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Denebola » Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net The Award-Winning, Official School Newspaper of Newton South High School, Newton, MA Fri, 17 Jun 2011 02:00:19 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.2 Explicit text messages lead to ruined relationships http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/explicit-text-messages-lead-to-ruined-relationships/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/explicit-text-messages-lead-to-ruined-relationships/#comments Tue, 02 Nov 2010 09:05:02 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4968 Dear Generation Y,
You’re scaring us. Just yesterday we attempted to initiate a conversation with you, only to be answered by the staccato rhythm of your texting fingers.
Lips quivering, tears forming, we yearned to simply hear the sound of your voice, but alas, your eyes remained fixed on your Smartphone screen.
We cursed the very technology that took you away from us, yet had no choice but to resort to our own cellular devices to occupy our lonesome selves. There we were, side by side, in our own separate wireless worlds.
The rapid technological advancements that we have grown up with have become such an integral part of our lives, to such an extent that we are eroding the dynamic of our personal relationships by devoting ourselves to digital communication.
This cyber arena we have created allows for even our most intimate exchanges to be shared with the mere click of a button.
Since we are trying to connect with you tech-savvy snoils on a more personal level, we might as well be honest and tell you outright: we’re talking about sexting.
Are you blushing? Or did you just tweet the emoticon equivalent instead? Regardless of your reaction, read carefully because this is a serious issue. Contrary to popular belief, this trend is not just popular among prepubescent middle school girls eager to flaunt their trainingbraless chests, submitting to the pressures of their media-influenced male counterparts.
In fact, celebrities such as Jesse James and Tiger Woods have engaged in the act, offering evidence of their infidelity and staining their reputations. And just last week a high school teacher and soccer coach in Rhode Island was charged with sending sexually inappropriate messages to students. Though South has yet to suffer a scandal of this nature, we have a feeling that sexting is still prevalent and concerning here.
Students may be inclined to sext for a number of reasons. Perhaps they are trying to impress a buddy.
Or maybe they are just taking a homework break. They could just revel in the attention or feel pressured to live up to standards set by the increasingly provocative media.
But, according to our calculations, they most likely listened to Trey Songz’s lyrical masterpiece “LOL smiley face one too many times. (“Shorty sent a twitpic saying come and get this LOL smiley face, LOL smiley face)
Whatever the motivation, the potential consequences are the same. Apart from the illegality of sexting, specifically exchanging suggestive photos that could land you jail time or considerable fines, the trend comes with a variety of detrimental effects.
We all know how easy’€and common’€it is to use a computer or phone as a vehicle to express thoughts we are not comfortable saying in person.
Sexters are all the more likely, therefore, to abandon their inhibitions and say something completely uncharacteristic, something they may later regret.
A problem inherent in sexting is that it lacks the privacy that sexual interactions call for, no matter how private it seems at the time. Sexters often overlook the threat of message forwarders, snoopers, gossipers, blackmailers, and the like. Especially as a teenager, a blow like this to a reputation is hard to come back from. As harmless as that suggestive text or picture seems to you, it could cause uncontrollable damage to your dignity and respectability.
It’s no fun having to make a public apology to mend your reputation. At least that’s what Tiger told us.
The most startling effect of all, however, is on the future of our interactions, our relationships, our society as a whole.
If technology absorbs every form of personal connection, will we still value face-to-face contact at all? If this contact does indeed become obsolete, the world will be a grim, quiet, cold, babyless, place.
So stop sexting, put down your phone, and talk to us.
We’re right here. We’ve been waiting for you.

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Hard Times for Halloween http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/hard-times-for-halloween/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/hard-times-for-halloween/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 10:03:10 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4791 As October comes to a close, I find that all my friends are making plans for costumes and activities, while neglecting to respect the spirit of Halloween. Swept up by a sense of nostalgia, I compiled a few complaints about how our generation has managed to distort this cherished holiday…and then some others just for the sake of complaining.
First and foremost: my friends don’t go trick-or-treating anymore.
That is something I really don’t understand. When is there ever a time to solicit candy from strangers without voluntarily endangering yourself? So this year, while my friends toil away endlessly at their Common Apps the night of October 31 (for what, if not trick-or-treating, would they ever be doing?), I’ll be getting my Reese’s on.
My second complaint is that Halloween is on a Sunday this year. Either festivities be moved to the day before, or Mr. Norton is going to have to stock up on trash bags for my B-Block Religion in Literature class: kids these days just don’t have the stomach for that much candy.
Thirdly, for all those Sen11rs eager to dive headfirst into slumpage and watch everyone else squirm until April Fools, November 1–that is, the day after Halloween–is the Early Decision deadline for many colleges and universities.
Sending in your application minutes before midnight and after one too many candy bars is unwise, to say the least.
Speaking of lollege, once the newly uploaded albums are plastered over newsfeeds nation wide, we’re all going to want to follow in Koolaidria TR’s liberating footsteps.
While I’m on the topic of senior livin’, is the Newton South Police Department making a comeback this year? Plastic handcuffs are not only suggestive but also effective. I guess it was really exclusive or something last year–hope I make the cut!! There is no better way to unite the female half of your grade than to exclude three quarters of it, and demand that those inferior have “the right to remain silent.
By the end of October, Massachusetts is well into its fall season.
As it’s really awkward if you’re out and costumed before nightfall–make sure to look both ways before you cross the street!!! Temperatures will likely have dropped to the 40′s (4.4C, 277.6K) by the time you step out. Subjecting your bare flesh (ladies) to the harsh, biting winds of autumn is to slap your immune system across the face. Fishnets are not a form of coverage for your legs; but I’m sure the skin, collectively amounting to roughly 2 square centimeters, underneath the criss-crossing threads is as happy as can be.
Moreover, costumes these days are pitiful. Exhibit one: Bubblegum pink spandex unitards are obscene.
We’re still deciding whether tribute was being paid to the Pink Panther or Breast Cancer Awareness. Exhibit two: “Pink-collar do-ups are degrading (i.e. nurse, corporate gardening tool, teacher); Rosie the Riveter is choking on her own vomit.
A certain flight attendant can attest to that–that is, if she’s not still stumbling around Winston Road. Final exhibit: Boys don’t dress up. Fun factor: Lame.
I say we all channel our inner AP Euro student and draw inspiration from the literature we read in school.
Dibs on Holden Caulfield (I has me one of them hats).
Modern adaptations of Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne do not count.
So while clicking though Naviance scattergrams and adding those final touches to your Common App activities list, expect me at your front door, clad in a plaid hunting hat and multiple layers, with a cultural twist here and there…

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South speaks: Chinese http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/south-speaks-chinese/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/south-speaks-chinese/#comments Thu, 28 Oct 2010 06:07:17 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4909 For many years, my mother pressured me to take a Chinese language course at South. I’ve taken French since middle school and I wasn’t particularly interested in adding yet another language to my already demanding course load.
Moreover, I really didn’t want to satisfy my mother’s pleas.
Then, summer of my sophomore year I went to China. Conversing with my relatives who didn’t speak Chinese was a challenge. I realized more than ever that verbally, I lacked fluency, and I had a weak understanding of colloquial expressions. I didn’t understand what was said on television, and I couldn’t even read road signs.
I wasn’t able to participate in family-wide discussions or hold a meaningful conversation with either of my grandparents. To say the least, I didn’t like the idea of being alienated from my mother’s entire side of the family by this language barrier. I decided that I’d take Chinese my junior and senior year to improve my communication abilities.
Over the course of my junior year, my listening and speaking abilities improved dramatically. I was able to join my mother in bi-monthly long-distance phone calls to my grandparents, following discussions about current events and familial disputes. More importantly, when I went to China the following summer, I could communicate easily with all my relatives, allowing them to really get to know me. My relationship with them became something more than one based solely on the fact that we were related.
In retrospect, I realize that I also picked up on certain cultural nuances during trips because of my improved understanding of the language.
With this knowledge, I now speak to my Chinese relatives differently than I do to my American ones. This isn’t to say that I’m more respectful to some over others. It does, however, allow my relatives to communicate with me more comfortably.
My initial reason for taking Chinese halfway into high school was to improve my communication skills. My experience, however, has given way to many more reasons for continuing education in the Chinese language.

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Opposing Viewpoints: North is an unnecessary burden http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/opposing-viewpoints-north-is-an-unnecessary-burden/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/opposing-viewpoints-north-is-an-unnecessary-burden/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 08:08:41 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4500 The North controversy plagued Newton for years. It has managed to pit neighbor against neighbor and compromise the quality of education for future Newton Public School students.

As a South student writing on this subject, it is not simply out of jealousy–the fact that my high school is no longer the superior one–that I write this article (because everybody knows what really matters is sports and average SAT scores).

Looking back, I realize that the construction of a new high school was completely appropriate; however, the large-scale project and its outrageous price tag was not at all rationalized by necessity.

The old North building is a hulking brick-red monster protruding from serene Newtonville that agitates students and neighbors alike. But the biggest concerns are found in the interior of the building. Complaints of mice and an omnipresent stench had become characteristics embraced by students of the school. But the number one biggest complaint was the lack of windows around the school. The minimal exposure to the outside world and poor circulation that resulted interfered with an effective learning environment.

But the construction project, which had estimated to cost approximately $197.5 million, had more than exceeded expectations. The blueprints addressed primary concerns and went above and well beyond, and not in a good way.

Since its inception, the school’s construction project has tripled its estimated cost. The seemingly small request for a brighter interior ended up dictating the design of the new school. Multi-paneled, multi-storied glass windows coupled with a zigzag design that supplements efforts to access natural light inflated construction costs.

But the construction of a new high school was definitely in order. A major renovation would be impractical as it would displace students from parts of the building during the construction process and likely still leave many of the issues unsolved.

Regardless, the new school will offer students unnecessary luxuries–enough to make it the most expensive school in Massachusetts’ history.  

Is it that there is some sense of entitlement among Newton Public Schools’ parents and education board members that provides a rationale behind the scale of this project?

The public school system here in Newton is the primary factor driving families to move into the city. Newton has been nationally recognized, year after year, for the academic excellence of its public schools.

Or was the new North building intended to become a monument to out city’s academic achievement?  

The new building’s toll on Newton’s operating budget is already clear and ballooning fast. Paying off North is soon to account for the majority of Newton’s debt and when public buildings, say, other educational buildings inevitably fall unto disrepair, there will be a lack of funds to go towards upkeep and repair.

Should educational buildings deteriorate (as they have been for years) and future tax overrides fail, the schools will be left to cut back on staff.
And therein lies the irony of it all.

We have used numerous justifications pertaining to giving students “quality educations in order to rationalize the scale of the North project.  But what we fail to see is that the extravagance of the school will inflict severe burdens upon the school system rather than facilitate a better education for all students.

But everything is said and (almost) done. Now the City of Newton should set its sights on recovery: which is that this project, at all costs, will never interfere with the school’s learning environment.

After all, it isn’t the size of the windows or the message the building sends to visitors, but what’s on the inside that matters.

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This I Believe II: Promotes a better community at South http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/this-i-believe-ii-promotes-a-better-community-at-south/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/06/10/this-i-believe-ii-promotes-a-better-community-at-south/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 08:05:28 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4502 This I Believe II has recently been assigned by the English Department as the 2010 summer reading book.  Now come June 21st, don’t all go running out of school to New England Mobile Book Fair to buy the first few copies that hit the shelves.  The bland cover image is equally enthralling as the book’s subtitle: “More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.  

But what do we all (hopefully) know by now about judging books by their covers? And what’s fun about the burdensome preconceived notions we have about assigned summer reading when we know it’s mandatory anyway?

Plus, word on the street is that this book could change your life!

This I Believe II is the second volume of a collection of essays written by an eclectic group of individuals. These so called “remarkable men and women are Nobel Prize winners and world-renowned musicians, but they also are graduate-school students and diner waitresses.
The authors elaborate on how they came to form their personal beliefs and by doing so, complete the thought that begins the books title.

Although these pieces were written over a 50-year period, the series of essays and the messages they communicate are impressively relevant to what we are going through as a nation today.

But here’s the question that every analytical essay rubric will require you to address: So what? (Cringe)

These personal reflections are not written by the pretentious intelligent folk whom you might have expected. They also dont consist of a stream of incoherent insights into some guys epiphanies. After reading them you will neither feel defeated out of sheer confusion, nor proud of your sophisticated level of understanding.

The essays are meant to engage readers by means of effortless connections.  The reflections, descriptions, and conclusions seek to strike a chord within you: tickle the subconscious, if you will.

Furthermore, each essay compels readers to think about forming their own profound and experience-based opinions. By doing so, you can have faith in your convictions and cultivate a strong sense of identity for yourself.

And I’m sure you are aware of that excessively vocal guy in your class who is always provoking debates with extreme but frustratingly well-supported arguments…you could be THAT GUY!

You can earn a great deal of respect in our society for “going against the grain and second guessing conformity if it forces you to compromise your beliefs. And as contradictory as it sounds, a sense of unity and tolerance emerges from differences of opinion in a community.

One school, one book…Don’t we love it?  Over the summer we’ll all be reading the same words from the same pages of the same book.
But come September, the school will be swarming with zillions of newfound ideas and beliefs, like little molecules of opinions bouncing off the walls ofSouth after being subjected to high temperatures!!

So don’t choose to write off this book just because it is assigned summer reading as it could potentially leave a positive impact on our school.  And pay close attention to the section that tells readers how to write their own “This I Believe essay…One school, one essay?

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Uniform standards detrimental to public schools in Massachusetts http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/uniform-standards-detrimental-to-public-schools-in-massachusetts-2/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/uniform-standards-detrimental-to-public-schools-in-massachusetts-2/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 06:25:38 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=4050 The Obama Administration’s proposed national academic standards have met considerable debate in several states. Massachusetts has decided to stay firm on the state’s own education quality and not adopt these standards unless they measure up to those established in the state.

Adopting national academic standards would be a major setback for Massachusetts. Massachusetts has long held a reputation as having the most rigorous academic expectations in the country and adopting these standards would undo years of work in bolstering that quality of the state’s schools, which began with the passage of the Education Reform Act in 1993.

The standards, which have been developing for more than a year now under the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, are moving closer to Massachusetts’ expectations, but some areas lag behind.

Students in Massachusetts routinely score highest on national standardized tests because of the state’s rigorous standards. Changing the standards would truly represent regression in school systems in Massachusetts and around the country.

The revised standards, which were released earlier this month, outline which English and math materials should be taught at each grade level in the nation’s public schools.

The national benchmarks rely too heavily on broad skills and lack rich abstract content at every grade level.

“[The national standards] are generic standards that can be applied to any grade level that you want. They don’t give teachers any guidance about what makes a standard at grade eight anymore difficult than at grade six, former associate education commissioner Sandra Stotsky said.

Adopting the national standards would most likely lead to an overhaul of state standardized tests.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) for example, is a state-wide exam based on prescribed standards. Adopting national standards would mean a nation-wide test that would likely replace state-wide exams like MCAS, so that the tests follow new national standards more closely.

The possibility of a nation-wide standardized test has aroused considerable debate among states, school districts and teachers.

MCAS is already a disputed institution in Massachusetts’s school systems and a national exam would just spread this debate nationwide.

The Obama Administration’s push for uniform standards is admirable as it is an effort to mend a disparity in the American education system.

But the way to fix the inequality is not to raise standards in some states and lower them in others in an effort to reach an equilibrium of sorts.

The Obama Administration should instead, apply these standards to states falling behind in order to gradually elevate their standards to a level that equals that of Massachusetts and other similar states.

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Olympic Athletes: Overcriticized and Underrated http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/03/24/olympic-athletes-overcriticized-and-underrated-2/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/03/24/olympic-athletes-overcriticized-and-underrated-2/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 08:06:35 +0000 Alexandra Fen http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3840 I first heard about Lindsay Vonn’s Olympic success on a re-run of the Colbert Report: The Complete Vancouverage.

Apparently she won a gold medal in the Women’s Downhill Alpine Skiing event 10 days earlier and was the first American woman to do so in Olympic history.

But in my defense (and yours too–if you’ve also been living under a rock), the first ten days of the Olympic Games were held over our February break, so whether you were in Panama, France (SMGTZ!), Nicaragua (oh wait¦), or even on college tours with your parents, salvaging the last few days of vacation took priority over catching up on the Winter Games.

So with that excuse, herein lies the real problem: after Vonn’s cover debut on Sports Illustrated Magazine, disapproving headlines about her semi-provocative pose and skintight bodysuit have littered newspapers, magazines and my Comcast homepage.

Critics of the cover claim that SI had Vonn pose in a way that “objectified her.  If you haven’t seen it, Vonn is clad in complete competition attire and crouching with her knees bent.  This “tuck stance is one that all downhill skiers, male and female, assume while racing.

Yes, her blonde hair cascades down the side of her face.  Yes, her skintight bodysuit is well, very tight, and YES the angle at which the shot was taken seeks to accentuate a particular region of Vonn’s body.

But interestingly enough, Vonn’s cover was modeled after that of SI’s 1992 Winter Olympic Preview, which featured alpine skier A.J. Kitt.

There are few notable differences between Vonn and Kitt; however, I’m almost positive nobody complained that SI had objectified this gentleman.

Vonn is, first and foremost, an incredible athlete, but she also exemplifies the qualities of female attractiveness.

Although much of the publicity on Vonn is attributed to her appearance, she deserves to be celebrated as she has been this past month.

When the Olympic Games roll around every two years, it seems as though a handful of select American Olympians come out of obscurity and astound us with their skills.

For training their entire lives, these athletes enjoy a month of name recognition and if they’re lucky, an ad campaign for Got Milk.

American athletes are celebrated to a degree that is disproportional to their many accomplishments.  For these athletes, hundreds of toiling hours of training and competition amount to a status that would seem trivial to most Hollywood A-listers.

We also have a tendency to expect our Olympic athletes to uphold a higher virtuosity and innocence, qualities that most Americans can’t even wrap their heads around.

These athletes are sent to the Games to represent their respective countries, so it is expected that they act accordingly.

But back home, we put them on an unfair pedestal with expectations that are strikingly different from those of our representatives in say, the music and film industries.

Regarding their conduct, we expect our athletes to be gods, but to be fair, we must do our part and worship them as such.

Vonn’s rising celebrity is well deserved, but the criticisms against her are not.

She is getting the recognition that she and dozens of other Olympians deserve. Vonn and fellow American athletes Shaun White, Shani Davis, and Apolo Ohno (check out HIS Got Milk ads) were all honored by Wheaties, which unveiled its four new cereal boxes that featured these four athletes on the covers.

But regardless of each of their talents and contributions in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, this fame is sure to be short lived.

So throw away your unreasonable expectations and preconceived notions of Olympic Athletes and cut them some slack! Let them enjoy the fame they’ve more than deserved.

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