct!’ Even just a simple ‘ËœNice job,’ was rare. But it is what I appreciated most, and it is what made me want to keep making Denebola the best it could be.

“The moral of my story? People find it easy to point out flaws because the flaws are what inconvenience them. We take for granted things that benefit us, so we don’t stop to notice them as frequently. But it is important to, at some point, stop scrutinizing the flaws and start appreciating all the things we take for granted. That is what I wish people would do for South.

Friedman’s words get at the heart of a secret that most of you really won’t internalize until you graduate from high school and start college: Newton South is a really good school and the experiences you have there are equal to, if not better than, some of the ones offered at the college level. I mean, where else do you have an official school newspaper with color better than The New York Times?

Take, for example, the finding of secret security cameras by my volume of Denebola last year. That disclosure set off fierce debate by both the school committee and community at large that culminated in a final recommendation last month, after 11 months.

In college, I meet students who come from schools where hall passes are the norm, student parking is disallowed, and doors are locked. Some even went through security when entering the building each day. Newton South is a different place. Try to appreciate it.

With those words of wisdom (I guess that’s the theme of this column), I want to offer some thoughts to those of you applying to college. I know that this is going to come as a shock to many of you, but the reality is that college is difficult for many students.

That, in effect, is the difference among the various institutions to which you are all applying. Apply to schools that are a match for you, because you don’t want to be stuck in a school where you don’t fit well academically.

Newton South, after all, is not the end of your career. You may not realize it yet, but life continues beyond high school and college. Competition will change; no longer will you care about the grade of your neighbor. What matters in the real world is your expectations of yourself.

So appreciate these easier, less-stressful days where you have everything at your fingertips.

And if you see a Denebola senior editor, besides urging them to get rid of the “Word from the Wise column, be sure to congratulate them on this December issue.

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