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Denebola » Jake Palmer 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 Senior Slump is a well-deserved respite http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/senior-slump-is-a-well-deserved-respite/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/senior-slump-is-a-well-deserved-respite/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2010 08:49:02 +0000 Jake Palmer http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3615 The very concept of Senior Slump inspires, and it isn’t just the appeal of an attractive alliteration that is so compelling; rather, Senior Slump’s most scintillating qualities lie in the hope it gives to generations of South students.

I first heard of Senior Slump at the end of eighth grade, and throughout my high school career, the idea of second semester slump has been the light at the end of a tunnel. As a freshman, I was persuaded to work harder, to put in that extra effort, because I knew that as long as I got good grades then, I could relax once I applied to college. Sophomore and junior year, that sense of passionate yearning for easier times intensified.

Point being, most people, myself included, work better when there is something pleasant to look forward to. Months of drudgery at the tail end of a high school is nowhere near as uplifting a prospect as the promise of four months of leisure time. The hope Senior Slump bestows on the oppressed underclassmen cannot be overstated.

As many disgruntled seniors point out, however, Senior Slump does not necessarily fulfill its promise. AP exams still loom on the horizon, and many teachers, conscious of their seniors’ desire to slump, up the ante and assign more work.

To this I say, the APs aren’t until May, so worrying about those may as well be put off until April. And teachers will be teachers; there’s nothing students can do to change that, no matter how vigorously they slump.

Even so, Senior Slump, or at least the idea of it, must be maintained. Whether or not the experience is as blissful and relaxing as it promised to be is irrelevant; what matters is that it encourages so many students to work harder beforehand.

Permit me to explain why slump exists. In life, we rub our noses repeatedly into the metaphorical grindstone to ensure an easier future.

Whether seniors have applied or been accepted to college, or have decided on a different path, by the second half of senior year, the majority of seniors have decided on some kind of post-high school trajectory.

And then we have to labor in college to get grades good enough to establish a career we enjoy. We toil in said career to ensure an easy retirement, or at least to provide for the family. Once that is secure, we can finally relax, maybe go to Dunkin’ Donuts once or twice, or every day.

Obviously grades do still matter. If you are caught failing all classes, for example, or stealing penguins from the New England Aquarium, then the repercussions might (will) be severe. A general loosening of the standards, however, can be acceptable.

The Newtonian high school mentality is, and has been for three and a half years for seniors, work, work, work. So maybe let yourself slide a few rungs down the ladder of success, take a few steps away from the tempest, and sail across Crystal Lake.

In case it hasn’t occurred to all those stressed seniors out there, it’s your senior year. Enjoy it, try something different, turn over a new leaf. If you’ve been assiduously studying for the past four years, then take a well deserved break. Try to get voted biggest party animal or best tattoo.

We have been in school for nearly 13 years’€and this is the last year in secondary school. I know that personally, I certainly don’t want my lasting memory of Newton Public Schools to be one of endless academic hardship. I want to look back and say to myself,  “Self, I had a good time senior year’€I’m glad we slumped.

Take it from a senior who is pumped for slump’€Senior Slump deserves to stay.

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A struggle for acceptance http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/a-struggle-for-acceptance/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/a-struggle-for-acceptance/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2009 06:00:59 +0000 Jake Palmer http://www.denebolaonline.net/?p=3251 “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech at Columbia University in September, 2007. Although many in the audience took this statement in jest, the truth is that Ahmadinejad didn’t have a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“I don’t know who’s told you that we have this phenomenon, he maintained.

Unfortunately, as demonstrated by Iran, homosexuality is still not tolerated in many parts of the world. Yet, as easy as it is to condemn other countries for intolerance, it’s necessary to first scrutinize America’s own willingness to accept civil liberties for all people.

Though America was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity, gays and lesbians still fight for their inalienable rights.

“31 states have voted about gay marriage, and none have approved it, history teacher Robert Parlin said. “The US is not overall more tolerant [than other countries], but rather better educated communities tend to be more tolerant.

Even states that are often deemed more accepting toward diversity have not recently demonstrated a readiness to change through political action. California and Maine for instance, two states that successfully passed legislation to legalize gay marriage, later voted to rescind their decisions.

According to Parlin, acceptance in the US “depends on where in the country you’re looking.
“It tends to be more tolerant in liberal states, but even in liberal places like Newton, there is some intolerance, he said.

Senior Aron Milberg agrees: “It varies everywhere, even within this country. Compared to Saudi Arabia, we’re extremely progressive.

Massachusetts has proven to be an outlier of sorts in comparison to the rest of the world, let alone the country. In 2004, Massachusetts became only the sixth jurisdiction in the world, after The Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, to legalize same sex marriage. Although America is often viewed as on the forefront of civil rights, the truth is that Massachusetts is unique in its endeavors. The question arises: why is America so behind?
Policy makers have by no means neglected the gay rights issue. In October of this year, President Barack Obama signed a major piece of federal gay rights legislation, which many people compared to the 1960s civil rights legislation. Unfortunately, due to difficulties in passing partisan agendas through Congress, Obama has had trouble making significant progress.

Even despite gradual advancement in legislative initiatives, there remains widespread intolerance in America’€though it may not be seen to the same extent in more well educated communities such as Newton.

Denmark and Canada for example, lead the world in civil rights awareness by allowing the unhindered right of gay marriage; also, much of the European Union preaches tolerance.
On the other side of the spectrum, many Middle Eastern and Asian countries still condemn and actively repudiate homosexuality.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, hundreds of gay Iraqi men have been tortured and murdered in recent months.

“Iraq’s leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate, Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said in a CNN interview. “Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi.

Injustices like those in Iraq are evident in many parts of the world’€even though they often go unnoticed by the public.

Latent suppression of civil rights also exists in Asian countries such as China, where, according to Parlin, homosexuality is considered unacceptable.

Parlin suggests that this problem of intolerance stems from a lack of education about peoples’ differences.

“In many schools across the globe, homosexuality is not even discussed, he said. “Through education, comes empathy.

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It’s a wrap for school lunches http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/03/25/its-a-wrap-for-school-lunches/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/03/25/its-a-wrap-for-school-lunches/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2009 05:50:15 +0000 Jake Palmer http://www.sandbox.denebolaonline.net/?p=2068 Lunchtime. Students line up for wraps, the specials are going fast, but the cluster of vegetarians around the salad bar do not look happy. There are a number of students at South who are concerned that there is a lack of adequate vegetarian options provided for them.

Junior Rebecca Robinson, who has been a vegetarian for a year, says that the only substantial option in the Newton South cafeteria is the salad bar. Robinson believes that there should be “more options without meat, because the current selection does not allow for a wholesome daily diet.

According to Robinson, the vegetarian options need to be improved and diversified. She believes that hot lunches without meat would benefit the selection. Robinson also thinks that the vegetarian options available should be more clearly labeled so that they can be more easily distinguished from meat options.

Junior Conrad Beckman agrees, “Vegetarians can’t eat salad every day, the sandwiches aren’t enough, and the wraps are not vegetarian friendly because they use the same gloves to prepare wraps with meat.

“You can’t have everyone eating the same food every day just because they happen to be vegetarian, Beckman said. According to Beckman, many students feel that vegetarianism is a lifestyle that’s, “silly and a waste of time and energy.

If more students became vegetarians, however, the issue of school lunches would become more prominent. Some students become vegetarians because they are committed to reducing their carbon footprints that increase with the raising of cattle. Also, more pressure would be put on the school to improve on the current vegetarian options.

Some school employees disagree with the claim that there are not enough veggie choices. “We have plenty of options, South food service worker Linda Cloonan said. She readily listed the school’s available vegetarian choices when asked: a salad bar, the new bagel lunch, vegetarian wraps, veggie pasta, and veggie burgers that must be pre-ordered by students in order to be prepared.

Cloonan said that because the vegetarian wraps and pastas are not big sellers they are not prepared unless students request them. Cloonan feels that the school does a satisfactory job of accommodating vegetarians. She adds that she is always willing to adopt suggestions proposed by students concerning food options for lunch.

“[But] hot lunches are purely meat based, junior Dan Okren, a non-vegetarian, said. He believes that there is a definite lack of options for vegetarians and that many other students recognize this. Those students, however, are not interested enough in the cause to affect change, but vegetarians should not be ignored merely because of their small demographic.

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Learning vs. Grades http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/learning-vs-grades/ http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/learning-vs-grades/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2008 07:47:55 +0000 Jake Palmer http://denebolaonline.net/wordpress/?p=460 centerfold.jpg

Many South students feel that grades take the “fun out of learning. They argue that grades create a stressful, competitive atmosphere in which getting a high score becomes more important than learning the material, making school less about learning and more about getting the right score.

“[Grades] make learning into something that’s high stakes whereas it should be something creative and exciting, junior Sarah Pincus said. In theory, the purpose of grades is for teachers to be able to monitor their students’ progress.

Pincus added that the practice of grading is detrimental to the learning process.  For example, cramming for tests to get a good grade forces students to memorize only those facts that will be on the test and takes the joy out of learning other things. Students who cram also frequently forget the information following the test.

Teachers see it too. “[Grades] are superficial indications of what a student actually learns, English teacher David Weintraub said.  He believes that students often judge themselves by their grades and that, if they get a bad grade, they feel bad about themselves.

Grades also determine how students are evaluated by other key parties, such as college admissions officers. “I can’t say everything I want to [about a student] through a grade; good learners might not get the grade they deserve, Weintraub said. A student’s learning is not best analyzed through a grade, he added; rather, learning should be looked at through qualitative means.

Understandably, Weintraub would rather give constructive comments than a letter grade.

Pincus argued that students would be able to learn better if motivation came from a passion for a subject instead of from fear that their parents would get mad at them. “Teachers should be able to motivate their students by getting them excited about learning, Pincus said.

Junior Mariana Cohen agreed. “Kids would still be motivated if they were taught to do work because it’s important, rather than because they need to get good grades, Cohen said.

She added that grades might not accurately measure a student’s progress because of a teacher’s bias, especially in English and history.

While most students agree that grades are not conducive to a good learning environment, Pincus and Cohen still both believe they are a necessary part of the education system.

“I don’t like what they do, but I wouldn’t say they should be abolished entirely, Pincus said.

Neither Pincus nor Cohen came up with an effective alternative to the current system that monitors a student’s progress, ability, and effort and also encourages students to get the most out of learning.

Weintraub believes that the issue “transcends merely that of grading. In order to truly reflect student ability and demonstrate their “profundity of learning, the entire educational system would have to be altered.

In the ideal school, for instance, students would be self-motivated to learn, or else motivated by their teachers.

Most students concede, however, that if grades were eliminated, they would have less motivation and thus fall behind in learning.

“If grades were suddenly removed, then students would have nothing to motivate them to learn.  Without grades, kids would be able to slack off, Cohen said.

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