While a student’s personal preference should necessarily be accommodated for, it is relevant to note that the First Amendment states that there should be no prohibition of the free exercise of religion, nor should any law dictate the establishment of any single religion. Can it be said that the study of the Bible in the sophomore curriculum infringes on this right?
As stated Justice Robert Jackson in McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), “one can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for … which he is being prepared. That is to say that even the nonbeliever should acknowledge that faith has been, and still is, an enormous influence on human thought.
From poet Dylan Thomas to authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, religious allusion has been a major part of Western literary tradition, both as a vehicle of expression and a subject of analysis. In history, entire wars have been waged on religious grounds; figures from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. have drawn from Biblical events and teachings; currents of Judeo-Christian theology run throughout Western philosophy and morals.
That being said, even in a non-religious context, the Bible as a primary source document is an important text. In South’s curriculum, the Bible is examined strictly as a piece of literature and not as a religious text; no matter whether it is considered by others to be the Word of God, in the context of the classroom it is treated as literature.
Summers took issue with the reading of the holy text itself more than the fact that religion was part of the curriculum. But students read the actual Scripture for the same reason that they read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and not No Fear Shakespeare, and that is because in literature especially, the original wording is vital for analysis and understanding. With the actual text of such an old and influential piece of writing available, there is no reason why it should not be used, as long as it is not subject to religious interpretation in the classroom.
Some would argue then that on those grounds, students should also study the texts of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions. But in structuring an English curriculum with a finite amount of time to be allotted, it is natural that the Bible’€the best-selling book of all time, the best-selling book of the year every year, arguably the oldest and most substantive influencer of Western thought and literature’€should be prioritized.
Denebola commends the South administration for being so willing to accommodating to Summers’ preference, but would like to place emphasis on the importance of the study of the Bible in the sophomore English curriculum. Given that the context is non-religious and focused instead on the literary aspect and historical context of the text, the Bible is a valid unit of study and as such deserves as much respect and compliance as any other English unit.]]>
The Spirit Week planning was spearheaded by the senior Class Officers, in conjunction with Wheeler House Guidance Counselor Kristen Bixby. The leadership team was represented by the four Housemasters, Assistant Principals Mary Scott and Purnima Vadhera, and Director of Guidance Robert Pomer.
Initially, the Class Officers proposed five days of theme-dressing with an inter-class competition, awarding points based on creativity, level of participation, and effort.
Wheeler Housemaster and senior Class Adviser Josepha Blocker raised concerns about the possibly inadequate planning time, theme days that would encourage school-inappropriate apparel, and the competition getting out of control. She agreed to a follow-up meeting on November 16 with the six senior Class Officers, two Class Presidents, and all four Housemasters to discuss Spirit Week.
According to the Class Officers, the Housemasters responded positively to the proposed plan of a three-day Spirit Week retaining the inter-class competition. Senior Class Officer Ben Chesler claimed that the Housemasters seemed “really excited, and [the Class Officers [left with everyone in agreement that we would have [the three-day plan]. All four grades immediately publicized this plan via Facebook and word of mouth.
The Housemasters and the rest of the leadership team, however, still had lingering concerns. So on November 17, Blocker notified the senior Class Officers of the decision for a two-day Spirit Week without a competition.
The Class Officers expressed both disappointment and surprise at what seemed an abrupt change of mind, and encouraged students to dress up for spirit on an individual basis, outside the official Spirit Week. While their dedication to their classes and South spirit is admirable, their reaction has the potential to perpetuate a bigger conflict between administration and students.
South’s comparative lack of spirit has been a much-discussed issue, but the bigger one at hand is the communication, or lack thereof, between administration and students and the misunderstandings’€often disproportionately upsetting’€that can arise from it.
For the optimal South community, Denebola urges clearer communication and the maintenance of mutually respectful relations between the administration and the student population.]]>
The five mayoral candidates have been narrowed down to two, Ruth Balser and Setti Warren, following the primary on September 15. Although the candidates share opinions on several city issues, such as the override and park maintenance, they differ widely in background.
Balser has a long history in local politics as an Alderman and State Representative, and is experienced in health care management. Warren has more national than local experience, having worked for the Clinton and Kerry Administrations and directed the New England branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While the alderman race receives less coverage, it is no less important. The Board of Alderman functions as Newton’s legislative branch of government, and consists of 24 members’€16 Aldermen-at-Large and eight Ward Aldermen’€to represent each Ward of Newton. This year, candidates are competing for ten Aldermen-at-Large seats and three Ward Aldermen positions.
The November elections also include the School Committee, a group of nine representatives responsible for making changes, setting policies, and dealing with issues surrounding the Newton Public School system. The city mayor serves as an ex-officio member and each of the eight wards elects a representative. This year, an unusually large number’€six out of eight’€of ward seats in the Committee are contested.
Especially now, when Newton must address the North construction, the turf fields at South, and other issues of health care and economy, the upcoming election is of vital importance. The School Committee elections in particular will touch students, since the Committee is responsible for policies that have direct effect on the schools and their policies. The mayoral and alderman elections will also affect students, indirectly through tax and housing policies, as well as city laws and regulations.
Not all cities have completely elective processes for legislative bodies or educational boards, and Newton residents should realize and make the most of their opportunity to directly elect representatives. Denebola encourages students to appreciate the democratic election process, which is even available to registered 18-year-olds. Students are advised to gain understanding of community issues, and to follow these elections and the candidates running in them.]]>
In late August, the Hyatt housekeepers were ordered to train employees from a subcontractor, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, who would work for half their own hourly wage; they were assured that the cheaper laborers were only vacation fill-ins. A few days later, they were told to empty out their lockers so they could be cleaned.
Then, on the last day of the month, the Hyatt housekeeping staff was informed that it would be their last day working. Many of the laid-off workers had been working at the Hyatt for 15 years or more. Nevertheless, they lost their jobs to the lower-paid subcontracted workers they had trained.
Politicians, business owners, and citizens have responded with anger and disapproval, calling for a boycott of the hotel chain. Notably, the National Lawyers Association has canceled its contract with the Hyatt Regency Boston and is searching for another location for its October seminar, and a union representing about 1,700 Boston cab drivers has stated that it will boycott Hyatt hotels until they rehire the 98 housekeepers.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick publicly condemned the Hyatt’s layoffs, saying in a letter to Hyatt chief executive Mark Hoplamazian that “the manner in which these workers were discharged is so inconsistent with both the expressed values of the Hyatt organization and basic fairness, that [he does] not believe any other remedy than full reinstatement is adequate.
Governor Patrick stated on September 23 that he plans to direct state employees to boycott the hotel chain, which received an overwhelmingly positive public reaction.
Denebola applauds the governor for his firm stance against the injustice, especially in light of the hotel corporation’s response that the boycott would only endanger the jobs of 600 more Boston-area Hyatt employees.
The Hyatt hotels threw their housekeeping staff out without warning and replaced them with laborers working for barely livable wages. Even considering the weak economy, it was a callous and unjust way to deal with “declining revenues, which Hyatt public relations manager Katie Rackoff cited as the reason for the layoffs.
South students should consider whether they want their junior semi-formal to take place in a venue that exploits cheap outsourced labor at the expense of so many long-employed staff. Denebola encourages the South community to take a stand for the basic respect that all people, not just laborers, deserve.
Though it is important to recognize the unfairness of the gross wrong the Hyatt did its employees, the Hyatt corporation is not the only, nor will it be the last, large business that infringes on its workers’ rights. Action on the part of the general public, students included, is necessary to set a precedent and establish that such practices are not to be tolerated.
Now, nearing its 50th year of existence, Newton South’s Award-Winning Official School newspaper Denebola nears its 50th Volume.
Named after the second brightest star in the constellation Leo, Denebola has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
Over its 50 years in existence, Denebola has had many capable students who have gone on to journalistic roles in well-known contemporary publications such as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Most of the contributors, staff, and editors have made their mark in a wide range of professions.
While some now write for the Letterman Show, others practice medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital, and still others teach in various classrooms from prestigious schools like Stanford to modest institutions like those in South Side Chicago.
Denebola would like to make clear that its business has been entirely funded by advertisements since 1989.
While contemporary Denebola recently published a 72-page graduation issue physically as large as The New York Times using Mac Platforms Creative Suite 2 and 3, the first issues of the paper were literally pasted up on “boards and heavy paper.
Preparing for the 50th anniversary of the school and the publication, Denebola hopes to organize a conversation among the paper’s early journalists regarding the larger issues of today including health care, education, and the role of media and journalism in democracy.
Thomas DePeter died Wednesday, May 6. For 35 years, he was a distinguished teacher of English and Theatre and coached outstanding North lacrosse teams. DePeter was most recently on the South faculty, teaching English as well as coaching the South lacrosse team.
Wayne Altree died recently while visiting his son in Thailand. A legendary figure at South as its first History Department chair, Altree was a remarkable teacher and a national figure in school reform during the 1960s. In retirement, Altree divided his time between Newton and Thailand, continuing primary source research into the Asian-American history.
Articles on DePeter and Altree will run in the Graduation 2009 issue.]]>
The driver of the second train admitted to have been texting his girlfriend prior to the crash and officials believe that this was the cause of the accident.
Over 100 commuters were evacuated from the wreckage by a Fire Department, and 49 were sent to hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the second train suffered the most severe injuries but was stabilized and will recover. Most injured commuters were released the day after.
Last year’s crash was suspected to have been caused by cell-phone use by drivers as well, so the MBTA reissued a zero-tolerance policy on the matter. MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskus was outraged by the recent incident.
Grabauskus and other MBTA officials are considering to implement a cell-phone ban for all MBTA employees while operating a transportation vehicle. This ban would prohibit an employee from even possessing of a cell phone while driving.
Sophomore Dalia Tomlak noted that she has seen multiple MBTA drivers using cell phones while in transit.
“I ride the T between 10 and 15 times per month, she said. “In light of the two recent accidents, it makes me stop and hesitate a little more.
Fortunately, South’s Wellness Department currently offers stress-management courses like Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self. Unfortunately, these classes may be cut next year if not enough students enroll.
Newton South has recently cut its graduation requirement for Wellness from seven to five credits, but will continue to offer students the option of taking additional Wellness courses as electives. Some of these courses, though, may not run due to low enrollment.
Upon hearing about the decrease in requirements, students may feel the need to take full advantage of the new policy. For some, the lowered requirement presents an opportunity to take risks and join new, personally appealing electives.
For others, however, the available blocks are simply a justification for more free blocks.
In a culture where parental, peer, and personal pressure may be overwhelming, it would be a shame to cancel courses like Yoga/Pilates, which were originally created to cope with stress.
If increased stress correlates to more dangerous decision-making, then to cancel stress-management courses is to take a step backwards especially with the number of reported incidences of drunk driving in the past year. Without a structured environment for it, students find other ways to deal with stress, which may threaten their well-being.
Although Yoga/Pilates and Centered Self will still be offered as electives, many students may simply choose to have free blocks.
It is true that there are other methods to handle stress than to enroll in Wellness classes. That being said, canceling these classes will deny students the opportunity to receive professional leadership and guidance on stress-management.]]>
While taking measures like the extended homeroom are steps in the right direction, the school should not wait for serious troubles to arise to discuss tolerance.
South should provide a safe environment for all. Yet in the hallways, cafeteria, or library, students utter anti-gay remarks and jokes.
Teachers and students alike all too often allow these remarks to remain unnoticed, cultivating a school atmosphere with an unacceptable undercurrent of homophobia.
Remaining silent in response to conversational homophobia is, unfortunately, equally responsible for the recent anti-gay hate crimes as are the anonymous culprit(s).
South’s silent majority is, by their wordless assent to everyday instances of homophobia, perpetuating a climate of disrespect for people’s differences. But it can find a solution to prevent future occurrences of hate.
The community should not have to respond to hate crimes, but instead, push to prevent them from happening in the first place. It is appropriate to discuss homophobia not only when community members are threatened, but also when people use anti-gay terminology colloquially and in casual conversation.
South has taken an active role in advocating tolerance, having established the first Gay/Straight Alliance in the nation. However, despite such monumental steps towards acceptance, homophobia is still prevalent in the school.
Denebola urges Newton South to take the initiative to address homophobia as an entire community, so that someday, sexual orientation will receive the respect it deserves.]]>