“The Pulse of the Student Body”
The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper
Volume 111 No. 3
October 13, 2020 FEATURES
TikTok, TikTok: Students Respond to the Looming TikTok and WeChat Ban
A Beginner’s Guide on How to Get Into Every Spectator Department
Features writer Angela Cai investigates how Stuyvesant students reacted and responded to the United States ban on popular and frequently-used apps WeChat and TikTok.
Read along as veteran Spectator writers and editors Aaron Wang, Kelly Yip, and Karen Zhang reveal the key to securing a coveted spot as a Spectator contributor.
see page 24
see page 9
Julian Giordano and Shivali Korgaonkar: Leaders of the 2020-2021 Student Union the SU better, but also […] be reflective and critical,” he said. “We both have this mindset that we need to think about things from an outsider perspective and reimagine things to make
By SAAD GHAFFOULI, PETER GOSWAMI and ISABELLA JIA
Latin teacher Dr. Susan Brockman has been selected to instruct two courses— one on the “Odyssey” and one on English etymology— at Marlborough College Summer School in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2021.
The Student Union held its first virtual Clubs & Pubs Fair from September 29 to October 7. ourselves and the SU better.” In order to make changes within the SU, the pair needs to know the current SU dynamic well. Aside from both working as Delegates of External Affairs, Giordano was Vice President with Former SU President Vishwaa Sofat (’20) last year. “I believe
previous input expanding under this new administration. Given we are now in a time where everything needs to be geared to our ‘at home’ environment though, there’s going to be an increased need for innovation. Our new leaders are definitely up to the task,” senior and SLT
I think there is/will be a positive correlation between my SHSAT score and my academic success at Stuyvesant. Freshmen
Seniors (class of 2020)
50.00% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00% 10.00%
Social studies teacher Lisa Greenwald has been selected as an University of Chicago Outstanding Educator for the second year in a row.
Sophomore Lin Wang will be exhibiting her artwork virtually at the 2020 PS Art Reception, which features student artwork from all five boroughs.
Freshman Survey (See pages 4-7)
representative Sarai Pridgen said in an e-mail interview. Giordano, however, is hoping to distinguish this year’s SU from last year’s. “[Korgaonkar] and I ran unopposed this year, but
Zoe Oppenheimer / The Spectator
Amidst the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this school year, senior Julian Giordano and junior Shivali Korgaonkar emerged unopposed as president and vice president, respectively, of the 20202021 Student Union (SU). Giordano and Korgaonkar first met through the SU. “[Korgaonkar] and I have a similarity in our past in the SU. When I first joined the SU, I joined a new position that had been created, [the] Delegate of External Affairs,” Giordano said. “[Korgaonkar] was also a Delegate of External Affairs. We shared that experience and worked together on projects.” By attending Student Leadership Team (SLT) meetings and collaborating on the Department of Education initiative Students and Educators for Equity, the pair strove to represent student concerns. “Over the summer, because of the work we were able to do together during Students and Educators for Equity, we built a relationship and worked really well together,” Korgaonkar said. In choosing a running mate, Giordano prioritized passion and drive, both of which he found in Korgaonkar. “The most important thing I look[ed] for in a vice presidential candidate was a drive to not only make
this administration will follow through with the success of the previous one: [Giordano] and [Sofat] were very collaborative in their thought process last year, so I see [Giordano’s]
that doesn’t mean we’re going to pretend this is a continuation from last year and not push hard for new things,” Giordano said. “We have an ambitious plan that we’re excited to pursue, and we’re looking to hold ourselves accountable.” Giordano and Korgaonkar’s
campaign centers around three main pillars: inclusivity, equity, and accountability. “Inclusivity is about including all students within the SU and making Stuyvesant as a community continued on page 2
Stuyvesant Updates Grading Framework By EZRA LEE, RAJHASREE PAUL, JANNA WANG, and ALICE ZHU To accommodate this year’s remote instruction, the administration has released a revised school-wide grading framework that students and staff will be operating with for the school year. The framework is divided into three main categories: summative assessments, homework/ preparation, and classwork/ participation. Summative assessments, which include projects, tests, and presentations, make up a maximum of 70 percent of a student’s grade. Homework/ preparation, such as written homework, assigned reading, and contributing to Google Classroom, make up a minimum of 15 percent of a student’s grade. Classwork/participation, which includes participating or completing work during live instruction, make up a minimum of 15
percent of a student’s grade as well. Departments and teachers may determine their own grading breakdown following the criteria laid out in the framework. In addition, teachers must accept late projects and give make-up tests, in which penalty points for lateness will be detracted from the homework/ preparation section rather than the summative assessments section. Traditionally, teachers were allowed to give students reduced credit for a late project or a missed test. “We want to see what the student knows and has learned […] to be able to give feedback and/or evaluate that work,” Principal Seung Yu said. The framework was implemented with consultation from the School Leadership Team to strengthen both remote and in-school learning experiences. continued on page 2
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
News Stuyvesant Updates Grading Framework continued from page 1
“We wanted to think a lot about what that experience might look like for students who are remote and then, if by chance, we were going to be back to school in the school building, what would be the expectations for our school both from the standpoint of teachers as well as with students,” Yu said. The administration created a grading framework in hopes of streamlining the new academic year with more consistency and fairness for both students and teachers. “Stuyvesant High School never had a [school-wide] grading framework. We had department grading policies. The school leadership group felt that it was important to provide the students, parents, and teachers with a clear picture of how grades would (and should) be determined (especially in a time when we are engaged in a mix of blended and remote learning),” Assistant Principal of Chemistry, Physics, and Technology Scott Thomas said in an e-mail interview. “The new grading framework captures the commonalities across the school by highlighting the three main grading categories used by all departments.” Moreover, the new framework aims to provide a structure for school-wide grading policies. “[The Assistant Principals and I] took a look at the various grading policies across departments and within courses. Ultimately, what we were able to examine was that there were [not only a lot] of similarities, but also inconsistencies in respect to language and how we are using certain terminology as well as percentages,” Yu said. With the initial draft of the grading framework released to teachers, many had voiced concerns regarding both the softening of the lateness policy as well as the vague wording within
the framework. With its release, many teachers had signed a letter questioning the new policy on lateness. “Colleges, scholarships, and jobs usually have so many applicants and have such a hard time struggling to pick that absolutely cutting off at a due time is standard practice. If we are reducing late penalties, is it doing our students any good to train
Cindy Yang / The Spectator them that lateness isn’t a big deal, if that lesson will come to bite them on something much more important than a class paper?” social studies teacher Dr. Zachary Berman said in an e-mail interview. Language within the framework made it unclear as to whether the timeliness of homework and major assignments would be weighed differently. “I do see a potential problem in figuring out how much to weigh preparedness in terms of daily assignments like homework against timeliness of major assessments. If a homework counts as much as an essay in terms of preparedness, there are likely to be consequences that we don’t intend,” English teacher Mark Henderson said. The controversy surrounding the lateness policy had also highlighted the difficulty in balancing freedom in teaching with uniformity for students. “When teachers feel free to teach as they want to teach, and that includes grading, they feel more inspired,
and students feel that inspiration and learn more. There are schools where teachers have to read from scripts, where they are told exactly which words to say when they teach. That’s an extreme example, but it shows how too much administrative control over teaching kills teaching. On the other hand, it’s frustrating for students to have to understand radically different grading systems, and it feels unfair to them that their colleagues with different teachers are being graded very differently,” Dr. Berman said. To address these concerns, the administration revised the grading framework to clarify aspects of the policy’s wording. “One of the primary reasons [for the revisions] was to make the distinction between routine daily assignments (classwork, homework, nightly reading, etc.) and summative assessments (tests, projects, papers, etc.) clear to anyone reading the policy. The initial language allowed for too much confusion, and people had questions about what we meant when we used less specific terms like assignments and assessments,” Assistant Principal of Mathematics Eric Smith said in an e-mail interview. Though the grading framework allows students to submit work that would otherwise not be accepted after its due date, students are still expected to turn in assignments in a timely manner. “The aspect of the policy that I know has proven most controversial for some teachers is the late work policy. I want to make clear that this doesn’t mean that there’s no deadlines. There are, and students are still expected to meet them,” Assistant Principal of English Eric Grossman said in an e-mail interview. “But there’s a huge difference between ‘deadlines’ and ‘penalties.’ Teachers meet deadlines every day without fear of immediate punishment.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and NASA
WORLDBEAT President Donald Trump has contracted COVID-19 and was released from Walter Reed Medical Center on October 5. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he intended to close all public and private schools and nonessential businesses in nine of New York City’s 146 ZIP codes on October 4. The 2020 United States Vice Presidential Debate took place on October 7 and featured candidates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. Regal Cinemas will temporarily close all 663 of its movie theaters in the United States and Britain, affecting 45,000 jobs. And when we miss a deadline, as we occasionally do, we almost always get an additional opportunity to submit missing work […] it feels reasonable to me to extend just a little bit of that flexibility and understanding to our students, especially now.” With the overall grading framework, Henderson supports its distinction between the quality and timeliness of assessments. “I really like the idea of separating out a grade for the quality of a piece of writing from the timeliness of a piece of writing. Both matter, but I think the quality matters more,” Henderson said. “We don’t remember Voltaire or Shakespeare because they were really good at turning things in on time—the quality makes their writing stick. That said, Shakespeare never would have lasted if he couldn’t finish his scripts in time for performances. Timeliness does matter.” Others believe the breakdown will be a more holistic way to evaluate student work and effort. “I think this change is
Julian Giordano and Shivali Korgaonkar: Leaders of the 2020-2021 Student Union
continued from page 1
inclusive, making us seem more transparent, and making students feel included in the advocacy work we’re doing. The second pillar, which is equity, permeates all aspects of our platform. It takes an important role in our school during remote learning and [COVID-19 and] racism within our school. Accountability means holding ourselves accountable to our goals,” Giordano said. Communication is also crucial to Giordano and Korgaonkar as they aim to bridge the gap between students, teachers, and the administration. “[Former Principal Eric] Contreras once referred to us as the 3-11 line for students. That’s a role we play in the SU, answering students’ questions and concerns—we note that down and convey that to the administration,” Giordano
said. “In the past few weeks, we’ve been sending out [e-mails] constantly to students with a lot of information. I can’t count how many [e-mails] I’ve sent to various members of the administration with certain questions that the students have had.” Junior and SU Chief of Staff Theo Kubovy-Weiss added: “Our biggest goal is making sure that the transition to remote learning or a blended option is as smooth as possible and as enjoyable and safe for students as possible, and I think that as SU, we have a unique responsibility to advocate for students and make sure that their needs, priorities, and wants are heard.” The pair has been using a multitude of different platforms as a way of communicating with students to make sure that their voices are heard and that their questions are answered. “If you
look on Facebook, you’ll see [Giordano] and I commenting on the same question a million times because we want to make students know that we are willing and open and looking at the questions they ask,” Korgaonkar said. Students have appreciated the efforts the pair have taken to facilitate communication. “I respect the way [Giordano] has been very on top of answering the hundreds of questions that have been asked in the Facebook groups throughout the summer as everyone worked to figure out the plans for the upcoming school year,” Junior Francesa Nemati said in an e-mail interview. “Their goal of bridging the gap between the students, faculty, and administration resonated with me since open communication is even more essential with all the unknowns that are present due to the pandemic.”
Both Giordano and Korgaonkar also wish to maintain some sense of normalcy during virtual learning. “We wanted to make sure clubs this year were getting the same promotion that they normally would and every club has the same access to freshmen and incoming students. So we, along with our IT team and our [executive] board, spent the entire summer remaking StuyActivities. With this comes the Virtual Club Fair and virtual meetings and scheduling,” Korgaonkar said. “That also goes into transitioning school events, like Spirit Week. We’re thinking about all the things that would make Stuy normal throughout the year and how we can continue to do those traditions in our current situation.” Students involved in the SU feel Giordano and Korgaonkar are fit to deal with the unique
healthy for the students, since the positive work they put into class discussions and homework will weigh more into their grades than before. I’m not too concerned about my students not taking my exams as serious because well, they will still take my exams seriously,” math teacher David Peng said in an e-mail interview. The administration hopes that with the release of this new framework, students will have a more transparent guideline for how they will be evaluated this year. “We want to make sure that students are still maintaining high expectations, meaning that when summative assessments are due or need to be completed, students complete it on time. They take [assessments] when it’s going to be assigned and make sure that they’re constantly communicating with their teachers if there are extenuating circumstances or issues that arise that would prevent them from committing on time and/ or taking that exam/assessment on that specific day,” Yu said.
school year. “If there are two people who are best equipped to handle this unfortunate situation in a way that is respectful, in a way that’s safe, in a way that’s effective, in a way that’s innovative, and can facilitate actual progress despite the hurdles that we have to overcome, then it’s [Giordano] and [Korgaonkar],” Kubovy-Weiss said. Giordano and Korgaonkar are hoping to find ways to make the best out of COVID-19, despite the unfortunate circumstances. “There’s so much more potential for online events to the point we’re actually excited that we might be able to do more events this year than we were able to do another year,” Giordano said. “It’s easier to plan, and now that more students have devices, it’s more accessible, which is something we’re really excited about.”
The Spectator â€¢ October 13, 2020
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The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
News Blended or Fully Remote?: Students Reflect on Their Decisions
By JAMES LEE, MOMOCA MAIRAJ, ANA-MARIA SKARICIC, RUIWEN TANG, and CHLOE TERESTCHENKO With students returning to the school building starting on October 1, The Spectator interviewed students about the factors they considered while choosing between blended and fully remote learning.
fully remote “I chose remote learning because even with New York’s curve flattening slowly, both my parents and I felt it would be unsafe to return to school. There are just too many things we could be exposed to, both in school and outside of school.” —Fiona Shi, sophomore “I picked remote learning because for me, it came down to the commute. As someone who lives an hour away from school on a good day, having to come in for virtual classes as late as 12 p.m. would mean commuting at off-peak hours for only two hours of instruction—instruction I could just as easily receive from my bedroom. It just didn’t make sense to put myself through that and waste up to three hours of my day on the subway.” —Elena Hlamenko, senior
“Getting to school in itself is already a safety worry for me, and that’s not even mentioning what’ll happen when we’re in school. I’m worried that pandemic precautions will not be in place to adequately protect the students from COVID. On top of all that, my grandfather only has one lung, so I do have some health concerns.” —Jonah Keller, senior “I understand why some people might choose blended because they don’t have the proper environment at home and things like that. But I feel like I do, and I just don’t think it’s worth me commuting an hour [there and] an hour back if I don’t see anyone physically, and I personally cannot stay too long with the mask on. I just felt like remote works better for me.” —Faima Safwana, sophomore “The main reason why I chose remote learning is because I live near my grandparents, and I see them every day. [Because of that,] I don’t want to contract COVID-19 on the subway or at school, [and] a pro of remote learning is that between periods and after school, I have time to spend with my grandparents. We go on walks every day after school, and I have time to socialize with them. I am getting closer with my family since we all stay at home together.” —Benjamin Botnk, junior
blended “I chose blended, but now, I’m rethinking my decisions […] at first, I didn’t realize that we were all going to be sitting in a lunchroom and just having classes as we would at home. I thought that it would be socially distanced in a classroom with a teacher and just the remote people on the board or a second class for them.” —Shivani Shah, sophomore
“The main reason I chose blended was so that I would not become socially awkward and have something to think about other than what’s happening outside my [Z]oom call or my basketball park […] also, I just love walking in the city, and without it, I feel very morose […] I know I can push myself to study way more in school in between periods and during my free periods. It will set me on track for using my free periods to study [for the] SAT or class subjects.” — Ibrahim Cosar, junior
“When they originally asked us to make the decision between remote and blended, I felt they hadn’t really explained to us how blended was going to work. I was obviously excited about the prospect of being back in the school building, getting to see my friends, and hopefully meeting my teachers in person […] when I found out that it was going to be learning in pods, and not really learning from a teacher, just doing remote work but in the building, I was pretty annoyed. But I still feel like trying it out, seeing what it’s like to go to school, because we always have the option to opt out.” —Julie Weiner, senior
“One of the biggest reasons why I chose blended learning is [that] I felt the need to get away from my family. Spending half a year trapped mostly indoors with the same people gets annoying very quickly. Having a reason to go outside fixes that for me. Also, walking to the bus stop every day in the chilly morning was often the only time of the day I could have to myself because it was quiet, and it gave me time to just relax and enjoy the air. Furthermore, going to school every once in a while will give me some sense of normalcy to my life. I haven’t been keeping track of the days, and I feel like school has given me a reason to start doing that again.” —Evan Lin, sophomore “The logistical reason [why I chose blended learning] is I have two brothers and my dad working at home. The WiFi is slow; my brothers are fighting in the background; we can’t hear our calls or have to be really quiet. It’ll be nice to take a break from them and be in my own space. The other reason is I just miss school […] just being able to smile at people you know while we are doing class or saying hi as we leave the building.” —Aki Yamaguchi, senior
Freshman Survey The Spectator’s Class of 2024 Survey The Spectator conducted the annual Freshman Survey virtually rather than in-person this year during Camp Stuy Part II. Our questions cover a range of topics, from ethnicity and immigrant status to career goals and academic honesty. A total of 372 freshmen responded, here are the results:
Part A: Demographic Information 1. Choose the race that best describes your background. a) Asian 78.8% b) Black 3.5% c) Hispanic 3.8% d) White 19.1% e) Other (American Indian, Pacific Islander) 3.8% 2. Choose what best describes your legal status in the United States. a) U.S. Citizen (Passport) 86.0% b) Permanent Resident (Green Card + Passport of another country) 6.7% c) Dual Citizenship (Passport of two countries) 5.4% d) Visa 1.6% e) Other 0.3% 3. Choose the religion that you identify with. a) Christianity (Catholicism, Protestantism, etc.) 19.1% b) Islam 13.7% c) Judaism 4.3% d) Agnosticism/Atheism 47.8% e) Hinduism 4.0% f) Buddhism 3.5% g) Other 5.6% 4. How would you classify your family’s socioeconomic status? a) Lower/working class 11.8% b) Middle class 45.2% c) Upper middle class 22.6% d) Upper class 3.0% e) I don’t know 17.5% 5. The highest level of education either of my parents/guardians received was: a) Middle School 4.6% b) High School 20.4% c) Associate Degree (two years of college) 8.6% d) Bachelor’s Degree (four years of college) 32.0% e) Post-college education 34.4% 6. What type of middle school did you attend? a) Selective Public School or Gifted & Talented Program (NEST+m, Mark Twain, etc.) 60.5%
b) Zoned Public School 35.2% c) Private School 4% d) Parochial School 0.3% e) Homeschool 0.0% 7. I identify as the following gender: a) Male 47.8% b) Female 50.8% c) Non-binary/Genderfluid 0.8% d) Unsure 0.5% 8. My sexual orientation is: a) Heterosexual (Straight) 80.1% b) Homosexual (Gay) 1.6% c) Bisexual 9.1% d) Asexual 1.9% e) Unsure/Questioning 9.7% 9. Have you ever been diagnosed with a form of disability? a) No 92.7% b) Emotional disability 3.9% c) Learning disability (ADHD, Dyslexia) 3.0% d) Cognitive disability (Autism, Down Syndrome) 0.3% 10. My immigrant status is: a) I am an immigrant 11.3% b) My parents are immigrants 63.7% c) My grandparents are immigrants 9.1% d) Other 10.2% e) I don’t know 5.6%
Part B: Academic Information 11. I frequently participate in my classes. a) Strongly Agree 31.2% b) Agree 36.3% c) Neutral 18.0% d) Disagree 8.9% e) Strongly Disagree 5.6% 12. I consider myself to be aware of current events. a) Strongly Agree 15.3% b) Agree 48.1%
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Freshman Survey c) Neutral 26.1% d) Disagree 8.3% e) Strongly Disagree 2.2% 13. I have a strong work ethic. a) Strongly Agree 16.7% b) Agree 40.9% c) Neutral 27.4% d) Disagree 12.1% e) Strongly Disagree 3.0% 14. Approximately how much sleep did you get on any given school night in middle school? a) Less than 6 hours 6.5% b) 6-7 hours 20.2% c) 7-8 hours 33.9% d) 8-9 hours 32.3% e) More than 9 hours 7.3% 15. My favorite subject is: a) Math 40.9% b) Science 19.6% c) English 15.3% d) History 10.8% e) Other 13.4% 16. I spent ___ hours on homework and studying on an average night in middle school. a) Less than 0.5 hours 33.3% b) 0.5-1 hour 31.5% c) 1-2 hours 24.2% d) 2-3 hours 8.3% e) More than 3 hours 2.7% 17. After I graduate from Stuyvesant, I might attend an Ivy League University or another elite university. a) Strongly Agree 22.8% b) Agree 33.9% c) Neutral 36.6% d) Disagree 3.5% e) Strongly Disagree 3.2% 18. By the end of my Stuyvesant career, I predict that I will be among: a) the top 10% of my class 13.4% b) the top 25% of my class 47.3% c) the top 50% of my class 29.8% d) the bottom 50% of my class 9.4%
Part C: Applying to Stuyvesant 19. When did you start studying for the SHSAT? a) Less than one month before the exam 4% b) One month to four months before the exam 27.4% c) Four months to six months before the exam 19.6% d) Six months to one year before the exam 35.5% e) More than one year before the exam 19.9% f) I did not study for the SHSAT 3.5% 20. Which best describes the method of studying you used for the SHSAT? a) Self-study/preparatory books 13.7% b) Preparatory class (not SHSI) 65.2% c) SHSI preparatory school 5.5% d)One-on-one tutoring 9.1% e) Other 3.0% f) I did not study for the SHSAT 3.5% 21. To what extent did a parent/guardian pressure you to come to Stuyvesant? a) Not at all; it was my choice. 23.1% b) A little, but it was mostly my decision. 50.5% c) A lot, but in the end, I accepted what they wanted. 22.0% d) It was entirely their decision. 4.3% 22. I think there will be a positive correlation between my SHSAT score and my academic success at Stuyvesant. a) Strongly Agree 4.8% b) Agree 22.3% c) Neutral 41.4% d) Disagree 4.8% e) Strongly Disagree 9.4% 23. Approximately how much sleep do you expect to get on any given school night at Stuyvesant? a) Less than 5 hours 10.2% b) 5-6 hours 23.7% c) 6-7 hours 30.9% d) 7-8 hours 26.9% e) More than 8 hours 8.3%
Part D: Identity and Lifestyle 24. I am opposed to the use of recreational drugs, like marijuana, by high school students. a) Strongly Agree 53.8% b) Agree 24.7% c) Neutral 14.5% d) Disagree 4.6% e) Strongly Disagree 2.4%
25. I am opposed to the use of study drugs (prescription stimulants) by high school students. a) Strongly Agree 42.4% b) Agree 23.1% c) Neutral 25.5% d) Disagree 7.5% e) Strongly Disagree 2.4% 26. I am opposed to the use of hard drugs (cocaine, opiates) by high school students. a) Strongly Agree 80.4% b) Agree 14.8% c) Neutral 2.4% d) Disagree 0.8% e) Strongly Disagree 1.6% 27. How much caffeine do you intake daily? (95 mg = 1 cup) a) 0 mg 71.8% b) 1-100 mg 21.2% c) 101-200 mg 4.8% d) 201-300 mg 1.9% e) 301+ mg 0.3% 28. I am opposed to sexual activity by high school students. a) Strongly Agree 23.4% b) Agree 19.6% c) Neutral 40.1% d) Disagree 12.1% e)Strongly Disagree 4.8% 29. My mental health is something I think about regularly. a) Strongly Agree 15.6% b) Agree 37.1% c) Neutral 30.6% d) Disagree 11.3% e) Strongly Disagree 5.4% 30. How many hours a week do you spend watching TV (including Netflix)? a) 0-1 hours 18.3% b) 1-2 hours 27.9% c) 2-3 hours 29.8% d) 3-6 hours 10.8% e) 6+ hours 3.2% 31. How many hours a day do you spend on Facebook? a) I don’t have any social media accounts, including Facebook. 4.0% b) I don’t have Facebook, but I use other kinds of social media. 15.3% c) 0-1 hours 76.3% d) 1-3 hours 4.0% e) 3+ hours 0.3% 32. Choose the extracurricular you will most likely dedicate yourself to in the next four years. a) Academic Clubs/STEM 63.1% b) Sports 44.9% c) Student Government 15.3% d) Publications 16.8% e) Speech and Debate 36.1% f) Community Service 41.5% g) Arts 34.1% 33. When I am older, I hope to go into ____. a) STEM-related fields 60.3% b) Humanities (history, language studies, law) 9.3% c) Finance/Business/Management 16.9% d) Arts 3.1% e) Other 10.4%
Part E: Academic Honesty 34. I would sacrifice a good grade to preserve my academic honesty (i.e. even if I could cheat, I would not because I feel it is immoral). a) Strongly Agree 4.0% b) Agree 7.0% c) Neutral 19.4% d) Disagree 41.4% e) Strongly Disagree 28.2% 35. In middle school, I partook in some form of academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, copying, etc.). a) Frequently 1.9% b) Sometimes 13.4% c) Rarely 45.7% d) Never 39.0% 36. I think that academic dishonesty (in any form) can be justified. a) Strongly Agree 4.3% b) Agree 15.6% c) Neutral 26.3% d) Disagree 32.8% e) Strongly Disagree 21.0%
Part F: COVID-19 37. Did COVID-19 affect where you decided to attend high school? a) Yes 4.8% b) No 95.2%
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Freshman Survey The COVID-age Class of 2024 By TALIA KAHAN AND ERIN LEE continued from page 1
Part I: Demographic Information I most closely identify as:
What type of middle school did you attend? Selective Public School/G&T Program
Zoned Public School Private School
Parochial School 35.2%
Out of our sample of the class of 2024, 78.8 percent are Asian, which aligns with Stuyvesant’s historically large Asian population; 3.5 percent of surveyors were Black, and 3.8 percent were Hispanic or Latinx, higher percentages than previous years, which usually hover around one percent and three percent, respectively. The fact that this year’s online survey allowed freshmen to choose more than one ethnicity, while previous year’s data only allowed students to choose one, however, could have led to this discrepancy. This year’s freshman class mostly identified as heterosexual (80.1 percent), while a sizeable minority identified as bisexual or unsure/questioning, 9.1 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively. In comparison, 76.1 percent of last year’s senior class identified as heterosexual, 12.5 percent as bisexual, and 4.5 percent as unsure, demonstrating a slight increase in LGBTQ+ identifying students between freshmen and graduated seniors. Well over half the incoming freshmen identified their families as economically comfortable—either upper class (3.0 percent), upper middle class (22.6 percent), or middle class (45.2 percent). The remaining students were fairly evenly split between working class (11.8 percent) and unsure of their family’s socioeconomic status (17.5 percent). Interestingly, this data seems to be shifted toward a wealthier student body, as in the 2019-2020 school year, 44 percent of students qualified as economically disadvantaged. Still, Stuyvesant’s reputation as a school of immigrants holds true. Three-quarters of students surveyed were either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants. Despite this population of immigrants, students’ families seem to be very well-educated: 66 percent of students had parents who graduated from either college or both college and graduate school. At the same time, about 13 percent of students had parents who only attended either middle or high school and did not receive a college education.
Choose the ethnicity that best describes your background. 80.00%
Part II: Academic Information Staying true to Stuyvesant’s reputation, a majority (40.9 percent) of respondents said that math was their favorite subject, followed by science with 19.6 percent of respondents, English with 15.3 percent of respondents, and finally history with 10.8 percent of respondents. In total, over 60 percent of students indicated a preference for a STEM-subject while under 30 percent indicated a preference for a humanities subject, which is not surprising given Stuyvesant’s reputation as a STEM-focused school. Standing in stark contrast with the large amount of homework that Stuyvesant students stereotypically receive, the majority of students spent less than an hour every night studying or doing homework during middle school—with 32 percent spending less than half an hour daily. Despite the likely uptick in studying, freshmen were generally optimistic about their academic success and college prospects. When asked if they believed they would attend an Ivy League or other elite university, over half of respondents (56.7 percent) agreed or strongly agreed. Notably, 36.6 percent of surveyors were neutral, while only 6.7 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. Similarly, 13.4 percent and 47.3 percent of freshmen predicted they would be among the top 10 and 25 percent of their class, respectively; 29.8 percent thought they’d be in the top 50 percent, while a small minority of 9.4 percent of students thought they’d be in the bottom 50 percent. For the class of 2020, fewer students did end up attending an elite university—40 percent of last year’s seniors reported that they would attend an elite university. My favorite subject is:
After I graduate from Stuyvesant, I think I might attend an Ivy League University or another elite university. Strongly Disagree 3.2% Disagree 3.5%
Strongly Agree 22.8%
By the end of my Stuyvesant career, I predict I will be among the ___ of my class. Bottom 50% 9.4%
English 15.3% 33.9%
Top 10% 13.4%
Math 40.9% Top 50% 29.8%
Top 25% 47.3%
Part III: Applying to Stuyvesant The most common time-range of preparation for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) was between one to four months before the exam, meaning that one began studying between September and June 2019. Of the remaining students, around 7.5 percent did not study or only studied less than a month before the SHSAT, and about 45 percent of students studied for over six months studying. These statistics are remarkable, given the perception that many students start preparing for the SHSAT in their early years of middle school. Regardless of how long they spent studying, the majority of surveyors (41.1 percent) were ambivalent about the correlation between their SHSAT score and academic success at Stuyvesant. The remaining 60 percent were split between agreeing and disagreeing with such statements. Ultimately, analysis of the class of 2020’s data proved that most freshmen were correct—there was little to no correlation between SHSAT score and grade point average at Stuyvesant. Still, this statistic does not speak to how much effort each individual student must put into their academics to achieve their grades and if this correlates with SHSAT score.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Freshman Survey To what extent did a parent/guardian pressure you to come to Stuyvesant? Not at all, it was my choice
A little, but it was mostly my decision
I did not study 3.5% > 1 year before 19.9%
< 1 month before 4.0%
A lot, but in the end I accepted what they wanted
Which best describes the method of studying you used for the SHSAT?
When did you start studying for the SHSAT?
1-4 months before 27.4%
Selfstudy/Preparato ry books Preparatory class (not SHSI) SHSI preparatory school
It was entirely their decision
One-on-one tutoring Other 6-12 months before 25.5%
I did not study
25.5% 19.6% 4-6 months before 19.6%
Part IV: Identity/Lifestyle The freshmen class was, overall, against most types of drug use. Over half of freshmen (53.8 percent) strongly agreed that they opposed the use of marijuana by high school students, with 24.7 percent agreeing and only 7 percent disagreeing. In contrast, 30 percent of the class of 2020 used marijuana at least once in their four years at Stuyvesant. Students were more conservative in respect to study and hard drugs: 65.5 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they were opposed to the use of study drugs, while over 95 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they were opposed to the use of hard drugs. Correlating more strongly with statistics shown in last year’s senior class, 90 percent and 94 percent of seniors never used study or hard drugs, respectively. At a school known for its intense academic environment, over half of incoming freshmen said that they either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “my mental health is something that I think about regularly.” This is a good sign, considering the mental toll that the pandemic and quarantine can have on students, especially ones who are transitioning to a new school. In contrast to many upperclassmen, most freshmen (76.3 percent) spend less than an hour each day on Facebook. In fact, nearly 20 percent of them do not have any social media accounts. Some freshmen likely spend this extra time on leisure activities—over 56 percent of students spend between one and three hours watching TV, gaming, or watching YouTube on a typical school day. This statistic, however, has the potential to change as students’ workload increases. Finally, similar to the amount of students who identified math as their favorite subject, the majority of the freshmen class is interested in pursuing a career in STEM in the future. A significant minority (16.9 percent) hopes to go into finance, business, or management, and only 9.3 percent would like a career in a humanities field. This data correlates strongly with their club interests at Stuyvesant: 63.1 percent are interested in academic/STEM clubs. The runner-up in this category was sports with 45 percent interest, and community service, arts, and speech and debate trailed behind it, with 41.5 percent, 34.1 percent, and 26.1 percent, respectively.
I spent ___ hours sleeping on an average night in: Middle school
Expectations at Stuyvesant
I am opposed to the use of ____ by high school students. Recreational Drugs
High school (class of 2020)
Part VI: COVID-19
Part V: Academic Honesty Stuyvesant has made headlines for previous issues with academic honesty—most significantly in 2012 for the Regents cheating scandal. Still, like most freshman classes, the large majority of respondents (69.6 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that they would not cheat even if they could, in line with the fact that 45.7 percent rarely cheated in middle school and 39 percent never did. In comparison, 50.6 percent of graduated seniors partook in academic dishonesty once or a few times in high school, and 26.7 percent did so semi-often. While it is impossible to trace the exact root of this remarkable change in academic honesty, it likely stems from both the pressure students feel to excel academically as well as competitiveness regarding college admissions.
The pandemic affected very few (4.8 percent) students’ choices to attend Stuyvesant. This is reasonable given that freshmen not only took the SHSAT long before the pandemic, but also were unaware of how Stuyvesant would respond to it—and if it would even be relevant during their freshman year. Still, many students were affected by COVID-19. For some, these changes were more miniscule—such as being unable to go to the park or social distancing when seeing friends. For others, however, the effects of COVID-19 were more rampant: one student recounts his parents losing their jobs, and another commented that their grandmother, who suffers from diabetes, was at great risk after their mother contracted the virus. Are you in a blended or remote cohort?
I would sacrifice a good grade to preserve my academic honesty (ie. even if I could cheat, I would not because it is immoral).
I think that academic dishonesty (in any form) can be justified.
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Features Sparking Change From a Tiny Midtown Office By ISABEL CHING and SAMMI YANG
has since gone on to become the co-director of the curriculum team. This team now boasts comprehensive divisions for English and math, history and government, science, video creation, computer science, and even research. Manfredi’s personal goals have also expanded since meeting the family at Sparks Within Reach. “I saw how passionate everybody was and how important the mission is, especially during COVID. It’s been driving my motor ever since. It’s been amazing,” he said. For Manfredi, it is the people he is doing the work for that drive his creativity: “I think it really comes down to the tangibility of our work and how everything we do is defi-
that call was driven, excited, and passionate about the cause, and I knew that I was in the right place. The rest is history.” Shafran has since gone on to become the Co-Director of Finance and Marketing, along with his old classmate and good friend George Li (’18). The two are dedicated to ensuring that Sparks Within Reach can sustain its expansion financially. The Finance and Marketing team, which recently recruited a new team of fall interns, has grown tremendously, with now over 20 members. Stuyvesant senior Ruth Lee, who joined in March of this year, is one of these interns. Originally an instructor, Lee was also part of the website development team,
Courtesy of Anna Pacheco
As the new school year starts, most of us wake up with a roof over our heads, our school supplies at the ready, and endless resources at our fingertips. These things allow us to pursue the education we dream of and prepare for success. However, not everybody is afforded these privileges. In New York City alone, 4,600 houseless youth spend their nights on the streets and their days in shelters without a place to call home. Seeing the growing educational disparity and increasing achievement gap, a team of young educators has come together to fight the issues. Anna Pacheco (’18) cofounded Sparks Within Reach with her Harvard classmate Rukaiya Sharmi in 2017 to combat the effects of a deeply flawed education system on homeless youth. As a teen in New York City, Pacheco volunteered for an organization called Back on My Feet, where volunteers and homeless youth run together not knowing who is a member of the shelter and who is a volunteer. There, she encountered many homeless youth whom she connected with immediately, finding that they were just like everybody else. Meeting these people set Pacheco on a quest. “I was just really drawn to wanting to amplify the voices and resources of these people who are going through such a vulnerable situation,” Pacheco recalled. Inspired by the resilience and courage of the homeless youth she volunteered with, Pacheco went on to found the Stuyvesant Homeless Coalition while still a sophomore at Stuyvesant. The club organized soup kitchens and breakfast runs for the homeless. However, she found herself wanting to give more. She wanted to build a stronger relationship with the people she worked with. She explained, “I thought, let’s [...] serve our community with our tutoring skillset. We can build this amazing relationship while also elevating a student’s academic potential and allowing them to see school as a resource that they can navigate and be able to use.” For a while, Sparks Within Reach was only an idea. Pacheco first needed a dedicated team to undertake such an ambitious initiative. But she quickly found that she was not alone in wanting to make a difference. Many of her likeminded peers, many of whom were part of the Stuyvesant Homeless Coalition, were excited to join her. Just like that, Sparks Within Reach was born. One of Pacheco’s first recruits was Stuyvesant Homeless Coalition member Veronica Fuentes. The Stuyvesant senior recounts her initial joining: “I wanted to see if I could do something more besides just helping out at soup kitchens and going on breakfast runs. [Sparks Within Reach] was a really unique opportunity and not something I’d seen before. I’ve been tutoring kids since I
was in sixth or seventh grade, so I figured, why not put that tutoring to good use?” The small team of volunteers, then called No One Gets Left Behind, began tutoring children living in New York City’s Barrier Free Living Apartments. Tutors like Fuentes saw the impact of one-onone tutoring firsthand with one of her students over the summer. Her tutee struggled with understanding and reading words, so Fuentes was forced to find innovative solutions to help her student learn. Fuentes recounted, “We started doing Pictionary or Skribbl.io at the beginning of each session. Instructors would draw pictures, and we would try to spell them out together! Seeing her prog-
Anna Pacheo (‘18) speaking as a part of her organization, Sparks Within Reach.
ress from trying to spell those words at the beginning of the eight weeks to the end, [when] she was writing full sentences [on] her own with minimal spelling mistakes, was amazing […] I felt really positive about the future for her after that experience.” The rest of the team was just as inspired, and the company grew rapidly. Pacheco brought on her friends and fellow students to expand the services Sparks Within Reach could provide. Pacheco’s classmate Nicola Manfredi (’18) was one of the first on board. Manfredi first heard about Sparks Within Reach from Pacheco during a dinner: “She was telling me about what the mission was and what everybody was trying to do, and I really aligned with it. I wanted to join in any capacity that I could, and I told her that I’d be willing to create a science curriculum for the students since I was a pre-med student. Anna was really open to the idea and had actually been looking for someone to do that for a while.” Manfredi
nitely going to be used. [For] a lot of internship opportunities, especially in the science field, you do research, but it doesn’t really feel like your work has any direct impact on anybody; it’s very detached. But, here, whatever we do, we’re the people doing it. That’s what pushes me to really put in my best effort all the time because I know it’s going to have an impact on our students.” To strengthen the impact that Sparks Within Reach could make on their students, Manfredi began to recruit his friends, including his Stuyvesant classmate Mark Shafran (’18). Now a Columbia mathstats and financial economics major, Shafran joined the Sparks Within Reach team after what he calls a “life-changing” phone call from Manfredi: “As soon as he [Manfredi] told me about it, I was in love and knew that this was the perfect opportunity to genuinely make a difference. I came to that first board meeting and was overwhelmed by the infectious energy. Every single person in
which revamped the entire Sparks Within Reach online presence this summer during the Financing and Marketing internship. Lee described her progress with Sparks Within Reach: “Throughout the past year, I was able to personally see the growth and offer support to my students. I’ve worked with bigger and more established educational companies, but none gave me the freedom to be able to venture into my interests and apply them to the workplace.” It is not just another line on their resume or fun summer experience that these volunteers will walk away with. For many, their time at Sparks Within Reach has been eyeopening and life changing. In the words of Shafran, “While I have learned far more than I can describe through working at Sparks Within Reach, the two things that stand out most are adaptability and to never stop learning. While much has gone according to plan, there were times when things did not play out the way that I had
expected. However, I learned to never give up and to leave my ego at the door, instead adapting and changing course. […] I truly believe that the day we stop learning and become complacent is the day that we stop making progress, and I refuse to allow myself to remain stagnant.” Manfredi shares Shafran’s sentiment. While speaking to his fellow Curriculum Director Guo, Manfredi came to realize that his career aspirations have been completely changed as a result of the massive growth of Sparks Within Reach—the accessible mission of the organization and its rapid growth mean that Manfredi and Guo may be able to pursue a career within the company full time should they decide to forego medical school. “We both agreed that if Sparks Within Reach becomes what we believe it will come, we’re ready to devote ourselves to it,” he said. Manfredi elaborated on the significance of this realization: “That was the first time ever that I hadn’t been onetrack-minded and considered anything other than becoming a doctor. Having that break and thinking, ‘Wow! This is a possibility’ was an amazing moment.” While some volunteers may depart the company and move on with their lives, Sparks Within Reach is here to stay for the sake of the children it serves. Pacheco explained, “We have committed to our values and figured out the actual needs of the people we work with instead of just guessing […] We plan on watching all these kids go to college—we aren’t leaving any time soon.” The company now has new goals—to provide the students with food, supplies, and a place for community building. “We want to go beyond being a service that travels somewhere and more so be a service where we can welcome people and welcome families to build this Sparks Within Reach community,” Pacheco expressed. In the future, Pacheco hopes to continue to combat the stigma around homelessness in new ways. “Before, Sparks Within Reach was very service-oriented. However, now, after talking to high school and college students, I’ve realized that educational inequity is something we don’t really talk about. If we can start teaching and mass-educating younger children, then we can start making change from the inside out,” Pacheco said. Though the members of Sparks Within Reach are all still students, their accomplishments, passion, and drive show a promising future for New York City’s education. Fuentes shared, “I’ve learned so much from Anna and Rukaiya about education reform, current events, and what the future of education looks like. It’s also given me a lot of hope—if the people I’m seeing at Sparks Within Reach are going out and becoming educators, then so much is possible.”
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Using My Voice This November, Even Without a Vote
By MAYA DUNAYER I never paid much attention to the presidential elections until 2016. In 2004 I was, for obvious reasons, too young to know what the government was, much less understand the intricacies of the electoral process. At four years old, in 2008, I knew the name “Obama,” but only once he got elected. The only thing I knew about the election in 2012 was the Epic Rap Battle between Romney and Obama. But at 12 years old, in 2016, I was finally old enough to understand what was going on and form my own opinions. Only, they weren’t really my own. At age 12, I still relied on my parents as not only a primary source of information but an important influence as well, leading me to support President Trump in the 2016 election. I didn’t understand the extent to which Trump’s racism and sexism extended because my parents brushed it off as “rhetoric to appeal to his right-wing voters.” If I didn’t support Trump, in their eyes, I was allowing the Democratic Party to screw over Israel and the economy. Thus, I went through the 2016 election
steadfastly defending Trump, which, at an Upper West Side middle school, didn’t win me many friends. I even participated in my school’s presidential election simulation, running as the vice president for Party X, which we all knew was a standin for the Republican Party. Four years later, I am now able to confidently say that I have my own opinions. I no longer blindly follow what my parents tell me to be true, getting into more than a few political arguments with them as my father laments my “brainwashing by the liberal propaganda.” I’m now able to explain to my father why Black Lives Matter is an important movement, or why bringing up Joe Biden’s son’s history of drug abuse is not an appropriate way to debate. I now understand that Donald Trump’s racism and sexism are far more than rhetoric and that his policies could take rights away from women, LGBTQ+ people, and racial minorities around the country. With the death of RBG and the nomination of Amy Barrett to replace her, my and all other American women’s rights to abortion, birth control, and other
contraceptives are in danger. It isn’t just President Trump’s reproductive policies that concern and upset me. Given the way President Trump has handled COVID-19, as well as the rise of the BLM movement, I can
Showdown. In April, after deciding that I wanted to find a way to make a difference in my community and in the world, I co-founded the Stuyvesant Save the Children Club (SSCC). This club is
If I’ve learned anything from my years of uncertainty over politics, it’s that it’s never too late to stand up and use your voice, no matter how you choose to do so. firmly say that I am no longer in support of him. Not only do I not support Trump, but I am vocal about my opinions and want to have my voice heard. Except, I’m still too young. Sure, I’m old enough to preregister to vote, but I won’t be able to cast my ballot until the 2024 election. In these trying times, I’ve felt helpless, watching Trump and Biden argue like little children while I have no power and no say over the outcome in the November election. And I know many of my peers feel the same. I felt this way for many months, until an opportunity fell right into my lap: the Save the Children Election
a chapter of the Save the Children charity that works to aid children who are facing a variety of issues across the world, ranging from violent situations to a lack of education. Through SSCC, I was given the opportunity to participate in Save the Children’s Election Showdown in September. This competition brings together Save the Children Clubs from across the country in order to mobilize as many voters as possible. Whether this is through reaching out to potential voters directly, utilizing social media, or writing blog posts and other media, Save the Children’s competition has given me a way to use my
voice. I have been working with SSCC’s executive board to plan a variety of events that can help the Stuyvesant student body get involved. These range from virtual postcard parties, in which participants can write handwritten postcards encouraging citizens to vote, to bringing in city council members to speak on how minors can get involved in the electoral process, and much more. Civic engagement is more important than ever this November, and I am proud to do my part to make sure that the candidate chosen is the one the American people truly want. If you’re feeling pessimistic or helpless about the way this election season is going, please remember that just because you can’t cast your own vote doesn’t mean you can’t have a voice. There are multiple ways Stuy students can get involved and use their voice, from various clubs to interning for various politicians and more. If I’ve learned anything from my years of uncertainty over politics, it’s that it’s never too late to stand up and use your voice, no matter how you choose to do so.
TikTok, TikTok: Students Respond to the Looming TikTok and WeChat Ban
By ANGELA CAI
Waves of panic swept through the nation on August 6, when President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from the U.S. App Store, declaring both apps threats to national security. The number of downloads for both apps skyrocketed, and users scrambled to find new alternatives. For Chinese-Americans specifically, the WeChat ban feels personal. Owned by Tencent, WeChat is a popular messaging, social media, and mobile payment platform that lets Chinese-Americans communicate with family and friends overseas. On the other hand, since its release in 2016 by the company ByteDance, TikTok has quickly become a global phenomenon, featuring short-video content such as dance videos and social media challenges. The ramifications of this ban are a devastating blow to U.S. teenagers and the Chinese-American community alike. Though the executive order was issued only recently, trouble between U.S. officials and Chinese companies has been brewing for years. That’s why when junior Rachel Lin first heard about Trump’s plans to ban WeChat and TikTok, she dismissed it. “I thought it was a big joke. I didn’t think he’d actually do it,” she explained. “[Trump] also promised to do a bunch of other stuff [and] is prone to tantrums, and his emotions are quite sporadic.” Junior George Lin shared a similar sentiment to Rachel Lin: “I thought it was [a] publicity stunt,” he admitted. Rachel Lin, who uses WeChat to advertise her nonprofit
International Language Club, is chats on another platform will especially upset about the ban. be an arduous task. The International Language Freshman Unique Zhang Club teaches a variety of lan- also relies on WeChat to comguage classes to kids of all ages, municate with her middle many of whom are Chinese. school peers. “My entire eighthUsing WeChat is essential for grade class is on WeChat; if any coordinating between students, of us want to chat, I could easparents, and teachers and to ily do so. I could probably use make announcements. “I have Facebook, but it’s just inconveto figure out how [I am] going nient and new to me,” she exto run the club without We- plained. Chat,” she said. “What other Similarly, other students explatform can I use to communi- pressed their concern about the cate? How am I gonna run the TikTok ban. “I remember my club? It’s a big mess trying to friends being really sad get everything organized.” It’s not just students affected by the We C h a t ban but also their parents. Junior Daisy Lin’s parents prefer using WeChat to tor pecta The S other platforms about ng / Ivy Jia due to the app’s the fact that they can’t convenient and unique messag- do ‘Renegade’ dances on Tiking features. “It allows my par- Tok anymore,” said Rachel Lin. ents to post pictures like InstaWhile some teenagers are gram, send messages over text avid users of TikTok, others, and voice, and write short state- like senior Katie Ng, are not ments like Twitter. WeChat is particularly upset about the essentially the all-in-one for ban. “I myself spend hours on many Chinese-Americans,” she TikTok every day; the most I’ve said. spent was 24 hours in a week, Emphasizing WeChat’s so if there is suddenly no more popularity, George Lin de- TikTok, it would take me a scribed how his parents clam- while to adjust. It might be a ored to find another platform good thing because I should foto communicate with his ex- cus on schoolwork,” she said. tended family in China and Rachel Lin agreed that this other parents from Stuyvesant. ban is an opportunity to elimi“There’s this huge Stuy parents nate social media distractions: chat, and my mom receives a “While my friends are really sad lot of school information from about it, [...] it’s minor for me. there,” he said. Since hundreds Watching TikTok feels like fallof Stuyvesant parents use We- ing down a hole of 4:00 a.m., Chat, re-adding contact num- six-second videos,” she said. bers and creating new group According to Zhang, how-
ever, TikTok is not just used for six-second trends. “TikTok has been spreading a lot of awareness [regarding pandemic safety measures],” she noted. Instead of focusing on social media, Zhang felt that Trump should be focusing on how to properly manage the COVID-19 pandemic. “Perhaps he should focus on that instead and try to make America better, as he claims to make America great again,” she said. Additionally, George Lin felt that Trump harbors a grudge against TikTok due to his failed rally turnout in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is banning it under the guise of protecting national security. TikTok users and K-pop fans allegedly registered for hundreds of thousands of tickets for Trump’s June 2020 Tulsa campaign rally, only to cancel at the last minute. “He probably didn’t like TikTok because of that and is using national security as the perfect excuse,” he said. Though the executive order was issued to take effect on Sunday, September 20, a recent surprising twist of events has postponed both the WeChat and TikTok ban. After ByteDance struck a deal with Oracle, an American software company, and Walmart that gave both companies a shared 20 percent stake in the new U.S.-based TikTok Global company, the ban was pushed a week later to September 27. As for WeChat, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler from California has agreed to temporarily delay the WeChat
ban, noting that it was a violation of First Amendment rights. In light of this news, Rachel Lin was relieved to find that she had more time to transfer the logistics of her club from WeChat to another platform: “I’m happy I don’t have to rush organizing work and switch my [club’s] tutors and directors to another platform like Messenger,” she said. “I’m sure my friends are also happy they can still watch their ‘Renegade’ dances at 2:00 a.m.” Zhang is also relieved about the postponement, though she remains skeptical about how long it will hold. “I’m not sure whether or not the ban is still going to happen. It looks like the government is going backand-forth with Trump,” she said. “For now, I guess I don’t have to ask my friends to add me on Facebook anymore, which would’ve been such a hassle.” While the case for the TikTok and WeChat ban is still ongoing, users can only hope that the U.S. government can work out a satisfactory deal with ByteDance and Tencent. For the time being, many users have already started adapting to these changes. “Although the ban would stop my parents from connecting in a way they’re used to, I’m confident that they will adapt to another method of contact,” Daisy Lin said. And ultimately, As families adapt to these changes, students might also take this chance to ponder the values of Internet security. Do they think that the ban is justified for “national security” reasons? Or, is there a more subtle reason behind the claimed importance of data privacy?
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Features More Than a Tradition By VINCENT TAN and NICHOLAS MARTIN The start of the final school year is a time of eager anticipation for many seniors, but for some, it can provoke feelings of dread. The resumption of a fierce workload and the pressures of college applications can cause some intimidated students to lament the school year before it has even begun. Yet despite the stress of beginning the fall semester, one Stuyvesant tradition provides a fun and creative social bonding activity: senior names. After the Senior Caucus announced the start of the yearly tradition, students rushed to change their Facebook names to various puns reflecting anything from common phrases to pop culture references. One of many senior traditions, “senior names” has been a custom among many high schools. Rising seniors change their Facebook names to puns that use their names, usually accompanied by related profile pictures and captions. It is generally agreed that “senior names” were originally a way to stop college admissions offices from searching and finding students’ Facebook accounts. While this method hasn’t been proven to be effective, it has evolved into a way for students to begin their senior year with some positive self-expression. Because of their upperclassmen, many students have known about senior names as early as freshman year. Senior Samantha Siew said, “a few of my homeroom Big Sibs had changed their profile names and pictures.” When asked about their names, her Sibs told her about the senior tradition. Siew goes by “SamanCha Siew” for her senior name, drawing puns from Cantonese culture. “Cha” and “Siew” are reminiscent of cha and char siu, both Canton-
ese words that mean “tea” and a type of Cantonese barbecue pork, respectively. Using Photoshop, she made a profile picture by superimposing her face onto Uncle Iroh from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” as the character makes a pot of tea. When asked what she thought about the senior tradition, Siew answered, “it’s a fun way for the seniors to express themselves, especially during this time of disconnection.” Likewise, her friends have followed up with similar senior name themes, drawing on other characters from Avatar. Such organized efforts add an extra layer of fun and challenge to the tradition, which, unlike many other senior traditions, is largely unaffected by social distancing. Many other students have found senior names to be a nice outlet for their culture in the same way Siew has. Going by “Abiryani Tehari,” senior Abir Taheer reflects on some of his favorite South Asian dishes, biryani and tahari. After running the name along with his friends, he proceeded to pop a picture of his head onto biryani in Photoshop. Of the myriad of senior names, Taheer finds senior Jiahe Wang’s (JiaHee Hee) the funniest. “I loved the fact that it was a play on Michael Jackson lyrics,” he added. Like Siew, Taheer utilized some of his favorite cultural subjects to represent his background in his senior name, yet the names that most impress him take a different direction: “the best senior names I’ve seen are usually ones that are a play on pop culture references.” Taheer’s sentiments are shared by many others in the senior class. In fact, many students draw inspiration from pop culture, using what they see in movies and songs and notice from celebrities. For instance, senior Palak Srivastava chose to play on the immensely popular
superhero movie franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She named herself “Plack Widow” after Black Widow after struggling to think of something entertaining and understandable. “I like the tradition. I think it’s a really cute way to start senior year,” she said. Students consider senior names a diversion that helps counteract the fact that New York is still battling COVID-19. The custom seems to have helped create more interactions among friends and combat the loneliness of pandemic life. Though New York has recently loosened lockdown restrictions, many people are still reluctant to meet in person, resulting in continued social isolation. The advent of senior names, however, has provided new opportunities for enjoyable collaborations. For instance, when senior Russell Low created his pun name, he relied on the help of others. He credits his childhood friend for using his photo editing skills to help make his new profile picture. Low learned about the tradition in his sophomore year from seniors in his gymnastics team. Now a senior, Low goes by “ShortyGot Low,” since his “last name had been countlessly used as a pun referring to ‘Low’ by Flo Rida,” he said. His friend also made a profile picture out of “a huge collection of pictures… a picture of [him] dancing… [and] funny easter eggs.” The collaboration ultimately resulted in a funny, entertaining profile picture that Low feels best represents his personality. To Low, many of the senior names are wholesome and creative, especially with the recurring themes he saw from “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” as done by Siew and her friends. His favorite name belongs to senior and fellow gymnast Tiffany Cai. Posing as “Cai Fieri,”
she references the celebrity chef in a hilarious way that appeals to Low’s love for Flavortown. However, when asked about other senior names, Low said, “[they are a] bit confusing to decipher.” He also sees them as successful creations of anonymity. To future seniors, he only suggests, “[don’t] make it [too] convoluted. A funny pun [related] to your name will inevitably come.” These collaborations are a theme prevalent among many other seniors, as seen with senior Nikkie Lin (“Nikkie Minaj”). Lin was attracted to rapper Nicki Minaj’s popularity and eccentricity but also loved how close their two names were, allowing his pun to be relatively easy yet authentic. Guided by friend and fellow senior Carrie Lin, Lin was able to find the ideal camera angle and lighting for his photo, created with Snapchat’s picture editor. Lin, however, is more proud of the pun itself, joking, “[Carrie Lin’s] senior name is Carriemel Macchiato, and I strongly believe my senior name is superior to hers.” Just like Low, Lin learned about the senior tradition in his sophomore year, when he started interacting more with seniors. When asked about his thoughts on senior names, he said, “I love the tradition because everyone gets to be creative; there can’t be a bad senior name, and I don’t see any problems with it so far. Everybody seems happy with it.” Lin’s positivity seems to summarize the senior class’s views: during turbulent times like these, senior traditions like the “Facebook names” have pulled through to unite Stuyvesant students and create a sense of stability and normalcy. However, the tradition’s popularity might only stop here at Stuyvesant. When asked if they had heard of any other schools that have
senior names, students usually could not think of any. One plausible theory is that “nobody else uses Facebook,” as suggested by senior Leo Xiao (GlassOf Leomonade). Similar to many other seniors, he received help from two of his friends, Patrick Ren (PatRick Roll) and Neil Sarkar (Löch Neilss Mönster), with producing the name. While Facebook’s lack of popularity could be to blame, it is just as plausible that the tradition has simply not caught on in New York City. Senior Dario Cipani (Dario Queen) mentioned that a few of his friends in other schools like Brooklyn Tech have also partaken in the tradition, but they seem to be outliers. Like many others, Cipani made a pun with food, mimicking Dairy Queen, a famous ice cream chain, with help from his friend Sunny Bok (SunnyNut Cheerios). One of his favorite names is senior Alan Guo’s “Fa MuAlan,” saying “there are a lot of great names to choose from, but as I scrolled through my Facebook friends, I thought Fa MuAlan was creative and new.” While senior names may not be too big around New York City, articles from other New York areas show participation in the tradition from places as close as Jericho (Nassau County) and Huntington Station (Suffolk County) and as distant as Connecticut, Maryland, and England. Still, for many students, the tradition’s social benefits—not its popularity—is what’s important. Quarantine has been extremely lonely, and students have had to resort to all kinds of entertainment to escape the boredom of being home-bound. “Senior names” have seemingly generated a renewed feeling of joy and hopefulness, elevating the tradition to an essential socioemotional diversion.
ing manga collections.” She was able to revisit old favorites and discover new manga series because of the extra free time she had during quarantine and the summer. When senior Yasmeen Hassan began remote learning in March, she found a unique way to communicate with her friends: letter writing. When in-person classes were canceled, Hassan found she had much more time to respond to letters that her friends h a d sent her during the tor cta pe winter. She S e Th really enjoyed n/ e h aC responding to rin Sab and writing letters, so she asked all her friends if they wanted her to send them a letter. Hassan ordered numerous stamps and decorations, such as stickers and motivational cards, for her letters. “I got about 20
people who wanted me to send them letters, and I didn’t have enough stuff for more than five people,” she explained. Hassan made an effort to stylize each letter she sent, so she made many different purchases so her friends could receive letters individualized for them. She also discovered a new artist that she really liked through TikTok, called Mothica. Hassan ordered Mothica’s merchandise, including a hat, shirt, and sweatshirt. She was even able to talk to Mothica over Zoom. Hassan made many purchases over quarantine that brought her happiness and helped her better pursue her interests and hobbies. It seems retail therapy has gotten a new meaning over the past few months. To students, it means buying things that bring them some sense of comfort or normalcy. Whether it means buying a long book series to indulge in, two dozen pins inspired by a teacher, or simply writing hand-decorated letters to friends, students have found a multitude of ways to splurge with their money and time.
Instant Buy By ISABELLE YARAMENKO and ELLEN PEHLIVANIAN Many Stuyvesant students have purchased oddities during quarantine that they otherwise would have hesitated to buy and ultimately not have purchased. The combination of a multitude of online shopping sites at the press of a button and all the time in the world is more deadly than ever—fatal to both our wallets and our storage space. Junior Vivien Li decided to splurge on the entire Game of Thrones series and made it her mission to read all the books over quarantine. “I was sitting on my computer, and then I saw a YouTube video pop up in my recommended explaining [the last season of ] Game of Thrones. I thought I should probably buy the books instead [of watching it],” she explained. Though Li hasn’t finished all of the novels yet, she’s enjoyed the books thus far. “I’ve already watched the TV series, except for the eighth season, and I really liked [it]. The books were basically the same thing, except
much more detailed,” Li said. She aims to continue reading the series and hopefully finish it once we have a school break but will take it at her own pace: “It took me about a month [to read the first book],” Li added. Considering the length of the series, it seems like she’ll have her nose buried in those books for a long time. Senior Kelly Guo made a number of purchases based on hobbies and interests that she developed over quarantine. Her favorite purchase was over 24 different lapel pins. Guo was inspired to begin collecting pins by drafting teacher Arthur Griffith, who wears a different Disney pin on his tie every day. During her interview, Guo added, “It’s
something I find really interesting, and I wanted to implement that on my backpack. I wanted to use it as a form of self-expression.” Unfortunately, schools have yet to
open, so she has not had a chance to execute her plans; for now, her pins will remain displayed in her room. Another hobby that she revisited was reading manga. During quarantine, Guo discovered that one of her favorite manga from middle school has a sequel, expressing that, “This led me to want to complete already-exist-
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Features Lights, Camera, Zoom! By JENNIFER JI Over the summer, Stuyvesant teachers had the chance to work through the lumps and bumps in the online learning system. It was a time to adjust testing policies, to move textbooks online, and, of course, to figure out the best ways to make use of Zoom. The conclusion was this—students are expected to turn on their cameras for class. While turning on cameras cannot be required, many students can confirm their teachers have influenced the participation grade to induce students to comply. However, many issues can arise with students. As English teacher Alicia Pohan said in an e-mail interview, “Some [students] don’t have cameras yet but are getting them soon, and a small handful need more time to adjust or have home situations that make cameras problematic.” A Zoom camera shows more
than just the student; you can see their background. Although virtual backgrounds make a good alternative, there might not be a perfect solution. It’s possible that students are home with parents and siblings who are moving in the background. Turning on a camera may show more than what the student is comfortable with. Anyone can pin your video, and anyone can record and take pictures of you without your knowledge or consent. Beyond privacy concerns, sometimes you just don’t feel like showing your face on camera. Junior Emma Chio said, “[Some times] when I’ve wished that the camera was off are times like when I wake up late and literally look like I just woke up or when I want to just get up and stretch.” Students may be insecure about their appearance online. But despite all these insecurities and potential privacy issues, most Stuyvesant
teachers still insist on students turning on their cameras. Junior Aidan Look brought up a valid argument in favor of cameras: “I think it’s ideal for students to turn cameras on. I think it’s pretty effective in making our virtual classrooms more engaging. Maybe it could be a distraction at times, but it’s nice to be able to see who is speaking and have face-to-face interaction with other students.” As physics teacher Thomas Miner said in an e-mail interview, “This helps people connect and engage with one another (also, it’s no fun teaching to a room full of photographs and blank squares).” Senior Reilly Amera agrees: “Personally, I like that people are encouraged to turn on their cameras over Zoom. It has definitely helped with class participation, which was at an all-time low last term. Personally, I am comfortable with turning on
my camera and do so for every class. It is an incentive to get ready in the mornings, something I wouldn’t do as much if I were able to lie in bed with my camera off.” Teachers and students alike can find the classroom experience disheartening when the teacher has to lecture to 30 blank squares. It may also be comforting for students to see each other after a 7-month hiatus. Familiar faces in a classroom may help a student adjust to an online environment more easily. Amera also brings up another good point—turning on cameras better mimics a regular classroom, which may help students create a routine. Whether or not a student feels comfortable turning on their camera, Stuyvesant teachers have made it clear they will accommodate any and every circumstance a student may encounter. Miner referenced his own classroom rules, stating,
“I’m all ears if individual students have legitimate concerns as to why they can’t have their cameras on during class.” But when students have their webcams off, it’s difficult for teachers to know if the student is engaged or paying attention. Pohan volunteers a solution: “Any student who can’t do the camera thing yet but takes advantage of every other opportunity to contribute to the discussion and participate in our classroom community will not be penalized for no camera.” And ultimately, everybody is working together with students to make school feel as normal as possible. As Pohan wrote, “Even in normal times, not all my students have the same situations or needs or limitations. Just like I would work with individual students to accommodate their needs in person, same thing here.”
Stepping Into the (Mu)shoes of Asian American Women— How “Mulan” Brings Honor to Us All
By LAUREN LEE
and an Asian American. “It made me realize that we don’t need to conform to the standards set for us. We can make our own standards and walk our own path,” B said. Though B’s shoulders were weighed down by standards and expectations from her parents, Mulan stood as a symbol that it was okay to
angry, it didn’t feel right to yell from rage,” Liu said. A female was supposed to be observant, polite, and elegant in her family. It took years, during middle school and beyond, for Liu to fully embrace her identity as an Asian American girl, for her reflection to show who she is inside. Liu gives a lot of credit
create her own path and make her own decisions. For sophomore Sharon Liu, “Mulan” is a lesson on self-acceptance. From a young age, Liu was called derogatory terms by strangers for being Asian American. Even some of her family members put her down for wearing certain clothes or acting differently from the mold they made for her. Liu was forced to change out of or cover up any clothing that was considered too revealing for her family. She was pressured to commit to more feminine hobbies instead of masculine activities like sports. Even her emotions were forced to be suppressed. “If I were ecstatic about something, it would be strange for me to yell out in celebration. If I were sad or
to the support of her friends: “The key is to surround yourself with people who encourage you to appreciate your culture. I’ve learned to form relationships that make me feel proud of my identity instead of trying to hide it away.” But perhaps Liu’s biggest influence as she struggled to find herself was Mulan: “Initially, I was amazed that she had the courage to step in for her father and fake her identity, knowing the punishment, but […] what really showed me she was extraordinary was her ability to reveal her true self. Not only is she brave, [but] she is also selfless.” Mandarin teacher Shu Shi grew up with “The Ballad of Mulan.” Shi has known the story since she was just a little girl, as it is considered a classic in China.
Sunny Bok / The Spectator
“Mulan” redefined what it meant to be an Asian woman in a man’s world and brought Asian characters to the big screen in 1998. Disney’s animated movie is based on the poem “The Ballad of Mulan,” which is about an elderly war veteran who is forced to join the army because he is the man of the house. Mulan fearlessly breaks the law and goes against societal standards to save her father from enlisting by taking his place. Mulan understands the risks of posing in the military as a man, but she cares more about saving her father and bringing honor to her family. She uses her wit and strength to accomplish tasks that her male counterparts could never achieve. As Disney’s eighth princess, she challenges the traditional definition of a princess by proving that anyone who is kind, brave, and smart can be one. Mulan is an icon for females and Asians, especially at Stuyvesant. Student (A), one of the many students who chose to be anonymous due to the fact that they feel uncomfortable with their names being associated with their responses, first watched the 1998 animated film when she was just five years old. “I admired Mulan, who was able to fight so courageously when I wouldn’t have even been able to take a single step onto that battlefield. I figured that because I was kind of like her in that I was also Asian (and female), but young me didn’t realize that yet one day, I might also have a chance to become someone like her,” A said. For A, Mulan was a role model who looked like her and gave her hope that she, too, could accomplish great things. Having someone like Mulan to look up to became increasingly important as A grew up and began to experience the microaggressions that come with being female and Asian American. As a female, she was often told that it wasn’t her place to speak and was denied her voice. And because she was Asian American,
classmates at school told her daily that her rice was a weird and disgusting thing to bring for lunch. As time went on, A began to internalize these messages: “I slowly started to adopt those same sentiments; I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t have spoken up, the men were talking, and women/girls didn’t have a say in that matter, or that eating rice for lunch instead of a turkey sandwich was kind [of ] weird, so I should just stop bringing lunch to school. [Those comments] made me feel small, and even though it made me uncomfortable, I couldn’t find the voice to tell them that it did.” Though frequently belittled and pushed down for her own identity, she slowly came to the realization that perhaps there was no need to subscribe to other people’s notions of “correct” behavior for girls, especially Asian girls. Mulan certainly wouldn’t. A began to realize, as Mulan did when she donned her father’s armor and went into battle, “how much potential […] I could have even if society had already assigned a role for me based on my sex and race.” Mulan stayed a constant role model who proved that being Asian American or female was not a disadvantage but rather something to be proud of. Another student (B) has long been held to a double standard by her parents. “I could be doing homework and my brother [could] be gaming, but I’ll still have to help my mom do housework while he can continue gaming,” B said. On top of being held to different standards for being female, B was raised in a distinctly Asian household that valued education and certain careers. Her family expects her to keep her grades up and then, after attending a (reputable) college, pursue an acceptable career. In essence—bring honor to us all. B watched “Mulan” seven years ago with her friends. When she watched, she observed that Mulan was able to bring honor to her family without following the path that was explicitly laid out for her. Mulan empowered B as both a woman
The ballad was a required reading in mainland China, and Shi was told to memorize it from the characters to the punctuation. The famous heroine’s bravery and willingness to sacrifice for both her family and country are moving to Shi. Shi hopes that her students can be kind and grateful just as Mulan was to her father. “A lot of Stuyvesant students’ parents work very hard to support their kids. At the parent-teacher conferences, when I [see] my students show great respect to their parents and my students are grateful for what their family has done for them, I feel very gratified,” Shi said. Sophomore Jet Li notes that the 1998 animated version of “Mulan” had a great impression on him. “Mulan was just a simple girl with no chi powers or anything, and so, she struggled a lot [at] the beginning of the training camp. However, she rose up to the challenge and managed to become the most hardworking person in the camp [who] reached the top when none of the men could,” Li said. Li still thinks that even though “Mulan” defied the norms of her time, there are still doubts today about what women are capable of. Li strongly disagrees with this societal norm: “Women can do anything men can do. One’s gender does not define their capabilities. Instead, intellect and the effort put in are what really [determine] what a person can or can’t do.” Mulan inspires many different messages in her audience. As the younger generation watches “Mulan” for the first time, the princess will continue to be a role model for Asian American girls (and maybe even a few boys). Liu hopes that Mulan will be a lasting role model in the lives of younger viewers. “The movie teaches you that you’re in charge of your own life,” she said. “Your life is in your hands, and you’re completely responsible for how it plays out. The moment Mulan embraced that, she was able to accomplish what she put her heart to.”
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Features What Makes Life Worth Living? (Other Than School, That Is) As the pressures of school and quarantine weigh down on us, Stuyvesant students take a moment to reflect on who or what keeps us motivated to live. Whether it is friends and family or that new Netflix show, what makes life worth living? “Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese toasted. Oh, and an iced coffee with milk and no sugar. Thank you so much! The random cats and dogs that I encounter on the street. But on a more serious note, my friends and all the little things we do together or for each other. The little moments that seem insignificant but the memory of which can make you smile on even the saddest day. Oh, and Winnie the Pooh.” —Agata Regula, senior “Cash. Also, harassing the elderly.” —Ian Graham, junior “TV shows and cooking food!” —Samira Esha, junior
“I think what makes life worth living is all the experiences that you have. I really enjoy the small sort of mundane moments that you can look back on in the future.” —Sydney Yang, senior
“For me, it’s all in the small things, like the feeling of waking up and brewing coffee or biking and seeing the sunset. It’s just taking time to smell the roses that makes me happy.” —Alice Xue, sophomore
“To quote The Heidelberg Catechism’s first answer to the question, ‘What is your only comfort in life and in death?’ it is simply knowing ‘that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.’ I recognize that although my family and friends are the ones in my life that I value, it is ultimately the Creator that I serve and worship that makes life truly worth living. It is knowing that because of Christ I may be a sinner and don’t deserve His grace, but He has assured me of eternal life with Him, and that makes me realize how beautiful yet small my life on Earth is. This life is not my own, but with complete and utter humility, I give my future to Him and all my worries about what is yet to come. Life’s weight may seem heavy, but I am left with peace knowing the rest of my life is in the hands of the One who created the depths of the sea to the vast array of stars.” —Sarah Peter, sophomore
“Life is worth living for the people you care about. It could be your friends, your family, whoever is important to you. Your relationship with them is important, and they care about you just as much as you care about them, if not more. You guys have overcome obstacles together, played together, sang together, and most likely even argued with one another. But no matter what it is, you guys have grown together, in ways good and bad that shape you into the person you are today.” —Jet Li, sophomore “I think what makes life worth living are the relationships you make. Whether it be relations with family and friends or with something totally inanimate (books, games, stuffed dolls), there are things that keep us attached and happy in this world. These relationships are what drive us to be motivated and give us purpose since without any relation, there is nothing keeping us attached to this world.” —Nicholas Zhong, senior “It’s the only one we get, [so we] might as well make it memorable. The people you meet, the memories you make, the things you get to see and experience. There’s so much to do in this world, and we won’t be able to do it all in one life, so we[’ve got to] work with what we [have] and just make it work.” —Elie Zheng, sophomore
“Family and friends make my life worth living. Throughout my life, there have been people who have wished for my failure to satisfy their egos. There have been circumstances that have discouraged me from success. However, I learned to not let their actions and words affect me, and I instead listened to the voices of people who care about me. My family and friends have helped shape me into a more confident [version] of myself, and I always know I can turn to them when I feel down.” —Mandy Wong, junior
“Life doesn’t have meaning, so it’s up to humans to embrace the absurd and give their own meaning for living from a philosophical existentialist point of view.” —Anika Amin, junior
“Minecraft, donuts, laughing till I can’t breathe, and seeking discomfort (shoutout to Yes Theory).” —Jessica Kwok, senior “There is so much beauty to experience and meaning to create. There are so many people (and pets!) to love and so many ways to be surprised.” —Rosa Mazzurco, English teacher
“What makes life worth living to me is competence, the idea that you can do something well. That’s meaningful to me and a lot of people. My parents used to take me to hiking trails, but at that time, I didn’t really see any value in it, so the hiking wasn’t really meaningful to me. Now, I’ve learned to gain meaning from trying to be a good hiker/climber, which means I learn to watch my pace, keep up with the group, etc. And so that gives my life more purpose.” —Tony Jia, senior
“I’d say getting to meet new people and having new experiences. But also keeping in touch [with] people you already know. I guess it’s just about finding your crowd, which is the hard part, but once you get through it, life is a whole lot more worth it.” —Sean Fung, senior
“I guess one thing that makes life worth living is all the little things you do every day that make someone else happy. For me, making someone else feel happy makes me feel happy.” —Michelle Zhang, sophomore
“I think what makes life worth living is my friends and family. And also all the passions and the fun things I can do.” —Rachel Lin, junior
“My sister and friends make life worth living because having strong relationships with people I love makes me happy. Dancing is my favorite activity, and it makes life worth living because I am able to express myself through a creative outlet.” —Riona Anvekar, junior
“Personally, [I think that] emotions make life worth living. I mean, if you never had the ability to react to anything, you would never have feelings, and if you never had feelings, then happiness would never exist [for you].” —Vicky Liu, junior
An Ideal Stuyvesant School Day By JUDY CHEN This coming school year looks like it will be a strange one. Many freshmen are beginning their Stuyvesant careers from home as seniors start the college process from afar. Regardless of grade, Stuyvesant students will have a shortened school day, with a mere five hours of daily classes. Nobody will get to hug their friends in the hallway or have lunch side by side in the cafeteria. But even though being quarantined may not be the most favorable situation, one of its benefits is that it gives students more freedom in designing an ideal school day for themselves. Even before the school day starts, an additional hour of sleep seems to be quite the treat for some, especially those who
live far from downtown Man- freedom in working style, stuhattan, as transportation can be dents lean toward what is most quite time-consuming. “My ide- effective for themselves instead al day of remote learning is wak- of following a rigid school-based ing up at 7:00 [a.m.], which environment. “If I have no is a lot later than I would classes that day, I start by wake up for school because I doing less time-consuming wouldn’t have to [take] transwork earlier in the morning, portation,” sophomore Ando more in-depth assignvar Kadirbekov explained. ments in the afternoon, Other students have and end my day off with remained early birds. some easier work,” Sophomore Sarah sophomore LiPeter explained, anne Ohayon “My ideal day in said. remote learning St u d e n t s would be waking also have up 30 min[ute]s to hopes for an hour earlier bewhat their fore school starts so classes and I can get myself situated.” Rachel Chuong / The Spectator teachers will be Many Stuyvesant students like. “In terms of have also been re-imagining [my] ideal [day], [I prefer] a lestheir academic lives. Now that son that I understand and teachvirtual classes provide more ers who understand that other
classes give homework, not just them. Basically, [I hope for] a very fair day with a moderate amount of homework and a basic lesson,” sophomore Pimada Phongsuriya said. Hobbies and personal interests that otherwise would be ignored are also brought to light. From reading to socializing, Stuyvesant students plan to embrace many different long-term and short-term interests. “I’ve also discovered over the summer that I can draw cartoons, something that I quite literally didn’t think I could do until my brother asked me to draw Sokka from Avatar, so I hope to set aside some time for that as well,” junior Katherine Lake said. Aside from the new pursuits brought by unexpected circumstances, some believe that expanding their predetermined
goals would be a beneficial and efficient way to spend their extra hours. “I want to continue to pursue at-home activism and read more seriously. I also want to work on expanding my extracurricular interests and partake in cultural affairs and discussions that are being held remotely,” junior Elio Torres explained. After completing all assigned and self-proclaimed goals, many students plan to kick back and relax. “I’d like to spend time with my family, whether it be eating dinner with them or playing a few board games after our school day is over,” Lake said. As remote learning slowly takes away certain in-person opportunities, students will find themselves working around possible inconveniences to create their ideal school days for a successful year.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
SCIENCEBEAT The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the discoverers of the Hepatitis C virus, who have enabled life-saving advances in treatments for liver cancer and scarring.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three Laureates researching black holes, one of whom proved the existence of these regions using Einstein’s general theory of relativity (despite Einstein’s belief that it could not be done).
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the researchers who isolated CRISPR/ Cas9, a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized biotechnology and paved the way for new classes of therapeutics.
Australia’s Newest Deadly Creature: The Giant Stinging Tree
By KAITLYN LEE and KIMYA FIROOZAN
Most people are aware of the unique wildlife that inhabits Australia, from its adorable kangaroos and koalas to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders. But recently, scientists have delved deeper into the secrets of what, upon first glance, looks like a harmless plant in the continent’s rainforests. The Australian stinging tree, also called the Gympie-Gympie tree, resembles any common shrub, even boasting welcoming, fuzzy green leaves that passersby are inclined to feel. But someone who so much as lays a finger on the plant would be injected with an extremely potent and painful toxin. In fact, what appears to be fuzz on the tree’s leaves is actually an array of poisonous needles ready to fire at the first touch. Centuries-old legends describe men being driven to insanity and horses jumping off cliffs after a prick of the tree’s needles. Reportedly, the toxin can remain in the body for several days, even months. A Gympie-Gympie sting initially feels like fire, then after a few hours, transitions to a searing and aching pain. And a final stage—allodynia—lasts for days after the sting, during which seemingly innocent activities like taking a shower reignites
the pain.” In recent years, the Australian stinging tree has even been nicknamed “the suicide plant,” as no form of treatment is currently known to ease the pain. However, biologists led by Dr. Edward Gilding from the University of Queensland are hoping to study GympieGympie toxins to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms by which they act, ultimately aiming to improve remedies. Through various experiments, the scientists analyzed the needlelike hairs of the plant, called trichomes. Prior research had indicated that the molecule called moroidin may have been causing the pain; however, in subsequent experiments, this theory was disproved. Later analyses of the genes in the stinging tree, as well as separation and synthesis of the components of the tree’s toxin, uncovered neurotoxins named gympietides. Gympietides have been found to overload pain receptor cells, causing them to lose control in the production of pain-inducing signals. These signals are created by a stimulus that causes pain, which then induces electrical impulses that travel from neurons to the brain to indicate damage to body tissues. The toxin acts by latching onto these cells, stopping them from reverting to their original state. Because the gympietides
have a stable structure, they can remain in the body for long periods without being broken down. The gympietides are also able to resist strong painkillers like morphine through suppression of bodily mechanisms that attempt to stop pain. By affecting ion channels in nerve cells, gympietides prevent them from closing like usual, causing the cell to be unable to stop the continuous pain. As stated in The Guardian, “The Australian stinging trees make a neurotoxin that resembles a venom in both its molecular structure and how it is deployed by injection.” At the moment, scientists are still unsure of the best way to treat a Gympie-Gympie tree’s stings. Thus, they are working with environmentalists to put up warning signs around these trees. The signs inform passerby of the dangerous toxins these trees possess. As said in The New York Times, in the case of an accidental run-in with the stinging-tree, people who frequent these forests are arming themselves with respiratory protection, heavy-duty gloves, and fistfuls of antihistamines. While Dr. Gilding’s research sheds new light on the Australian giant stinging tree, it still has not uncovered all its secrets. For example, the team is unsure of the function of its toxin. While they theorize it was used to help dissuade herbivores from eating
the plant, animals such as beetles and pademelons often consume the plant, spines included. In addition, the researchers suspect that gympietides are not the only contributing factor to the toxin’s potent and lasting sting, as well as its other symptoms such as chest pain and discomfort in extremities. Dr. Gilding and his team’s research has barely scratched the surface of the Australian giant stinging tree’s mysteries and what makes its toxin so painful. They hold high hopes that their research will propel other research projects on gympietide antidotes. “By understanding how this toxin works, we hope to provide better treatment to those who have been stung by the plant, to ease or eliminate the pain,” said Dr. Vetter, a pain researcher collaborating with Dr. Gilding. Studying the toxins produced by venomous organisms may at first seem fruitless compared to researching climate change or searching for cancer treatments. However, it brings us closer to the biodiversity of our planet as we continue learning about the unique defense mechanisms organisms use to live through each day. Furthermore, it has the potential to help us further understand the pain and its causes, which in turn will allow for the development of more pain-relieving treatments in the near future.
Sun Cycles and an Analysis of Upcoming Cycle 25
By RUOXIN CAI
of the sun gives rise to complex magnetic structures. For reasons not entirely understood, these structures collapse and produce CMEs. During sun cycles, CMEs occur at a rate 50 times higher at maximum than the minimum. More directly, space exploration is entirely dependent on weather within the solar system. F o r
Jiang / The Specta ristina to
Humans have long postulated on the activities of the sun. The Egyptians proposed that the sun rose above and sunk below the Earth in cycles. The Aztecs named the sun Huitzilopochtli and gave him the endless cyclic task of fending off his matricidal crazed siblings in a chase across the sky, while the Greeks thought Apollo pulled the sun chariot every day and set down at dawn to mark the end of a daily cycle. Now, of course, we understand things very differently: the sun is an unconscious ball of plasma. Unlike common historical perceptions that thought the sun was perfect, eternal, and unchanging (once the heliocentric model was introduced), the sun is actually constantly belching violent waves of radiation and fighting fiercely against gravity, which is to be its inexorable death. The processes of the sun, which were once understood as its rising and setting, have expanded into a comparatively comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that govern and sustain it. Solar cycles are one of these phenomena. The sun is settling into its 25th solar cycle, whose proposed maximum of solar activity will occur in the year 2025. Solar cycles are cycles of the sun reversing its north and south magnetic poles, about every 11 years (numbered from 1755). It is hard for scientists to determine specific times for such cycles, as the sun’s cycle is variable and may take months to confirm if it is in fact leaving behind its most recent minimum of solar activity.
Solar cycles are an interesting phenomenon. Astrophysicists believe that a comprehensive understanding of sunspot and sun flare activity within these cycles could greatly advance the understanding of stars and magnetohydrodynamic phenomena across the universe. Magnetohydrodynamics is nothing more than the study of the magnetic properties of electrically conductive liquids (such as electrolytes). In this case, the “liquid” in question is plasma. As the magnetic field physically rotates to switch north and south poles during this process, solar activity can ramp up compared to the comparatively stable periods of minimum activity between the completion of each reversal of the poles. Currently, the most direct way of tracking solar cycles is through sunspots. During the onset of the solar cycle, sunspots appear in dense numbers all across the surface of the sun, mirrored roughly across the equator of the sun. As the cycle diminishes and comes to the next minimum, the sunspots migrate toward the equator and become much less dense. This can be represented by the Maunder Butterfly Diagram, which shows the trend of sunspots mirrored across the equator of the sun. Another characteristic of sun cycles is increased coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are produced when the dynamo action that generates the fluid motions at the surface
example, the upcoming Artemis Space Program depends heavily on predictions of space weather in order to properly shield astronauts from radiation and to protect satellite electronics. Solar cycle 25 is estimated to be similar to cycle 24, which was a cycle of below-average activity level. However, as the sun is variable, this does not rule out the possibility of extreme solar weather (as if 2020-21 needed more extreme weather). Solar storms, accompanied
by CMEs and other solar flares, can influence the Earth’s atmosphere on century (or longer) time scales. It is hard to measure the breadth of the sun’s effect on natural processes exactly, as there is a mix of factors. It would also be interesting to consider how sun cycles might affect the photosynthesizing organisms on Earth. Still, it is conclusive that the recent drastic and swift climate changes cannot be attributed to any solar activity a n d are likely strictly manmade. Further, space weather can exude direct control o v e r manmade processes. It can affect radio communications, disrupt navigation satellites, cause the aurora borealis effect (northern lights), and affect power on Earth. For example, energy utilities will receive solar forecasts to configure their power systems and plan to have support equipment in case of geomagnetic disturbances. In general, this is nothing truly detrimental to civilization. There is only one notable exception—that of the Carrington Event of 1859, in which a massive geomagnetic storm disrupted the electrical grid for extended periods and
induced significant damages. Still, the sun is a surprisingly volatile factor and is surveyed constantly by NASA. However, the most recent cycles (23, 24, and 25) have been especially benign. The upcoming cycle is predicted to be the minimum thus far of the last two centuries, and 30 to 35 percent of scientists have proposed theories that the sun may be going into a period of extended tranquility, which is good news for human civilization (and life on Earth) and even better news for space exploration, as NASA plans to land astronauts at the lunar south pole by 2024 in the Artemis Program. Not only do sun cycles seem to be calming, but the sun itself is distinctively indistinct. Compared to other levels of stellar activity, the sun is relatively calm. This is likely a critical factor in the development of life on Earth. Indeed, study of the solar cycles may narrow our target zone for the search of extraterrestrial life. The odd muteness of the sun has raised two major theories. The first is that the sun itself is in a lethargic state from which it will recover normal stellar activity. If this were to be true, it would raise many concerns for the future of human civilization. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that when the sun has indeed recovered normal activity, human technology will be sufficient to protect civilization from adverse effects. The second theory is that the sun is approaching the age at which its high energy period is coming to an end, on its descent to death. Only time—and data—will tell.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
By SHAH NABIL
Studies in California. However, the researchers at MIT who published the discovery believe that nothing other than life could produce the concentrations of phosphine found on Venus. ALMA detected a
phosphine. One of them is being run by Rocket Lab, a small, private rocket company based in New Zealand. It is developing a small probe that would be launched from a spacecraft with no parachute or breaks, descend through Venus’s atmosphere, gather phosphine levels, and send
For decades, scientists have hypothesized about the existence of extraterrestrial life. This curiosity has escaped labs and traveled into pop culture, as seen in movies such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) or the cultural obsession over Area 51. As of September, scientists may be one step closer to discovering it. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Cambridge published research on September 14, 2020, that there could be life on Venus. Though scientists have considered life on other planets such as Mars and an Earthlike planet 400 light-years away called Kepler 78b, few have considered life on Venus due to its inhospitable conditions. Its thick atmosphere reaches scorching temperatures, and poisonous clouds of sulfuric acid surround the planet. Despite often being called Earth’s “evil twin,” Venus has a cloud layer 31 miles into its atmosphere that may be hospitable. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest radio telescope in the world, detected high concentrations of phosphine in this layer. Phosphine, a chemical made up of phosphorus and hydrogen, is commonly associated with life because it can be generated by decaying organic matter and anaerobic organisms. Phosphine isn’t unique to Earth or Venus; it is also present on planets such as Jupiter and Saturn. What makes the discovery of phosphine on Venus special is that, unlike
Earth and Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are both gas giants, and the conditions on both of those planets are perfect for the abiotic synthesis of phosphine, meaning it is generated through chemical processes not associated with living organisms. The cores of these planets harbor amounts of pressure and energy sufficient for phosphine generation; afterward, phosphine is pushed to the atmosphere by powerful convection currents. In contrast, the Venusian atmosphere does not have the same degree of heat and energy, and the atoms required to create phosphine, phosphorus, and hydrogen do not often react with each other. Phosphorus quickly reacts with oxygen-containing molecules, such as carbon dioxide, which limits its ability to react with hydrogen. Thus, researchers concluded that the production of phosphine most likely comes from a living creature. Though very surprising, the presence of phosphine does not immediately indicate life on the hellish planet. There are several inanimate sources of phosphine, including volcanic activity and lightning. The chemical composition of Venus could still be too harsh to sustain life. A detection of phosphine could merely be “anomalous and unexplained chemistry,” said Gerald Joyce, a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Em il y
By ZOE PICCIRILLO and JENNA MACKENROTH
Gas on Venus Hints at Extraterrestrial Life
concentration of 20 parts per billion in Venus’s cloud layer, which is thousands of times greater than the concentrations found on Earth. Furthermore, temperatures in the cloud layer are hospitable, hovering around 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Research missions to Venus are already being planned in response to the discovery of
data back to the spacecraft before being destroyed by heat and pressure. If the mission is successful, Rocket Lab would be the first private company to launch a mission to another planet. NASA has plans set for traveling to Venus as well. The mission, named DAVINCI+, would also send a probe into the atmosphere to collect concentrations of gases. While the discovery of
phosphine on Venus is opening doors for new research missions, it is also causing scientists to return to older studies and papers regarding hypothetical life on Venus as they are forced to reevaluate its geological and atmospheric behavior. Scientists believe that the planet is still geologically active. Ideas of geological activity also tie into the theory that Venus was once a hospitable planet with a shallow ocean, which eventually evaporated due to its proximity to the sun. The past presence of water could explain the existence of microbes. As the water evaporated and surface temperatures began to rise, the microbes may have risen into the hospitable layer of the atmosphere where phosphine was discovered. One of the largest concerns for researchers in regards to potentially discovering life on Venus is that models and theories may be too Earth-centric. In the event that life is discovered on Venus, be it photosynthetic microbes, anaerobic microbes, or perhaps something completely unseen, our standard of what we consider “typical” of organisms will have to alter. We’re eager to see if we are not alone in the universe and how our definition of “life” might change if it is discovered. And we are most curious to learn what on Venus could be producing such high amounts of phosphine. Whether or not the existence of phosphine on Venus is a true indication of life, the resulting studies and renewed interest in our “evil twin” planet is sure to deepen our understanding of how to look for extraterrestrial life in the future.
Exploring Alternative COVID-19 Treatments
Imagine treating COVID-19, one of the most feared diseases of 2020, with a simple nose spray or gargle. This fantasy has the potential to realize in the future. Without a vaccine, scientists are scrambling to find a cure for the virus, attempting to find ways to stall its spread. A majority of studies on COVID-19 prevention deal with the nasal area, which is believed to be the primary location where SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, enters the human body. It is helpful to look into current treatment studies, as they show possible alternatives that can be further researched to provide effective treatment during this pandemic. Studies have shown how SARS-CoV-2 “gains its foothold by infecting certain nasal cells.” This means that directly targeting cells within the nose could lead to a quicker solution in preventing the virus. In a study by Menni et al. published in Nature Medicine, a “total of 2,618,862 participants reported their potential symptoms of COVID-19 on a smartphone-based app. Among the 18,401 who had undergone a SARS-CoV-2 test, the proportion of participants who reported loss of smell
and taste was higher in those with a positive test result…” This supports the fact that there is a correlation between the nasal area and COVID-19. In addition, an article in the European Respiratory Journal states how scientists conducted a scan in which the angiotensinconverting enzyme 2 (ACE2)
nanobodies, which are essentially shorter, sturdier antibodies, or proteins used to eradicate viruses and bacteria in the immune system. The idea is for scientists to use these nanobodies, which are “found in camels, llamas, and alpacas” (ScienceNews) to bind with SARS-CoV-2 antigens
still researching their properties. However, the research suggests that one possible treatment is a nasal spray that would send nanobodies into the nose and eliminate any trace of the virus. Another treatment is the use of povidone-iodine to clean the nasal area through a liquid solution. Articles in
A majority of studies on COVID-19 prevention deal with the nasal area, which is believed to be the primary location where SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, enters the human body. enzyme, which is connected to cells in the respiratory system that decrease blood pressure, showed a signal confirming “high levels in the human olfactory epithelium relative to upper airway epithelial cells.” The human olfactory epithelium is the tissue area in the nose responsible for the sense of smell. Therefore, since there are high levels of the ACE2 enzyme (that SARS-CoV-2 reacts to) in the cells of the epithelium, the nose must be the primary location for effective treatment. One treatment for COVID-19 deals with
(substances of the virus in the body) and effectively neutralize, or destroy, them before they reach critical points in the body. A paper concerning nanobodies that was published in the journal bioRxiv found that a nanobody could neutralize SARS-CoV-2 through “singledomain antibodies (nanobodies) that potently disrupt the interaction between the SARSCoV-2 Spike and ACE2,” revealing that nanobodies are a potential solution to counteract COVID-19. As of now, the nanobodies have not been tested on humans, and scientists are
journals such as PMC, Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, and ClinicalTrials all show the idea of utilizing a povidoneiodine solution as a rinse in the throat and nose. This provides a cheaper way of preventing COVID-19 because liquid solutions of povidone-iodine are easy to produce and are marketable as an antiseptic. The PMC article talks about how the virus reacted when in contact with the solution in an external environment, where “PVP-I oral antiseptic preparations rapidly inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus...” Similar
to the nanobodies, a nose spray or oral medicine can be made with povidone-iodine, washing away the virus completely. This also has not been tested with humans but shows promising results in future studies, such as a study in ClinicalTrials where workers are currently utilizing povidone-iodine products to test its effectiveness. According to the ScienceNews article, “Other researchers are turning to an even more low-tech solution: a mixture of soap and salt… A current clinical trial is designed to look for effects of baby shampoo mixed with a salt solution on the symptoms and possible spreading of SARSCoV-2 in people who have COVID-19.” Finding different treatments for COVID-19 is critical to today’s landscape. The effects of the virus aren’t new to anyone: it has damaged many livelihoods economically, socially, and emotionally. The treatments, while still in their preliminary stages, give the hope of at least slowing down the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is created (which will take many more months to do). Even if they may not completely destroy the virus, studying these treatments will help society determine prevention methods and allow more time to develop a vaccine.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Science Urban Ecology: A Closer Look at Ourselves and the City By JENNY LIU
numerous field trips across the city and even an optional camping trip, an aspect that made the course very applicable and enjoyable. I attended the trip in the Fall of 2019; it took place over Columbus Day weekend at
Park. Of course, there are written assignments about trips afterward, but they don’t deter from the excitement. The course culminates in three class presentations: a poster board detailing a specific
involve examining certain Urban-Ecology-related issues of a major global city (assigned to you at the beginning of the course) and comparing and contrasting it to those of New York City. The class also involves
a camping site in upstate New York. We went hiking, canoeing, and had a lot of downtime to explore the site. We also helped prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Required class trips include visits to an NYC sewage treatment plant and Freshkills
issue in ecology, a PowerPoint presentation of a literature review of an approved topic related to Urban Ecology, and a green building design and build. The projects get progressively tougher and cover a wide variety of skills. The literature
Courtesy of Claire Shin
In a time of urbanization when our relationship with the environment is immediate and unsteady, Urban Ecology has never seemed as important a class as it is now. Unfortunately, due to the frequent in-person field trips and hands-on projects that make up a majority of the class, Urban Ecology is not available this school year as a science elective. But the significance of the course remains. Urban Ecology––both the class and discipline––is the study of how people in suburbs and cities interact with their environment. It is very interdisciplinary, blending content from traditionally distinct disciplines such as economics, psychology, biology, sociology, geography, and public policy. It calls into question things such as the design of our transportation systems, the effects of urban sprawl, and the benefits of green infrastructure. The curriculum, taught by biology teacher Marissa Maggio, is broken into 11 parts: Introduction to Ecology; Introduction to Urbanization and Urban Geography; Urban Soils; Urban Aquatics; Biodiversity: Urban Flora and Habitation Fracturing; Biodiversity: Human Impact on Urban Wildlife Populations; Global Impact and Patterns; Urbanization and Human Health; Urban Conservation; Urban Planning and Land Management; and Political and Economic Drivers of Best Management Practices. Though Urban Ecology
is a single-semester course, there is a considerable amount of work involved. The class involves weekly textbook and article readings in addition to biweekly two-page reflection papers; these reflection papers
review involves reading research papers and creating an annotated bibliography, whereas the building project consists of making an actual building design plan and constructing the building using materials. As if the projects themselves are not enough, students have to participate in online discussion forums via Jupiter Grades about each other’s projects and provide feedback. This happens for every project and is part of a student’s grade. Last, but certainly not least, a component of the class is cafeteria duty, a requirement for all students. Once a week for 15 minutes at the end of a lunch period, students help direct recycling and composting practices for the other students in the cafeteria. They receive an initial from one of the lunch supervisors as proof of their service. The Urban Ecology elective is every bit as interdisciplinary as the discipline itself: it involves multiple avenues of learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. The course requires a lot of commitment and collaboration, but it is enjoyed by many of its students. “[The students] leave with a heightened awareness of national affairs and are much more conscious of the impact we all have on the environment in our daily lives,” junior Katherine Lake said. “I feel so much more educated after just a semester of learning and am confident that the world would benefit immensely if everyone was provided with this opportunity.”
The West Coast Is Burning: Why? Since June, residents in the Western United States have been startled by blazing red skies. States including California, Oregon, and Washington are currently experiencing one of their worst wildfire seasons yet. In California alone, over two million acres of land have burned this year, breaking all of the previous year’s records. Wildfires can begin either naturally or be caused by humans. Humans cause as much as 90 percent of wildfires through unattended campfires, arson, and discarded cigarettes. Naturally occurring wildfires start in dry environments with strong winds. Conditions like these can result in vegetation drying out into flammable fuels or the promotion of combustion due to higher temperatures. At that point, all that’s needed is some kind of trigger to ignite the fire, which could be as minor as an unattended campfire or discarded cigarette. Dozens of theories have been bounced around to explain the source of this year’s surge of fires, but global warming emerges as one of the most important. Climate change has been an issue for as long as we can remember, but its effects are now readily apparent in the Western U.S. Though climate change doesn’t directly ignite fires, it makes for a warm, dry environment that’s more prone to starting naturally occurring
wildfires. California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah have all had their driest and hottest August this past year. Unsurprisingly, they are also some of the states that have been hit the hardest this wildfire season. Since the late 1900s, the Western U.S. has warmed up by three degrees Fahrenheit. These rising temperatures accelerate moisture evaporation at a rate that the slowly increasing atmospheric moisture cannot compete with. This has resulted in an inadequate amount of moisture and thus has increased the rate at which plants dry out. This dryness makes the vegetation extremely susceptible to burning into a large-scale wildfire. In a study by American Geophysical Union, a direct connection has been found between higher moisture deficits and increasing summer fires from the years 1972 to 2018. The frequent and intense wildfire seasons in the American West brought on and exacerbated by both climate change and ignorant forestry practices have had profound effects on the immediate environment and daily lives of local inhabitants. First, for firefighters at the front lines, their ranks have already been reduced by the social distancing restrictions put in place in response to the ongoing pandemic. Those trying to curb the fires are subject to increasingly dangerous conditions. Typically, firefighters
aim to starve the fires by using tools like adzes and chainsaws to remove potential fuel, such as low branches and dry vegetation. In stark contrast to the fires that have been burning hotter and more rapidly in recent decades, these firefighting techniques have changed relatively little. The strenuous, hands-on nature of their job puts the firefighters at unnecessary risk—a risk many of them must unfortunately take to earn a living and support
Cindy Yang / The Spectator
By ARIN FARUQUE and ARTHUR LIANG
their families. Furthermore, the U.S. Forest Service has spent over $2.6 billion on suppressing fires in 2018 alone, not to mention the money needed to repair the thousands of structures destroyed. Additionally, the smoke from ongoing and past wildfires is a mixture of gases like carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter from burning trees and buildings. Prolonged exposure to wildfire smoke is linked to
serious health issues, including respiratory problems, heart attacks, and strokes. In the developing lungs of babies, the health implications of inhaling smoke may be lifelong and irreversible. Wildfire smoke and subsequent smoke plumes reach all the way to the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. Air quality is at its worst in decades, and at this rate, it will only continue getting worse each year, affecting the lives of more and more Americans. Moreover, with many households being destroyed by the wildfires, especially those near susceptible vegetation, insurers are becoming increasingly financially strained. And with California now laying out rules to make insurance more affordable in fire-prone areas, insurers are considering ceasing their services to those areas and other areas that may succumb to wildfires in the near future. This further compounds the risk that families living in these areas have of losing everything. The situation in the Western U.S. is looking grimmer than ever. Strong efforts to advocate for measures like cost-efficient firefighting strategies to offset inevitable expenditures and distancing firefighters from dangers are crucial. It goes without saying that something needs to be done to interrupt what seems like the wildfires’ free reign over the region’s environment and inhabitants each coming year.
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Editorials Education on the Election Conversation surrounding the 2020 presidential election has become increasingly inescapable this year, but with less than a month until Election Day, it has reached a new high that has seemingly trumped even the coronavirus in terms of general chatter. With new stories and articles being released every day, it is hard to feel as though we are not living through a significant moment in history, making the issue at hand all the more pressing. Among all the Stuyvesant departments, social studies is most likely to devote class time to covering the election, the current political climate, and societal intricacies that have come with 2020. Formal learning on the subject is imperative, especially for a student body that is just taking its first steps into the political abyss. Part of learning history is developing an accurate understanding of the politics that shape it, but this seemingly straightforward objective is anything but simple. This complexity is especially acute given that most current high school students were only in elementary or middle school during the 2016 presidential election; at such a young age, it is probable that many of these students, particularly those whose families do not regularly talk about politics, did not gain much exposure to the political events surrounding presidential elections. Come the 2020 election, they still lack much knowledge about current events. Without teachers explaining details regarding the election and notably providing resources about both campaigns—through homework assignments, additional readings,
or other resources—students are left more vulnerable to having their political beliefs easily swayed, and even determined, by outside sources. Furthermore, it is not uncommon that certain students—those who are interested and engaged in politics—dominate discussions about the elections. Beyond helping students form a solid base of understanding, teachers providing these extra materials prevents the scenario of an exclusive cluster of politically vocal and informed students controlling conversations. While many teachers who incorporate the 2020 election into class discussions choose not to share any of their political views with students, others may inject some of their opinions into the dialogue. Oftentimes, teachers might choose not to involve their opinions for fear of making students uncomfortable or somehow swaying the conversation, and that logic is completely valid. We, however, have found that classroom discussions are rarely worse off with teachers’ input: political stances often leak out regardless of whether they are explicitly stated, and as long as teachers maintain a welcoming environment for students of differing opinions, there is no harm in participating in the conversation themselves. Still, we attend a majority left-leaning school (75 percent of students identified most with the Democratic Party in The Spectator’s political typology survey), and it is critical that teachers are aware of the occasional conflict that can arise outside of class for students who express views outside of that majority. Teachers
should set an example by making sure students feel comfortable expressing their opinions, regardless of their popularity, ensuring that political conversation inside and outside of the classroom can be populated by students with diverse beliefs. Many teachers have already integrated current events and politics into their class discussions, beginning the first few minutes with discussions about the current political climate. Some have gone a step further and assigned political projects to their students, such as examining the country’s swing states and their influence on the election or profiling the presidential and vice presidential candidates and their policies. This addition allows all students, whether they are heavily involved in politics or less civically engaged, to participate and be aware of current events and societal issues that our country is facing. Though time has been a limiting factor that has discouraged many teachers from diving into current events during class, a few teachers have decided to hold optional small sessions outside of class for students who are interested in further discussing important events. This model is an effective option as teachers do not feel pressured to rush through their lessons due to time constraints, and it allows students who are interested in participating in political discussions to do so with their peers while teachers facilitate it. Despite justified time concerns, accessibility, clarity, and brevity are of utmost importance in political learning preceding the rapidly approaching election. Whether it be inside of the 55-minute class period
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or out, or through a project, salon, mini-lesson, or lecture, we are living through too crucial a time in history to not be covering it in our social studies classes. While much of the fray will (presumably) end in just over
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20 days following the results on November 3, being well versed in politics extends far beyond the immediate election and is crucial to our development as students, adults, and informed citizens.
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The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Opinions The Experience of a “Banana” in White America By ISABEL CHING
e Spe / Th r
“Yellow on the outside, white on the inside! Get it? A banana!” I had never been compared to fruit before that comment. I had always been the soccer player or the class pet or the tomboy. Never a fruit. When I first heard it, I laughed and embraced it. Who cared? It was just a childish nickname, right? But as I’ve grown older, the name has taken on a new meaning. It’s become more demeaning. Like a dirty word. I don’t like it. Maybe because it isn’t too far from the truth. I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin. I’ve always felt out of place, like I am some sort of anomaly that simply doesn’t belong. Like I’m not a member of some exclusive little club that my white or Asian peers were automatically granted membership to. My parents recognized this discomfort. Their solution was to send me to an elementary school with a dual language Mandarin program in the hopes that I’d “connect” to the Asian culture which I had so ignorantly disregarded for my entire childhood. The student population at my new school was 75 percent Asian and primarily low income—a complete change from
the small private school which I had grown so accustomed to. The goal was to learn more about my Chinese culture and the world outside the little bubble I’d occupied for so long. Their hopes were dashed by the first day. It was too late. I grew up completely surrounded by white affluence: second homes, nannies, the “urge to splurge”—as one of my childhood friends so aptly termed the seemingly endless spending of the rich—and comfort. In these respects, I was by no means an outsider. I had two Ivy Leagueeducated parents, took bia n n u a l vacations overseas, and went skiing for the majority of the winter. But I looked different and I never forgot that. In elementary school, a kid I was playing with at the local playground asked me why I was using the swingset instead of farming
rice in China with those “funny little hats.” I’d never been to China. In my fifth grade math class, one of my teachers told me I was failing my race for doing poorly on a test. She asked why I was performing so badly, since “all Asians are math whizzes.” I hate math. In seventh grade, at a sleepaway camp, I was paraded in front of the camp cameraman in an effort to make the camp appear more “diverse.” I was in almost every single photo on the organization’s website—playing soccer, eating at the dining hall, talking to other campers. I was a circus animal, an exotic creature f o r other people to “ooh” and “ah” at. I cried myself to sleep on the first night and never went back. A few years ago, while eating at an Asian restaurant, one of my relatives jokingly called me a “fake Asian” because I couldn’t use my chopsticks properly and didn’t eat any dumplings. I hate dumplings. I’ve never been able to fully
accept my own Chinese culture— I’ve grown up too sheltered from anything remotely Asian. My family barely celebrates Chinese holidays, and my mother’s Mandarin is so broken that even non-native speakers wince when they hear her. In fact, my family was so different from any typical Asian American family that I used to get asked if I was adopted when I was younger. People would be so surprised to learn I spoke perfect English and my parents worked in offices that they’d immediately look for some sort of explanation, as if my Americanism made me some sort of rare bird. They’d start asking questions: How is your English so good? Were you born here? What do your parents do? Where are you really from? The questions haven’t stopped; I still get them occasionally. They’ve grown to be so irritating that I considered designing a shirt with the answers to commonly asked questions to wear when I go out. I simply don’t understand what is so difficult about understanding that I am American. America is comprised of people from every possible background, and that diversity is what makes this such a beautiful place. It’s supposed to be a big mosaic where everybody comes together and cre-
ates something larger than themselves while still maintaining their individuality. That’s the point. So, of course I’m American. And if I’m not American, then who is? For most of my life, I’ve been ashamed of feeling different and having to answer questions about my identity. I’ve tried to distance myself from the Chinese culture that so many of my peers proudly embrace. I’ve only recently begun to accept that being Chinese is a permanent part of my identity— whether I like it or not. Because, no matter how hard I try, the world will never consider me truly “American.” I may be “white on the inside” and Asian American, but on forms, on applications, in the eyes of those around me—I am Asian. Just Asian. In the age of the coronavirus, however, things have become more complex. American race relations have reached a boiling point, with the #BLM movement gaining traction nationwide following George Floyd’s murder and the “Chinese virus” claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. In these racially charged and uncertain times, it’s been difficult to reconcile my American identity with my Chinese one. But I’m still learning. Maybe I am a banana.
The Misinformation Pipeline By JACOB STEINBERG
a Washington D.C. pizza place: Comet Ping Pong. As a result of Pizzagate, the founder of Comet Ping Pong, James Alefantis, and many employees have been harassed. The worst instance was when Edgar Welch, armed with an assault rifle, entered Comet Ping Pong, fired shots, and pointed the gun at employees. Thankfully, nobody was injured, though his fruitless search for hidden children undoubtedly terrified and traumatized employees and customers alike. Alefantis
amounts of traction among Trump supporters, including former lieutenant general, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Security Advisor to Trump Michael Flynn, as well as presumptive Congresswoman Majorie Greene, whose primary win was lauded by Trump despite her extremely public support of QAnon. Trump has even acknowledged the conspiracy without condemning it, saying, “I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they
said it best: “What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.” Major officials spreading and legitimizing baseless theories have created a track record of harm. Pizzagate has also spawned a larger conspiracy theory, QAnon, which alleges that Q, a government official with Q-level security experience, is exposing a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against President Donald Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring. It also posits that Trump was recruited to fight against them. All of this information is delivered on anonymous online forums such as 4chan. This theory has also gained massive
like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement.” When asked if he supported the theory that he “is secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals,” he responded: “Well, I haven’t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?” The belief in QAnon has undoubtedly been boosted by the oft-unfiltered spread of information on Facebook and Twitter, in spite of the fact that the FBI has deemed QAnon a potential domestic terrorism threat. Though the attacks due to QAnon have been less direct than those spawning from other conspiracies, there have been examples of attacks due to ideas pushed by Q. Inspired by Q, an armed Nevada man engaged in a 90-minute confrontation with the police asking for Hillary Clinton’s emails. Even more saddening, a New York City man claimed that his belief
Laurina Xie / The Spectator
Misinformation, scams, and hoaxes have been part of mainstream culture for as long as mass information has been spread. From outlandish hoaxes, such as the “War of the Worlds” radio show, to the more realistic Sidd Finch, a fictional baseball player created by Sports Illustrated, the widespread belief in these hoaxes has exposed the gullibility of the American people. But with the advent of social media, these fun hoaxes have become far more malicious. Social media can distribute much more information to a much larger audience than ever before, allowing just one person to broadcast inaccuracies and intentional lies to thousands of people. While this can remain harmless, with April Fools’ jokes and staged videos dominating many platforms, this ease of lying in our increasingly digitized world has been able to influence far more serious matters. Politics has undoubtedly taken a much larger stage in the social media environment. Digital campaigning has experienced massive growth, with the budget for ads on social media beginning to reach the billions. Platforms like Facebook often find their conversations dominated by political news and opinions. However, this increasing popularity has opened up yet another platform for misinformation to spread and conspiracy theories to thrive, especially since Facebook’s fact-checking has proven reluctant and lackadaisical, allowing for the rampant spread of fake news and infographics. These lies are either outright false or loosely based on true events sourced from social media. This leaves many older— and younger, though Facebook is mostly used by the older generation—Americans, who get most, if not all, of their information from Facebook, extremely vulnerable to fake news. Indeed, 44.3 percent of Americans visited at least one untrustworthy news site during the final weeks of the 2016 election campaign. Though this is not exclusively an issue with Facebook— Twitter’s prolific political discourse
has also presented considerable issues—the social network is by far the largest source of false information. This spread of misinformation can devolve into extreme conspiracy theories that have real-world effects. George Soros is a Jewish Democratic mega-donor who escaped the effects of the Holocaust and made billions as an investor and hedge fund manager. However, his status as a philanthropic, powerful Jew has made him the target of many antisemitic attacks. He is frequently described as a puppet master of politics, a corrupt and evil man who undermines democracy, pays protestors to disrupt America, and uses immigration to destroy the natural order of society. He has even been made to be a Nazi, a ridiculous claim given that he was a Jewish child during the Holocaust. These baseless attacks have had a wide reach and a major effect. The conspiracy theories surrounding him have been echoed on Fox News and throughout Republican politics, including by Donald Trump Jr. These attacks reached a fever pitch when an explosive was delivered to the mailbox of Soros’s home. Though entirely false, the tales of Soros’s influence, after being spread throughout Facebook and Twitter, wound up putting his life in danger. This is not the only false story that has gained significant support and caused severe real-world repercussions. After the emails of John Podesta, a Hillary Clinton campaign manager, were leaked, threads regarding pizza and a potential fundraiser led to a massive conspiracy theory that the emails were encoded and that he, Clinton, and other major Democratic figures had facilitated and participated in a child sex-trafficking ring. Though heavily debunked, the theory is still widely popular. According to a 2016 poll, 46 percent of Trump voters and 17 percent of Clinton voters believed the rumors. Like the lies about Soros, the Pizzagate conspiracy manifested into a physical attack. The major site rumored to be a sex-trafficking location is
in QAnon led to him murdering a mob boss who he believed was part of the aforementioned cabal working against Trump. The belief in QAnon has proven to be deadly, yet another example of the dangerous impact of conspiracy theories. Of course, misinformation is not limited to one side. In the age of common activism, young Democrats have sometimes found themselves posting information that appeals to their points of view but is ultimately false. Sociologist Eve Ewing explains in an infographic format: “Graphics like this can be a helpful teaching tool, but some of the ‘racial justice explainer’ posts that go viral grossly oversimplify complex ideas in harmful or misleading ways or flat-out misstate facts.” In addition, they “are not attributed to any transparent person, people, or organization who can be held accountable for errors and draw on the work of scholars and activists who go uncredited.” Though not as malicious or dangerous as the right-wing conspiracy theories, it is imperative to hold all sides accountable to the truth. Social media has thus become vulnerable to both right-wing conspiracy theories and left-wing misinformation. The conspiracies must be unilaterally shut down and debunked by websites, Fox News, and the Republican Party—the perils of doing otherwise have grown too apparent. We must ensure that those organizations establish reliable, accurate fact-checks that shut down dangerous conspiracy theories before they reach the violent point they so often do. Americans must also prioritize fact-checking while consuming media. If a story seems too good, absurd, or upsetting to be true, try to verify it yourself. Sites like Snopes.com spend hours checking the validity of stories, both petty and significant. If not, stories blaming Democrats and other powerful people for all sorts of horrific crimes will continue to proliferate. America is increasingly vulnerable to lies, and the extreme and popular demonization of “the other” must be strongly refuted. If it isn’t, lives are at risk.
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Opinions By ANNA LU In the immigrant family in which I’ve grown up, discussions on political issues make their way from the news to our dinner table and end with a “Well, we can’t do anything about it...” from my parents. My brother and I are U.S. citizens, and my parents have worked in this country for over 20 years, yet we have never felt that it has been our place to speak out and build change on the issues that affect us. We are not alone: each election cycle seems to reaffirm the lack of Asian American engagement in American politics, usually written off as political apathy. This assumption is harmful to the millions of American voices that it discounts and to our democracy. It’s not that members of my family aren’t interested in civic participation; they just don’t see it as an option for them. It’s not surprising that many Asian Americans feel excluded from American politics because, in both cultural and systemic ways, we are. Asian Americans are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States because we are largely composed of immigrants who continue to arrive seeking opportunities. Thus, English proficiency is an issue for many, hindering their participation in voting. According to the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of Asian American eligible voters speak English at home or speak English “very well,” which is low compared to the 80 percent among Hispanic, 98 percent among Black, and 99 percent among white eligible voters who say the same. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires that translated materials be made available at polls in communities with eligible voters who are part of language minorities or do not speak English well.
The Asian American Vote
However, the follow-through on this policy is abysmal, as it was for suffrage acts like the 15th and 19th Amendments, which were constantly undermined by voter suppression techniques. A 2012 study found that 45 percent of precincts had missing or poorly displayed information. In some cases, poll workers were unable or unwilling to provide translated material in Asian languages. The lack of resources available for closing the language gap prevents many Asian American voters from entering polling booths as informed and empowered voters. Beyond the language in which Asian Americans receive voting information, whether they receive information at all is also a concern. Voter engagement is a twoway street: candidates rope in our attention, and voters lean toward the candidate who best acknowledges their needs and beliefs. Yet, a survey conducted after the 2016 election revealed that only 29 percent of Asian American voters were contacted by any political party. Campaigns rarely direct outreach toward the Asian American electorate, citing low voter turnout in these communities and the difficulty of predicting where the Asian American vote would go. This is where a vicious cycle arises: Asian Americans don’t show up at the polls because no one is reaching out to them, and the low turnout disincentivizes politicians to target outreach to Asian American communities, leaving the voices of these communities unheard and undervalued. Unsurprisingly, 54 percent of Asian American voters feel disengaged from politics because they believe that politicians don’t care about what they think. It is clear that politicians are aware of the inadequacy of research regarding Asian American voting engagement, as shown by their
uncertainty in reaching out to this population, but they seem to be ignoring it rather than finding ways to interact with their underserved constituents. Imagine if scientists simply ignored variables when conducting experiments because it seemed unlikely that those variables would change anything. Such experiments would be unreliable— even dangerous—and the same is true of the integrity of our democracy when a huge population of citizens is being left out of the loop. Dissolving the margins that exclude many Asian American voters from American politics requires both community-level and legislative action. The growth in Asian American engagement from 28 to 42 percent between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections is largely due to the tireless efforts of nonprofit organizations that mobilize bilingual volunteers to contact eligible voters in their communities in their native tongues. However, these grassroots efforts lack the resources and reach of the more generously funded campaigns. Some politicians may not invest in outreach to Asian American constituents due to the common misconception that this population is successful and doesn’t need support. Disaggregated data is necessary for dispelling this misconception and revealing the disparities in the Asian American population that are hidden when over 20 ethnicities holding very different values and facing different struggles are limited to ticking either the Asian American or the Pacific Islander boxes. This means that government surveys, like the U.S. Census, must break down Asian ethnicities as to not overlook the smaller ethnic groups, like the
Hmong and Burmese, which are usually the most underserved in the Asian American community. This would help politicians see the nuances of needs within our community and give them a better sense of how to effectively target outreach. For instance, the Biden-Harris ticket recently released an agenda detailing their plans to uplift the Asian American community, paying close attention to issue areas
Vivian Teo / The Spectator
specific to us, such as Asian American representation in government, COVID-19 hate crimes, and the Muslim ban. Recruiting bilingual community members to spread the message in-language might be critical to bringing voters to the polls on Election Day. An effective avenue of communication with non-English proficient voters is ethnic media, which a significant portion of Asian American voters, especially Chinese and Vietnamese voters, say they rely on for political news. Ethnic news sources are opportunities to make eligible voters aware of their voting rights, the voter registration process, and candidate
policies in their native languages. Community members should utilize these platforms and perhaps also provide closed captioning in various languages on important broadcasts, such as the presidential debates, to keep their communities informed and engaged. On Election Day, multiple trained bilingual poll workers, ready to distribute accurately translated documents and assist voters, should be present in the jurisdictions covered by Section 203. In locations that aren’t required to have these resources accessible, people still have the right to bring a translator of their choice into the booth to help them vote. If you are a bilingual Asian American, you can accompany anyone who needs translation assistance into the booth and make sure they are able to make an informed decision. Kamala Harris’s VP ticket will likely rouse many Asian American voters, as it did in the 2016 Senate election when voters said that they preferred Harris once her South Asian heritage was mentioned. Virginia produced the highest voter turnout among Asian Americans in the entire country in 2016 due to the investment in outreach endeavors from both parties in hopes of capturing every vote possible from the battleground state. When politicians invest in making Asian Americans feel seen, we show up, eager to make a difference in our communities. With the November election looming and a considerable portion of our community undecided in party support, some are referring to the Asian American electorate as a “sleeping giant” in American politics. Let’s wake up and crash some parties.
A President’s Legacy Is Far More Than Their Biggest Failure By JOHN GROSSMAN We should have high standards for our elected officials. These individuals hold massive amounts of power and their decisions are often felt across the nation. This concept is especially true for presidents, as a single misstep could lead to widespread chaos or death. Nonetheless, forcing past and present political figures to undergo extensive purity tests is rarely productive. While I usually support taking a hard look at every politician’s career, we have begun creating standards that disregard the realities of leadership. Far too often, events from years ago are robbed of their context and forced under a microscope in order to paint a political figure as corrupt or destructive. Politicians who were once remembered fondly are now persona non grata among the left, and there is no better example than former President Barack Obama. President Obama was far from a controversial figure among young liberals a few years ago. It’s not hard to remember the ever-present Joe Biden memes or Obama’s onceubiquitous support among millennials. President Obama even won the 2008 primary with a groundswell of youth support, racking up huge victories in college towns and urban areas. Now, however, he enjoys far less unanimous acclaim among young people. It is not uncommon to see young leftists calling President Obama a war criminal, and he is now seen as a corporate sellout for being too soft on Wall Street. But the fact of the matter is that while Barack Obama was an imperfect president, he al-
ways tried to do the right thing. Arguably, the greatest area of scrutiny for the Obama administration is their use of airstrikes in the Middle East. President Obama dropped over 26,000 bombs in the region during the final year of his presidency alone. This statistic is a shockingly high number, especially when airstrikes can come with civilian casualties. Many people use this information as an excuse to paint President Obama as a warmonger who bombed innocent countries for no reason except corporate interests. However, his reasoning for doing so becomes far clearer when we examine which countries received the most bombings. The vast majority of the airstrikes took place in Iraq and Syria, where the U.S. had a legitimate reason to be involved. ISIS was taking the lives of civilians in both the Middle East and the western world, as well as further destabilizing Iraq and Syria. America’s involvement in the region was not simply a result of the militaryindustrial complex but a fight against a real and terrifying threat. There are fair arguments to be made that President Obama did not make enough of an effort to distance the U.S. from Saudi Arabian interests in Yemen, but portraying President Obama as nothing more than a bomb-happy maniac with no regard for the safety of Iraqi citizens
is misleading at best. Unsurprisingly, being the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world is a hard job that few people can relate to. President Obama was often faced with situations where there were no good solutions. During the fight against ISIS, President Obama had to deal with the fact that civilians were going to die no matter what he did. He could have sent in more ground troops to execute more targeted attacks, but then there was great risk of losing soldiers and further entangling the U.S. in the region.
ple speak of President Obama’s foreign policy as though it is simply possible to wave a finger and create world peace. If anyone knows how to wipe out a massive terrorist group without civilian casualties, destabilizing the region, or creating a dependence on American presence, they should immediately go to the Pentagon and become one of our premier military strategists. Criticism cannot be conducted in hypothetical utopias where anything is possible. There is no world where President Obama could have neutralized ISIS without losing an unsettling amount of lives. Furthermore, it is important to remember the successes of the Obama administration. Millions of Americans got good health insurance, he rescued the country from the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, he fought for the legalization of same-sex marriage and protections for transgender kids in schools, he prevented Iran from building a nuclear bomb, and he served as a calming presence when the tensions of the nation were at an all-time high. Obama’s presidency, while imperfect, had far more successes than failures. Nine times out of 10, Saadat Rafin / The Spectator he did the right thing, He could have left it to the Iraqi a n d he laid the groundwork for and Syrian governments, both of the more progressive Democratic which were already unstable and Party we know today. Scrutinizing losing to ISIS. In that case, Iraqi a president’s record is productive and Syrian civilians would have when we use it to inform policy met gruesome fates under ISIS, for the future, but it becomes toxic while people throughout the rest of when we use one area of contenthe world would have had to deal tion to write off eight years of solid with continued ISIS attacks. Peo- and meaningful progress.
At the end of the day, we need to look at presidential legacies holistically and contextually. The Obama administration did far more good in the world than bad, and cherry-picking events to claim that he was a bad president does not move the country forward. Appreciating what a president did for the country does not mean that we need to return to using all of their policies. I believe that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was an amazing policy that should serve as a roadmap on how to boost the economy with government spending, but I also believe that Japanese internment camps are one of the most shameful parts of American history. I applaud President Lyndon B. Johnson for signing the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, but I believe that American involvement in Vietnam serves as a cautionary tale against foreign intervention. Saying that a president did a generally good job does not mean that we need to simply repeat everything they did for the rest of time. Political figures deserve to have more than just their most contentious issues pointed out. Many of them made real, positive change, and it is inappropriate to disregard that. My rosy outlook on politics almost definitely helps me see former presidents in a more positive light, but I believe that many of them are worthy of that lens. We need to be better at taking a wider look at presidential legacies, as that perspective is the only way to truly evaluate them.
The Spectator • October 13, 2020
Opinions By LAMIA HAQUE The year 2020 has been a whirlwind, and the death of one of America’s most beloved has only exacerbated this era of uncertainty. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—commonly referred to as RBG—died of complications from stage 4 pancreatic cancer on Thursday, September 18, 2020. Her death has left the country in a state of mourning, and it seems that her dying wish to “not be replaced until a new president is installed” might never come true. Understandably so, many are worried for the future of the Supreme Court—and the U.S. at large. While it is not right to paint RBG as a saint, it is worth noting her many accomplishments. Before being appointed as a Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg co-founded the first law journal on women’s rights. She also co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union and extended the 14th Amendment to include women. She further built the “scaffolding for addressing the sexism women suffered” by strategically bringing cases to the Supreme Court on behalf of male victims. RBG knew that justice would not be swift. By building trust among male judges, she set a foundation for the cases that were yet to come in her career as a Supreme Court justice. Shortly after becoming the first female Jewish Supreme Court justice in 1993, RBG began making decisions that really made her stand out. In 1996, she wrote the majority opinion stating that women would have equal access to education (United States v. Virginia). She stated that as per the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, states must allow persons with mental illness to be placed in community settings rather than in institutions in 1999 (Olmstead v. L.C.). RBG worked to protect rivers from illegal pollutants as they would cause harm to the environment and its people in 2000 (Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Environmental Services). She
Legendary Figure RBG’s Untimely Death
spoke out for a 13-year-old girl in 2009, stating that a body search violated the Fourth Amendment and hurt a young woman at a sensitive age (Safford Unified School District v. Redding). While readers may downplay the aforementioned accomplishments by calling her a “product of her time,” Justice Ginsburg’s dissents—as well as her views on LGBTQ+ rights—provide ample evidence that she was far ahead of her time. Justice Ginsburg coined her signature phrase “I dissent” in 2000 during Bush v. Gore, stating that one cannot label a vote recount to be “impractical” without testing it first. RBG fired back against gender and pay discrimination in the workplace in 2007, demanding that it not be overlooked (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.). Justice Ginsburg showed her support for same-sex marriage in 2013 by becoming the first Supreme Court justice to officiate one. This officiation struck audiences because it happened two years before same-sex marriage was made legal under federal law. It is a clear example of how RBG always followed what she believed to be right, jumpstarting movements and transforming lives in the process. During the final two decades of her life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg struggled with five bouts of cancer. Despite countless draining sessions of chemotherapy, Justice Ginsburg made sure to fulfill her duties on the Supreme Court, rarely missing a hearing. She always tried her best to show up because it made others wary of their decisions, and she carried that role with great power. After all, Justice Ginsburg was a senior member, and her presence commanded respect from others in the room. Now that she is no longer with
us, there is an empty seat on the Supreme Court. The last time this occurred was in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. At the time, former President Obama decided to step back from the nomination of a new justice. Being that it was an election year, he left that right to current President Donald Trump, who—to no surprise— chose conservative Neil Gorsuch. In his time, Justice Gor- s u c h has supported t h e
former President Obama because he knew that it would give President Trump an opportunity to appoint someone like Gorsuch. This year, the American people hoped that McConnell would stay true to his word and urge President Trump to honor RBG’s dying wish. However, all those who once believed McConnell had even a shred of dignity have been greatly mistaken. McConnell wrote the following in the Washington Post in 2016: “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.” This year, he shamelessly did a full 180, saying that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” To make matters worse, McConnell’s reasoning was that the Senate “pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his out-
Emily Chen/ The Spectator
following: a travel ban from largely Muslim countries, an added citizenship question to the census form, and a ban on transgender service members in the military. In short, he has done Trump’s bidding. Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell agreed with
standing appointments to the federal judiciary.” McConnell’s statement is far from unbiased and is clearly hypocritical. We knew that McConnell would stand his ground, but we also believed there may be enough defectors. A likely defector was Senator Susan Collins of Maine,
who told the NYT that she would not vote on a new justice in October as it is far too close to the election. Similarly, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told an interviewer that she opposed voting on a new justice some 50 days before an election. While it seemed that Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mitt Romney of Utah could be the other two defectors, they have since supported McConnell, saying that the Democrats would have done the same. This left President Trump with little opposition from his own party as he nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill RBG’s seat. Barrett is radically different from RBG in her views on the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights, and immigration. Being only 48 years old, she would seal the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court for an entire generation. Trump wishes to confirm Barrett before the election because it’d be a win-win situation for him. If he is re-elected for a second term, the Supreme Court will back him in potential cases. If Biden wins the election, the conservative majority in the Court would support Trump’s views on the “danger” of mail-in ballots. And even if the issue of mail-in ballots is resolved, future Democratic presidents would be at odds with a Court that may use judicial review against them. While it seems likely that Barrett will be confirmed by the Senate, there may be hope with Democrats holding a filibuster, requiring not 51 but 60 votes to fill the Supreme Court. In the case that there is a filibuster, the public could increase the odds of the next president nominating a Supreme Court justice by emailing senators to vote against Barrett. If sympathy toward RBG’s death and the threat of “Trump’s America” are not enough to sway other Republican senators, then it’s safe to say that a new justice will be in place before the election in November. It pains me to say that I fear greatly for the future of our country.
Our Polarized Media By AARON VISSER The American people have never fully known the truth. The golden era of objective journalism to which many harken back never really existed, and lies, slander, and the shunning of important stories for the maintenance of a narrative have been staples of the American fourth estate through its history. However, over the last 20 years, the American media landscape has become even more partisan and even less trustworthy. Even though the old-school media had been on the wrong side of history many times and had hidden many injustices from the public, the media’s current decay is dangerous for our democracy and for truth itself. Before the expansion of national media in the 1990s, high profits in mainstream media created a single non-partisan narrative. Newspapers used to be the major form of media. They mostly covered local issues and were far less partisan if only due to the fact the entire country was less polarized. Beginning in the 1960s, political parties began their gradual separation along racial, geographic, religious, and ideological lines, but were nowhere near as distinct as they are today. People got much of their national news from one of the few television channels. The
main channels shared an oligopoly that allowed them to disregard the market forces of partisan specialization and sensationalism; they made half-hour news segments designed to appeal to as large an audience as possible. The few channels did largely keep heterodox opinions out and could conceal certain issues the media elite didn’t wish to publicize. But whatever one’s problem with their journalistic narrative, it was a shared narrative. Our media didn’t undermine, but instead strengthened the bond between Americans. The shared American narrative began to unravel with the expansion of broadcast news. By the end of the 1980s, CNN had established itself as the first 24-hour news station and right-wing talk radio became a major staple of the media landscape. Then, in 1996, two fulltime news channels, Fox News and MSNBC, joined the market to compete with the existing media outlets. With more competitors in the field, the incentives for each company began to favor a model that targeted partisan viewers rather than the average American. The shift didn’t happen immediately, but eventually mainstream media became polarized. The most popular channel, Fox News, supplies right-wing opinions and narratives in the journalism it presents
to its Republican audience, while CNN and MSNBC do the same to their Democratic audience to a lesser extent. The evidence of this polarization of media can be gauged by Pew Research data on trust in American media. Pew’s 2019 poll found that 75 percent of Republicans trust Fox News, while 77 percent of Democrats mistrust it. The same poll found that the Democrats’ most trusted news source, CNN, trusted by 70 percent of Democratic partisans, was distrusted by an equal percentage of Republicans. The President of the United States himself constantly accuses the television media of being “fake news” and even calls them the “enemy of the people.” The distrust of opposing news sources isn’t just a sign of a skepticism of certain outlets on the part of American media consumers, but for the dual narratives they push. Nothing shows the contrast in reporting between right and left-wing sources better than the coverage of the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Day after day, Democratic news sources put forward images of massive protests against police brutality, while Fox News highlighted videos of burning buildings or blackclad Antifa members sowing chaos. This polarization has manifested again after the death of Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, where both sides have accused the other of seeking to undermine our democracy. The two narratives have become disconnected, which becomes a force for further two party polarization: the media becomes polarized by the public and in turn, acts to polarize the public more. This phenomenon occurs on steroids on the internet. Instead of just a handful of outlets, scores of websites compete mostly on social media for clicks. People tend to share articles that confirm their preexisting identity as a good Democrat, Republican, or Independent by showing outrage with actions of the other sides. This incentivizes outlets to write stories and headlines that stretch the truth and in some cases are made-up. A famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that fake news spreads six times faster on Twitter than real news. The stories that circulate online tend to reinforce partisan narratives even more than the cable media environment. The American media landscape is more partisan than ever. While actively fake news does thrive, fake news by omission is more common: when outlets ignore some newsworthy stories while emphasizing others to support a narrative. The end result is the creation of two large media ecosystems that
are only trusted by roughly half of politically active Americans. This division in media isn’t about which one is more right (though distinctions between them are important), just that the two sides collectively serve to divide us from each other in a time when the country sits dangerously on the edge of collapse. Our media will soon be put to the test. We are mere weeks away from the election when one or both parties may challenge the outcome. Each station will have to choose whether they will be loyal to their party or the truth. For our election to resolve smoothly, America must be able to reach some sort of bipartisan popular consensus, like the kind we made during the Watergate scandal. Despite the partisanship social media fosters, technology can also help us craft a system that favors unity and reconciliation. The Iinternet in America democratizes the sharing of truth. This key feature of the digital age could lead to great positive change or terrible disaster. We might stand against titanic forces of polarization, but each individual can do their best to seek out narratives of the other side and to skeptically seek the truth no matter how hard it is to find.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Arts and Entertainment Music By MORRIS RASKIN “Sweeter than honeycomb with twelve bees / Ripp like a Crip that’s missing one C / Hop on the magic dragon and fly overseas / For sushi and shabuya, fly back before 3.” With these four bars, Los Angeles singer/rapper Duckwrth (Jared Lee) kicks off his official major label debut album “SuperGood,” a 16-track journey into the synth-driven mind of an upand-coming star. Right off the bat, the project’s energy is infectious. Packed with gliding synths, snappy drums, and a pounding bass beat on every track, Duckwrth has found a formula that fits his funk and hip-hop stylings perfectly—fastpaced, slick, and dynamic. You’ll never catch the album standing still or looking back, as the project constantly moving forward in new directions, sometimes only resting on a track idea for 30 seconds to a minute before jumping to the next concept. The true beauty of Duckwrth’s rapid-fire pacing, however, comes in the transitions between tracks. No two tracks hinge on two distinct ideas, allowing him to blend the songs together seamlessly, often extending one instrument from the end of one song into the beginning of the other, making the album a truly cohesive experience. An example of this
Television By LIANNE OHAYON While quarantining since March, I’ve found myself with more time than I usually would during the school year. And, among other things, I’ve spent a good portion of my time watching television. Constantly rotating between Netflix, Hulu, and regular cable TV, I reminisced on reruns and laughed during a time when it was hard to find joy. So you could imagine my delight when it was announced that the Emmys were happening this year. Though it would be run differently, I was elated that the awards show was still happening. As an avid viewer of award ceremonies, I wondered how the producers would pull this off. And, after watching the night, I can confidently say that despite their best efforts, the Emmys was underwhelming and paled in comparison to the in-person event. The night began at 8:00 p.m. with Jimmy Kimmel, the night’s host, walking up to the front of the stage. Cameras panned to what seemed like a surprisingly full house cheering for him from the seats. Yet, after a few comedic one-liners and some comments about the impact of television in his monologue, Kimmel saw himself in the “audience” and revealed that he was essentially the only one there. The Staples Center was dark and empty, and the seats were only filled by select cardboard cutouts (and Jason Bateman). The clips that were expertly inserted seconds ago were actually clips from previous Emmys. “Of course we don’t have an audience,” Kimmel responds. “This isn’t a MAGA rally; it’s the
Duckwrth Brings “SuperGood” Vibes to His Major Label Debut clearly preconceived flow comes at the end of the 11th track “Super Bounce” and into the beginning of the following track, “Weekend?” At the end of the former, nearly all of the glossy pads and booming bass loops are stripped back, leaving only a man’s voice and a shimmering synth to close out the song. The man only gets to begin his sentence (“You got me—”) before the track comes to a close. The synth and the voice, however, continue without interruption at the start of the second track, allowing for a perfect blend (“—on another level,” the man continues, without a beat). In the past, Duckwrth has felt most comfortable when vocalizing at the intersection of funk and hip-hop, the exact spot he picks up on with “SuperGood.” Whether he’s singing (“Too Bad,” “Super Good”), rapping (“Tuesday,” “Super Bounce”), or both (“Money Dance,” “New Love Song”), he always feels right on the edge of both genres, while adding his own unique personality and flair. On a project created by a man with so much tangible passion and energy, the features of “SuperGood” feel extremely unimportant, and their lack of necessity is felt throughout. Despite bringing in both established industry players like rap-duo EARTHGANG and propping up new talent like Radio Ahlee and
G.L.A.M., his bubbly presence is missed as soon as somebody who isn’t him takes the wheel. This same feeling is present during the occasional spoken word segments of the project, and while they do act as a pleasant contrast to the consistently packed flow of the album, they feel like fillers without a clear narrative purpose to the album. There’s no artist in the game right now that sounds like Duckwrth. He’s found an incredibly unique pocket of the industry, and while he is not doing anything entirely groundbreaking in its own right, he does it with so much conviction that it stops mattering. When you picture Duckwrth as you listen to his music, it’s hard not to imagine him with a smile plastered across his face. Part of what separates him from his peers in the industry is simply the attitude with which he approaches each and every track that he creates. Just going off of the names of some of the tracks on his new project— “Super Good,” “Super Bounce,” “Money Dance,” etc.—his positivity is evident. On “Super Good,” Duckwrth puts his positivity into his own words: “Now what do I mean by good? (Good) / I mean that deep down feeling (Uh) / That when the bass slap on ten and make you throw your hands to the ceiling.” Duckwrth manages to pour this “good” into
all 44 minutes of his newest project, finding the bright side of a genre so often cluttered with dark synths and grovely delivery. Save for choice artists like Aminé and Vince Staples, it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint rappers who are able to maintain a level of consistent energy and vigor to match Duckwrth’s. Unlike his contemporaries that might be able to keep up in that regard, his production and instrumentation match his flow and tempo in a way that no other rapper has been able to channel. This isn’t to say that Duckwrth is the most skilled or talented rapper in the entire hip-hop game, but he is undeniably doing something that very few people would be able to: he’s making feel-good music, and he’s having a good time doing it. “SuperGood” is a project that feels dynamic from start to finish. With glossy production and infectious energy throughout all 16 tracks, it’s clear that more mainstream commercial success is in Duckwrth’s future. While his biggest credits to date are an appearance on the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) soundtrack and a mixtape single called “MICHUUL.,” which has garnered over 30 million streams on Spotify alone, it’s hard to see how Duckwrth won’t be blowing up within the next few years. One thing’s for sure: we haven’t heard the last of Jared Lee just yet.
The Virtual Emmys: New, but Not Improved Emmys!” With the exception of a few celebrities who came to present awards, the majority of the nominees were sitting on their couches at home accepting awards via Zoom. The night featured a few celebrities who came to the venue and either presented awards or
another big winner of the night, taking many awards in the drama category. The biggest mistake of the Emmys, in my opinion, was the jokes involving the coronavirus in some way. In his opening monologue, Kimmel made the valid point that throughout quarantine, watching more television
“Of course we don’t have an audience. This isn’t a MAGA rally; it’s the Emmys!” —Jimmy Kimmel, American television host were part of the script. Jennifer Aniston, Zendaya, and Laverne Cox attended the actual event on Sunday. Each celebrity had unique segments in which they performed their own little skit. Aniston, for one, made an appearance twice, with her first appearance attempting to make fun of the disinfection we have consistently been doing due to the pandemic. Jason Sudeikis, who presented the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, even took a COVID-19 test while reading out the winner. Even without face-to-face interaction, these celebrities tried to keep the Emmys as fun and engaging as possible. Unfortunately, the Emmys didn’t live up to the expectations that most hoped for. Looking at the nominations, it didn’t help that “Schitt’s Creek” (2015 - 2020) swept the comedy series category, making the category reveal very predictable and anticlimactic. “Succession” (2015 - now) was
was almost mandatory for many, including myself. But my favorite part about the Emmys used to be being able to sit there for “television’s greatest night” and laugh. And after hearing excessive COVID jokes, I wasn’t having fun. And a quintessential part of the Emmys is the views of the audience and the nominees, waiting in anticipation to see who gets the award. Though the Emmys were virtual, it would have been nice to see everyone, even the people nominated for smaller categories. Some moments felt rushed, while others felt excessively long, so by keeping things more consistent, it could have been a more interpersonal experience. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t hate the Emmys. There were, indeed, some moments that were really nice to see. After Aniston’s appearance at Staples Center, she rushed back home in time for her own category. While talking to Kimmel on Zoom, two familiar
faces came to the screen: Courtney Cox and Lisa Kudrow, who starred with Aniston on the sitcom “Friends” (1994 - 2004), and the three swore that they were roommates, just like they were 26 years ago. And Zendaya, the winner of the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for her performance in “Euphoria” (2019 - now), made history as the youngest winner of the category at 24. The “In Memoriam” segment of the Emmys was also very touching, paying respect to the many actors, producers, and directors who passed away this year, including Naya Rivera, Regis Philbin, and Chadwick Boseman. And the Governor’s award was bestowed upon Tyler Perry, whose work as an actor and producer (think the “Madea” movies) was revolutionary yet consistently excluded from other award shows. He shared a powerful anecdote from his childhood in his speech, which was a great addition to the night. The Emmys was a night full of mediocre jokes, repetitive themes, and tons of inconsistencies. Since they are the first of the four big awards ceremonies to conduct their awards show with serious adjustments due to the pandemic (with the Oscars and Grammys in January and February and the Tonys postponed to a later date), I will cut them some slack. “A for effort,” as the saying goes. But if there were one phrase I would use to describe the experience, it would be okay but not memorable. I’m just hoping that the next time the Emmys comes around, we will be watching a full Staples Center with a live audience, really applauding.
Playlist Autumnal Rhythms By THE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT DEPARTMENT Now that October’s begun, it’s officially (finally) fall! This is a playlist for anyone who has been looking forward to drinking hot cider, seeing colorful foliage, and getting cozy in a nice, warm sweater. Let the Arts & Entertainment Department transport you with some immaculate autumn vibes.
September Earth, Wind, & Fire Disco We’re Going to Be Friends The White Stripes Alternative Rock Campus Vampire Weekend Indie Rock If You Want To Beabadoobee Alternative we fell in love in october girl in red Bedroom Pop Autumn Sweater Yo La Tengo Alternative Sweater Weather The Neighbourhood Alternative Rock Linger The Cranberries Rock Across the Universe The Beatles Rock Autumn In New York Billie Holliday Jazz cardigan Taylor Swift Pop Landslide Fleetwood Mac Rock Autumn Town Leaves Iron & Wine Indie Cornerstone Arctic Monkeys Alternative Rock Season of the Witch Donovan Pop Hiding Florence + The Machine Indie Rock Halloween Phoebe Bridgers Indie Lonesome Town Ricky Nelson Rock Vincent Don McLean Folk Rock Autumn Leaves Frank Sinatra Pop
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Arts and Entertainment Exceptionally Awful, Shockingly Stupid, and Despicable: Mulan 2020
Film Disney’s live-action “Mulan” is a film that is as painful to watch as it is to review. The short explanation: the film abuses human rights, regurgitates current nationalistic myths, grossly appropriates one of China’s most beloved characters, and fails both Eastern and Western viewers alike. The most devastating part of “Mulan,” however, isn’t in the film itself—it’s in the credits. Disney specifically thanked eight government bodies in Xinjiang, an autonomous province in Northwest China where one of the world’s worst human rights abuses is happening: over two million Uighur Muslims have been forced into concentration camps by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Parts of “Mulan” were filmed in Xinjiang with complete awareness of the plans to “re-educate” Uighurs with CCP doctrines. For several years, the CCP has been systemically repressing the Uighur Muslim minority, subjecting men, women, and children to torture, forced sterilization, brainwashing, and family separation, among countless other horrors. The overwhelming evidence of the CCP’s deliberate, systematic campaign to destroy the Uighur population needs no further explanation: this is a genocide. Disney, in other words, filmed in regions where genocide is actively occurring and specifically thanked the institutions that are helping to carry it out. If this wasn’t terrible enough, the film seems to internalize the present crisis into its own storyline. Put crudely, “Mulan” is an Americanized celebration of Chinese nationalism. The film’s enemy army is depicted wearing face and head coverings that are decidedly Muslim. A Chinese imperial army bravely fights and defeats the Rouran invaders (ancient nomads from Mongolia)— a triumphant display of border control at a time where the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia is protesting Chinese reforms surrounding “re-education.” In Hong Kong’s extradition protests, actress Liu Yifei (Mulan) openly voiced her support for police brutality. The ultimate irony of this statement is that the character of Mulan represents empowerment for the underdogs of society by challenging and uprooting the current status quo. The production of “Mulan” has so much external narrative it seems almost fruitless to review the film on its own merits. What’s worse is that when you do, there isn’t much to look at. The production staff of “Mulan” is primarily white, and it shows. The dialogue sounds like someone’s oriental fetish. Just imagine someone reasonably saying, “the fiercest winter storm cannot destroy this makeup.” The film begins with an opening shot of a Tulou, a traditional Southern Hakka Chinese structure that translates to “Earthen Building,” whereas Mulan is an iconic Northern character. It also introduces a new character—a Europeanized witch who does not appear anywhere in Chinese culture. The film only wants to appear Chinese with a surface level understanding of its culture. Mulan’s “Qi,” which in Chinese philosophy is a concept that describes the pervasive force link-
ing all living entities together, is completely misrepresented and instead shown as some sort of individual superpower possessed only by herself and the two antagonists of the film. In China, Mulan is regarded as a cultural icon. The original Ballad of Mulan is often taught to Chinese students from a young age. In Disney’s live-action adaptation, characters randomly reference lines from the ballad in throwaway fan-service moments that serve nothing more than attempted brownie points to Eastern viewers. The movie’s one merit— when considered independently from its external narrative—is its cinematography. The rolling hills and vast landscapes help the movie appear “Chinese” enough
each family to fight in the army. Having no sons, Mulan’s aging father must go to war. Mulan’s father is entirely compliant with the conscription due to China’s strict social order. Men are meant to fight; women are meant to bear children. Mulan, however, realizes that with her father’s age, he will surely die on the battlefield. She attempts to dissuade him from joining, but he counters: “I know my place! It is time you learned yours.” Afterward, Mulan reflects on her place in society as a woman and subsequently, that of a man. Emboldened, Mulan decides to take her father’s place and join the army. She starts off as a complete amateur just like the rest of the soldiers, but we see the story progress as they train and
is best when they learn to embrace their own unique gender identity. At the climax of the film, Mulan saves the emperor. The importance of this moment is that Mulan saves the emperor simply because she sees another human being in need. She doesn’t do it to serve Chinese society or for honor or loyalty, but out of human decency and respect. This message is extended when the emperor offers Mulan a seat at his council, but Mulan declines, rejecting the value in upholding the patriarchal system and instead returns home. What happens next is even more poignant. After returning home, Mulan presents her father with a sword and a medal, which are symbolic of the emperor—
to divert the audience’s attention from its blatant cultural appropriation. The sad thing is that, for many, it probably works. Yet what “Mulan” wins from cinematography is completely lost in the editing of the film. For a major motion picture backed by a corporation like Disney, the editing is surprisingly second-rate. The editing and cinematography are the lens in which the viewer follows the narrative of a film and becomes immersed in what’s happening visually, and these two aspects should work handin-hand to be effective. “Mulan” doesn’t bother with establishing shots, and instead rapidly changes location and scenery, making it nearly impossible to follow along visually. The action sequences give the impression of a drunk, manic-fueled fantasy, zipping to shots without rhyme or reason. The largest, almost criminal offense, however, is how the film fundamentally changes Mulan herself. To grasp its failure fully, we first have to understand how the 1998 animated version of “Mulan” succeeds. Disney’s original adaptation, though not without its own flaws, gives incredibly powerful messages that empower both women and men through Mulan’s journey. The animated version is set in a non-specified era of ancient China where the greatest honor a woman can bring is to wed and bear children—a task that Mulan fails terribly at. During this time, the Huns attack China, and the emperor conscripts one son from
grow together. Eventually, Mulan is able to harness strength and power, traits traditionally valued in men, and effectively learns to be “masculine.” Yet what’s most interesting is the second way the 1998 film empowers women and men—it’s the way in which Mulan embraces her femininity. At first, this sounds strange, since Mulan is a tomboy, a failed bride, or in other words, not “feminine.” And Mulan isn’t the best at being “masculine,” either. This is because these are the two extremes of gender expression. In a sense, Mulan’s journey is to embrace her own gender expression. Mulan succeeds at traditionally masculine tasks by refusing to engage in hyper-masculinity. She rejects the value of brute strength and instead finds clever and effective solutions to problems. For example, in the famous rooftop scene where Mulan faces off with the movie’s antagonist, Shan Yu—a seemingly inescapable situation—she uses her fan to wield his sword back at him, pinning him to the roof. Afterward, Mushu, her dragon companion, uses fireworks to ultimately defeat Shan Yu and rescue the imperiled emperor. Her friends (Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po) learn from her too, as they start off as hyper-masculine, angry men but grow to be men willing to dress up as women to save the emperor. We see that there are strengths to both “masculine” and “feminine” sides and that an individual
and all of China’s—honor to the family. The father instead tosses everything aside and embraces Mulan and says: “The greatest gift and honor is having you as a daughter,” breaking the final patriarchal relationship. In the live-action adaptation, however, Mulan is a prodigy. She’s a natural-born fighter, the “chosen one,” gifted with the magical abilities of “qi,” a concept that is utterly butchered in the live-action adaptation. Now instead of having Mulan fight alongside men and prove that women are equally as competent as men, the message is that only the few women who are “chosen” are capable. And for those who aren’t as gifted? Look no further than Mulan’s sister. At the end of the movie, she announces her engagement, or in other words, fulfilling her role as a child-bearer in society. Imagine a young girl who watches “Mulan.” She goes to school and sees other girls, who she views as more capable and talented than herself. Instead of the message that with enough perseverance, she is just as capable as the other girls, this film tells her that she is the sister, and the other girls are Mulan. This film tells her that not everyone can be special. In the animated version, Mulan is a problem-solver, a trait that allows her to outsmart the enemy. The general Li Shang acts as Mulan’s foil by showing that only a select few can make it to the top
Aries Ho / The Spectator
By CHRISTINA PAN
by mastering traditionally valued ways of fighting, which highlights the importance of Mulan’s alternative thinking and avant-garde approach to war. In the live-action adaptation, Mulan handles problems with sheer strength and willpower. She beats her opponents by being “manlier” than them. This is emphasized further when she kills the main antagonist with his own weapon. On the surface, this looks progressive; delving further in, this depiction just buys into the idea of hyper-masculinity and that a woman is good only if she can “man up.” In the live-action adaptation, Mulan’s experience as a woman is not an advantage—it’s a disability. Instead of showing the value in alternative thinking or embracing one’s gender identity, live-action Mulan accepts that in a patriarchy, she must follow it. The final difference between the two films is the most infuriating. In the live-action adaptation, Mulan is submissive to the emperor, the kingdom, and ancient China’s patriarchal society. When she saves him, she responds with: “I know my place. And it is my duty to fight for the kingdom and protect the emperor.” Live-action Mulan doesn’t challenge the status quo. She is the status quo. The ending of the live-action adaptation hammers this message further in. Mulan returns home to her father, but their reunion is short and bland. Shortly after, the emperor sends in his men to present Mulan with a sword. She is invited to join the emperor’s guard, in contrast to the animated version where she was invited to the council. The film ends before Mulan gives an answer, but from her smile, we can guess that she chose to join. The message of Mulan expressing herself and overcoming seemingly unreachable odds is never shown. She’s born with her abilities and expresses them in a way that not only delivers outdated messages of Chinese virtue, but also upholds the very principles of the society that oppress her. Disney’s live-action “Mulan” doesn’t attempt to understand or dissect Chinese culture. They filmed and thanked government organizations in Xinjiang, where the genocide of Uighur Muslims is occurring. They internalized Chinese nationalistic messages into the film, and despite the movie’s multimillion-dollar budget, Disney failed to deliver a passable visual experience. They insulted the very meaning of what Mulan means to every Chinese person, every Chinese-American, and to anyone who respects and understands the character of Mulan. “Mulan” is the definition of a film that is exceptionally awful, shockingly stupid, and despicable. Fortunately, Disney’s live-action movie is only one adaptation of Mulan’s legendary story. There are numerous books, TV shows, films, and other interpretations of the original ballad that are well worth your time. The true power of Mulan’s story is that it is universal. The real Mulan doesn’t need superpowers or the help of the “chosen one” trope. The real Mulan is an ordinary person who rises above insurmountable odds to save her father. She could be me—she could be you. She is us.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Arts and Entertainment Movies By AGATHA EDWARDS Thousands of movie theaters around the world were forced to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early March. Some theaters are still closed while others are gradually gaining their customers back now, six months later. Yet, these closures are only one reason for the critical state of the film industry—many films that were set to release this year were pushed back, and others that were in the process of filming were postponed. With the increasing popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, many aren’t even buying movies anymore. Will the film industry be able to recover? A few shows and movies outside of Hollywood have resumed filming, but Hollywood is only making short music videos and small commercials with crews of 100 people at most. Studios have created new safety rules: frequent cleaning of equipment, limited filming hours, required masks, and COVID-19 tests every couple of days. Even so, crowded areas, unsanitary sets, and delays in testing have made future filmings uncertain. Upcoming movies like “Songbird” and “Courting Mom & Dad” re-
Culture By IVY HALPERN If you were to walk into my room right now, your gaze would immediately be drawn to my Notorious RBG pillow. If you were to then look at my computer, you’d see it covered in various RBG stickers; next to it sits my RBG bobblehead. You might then look around to see the many more RBG knick-knacks that lie scattered around my room. How, you might wonder, did my room become an RBG shrine? And why is an 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice a pop culture icon for myself and so many others? It all started in 2013 when an NYU Law student, Shana Knizhnik, posted about one of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG)’s recent dissents, using the hashtag “Notorious RBG” after rapper The Notorious B.I.G. When Knizhnik found out the term had never been used before, she went on to create a Tumblr page under the new moniker. Knizhnik is said to have originally used the term because of RBG’s “amazing writing style and force.” Knizhnik unwittingly set in motion Justice Ginsburg’s sudden spike in internet fame with this clever appellation. Today, the term
Music By SHIVALI KORGAONKAR After rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion released their latest song “WAP,” social media platforms blew up, outraged. Both men and women, terrified of the explicit, sexual language in the song, claimed that Cardi and Megan were setting a bad example for young fans. Political commentator Ben Shapiro notoriously mocked the song, exclaiming, “This is what the feminist movement is all about. It’s not really about women being treated as independent,
What’s Happening with the Film Industry? sumed filming in early June but “Tenet” (2020) and “The New were shut down by SAG-AFTRA Mutants” (2020) were released because they didn’t adhere to the in September and made $4.7 milsafety guidelines. Sam Nicholson, lion and $1.6 million, respectivec h i e f executive of Pasadena ly, on their opening weekend. In v i s u a l effects company, stated, order for “Tenet” to break even, “Everyone is reluctant to start a it needs to pull in around $800 shoot that could be shut million, since the filmdown […] everyone ing and marketin the production ing costs were chain from the around $400 studios, to million. producers Around and direc70 pertors, to cent of actors and theaters crew, lack in the the conU.S. are fidence showto make ing these any subm o v stantial local ies, but production the ones in commitments.” New York With fewer direcCity and Los tors and producers Angeles, which Se t or willing to film and with rena Chan / The Specta account for a large fewer crew members to work percentage of box office sales with, a substantially fewer num- (before COVID-19), are still ber of films will be released. closed. Though more movie The global box office loss theaters may open in the comwas at $7 billion in early March ing months, it’s going to take but skyrocketed to $17 billion some serious sales to make up months later. Though movie for the box office loss. In terms theaters are reopening, show- of employment, almost 170,000 ing movies filmed before March, people lost their jobs after the they aren’t making enough mon- pandemic hit, and it’s likely that ey to meet this deficit. Films like many background actors and ex-
tras won’t be rehired. Jeff Bock, a senior media analyst, told Fox News that the industry will house smaller crews, film at fewer locations, and require crew members to double up as extras while filming. Not all aspects of the film industry are in trouble, however: streaming services are seeing a huge surge in viewership. Invoke, a market research company, found that 75 percent of responders are watching more on streaming sites than they used to, while Nielsen conducted a similar study and found that time spent on streaming platforms has increased by 34 percent since 2019. And these numbers aren’t going down anytime soon. Today’s streaming services house different genres of film and TV shows: Disney+ features Marvel, Star Wars, and viewings suitable for younger audiences; Netflix features fantasy, mystery, and romance; Amazon Prime features reality TV shows and older films, and so on. With their cheap prices and wide variety, streaming services are benefiting greatly. With the current circumstances, many movies that would’ve been shown in theaters are now being released digitally, either on TV or on a streaming device. The most successful among such films
is “Trolls: World Tour” (2020), released in April and grown to be the highest-grossing digital movie ever. The movie was priced at $20 for on-demand viewers and brought in around $100 million. Though it brought in less than its prequel “Trolls” (2016), “Trolls: World Tour” proved that a film could be released digitally and still be successful. Since then, a number of other films have been released digitally, including “Onward,” “Artemis Fowl,” and “Mulan,” all of which are available on Disney+. “Onward” and “Artemis Fowl” are available with the monthly subscription, but “Mulan” costs an extra $30 on top of the $6. Though the digital releases don’t differ in quality than the ones released in theaters, I personally would rather see a film in a theater, where the special effects are much more vivid. The film industry has a lot of deficit to make up for, which will take time since many movies aren’t filming at the moment, and the ones that are have limited job offerings. If movie theaters in big cities like New York and L.A. don’t open up soon, the industry will fall behind. But this could be an opportunity: positive new developments prompted by the COVID-19 crisis might subvert the stale traditions of cinema.
Notorious RBG, a Real Superhero “Notorious RBG” is everywhere, from a sticker on the back of my computer to someone’s shirt I see while walking down the street. The Notorious RBG design includes a picture of the late Justice with photoshopped sunglasses and a crooked crown, like The Notorious B.I.G. The name “Notorious RBG” sparked countless memes. Rather than mock her, however, many aimed to pay tribute to her through humor. Young women who knew how many doors she opened for them were eager to offer their praise. RBG started as one of only nine women in her class of 500 at Harvard Law School. Harvard’s graduating class of 2017 was 50 percent female. Much has changed since RBG first broke into the legal field, and women today recognize how much RBG fought for them, honoring her through pop culture. One of the most popular forms of RBG fan art are drawings of her dissent collar. Her dissents perfectly symbolize her boldness, significant to the sentiment behind the name Notorious RBG. In one of her most notable dissents, she took the rare step of calling on Congress to act af-
ter the decision, and a law was passed based on her instruction. The famous collar image comes from the specific collar Justice Ginsburg wore whenever planning to dissent. She even wore it the day after Trump’s 2016 victory, making her one of the early faces of opposition against the current administration and further boosting her popularity. Her pop-culture fame has only grown since, with both a
burg (Armie Hammer). The documentary “RBG” depicts her career as a whole and other parts of the Justice’s life. Her workout routine became iconic after appearing in the documentary and inspired people to question: if a Judge in her 80s hadn’t slowed down, then what was their excuse? Her workout prompted a book by her trainer, Bryant Johnson, and an appearance on the Late Show with Ste-
And why is an 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice a pop culture icon for myself and so many others? movie and documentary made in 2018 to celebrate her many achievements. The movie “On The Basis of Sex,” in which she is played by Felicity Jones, depicts a groundbreaking tax case she took on with her husband, relating to her future work against gender discrimination. The movie additionally explores her relationship with her husband, Martin Gins-
phen Colbert. By doing her workout with Colbert and her trainer on the show, the Justice had acknowledged her pop-culture status. RBG was known to be fond of her own icon status, as she reportedly had a collection of Notorious RBG shirts that she gave out as gifts. RBG even managed to make it onto Saturday Night Live. Played
by Kate McKinnon, she was known for constantly throwing out insults called “Ginsburns.” In her most recent skit, Kate McKinnon did a parody of the RBG workout from her home (as it was during quarantine), in which she lifts Q-tips as weights and uses floss as a jump rope. Her inclusion in SNL is emblematic of the Justice’s cultural relevance. Ginsburg’s perseverance and unapologetic feminism certainly earned the pop culture handle “Notorious RBG.” She was a hero and role model to generations of women and men in this country. Upon hearing that Ginsburg had passed away at the age of 87, after losing a 10 year battle with cancer, I burst into tears—and I know I was not the only one. Besides being a feminist icon, she was pro-LGBTQ+, anti-death penalty, and a defender of human rights during a time when they were increasingly under attack. Her admirers understand the significance of her work and celebrate her in the pop culture arena through memes, merch, and more. Notorious RBG will no doubt be remembered for decades to come, and her legacy will live on with the many women that she inspired.
Redefining Role Models in the Rap Industry full-rounded human beings.” Regardless of the “vulgarity” of this song, “WAP” has re-
as Shapiro, who have severely criticized female rappers, despite never commenting on any of the
Older names in rap, like Eminem and Kanye West, and newer names, like Migos and 21 Savage, have built careers on songs that objectify women and promote violence. ceived an overwhelming amount of backlash from people, such
explicit songs performed by men in the rap industry.
As women in rap gained popularity in the music scene, so did this double standard. MC Lyte was the first female rapper to release a full-length album in 1998. MC Lyte, however, never discussed femininity on her album; in fact, she, along with two men, wore baggy sweat suits and a snapback on her album cover, as she wanted to avoid gender association. Over the decades, it has become common for female rappers to avoid sexuality in their music. Lil Kim’s record company, for example, told her that she had to mimic MC Lyte’s “male swagger” to be successful.
Lil Kim instead unapologetically embraced her sexuality, rapping about glamour while wearing diamonds and lace. Rappers such as Lil Kim, Missy Elliot, and Queen Latifah, to name a few, were the first to normalize writing their own music, an expression of their femininity. Despite this early success, female artists still fight to get the recognition and credit they deserve. It was only in May 2020 that a female rap duo finally topped the Billboard charts. With continued on page 23
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Arts and Entertainment continued from page 22
their remix of the viral song “Say So,” Nicki Minaj and Doja Cat were quickly followed by two other duos. Both Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” made their way to the top of the Billboard charts in the span of a few months. As women tackle the issue of recognition in rap, they combat the imminent public reception. Older names in rap, like Eminem and Kanye West, and
Film By SAMIRA ESHA “The Devil All the Time” is the product of clouded religion, scintillating mystery, and dripping Southern accents all packed into one movie. Set in the mid-century Midwest (made extremely clear from the hokey southern drawls), we follow the lives of a father (Bill Skarsgård) who passes along his violent tendencies to his son (Tom Holland), and several other “hillbilly” characters in a small town where church and religion are vital to everyday life. The dark and twisted undercurrents of the town, however, make it abundantly clear that these people could not stray any further away from the God they worship with such fervor. With such a heavy subject matter, it’s hard to precisely say whether or not the story was executed well in the end. One of the biggest draws for this movie is the star-studded cast. Tom Holland, known for his work on Marvel’s “SpiderMan: Homecoming” (2017), plays a character who, despite being set in a different time and place, shares similar qualities to his Marvel role but, for the most
By MAYA NELSON When you think of the worst thing that Netflix has ever put on its platform, what comes to mind? Is it “Riverdale?” “13 Reasons Why?” Or maybe even one of their Netflix Originals? Though the majority of its content is relatively uncontroversial, Netflix manages to get itself in hot water from time to time with the release of certain movies and TV shows on its site. However, all past controversies seem minuscule in comparison to Netflix’s latest disaster: “Cuties.” In mid-August, Netflix put the description and poster for the movie “Cuties” on its platform, which was set to release in September. The French film had been shown at the film festival Sundance earlier this year and had actually received heavy praise in France. The initial movie poster showed four 11-year-old girls posing seductively in revealing outfits, with the description: “Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions.” This poster was faced with immediate backlash across the Internet as the hashtag #CANCELCUTIES became increasingly popular. People were outraged by the fact that the poster clearly sexualized un-
Redefining Role Models in the Rap Industry newer names, like Migos and 21 Savage, have built careers on songs that objectify women and promote violence. For example, in his song “Low Down, Dirty” (1997), Eminem raps, “Slap dips, support domestic violence / Beat your [expletives] while your kids stare in silence.” Yet, society praises Eminem as one of the greatest musicians of our generation. Kanye West, arguably this generation’s most influential rapper, has also had a career of questionable songs, though he always manages to receive the
benefit of the doubt. In his song “30 Hours” (2015), he sings, “My ex says she gave me the best years of her life / I saw a recent picture of her, I guess she was right.” West consistently objectifies women in his songs and, in this example, follows the theme by minimizing a woman’s worth to her appearance. This gendered double standard in rap only makes it more difficult for women to succeed. People who listen to music seek an escape from the mundane emotions that they daily experi-
ence. Artists aim to create music that empowers both themselves and their fans, but it’s impossible to do that if their lyrics continue to be publicly scrutinized. While men freely rap about degrading women, women are labeled “bad role models” for exclusively talking about themselves. Both men and women should be held to the same standards. In an interview with Marie Claire magazine, Megan responded to the criticism of “WAP” saying, “A man can be as mediocre as he wants to be but still be
praised.” “WAP” is an example of one way we are replacing decades of misogyny and objectification with self-expression and empowerment: through music. As such, female rappers should have the freedom to convey their ideas through their musical platforms without being shamed for releasing explicit music. Through “WAP,” Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion refuse to censor their music despite backlash. That, to me, is the strongest message a role model could convey.
A Psychological Thriller With Southern Accents: “The Devil All the Time” part, feels like an extremely different and refreshing direction for the actor. Alongside Holland is his Marvel co-star, Sebastian Stan, as well as all-stars Robert Pattinson and Skarsgård. Pattinson does an especially phenomenal job playing a sadistic pastor, showing time and time again that he can crush any role that he takes on. The acting from the entire cast was nearly flawless, but that was not enough to save the movie from confusing and often underdeveloped plot points and characters. The movie starts off well, with Skarsgård’s character being the focal point of the story. Through the transition from his life to his son’s life, we are introduced to a slew of new characters who lack depth. Most of the characters share the same internal struggle with their religious faith, in which they paint themselves as pious but are revealed to be the exact opposite. This subsequently leads to their demise. Viewers are hit over the head with the central theme of the intricacies of religion but are not given specific backstories for anybody besides the main character. Viewers are
left in the dark about most of the viewers tune out for even 20 seccharacters’ pasts and how exactly onds, they will most definitely they reached a breaking point come back confused. with their faith. With all that being said, this Besides the plot feeling un- movie was incredibly entertainderdeveloped, there are too ing to many things going on. The movie presents us with a father whose malicious actions will a f fect his son, a crooked cop, a sister in a p s y ch o t i c marriage with a serial killer, a pastor w h o lets his faith overtake Spectator watch. Despite his life gelinos / The Nicholas Evan decisions, the countless deaths and so on. It becomes incred- in the movie, every time someibly difficult to keep up with the one new was killed, it was hard different plotlines. Oftentimes, a to not experience a fresh wave new character will be introduced of shock. Every new plot point without ever being mentioned is initially confusing but bepreviously, even if they play a comes mesmerizing once further crucial role to the storyline. If watched. The plot ensures every
“Cuties”: Netflix’s Newest Disaster
derage girls and demanded that Netflix remove the film from its site. In response to the backlash, Netflix updated the movie’s description and poster but still released the movie on September 1. Now, you’re probably wondering: what is the movie actually about, and is it as bad as the initial description made it out to be? Though the drama is slightly exaggerated, the movie is still questionable. It starts by introducing 11-year-old Amy, who lives in a very conservative, religious family. At school, she meets a group of girls called the Cuties, who constantly misbehave and represent everything her family is against: they wear revealing clothes, listen to inappropriate music, and in general, act much older than their age. Amy becomes fascinated with them, despite the fact that the girls constantly bully and tease her. Eventually, they let her into their group, and she joins them in dance contests. However, at the end of the movie, Amy realizes that she doesn’t want to live the mature lifestyle they lead and decides to embrace her childhood. While the premise of the
movie sounds innocent, the main issues revolve around the sexualization of Amy and the Cuties. The Cuties are fascinated by inappropriate dancing since they mimic what they see online, so they participate in a twerking dance competiAishwarjya Barua / The Spectator
tion. There are multiple scenes in the movie where the girls are twerking, humping the floor, and touching themselves
inappropriately, all while wearing extremely revealing clothing. There’s even a scene in which Amy is dancing and shaking her butt in her underwear. I found myself extremely uncomfortable while watching the movie and thought many of the scenes were quite excessive—it’s the kind of movie that pedophiles would likely enjoy. Though it may seem obvious that the movie is exploitative and should be taken down, many say that it spreads a positive and empowering message. The movie is ultimately a criticism of such behavior, as Amy eventually realizes her behavior isn’t appropriate for someone her age. Viewers are meant to take away the concept that young girls shouldn’t feel the need to sexualize themselves, even if they see other women doing so on social media. Even so, this message doesn’t make showing these scenes okay. There are ways to express the same ideas without filming underage children dancing seductively. The movie wound up centering around the very thing it was meant to criticize—the sexualization of underage girls. To make matters worse, the movie’s conclusion is quite weak. There are no consequences to
character is somehow connected, even if many never meet face-toface. The acting and noteworthy actors ended up saving these characters and helping viewers differentiate between them. “The Devil All the Time” is a very fun watch but in no means a cinematic masterpiece. In fact, in some ways, it felt refreshing and unlike anything that has been made already due to the highly controversial theme and unique setting. The biggest flaw of this story was the rushed storytelling. This story would likely have an easier time effectively twisting and developing as a mini-series, allowing for each character and plot point to be discussed thoroughly. At the very least, Netflix has given us another entertaining movie to watch during quarantine, right? So renew that subscription, and pay close attention. Blink, and you might miss it!
the girls’ actions, and there isn’t any impetus that makes Amy realize her behavior isn’t okay—she just happens to change her mind in the middle of a dance contest. You can’t make the argument that the movie is justified because it takes a stand against inappropriate behavior when it really only does so very weakly in its final few minutes. However ineffective it has been in communicating its intended message, the movie does highlight a very real issue in our society: children are constantly sexualized. Beauty pageants and dance competitions that require children to wear inappropriate costumes have long served as examples of how children are encouraged to sexualize themselves at a young age. With the rise of social media, this issue has only gotten worse. Children mimic what they see online, and when most of what they’re seeing is adults posing seductively on social media, they copy that. Children are taught that beauty is the most important feature someone can have, and so they think that the only way they can get ahead in life is to sexualize themselves, just like what happened with Amy and the Cuties. If we really want to stop child sexualization, we have to limit it in media— and that includes movies like “Cuties.”
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Humor These articles are works of fiction. All quotes are libel and slander.
A Beginner’s Guide on How to Get Into Every Spectator Department By AARON WANG, KELLY YIP and KAREN ZHANG With The Spectator’s recruitments coming up, we know all about the incoming surge of ambitious freshmen (and nonfreshmen) waiting at the gates of the sacred department applications. However, how to surpass that gate and be accepted into the divine sanctuary called “Spec” isn’t an easy answer. Students of all ages have often wondered—just what is the secret, the key, to getting into your most desired Spec department? Well, after much consideration, three wise writers and editors of The Spectator have decided to provide you with a convenient guide for getting into every department so that you can live your dreams of being a journalist and writing news, or perhaps a fake journalist writing fake news, and so that we can have a batch of fresh meat to work with. Without further ado, here are some must-haves on your application to guarantee acceptance into the Spectator department of your choice. News Ah yes, the News department. This department gets the front page on almost every issue, so their standards are quite high. In order to prove that you’re with the times, list every single news outlet out there, whether it’s The Onion, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Trump’s campaign ads, and, of course, Fox News. Anything except for The New York Times, though. Also, be sure to brag about your 300 words per minute typing speed. It’ll actually come to use with the 10 hours of transcribing you’ll have to do for every article. Features The Features department specializes in telling the secret
stories of Stuyvesant, whether it be an article involving a demon panda or another talking about the beauty of young love in quarantine (and, of course, reminding you of how lonely you are). To ace their application, simply mention that you love storytelling, your favorite story is from “The Duck Song,” and that you have an apt for posting in the Dear Incoming Facebook groups many times. More importantly, however, you LOVE Stuy. Like, you have a shrine-at-homeworshipping-allthe-teachersand-students kind of “love” and will go to the ends of the Earth to resurrect our God, bless his name, Peter Stuyvesant himself.
such as knowing that the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, the Earth is flat, vaccines are fake, and climate change is a hoax. Or, you can win the Genes In Space competition. No pressure.
Arts and Entertainment The A&E (that’s what the cool kids call it) department is responsible for keeping the uncultured Stuy students up to date on everything from the latest fashion trends to food. Remember to extensively mention in your application your exquisite n o v elty crew socks colOpinions lection, how The Opinions your favorite department offimovie was cially endorses the the live adaptation of Humor department, CATS, and how your so you must make entire Spotify playlist sure that your opinconsists of various reions are as tastemixes of “Sexyback” ful as theirs. Please by Justin Timbertranscribe the entire lake, “Baby” by Justin presidential election Bieber, and “Mine DiaZeng / The Spectator debate out of passion Yaqi monds” by Mcap Steve for the subject while annotat- (you should probably link the ing it as you would on Perusall. playlist as well). You might also When asked to write a sample consider showing off your legOpinions article, record the en- warmers and digging into your tirety of your history Socratic closet to find those clear plastic seminar and transcribe it while, jeans to show your devotion to of course, injecting your own keeping up with those trends. overdeveloped opinions. Humor Science Make sure to start off your The Science department application with UwU or OwO. keeps us STEM-addicted It helps if you exchange all Stuyvesant students sane. To get the r’s in your application with into the Science department, all “w” and that you add a blushyou have to do is have a keen ing emoji (like so: >///<) every understanding of the sciences, few sentences. It also might help
if you’re funny. Sports As the Sports department has the honor of having the back page of almost every issue; the first order of business is accepting that no one will probably ever read your articles, but that’s okay! As the department is looking to diversify the number of different sports their writers play, it is recommended that you write croquet, lawn mowing, or fishing as your choice of sport. They’ll have no other option except to accept you. Art If you can draw Peppa Pig with a tail in its mouth, you’re set. Photo Have a camera, at least. Can be on a flip phone, preferably Nokia. We recommend you ask your grandparents for a crash course on this modern technology. Maybe they’ll pull out their Kodaks. Copy The Copy department takes care of all the grammar errors that our incompetent writers make, so if you like the grammar section in the SAT, this one’s for you. Make sure to subtly slip into your application that you have a strong hatred for passive voice and that your favorite punctuation mark is the interrobang, and you will basically be given a free pass into the department. Extra points if you name-drop the percontation point and the beloved Oxford comma. Remember to dot your t’s and cross your i’s before you submit. Layout The Layout department is in charge of putting all the articles in the right places in the paper. Just remember that paragraphs
should be bolded and in all caps, the writers’ names printed in size 50 font in Comic Sans, and the title italicized and put neatly under the last sentence of the article. Of course, all ads belong in the Humor section. Oh, and if you already have and can pay for the rest of the department’s Adobe InDesign, that would be great. It’s only $20.99 a month. Web The Web department runs the website stuyspec.org. Remember to hyperlink your own fandom Wiki and your many Wix websites at least once in every sentence of your application to prove that you are adept with your computer and website creation skills. Though it is recommended that you take Advanced Placement Computer Science, your Scratch skills will also suffice. Business The Business department is responsible for funding our newspaper. To put it simply, please consider applying if you are stinking rich or have the means to become stinking rich. Burglary skills are also appreciated, as there will be monthly trips to infiltrate the Student Union treasury. Embezzlement is also condoned. Not to mention, if you happen to be the CEO of your own startup company or are investing in stocks for Norwegian cruise lines (and can offer some free trip tickets), you will be highly considered. With all these insider tips, there’s no way you’ll fail to be accepted into your dream department. We wish you well on your endeavors, and remember to please credit us for your success! P.S. From all of us here at Spec, we are excited to meet you! See you all at recruitments :)
So You Think You’ve Found an App? By KRISTA PROTEASA App: Homework 4 Dayz Getmi Outa Heer ★★★★☆ I would’ve given this app a 3.5 if I could, but I just didn’t want to. This app broke into my car and stole my entire transmission, ultimately totaling it, but sometimes it glitched out and gave me a 65 on tests I failed, which was great. Anonymous ★☆☆☆☆ This app is just garbage. It downloaded nine U2 albums on my iPad, and now I don’t have any more space to support Assassin’s Creed. I can’t even delete the albums. I didn’t even know U2 had more than one song, and I really didn’t want to. Delete this app. Why did it do this to me? App: Super Essay Grader Pro Ultra Lite+
Fay Ling Graydz ★★★★★ There should be more stars!! This app made me breakfast for a week and even fed my dog! I didn’t even have a dog, but this app got me one just for it to feed! I mean, this app did cut off my electricity for 3 months and then set my house on fire, but insurance covered it! Overall, a great app. App: Reference Tables for Free Niid Kawfee ★★★☆☆ Pretty easy to use. It punched my mom in the spleen tho… Cheet Sheat ★★★★☆ This app was missing a few reference tables I needed, but it had most of them. It also kept calling me Stewart for some reason. The reference tables also had pop-up ads of full-length Hallmark movies I couldn’t
skip, but other than that, it’s an okay app.
and the LGBTQ+ community is a sandwich club, so they shouldn’t get rights cuz all they do is talk about sandwiches… I think he means BLT, but I don’t know at this point… But then I downloaded this app, and he legit hasn’t opened his mouth in about three weeks! Can you believe it? This app duct-taped his mouth shut so I didn’t have to!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!! A dream come true. If you have pesky relatives too, this is the perfect app for you.
Tyred ★★☆☆☆ All I wanted were the reference tables for physical setting/ PHYSICS 2006 edition, but I got some guy’s résumé instead? I’m just mad that he probably has my reference tables >:(( App: Calendar Frenzy Scliip Dehpryvd ★★★☆☆ This app takes some getting used to, but it’s really simple once you learn the ropes. It was a little bothersome that it froze my assets, buried my succulents in my neighbor’s cat’s litter box, and unscrewed every doorknob in my apartment, but hey, you win some, you lose some. Hælp Mi ★★★★★ My racist, sexist, and homophobic uncle hasn’t talked in weeks! He used to talk all.
Emily Young-Squire / The Spectator
The. Time. Always telling me stupid things about how women are government spies
Krajuayted ★☆☆☆☆ The fact that I couldn’t find the calendar isn’t even my biggest grievance. Last night, when I was making scrambled eggs for dinner, this app legit ate them. It just ate them… Right in front of me. But here’s the real kicker—It didn’t even do the dishes afterward AND it spit on my shoes on its way out. WHAT?? Who does that?! Ugh… 0/10
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Humor A Lovely Introduction (to Flipgrid) By ASA MUHAMMAD After another day of waking up to a cold bed and empty DMs, the idea was born on September 17, 2020. In a fit of lonelinessinduced melodrama, I stood to gaze out my bedroom window. What a cruel joke it was to wake up to the beauty of the coming fall with no beautiful woman to warm me through the crisp winds. It’s said that fall is the season of change, yet my relationship status is static, seemingly immutable after years of steadfast isolation. All seemed lost—until I joined my first class, that is. Many of our teachers had implemented a new app called Flipgrid. My initial reaction was one of cynicism: yet another submission app to forget my password to. However, much to my delight, I was proven wrong. Flipgrid is a video sharing app, one similar to the ever-threatened TikTok, but with an educational focus. Most teachers assigned introduction
videos, while others had us respond to a prompt. While these assignments were really just used to soften the blow of assigning three chapters of textbook readings on the first day, I was intrigued by the idea. At the time, I sought a relationship in which I could be truly seen, truly heard, and truly known; I wanted a deep interpersonal connection in which I could love and be loved, despite my faults, shortcomings, and imperfections. It was this desire for something real that had me enthralled with Flipgrid, and what deeper connection is there than knowing a girl’s first name and her favorite color? Food is the gateway to the soul, and we both prefer hamburgers to hot dogs. Watching her on this app was the most intimate connection I’d ever known. I felt I could really be myself around her. There is no one I’d rather spend the rest of my life with. And this is how I felt for each and every Flipgrid
I watched. less—I realized that I might just I had to get to work craft- have to rent an Airbnb. And so I ing the most intricate Flipgrid I did, and it was beaucould, creating the most idealized tiful: clean lines, version of myself. What else can organic shapes, you do when you meet a girl who and somewhere makes you feel comfortable beI could see mying your authentic self ? In self living with 30 seconds, she my beautiful wife, revealed more should this all go well. of herself to I set up my trime than anyone pod and changed into ever has. She paint-splattered jeans (prebore her soul to speckled of course) and an me, and I must oversized collared shirt to do the same foster a sense of success for her. After and professionalism but hours spent in an artsy and approachscouring my able way. The script was house for the hardest part. My the best favorite color? I had angle to 30 seconds to convey shoot the a sensual yet provocative video— message while also insomewhere stilling a sense of comthat was monality. After 10 cycles of ectator n / The Sp Eleanor Chi neat enough writing and editing, it was time to evoke a sense of calm, yet to shoot. messy enough to look effortIt was beautiful. The light
poured over me and touched me with a warmth no woman ever had. I said my favorite artist was Conan Grey, and my favorite movie was “Call Me by Your Name.” My mannerisms were refined, my stutters intentional, and my nails painted in alternating pastels. It was all going swimmingly. I would finally know the intoxication that is female attention and the bliss that is talking to a girl outside of a breakout room, or so I thought. Despite my Keatsian imagery and Vogue-worthy angles, my Flipgrid was largely ignored. Instead, a boy with LED string lights and a skateboard on his wall garnered the most attention. His responses were mediocre at best, but his jawline was impeccable, and his Carhartt beanie worn but not ratty. He was emaciated in a way that highlighted his flawless bone structure, and for this, he was adored. I… was not. Love is nothing but a farce.
MTA Turns to New Labor Source: Rats By NORA MILLER
with social distancing.” Noncompliant citizens, Feinberg continued, would have a rat scurry around their feet and up their pants until they shriek loudly enough and back away in the correct direction. To encourage greater mask use, she hopes to “let the rats mark the place as
decision was the potential for better health guideline enforcement. As Feinberg explained, “I mean, who better than rats knows how to squi— no I mean space out living creatures? We’re hoping to hire some rats—‘pack rats,’ as I like to call them—to pack humans into trains in the most efficient way and, uh, rat out those who do not comply
really, officially their own.” Figuring subway riders—so used to the smell of humans marking their territory—would be unpleasantly surprised by a change of species, the MTA plan hopes people will mask up in order to avoid the smell. The sense of ownership felt by many rats over their soonto-be-re-scented motherland
Cindy Yang / The Spectator
As I’m sure you are all aware, the MTA, the crown jewel of NYC, is in danger. Anyone who has braved the treacherous depths recently has seen the horrors of empty seats, which are dragging the transit budget with them into their nothingness. But fear not—in an exclusive interview with The Stuyvesant Spectator, MTA interim president Sarah Feinberg announced her plan to deal with significant budget cuts while continuing construction and signal improvements. As of this week, Feinberg is hoping to furlough half of all MTA employees to be replaced by a perfectly viable alternative for labor: rats. “We ultimately decided on this plan because humans were just too expensive,” she said. Having worked for the MTA for years, Feinberg had become fed up with the insufficiencies of humankind. Citing our inability to reproduce faster than the diseases that plague us, she suggested that hiring rats would reduce the need for health insurance and overtime. She explained, “Those rats are like disease pioneers! Like, if you carry so many illnesses, you have to be immune to everything, right?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, anyway. And besides, they don’t even need overtime! Really, what’s with us humans? We can stare at screens all day and night, but we can’t fix 100-year-old wiring all day? Disappointing.” Another main factor in this
makes Feinberg and other MTA workers confident in terms of continuing renovations. In an email interview with John Samuelsen, the head of the Transport Workers Union of America, he brushed aside the minor inconvenience that half of his colleagues would have no jobs to instead praise the rats’ mastery of the subway system. “Oh, what any of us would give to be able to crawl around inside our wiring tunnels and sniff our little noses at the prehistoric machinery that is our signaling system,” Samuelsen lamented. He noted, provided that the MTA could make some great and rapid leaps in human-rat miscommunication, the rats would be model workers. “They’re like the best New Yorkers,” he said. “Like, who else would just scamper off civilly if you nearly stepped on them? Not me, that’s for sure.” In fact, several new MTA initiatives rely on the unique abilities of rats. One such project aims to add a backup signaling system based on rat pheromones, which Feinberg described as “primarily out of tradition. We, as the MTA, have always used the oldest technology and consider ourselves to be pioneers of redundancy and absurdity. How much older can you get than biochemi-
cal signaling predating literally all of technology, right?” Another project, called project EEK, aims to address pest control issues by partnering with local pigeons. As Feinberg said, “Everyone’s always going on and on about how many nasty little creatures there are in the subway system. Well, you know who the real puny monsters are? We are! Especially people who are afraid of giant rodents—they are the real pests! I mean, would you be able to do tail-breaking work all day while ugly monsters chase you around and scream?” The MTA plans to deal with these pests with a scaled-up trap-andrelease operation, saving millions on other pest control strategies. Thus far, Feinberg stated that the implementation of the new MTA plans is going smoothly. Training is underway, and to the dismay of the raccoons usually hired for garbage collection, new recruits are being paid in kind. Despite multiple public interviews conducted by The Spectator on the contrary, Feinberg is optimistic that New Yorkers will see a marked difference in their beloved transit system and its budget woes. “That is,” she continued, “if the trends of 2020 don’t extend into 2021. That would be very unfortunate.”
Congress Reveals New Bill to Provide Stimulus Packages Containing Motivational Messages to Struggling Americans By ETHAN LAM In an effort to rile up America’s current economic dysfunction, a new bill has been drafted by the Senate. Currently awaiting ratification, the bill proposes allocating nearly $200 in federal spending in order to provide struggling American citizens with stimulus packages filled with motivational messages that lawmakers made late last night. These packages are to include industrial-grade glutenfree “Hang in There!” kitty cards with 2.5 GHz dual-core processing and A3 marbling score. The cards do not contain the tradi-
tional glitter due to the fact that some of it spilled and got into Louisiana senator John Neely Kennedy’s eye. Kennedy was hospitalized and is expected to make a full recovery, but $30 million from the allocated $200 will be used to cover the costs of his hospital bill. Congress has also further approved an additional $10 for the research of cutting-edge motivational message technology. The budget has been reallocated from NASA, and research is starting on modern-generation messages such as “It do be like that sometimes,” “F,” and “oof,” which Speaker of the House Nancy Pe-
losi hopes will pave the way for similar future stimulus packages. The program aims to release a functional prototype by 2021. This plan is not without its criticisms, however. Critics point out that the Australian stimulus package was a pizza party with two munchkins (and no more) per person. The proponents of the Pizza Party argue that “It’s not fair that they get pizza and we don’t, so we should get pizza too. I don’t want these crummy old cards; they’re pink, and I don’t like pink.” While the Pizza Party proposal was considered, it has largely fallen through due to a
lack of bipartisan support over a split along party lines on whether pineapple should be allowed as a pizza topping. Public anger soared soon after the rejection of the bill, with temper tantrums in the streets. Outrage was eventually quelled by a series of statements from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, in which he stated that “The real [pizza party]… is the friends [we] made along the way.” A second criticism of the plan is its cost. While a minority among the population, a significant number of people think that the motivational messages are simply a waste of tax dollars
to a crisis that will just go away on its own. A Facebook group titled “We don’t need mottos because Money Doesn’t exist,” currently with 100 thousand members, had this to say: “honestly, i don’t think financial crises exist. why should the government force supportive kitties into our personal lives.” At the time of publication, Congress has not yet announced any further changes to the bill. The current plan is set to save over $4 billion in lieu of actual stimulus packages. The conserved money will naturally be funneled into the defense budget.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Humor Donning a Digital Disguise By LOGAN RUZZIER
have a camera,” “My Google Meet/Zoom is glitched,” etc.
Remote instruction is still in its beginning stages, and the bad news has already started to roll in. Unfortunately for introverts and insecure people alike (criteria for which all sane people qualify), students’ cameras must be on in all live meetings. While this rule’s goal is to eliminate ghosts from our online classes, I believe that it is an unwarranted invasion of privacy. If I cannot hide from the government or corporations, I at least reserve the right to shield my hideous dwelling and my homely face from the unwanted eyes of my peers. As such, here are multiple techniques to subvert the camera order; slackers be damned.
3. Fight the Power! This is the most extreme route you could possibly take. Show up to your meeting with your image off, and call attention to yourself. Frequently raise your hand and use your mic while you can, making sure not to blend in with the rest of the class. Then, once they ask you to join your visible peers, refuse. Do not lie, like in the previous method. Instead, start an argument. Tell them it is an invasion of your privacy and that you are furious that this institution would ask you to show your face. You could also state that you never agreed to be recorded, as many teachers tape their sessions. You might even claim that your rights as an American citizen are being infringed (perhaps your Third Amendment rights, as officials are virtually entering your home). I’m not going to lie, you’d need to be the star of the debate team to pull this off. There is a very real possibility that they will shut you down, invoke higher school command, and/or personally punish you by docking your grade. Do you have what it takes to stand up to oppression and emerge a hero?
1. Content With Mediocrity Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best. Simply leave your camera off in class and avoid attracting attention to yourself whenever you can. Many teachers only care about seeing the faces of their students to feel less lonely or because the concept of teaching a faceless mass is too abstract for their old-school minds. Thus, an *almost* full class of students’ faces is good enough, and the few without can get by without it. The issue with this stratagem is that you’re likely to attract shameless copycats, gradually increasing the number of anonymous students in the room and leading to a teacher’s callout. This, however, can be sidestepped…
4. Witness Protection Program Sometimes leaving your camera off is too brash. So the following routes, including this one, are more covert. For this plan, you’ll want to set up in front of a window or a lightbulb. Unless you have a worryingly high-quality webcam, your whole face and upper body will be wrapped in an inky silhouette. This is also a triedand-true method, for I found it did not justify a teacher’s proclamation nine out of 10 times. The tradeoff here is that it does not fully obscure your complexion, so if you are especially disfigured, it may not be the right fit for you.
2. Lying Bastard Your teachers don’t know you. Probably. They don’t know your home situation, and they certainly aren’t aware of your gaming setup. If you wear a grey screen and name tag to class, just be prepared with a phony alibi. When the inevitable prod arrives, dispense an excuse akin to these: “My camera is broken,” “My laptop doesn’t
5. Chuck Close This is a more experimental technique that works somewhat counterintuitively. Once you enter a class, you’ll want to sit as close to the camera as humanly possible. Fill your personal Zoom panel to the absolute brim with your face, making sure every individual pore is visible. This is a surefire way to make everybody in the call uncomfortable and
you aren’t at least a little tech-savvy. You can sneakily lower your laptop/PC’s camera resolution by navigating through the settings on your desktop. This will end up with you showing up to class shrouded in a fog of pixels. If you have a newish computer, you may need to take additional steps to ruin your image. For better results, smudge the camera with one of your greasy fingers, or enlist the help of a younger relative.
Ismath Maksura / The Spectator
will more likely than not get the instructor’s attention. Then, once they reprimand you, assume a much more disguised position in your room. They’ll be so glad their view has improved that they won’t complain. Even if they never complain and you remain up close, you’re still protesting the rules loud and clear. This works particularly well in conjunction with others, and a phone camera is optimal. 6. Bank CCTV This may be the most viable solution to the problem so far, but it can be difficult to set up if
If this is still not enough, you can place successive layers of clear scotch tape over it. This approach is extra convincing, as a superior is unlikely to tell you to get a better camera and cannot expect you to get one either way. 7. I Never Really Was on Your Side This last option is really more of an elaborate prank than anything. Start by creating another Zoom/Google Meet account under a specific teacher's name. Then, copy their profile picture. If you show up to one of their live sessions, they'll be absolutely
convinced it's a bug on their end. In fact, a glitch like this actually exists on Zoom, which I have seen for myself, so they won't second guess it. You could remain silent and keep the video off, which is more accurate to the real bug, or you could mirror their video and audio, giving the illusion that they're broadcasting twice. Making this work from a technological standpoint would be very difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. However, this perfect anonymity does come at the cost of severe impracticality. You will be marked absent from the class and will be excluded from all group activities, as "you" aren't there. You may not be allowed into the meeting in the first place if the teacher just leaves you in the waiting room. The teacher might just kick you from the room. If your tutor is brilliant and manages to see through this flawless disguise, the crime would carry a severe penalty. However, if you expend loads of effort and beat all the odds necessary to exit this operation victorious, you will surely emerge a legend. In conclusion, all authority must be questioned. Being an American, by definition, means overthrowing tyranny, whether that takes the form of taxation without representation or unwanted exposure of your ugly face. It is our duty to uphold the pristine beliefs of our Founding Fathers, and sometimes that requires making a huge nuisance of ourselves. I trust you will all join me in fighting the good fight and prove once again that Stuyvesant’s student population can stand up for themselves. Thank you so much for not only reading my article but also for following its guidelines and spreading the word to everyone you know. I wish you all the best in this noble undertaking. (And please, please let me know if you succeed with either the third or seventh method.)
Sports Sports Editorial
Bigger Than Tennis Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice. Those are the seven Black victims of police brutality or racially motivated attacks whose names were written on the masks worn by Naomi Osaka, the 2020 U.S. Open Champion, as she walked onto the court for each of her matches. In doing so, she hoped to bring more attention to the Black Lives Matter movement that has been in the spotlight for the past few months and became one of the many athletes to speak out about the racial injustices and police brutality toward Black people. Given one of the biggest platforms in the world, Osaka made a powerful statement on racial injustice. Protests across sports supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have put the danger of police brutality and systemic racism in the spotlight. Osaka was disgusted that though all seven of the men and women whom she honored on her masks were killed by the police, only one of
these cases resulted in a murder charge. The officers that ended the young lives of these victims still walk free—off the hook. Osaka noted that seven masks are nowhere near enough to account for those who have been
continuing oppression of Black people in this country ultimately led to her decision to wear these masks at the U.S. Open. This action by Osaka touched many hearts, including the families of Trayvon Martin and Ah-
harmed by police brutality. The feeling of unrest surrounding the
maud Arbery. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, and
Susannah Ahn / The Spectator
By SUSIE MCKNIGHT and ROXIE GOSFIELD
Marcus Arbery Sr., Ahmaud Arbery's father, videotaped a message thanking her for her activism and showing their support. Osaka responded saying: "It means a lot. I feel like they're so strong. I'm not sure what I would be able to do if I was in their position. I feel like I'm a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness, and it's not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything that they need." Despite influencing many around the world, she mentioned that she feels as if she is doing so little in the larger context of all the protests. Osaka added that she is glad that what she is doing is making an impact and will continue to bring awareness to the topic. These masks haven’t been the only way Osaka has protested. In addition to being very vocal on social media, the young prodigy boycotted her Western and Southern Open semifinals match, a tournament she participated in throughout the month of August. After the shooting of Jacob Blake, she explained her decision on Instagram, saying: “Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. And as a Black
woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis…If I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport, I consider that a step in the right direction.” The event ultimately postponed all games on that day, saying that “tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront of the United States.” Osaka played a huge role in that “thrust to the forefront,” achieving what she set out to do by starting the conversation within her sport. Now more than ever, our country is defined by our social justice issues, and more importantly, how we handle them. Celebrities, politicians, and athletes alike have demonstrated an outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and tennis star Naomi Osaka is no exception. The U.S. Open winner has set an example for athletes and humans everywhere by fighting for what she believes in and attempting to make a difference within her field.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
Sports Sports Editorial
Kicking It Back with Girls’ Soccer’s Two-Time Leading Goal Scorer By SHIVALI KORGAONKAR
work on being more open for my teammates. I need to make myself an option. Also, when I’m at the goal, I have to be more consistent with my shot. You always have to make the most of every opportunity on the field. 3. How has your experience on the Stuyvesant soccer team been? I loved playing soccer on the Stuy team, so I’m really sad that we don’t have a season. In freshman year, I really wanted to play on the team, but my parents didn’t want me to sacrifice my grades for a subpar high school team. But, I have absolutely no regrets. I’m glad I pushed back on my parents as I’ve met some of my best friends through soccer. I met my best friend freshman year at practice, and we’ve been close ever since. You spend so much time with upperclassmen that it’s nice to see them in the hall or have a conversation. Actually, one of our alumni gave me a tour of Cornell when I went to visit. The underclassmen are also great to talk to, of course.
1. When did you start playing soccer? I started playing soccer recreationally when I was in preschool—living in Westchester—and my parents signed me up for a local team. Once I moved to Manhattan, I joined the West Side Soccer League. I played there for a couple of years until third grade, when I joined the Manhattan Soccer Club (MSC). I’ve actually been on the same team at MSC with the same people since then. 2. What position do you play? Are there any skills you want to improve on? I play two different positions. For high school, I played wing forward, and then last year, I started playing wherever the team needed me—so right or center midfield. I always had to make sure that, as captain, I was doing what the team needed. I had to be a leader on the field, making sure we pushed up or dropped back, while keeping calm on the ball. Even if I was freaking out on the field, I had to keep my composure so that my teammates felt comfortable and confident. For MSC, I play the center offensive and defensive midfield. I’ve always had to
4. How has being captain changed your outlook on the game? As captain, you have to think about everyone on the team. You can’t just think about your own performance. Soccer is a team sport for a reason: you always need the support of your teammates. Last year, we had problems with chemistry. It was my job as the captain to resolve those issues. If a
7. What is your proudest memory? On the Stuy team, I was able to start the first game of the season my freshman year. I was super nervous because I was starting over girls older than me. Mr. Hugh Francis, our coach, told me he wouldn’t play me if he didn’t think I was ready. I ended up scoring the first goal of the season, and it was nice to feel reassured that I deserved to play that game.
Francesca Nemati / The Spectator
Aki Yamaguchi Height: 5’1.5” Eye color: Brown Hair color: Brown (because I dyed it—originally was black) Birthday: 10/16/2003
I’m optimistic that I can get some film to send to coaches from my scrimmages this season.
player is having a hard time, it’s my job to check on them. One freshman made a bad decision last season on the field during her first game, and she was really upset, so I had to comfort her and lift her back up. Small things like that go really far. 5. How do you deal with schoolwork and soccer? Any tips? I’ve been playing club soccer since third grade, so I’ve always had to balance school with soccer. I’ve gotten into a rhythm with balancing them. The biggest thing is taking advantage of your free time. If you have a free period or extra time before practice, do work. I have practice from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and I don’t get home until 10:00 p.m. If I don’t start my work early, then I don’t sleep until 1:00 in the
morning. 6. How is your recruitment process going? What are your biggest struggles? I started my process when I was a freshman in high school. I went to a tournament in San Diego, and then that same summer, I went to a Dartmouth ID camp, where a bunch of coaches watch you and hopefully like you. Last fall season, my club team won two major tournaments, so we gained some credit to our name. We had a lot of coaches at our games and even one game where our entire sideline was just coaches. It’s hard to play your best with all that pressure. My biggest struggle is that, with COVID-19, I lost my spring season, which is said to be the most important time period for Division III recruits.
8. What is your favorite memory? There are countless memories. I love hanging out with the girls and even the boys on the boys’ team. Taking the bus to the games, blasting music, and getting food after practice are all things I’m going to miss. I remember it was pouring during one of our first practices. We were doing our ab workout, and the song “Send Me On Your Way” from “Ice Age” came on and we all started laughing and singing. I was running around recording everyone, and it was just a good time. Drink of Choice: Coca-Cola Favorite food: All food, but I like Filipino and Japanese food. Motto to live by: You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Fun fact: “Aki” means Autumn in Japanese, which is the season I was born in.
From Refugee to Bayern Superstar: The Rise of Alphonso Davies F.C. Bayern Munich superstar Alphonso Davies has experienced his rise to stardom in recent years, whether it’s from recently winning the treble with Bayern or his carefree personality on social media. Life, however, hasn’t always been so easy for the 20-year-old youngster. He was born in Ghana and relocated to Edmonton, Canada when he was only five years old. It was there that Davies began his journey in soccer. But how did he manage to go from residing in a refugee camp to playing for Bayern? Davies was born on November 2, 2000 in a refugee camp in Buduburam, Ghana. He was born to Liberian parents who fled Liberia during the Second Liberian Civil War. In an interview with The Guardian, Davies explained that his parents worked long hours, which meant that Davies helped around the house and took care of his younger siblings. While he was adjusting to Canadian life, he found acceptance on the soccer pitch. As a child, Davies played for a soccer league named Free Footie, an organization for underprivileged students. His former teacher, Mr. Adams, noticed a remarkable skill within him. Fourteen-year-old Davies joined the Whitecaps FC Residency in 2015. His parents were concerned about his future and fall-
ing down the wrong path, but he convinced them to let him enroll. He signed with Whitecaps FC 2, the reserve team, where he scored two goals in 11 appearances. His
in June 2017 and became eligible to play for Canada. He played in the 2017 Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Boot with three goals. His performances attracted many
amazing performances prompted him to sign a long-term contract with MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps. The talented winger ended his inaugural season with 15 firstteam appearances. It was around this time that he received a call-up from the Canadian national team. Davies passed his citizenship test
prominent clubs from England to scout him, and he was inches away from a move to Premier League’s Crystal Palace F.C. at 15 years old, but the club’s chairman, Steve Parish, said they failed to obtain a work permit. He enjoyed his next two seasons in the MLS, with four goals and three assists in the 2017
Shirley Tan / The Spectator
By SHAFIUL HAQUE
season and eight goals and 10 assists in the 2018 season. He was included in the MLS roster for the 2018 MLS All-Star Game against Juventus, where Juventus won 5-3 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw. A month after the MLS AllStar Game, Vancouver announced Davies’s $13.5 million transfer to Bayern. In an interview with The Guardian, Davies expressed his surprise with Bayern’s interest and his eagerness to compete at a higher level. He would join the German supergiants after he finished the MLS season. Davies made his Bundesliga debut in a home game against VFB Stuttgart. In his debut 2018/19 season, he spent a lot of time on the bench, out of the main squad, or injured. However, his determination to improve aspects of his game continued. It was during the following season when Davies proved his expertise. With injuries to new defender Lucas Hernandez, Davies regularly played as a left back instead of a winger. He repaid this faith by putting on fantastic displays in both defense and attack. In a Round of 16 Champions League game against Chelsea F.C., Davies put on a sensational show for the Bavarians, assisting Robert Lewandowski in a 3-0 win. With all these superb performances, he was widely praised among pundits and in the media and retained his position in the
squad. Bayern eventually won the treble, emerging victorious with the Champions League, Bundesliga, and DFB-Pokal titles, with a lot of credit due to Davies. The Canadian rounded up his successful season with three goals and 10 assists and was named Bundesliga Rookie of the Year. He was also nominated for the 2020 Golden Boy award, along with sensations Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. Davies’s story proves how any person can accomplish whatever they put their mind to. "Coming to Europe and winning the Champions League with a great club like Bayern is everything I can ask for," Davies said to BT Sport after the Champions League final. "My story—it just goes to show if you set your mind to it, you can do anything. I'm happy to have the medal around my neck and the trophy by my side." Even after going through the toughest of times, Davies found a way to accomplish his dream in professional soccer by working hard and waiting for his chances. He is an inspiration to many young children and teens playing soccer, including myself. His love for soccer and desire to learn give me hope to be happy and learn more from life. Furthermore, his ability to come back from his injury and exclusion from the Bayern squad helps me realize how I can’t give up on my dreams and that I must work hard in order to accomplish them.
The Spectator ● October 13, 2020
THE SPECTATOR SPORTS Sports Editorial
Big Ten Making Big Moves By ETHAN KIRSCHNER When the Big Ten decided to cancel their football season on August 11, many assumed that all major conferences would follow shortly thereafter. As expected, the Pac-12 made the same announcement about 24 hours later. Many minor conferences also followed suit, citing the inability to make their football programs profitable with no fans in attendance. But with fall camp in full swing, other conferences began to trudge along. Namely, the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 had teams that shockingly made it to the first week of the season COVID-free. Some sports headliners, such as defending champions LSU Tigers and this year’s favorites, the Clemson Tigers, were able to take the field for their first scheduled game. Meanwhile, last year’s semi-finalist, Ohio State, which was picked to start the season as the second-ranked team in the country, has been forced to sit out by their conference (the Big Ten) due to COVID-19 concerns. When it became apparent that college football would at least survive the first week of the season, the focus immediately shifted to the conferences that decided to sit out. Pressure was mounting from the NCAA and other conferences
for the Big Ten to play. Fans and players alike voiced their opinions, saying that they were ready to see and play college football, respectively. Then, the news broke. Ted Carter, the president of the University of Nebraska (a Big Ten school), was caught on a hot mic saying that they were preparing to announce the beginning of football that night. The scientists who had
Yume Igarashi / The Spectator
commended the Big Ten for being leaders in the college football community were distraught by the news. The excitement from the fans began to clash with the outrage from professionals. As each side began to make a stand, the motive for the restart was clear: money. It is unfair for the Big Ten to receive the pressure from the NCAA and even the White House to play football. The original reason for the Big Ten’s cancellation of their football season was not the immediate risk of a COVID-19 but the long-term health effects that the virus still poses. Namely, the Pac-12 and Big
Ten were especially fearful of myocarditis, a heart condition that can develop as a result of battling the coronavirus. The condition causes inflammation of the heart, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat. For athletes, these types of conditions force them into immediate retirement. It seems crystal clear to me that over the last two months, the time from the cancellation of Big Ten football to the statement announcing the restart, the medical community has not come up with sufficient evidence (or any) to prove that COVID-19 does not pose a long-term risk for anyone. Athletes are not just average people. Playing Division I football requires athletes to push the limits of their bodies. The possible long-term health effects of COVID-19 would undoubtedly affect athletes even more. The incentive for the NCAA to push the Big Ten to play is clear. The NCAA makes an estimated 800 million dollars per year off of television broadcasts and licensing rights. With the Big Ten out, there are fewer viewers and top teams that provide intrigue to the sport. But the NCAA is putting their revenue before the health of their students, and that prioritization is
Stuyvesant Sports Are Coming Back—With or Without the PSAL
After canceling all PSAL sports in March, Mayor de Blasio announced that low-risk sports teams may begin congregating for practices starting Monday, September 21. The PSAL, however, released an official statement on its website, stating that all sports will remain indefinitely postponed. In true Stuyvesant fashion, student-athletes have nevertheless found unofficial ways to continue engaging with their teams. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
“Because cross country is considered a low-risk sport, my team should be able to practice and hopefully compete this coming season. Since the starting date for all fall sports has been pushed back, we have more time to prepare. While we will have to implement some necessary changes to the way we run practices and maintain distance, we likely won’t have to make too many adjustments. Since the PSAL hasn’t yet provided much guidance surrounding fall sports, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what this season will look like.” —Julianne Yotov, senior “The girl’s bowling team would like to start practice as soon as possible at Whitestone Lanes (we get discounts there as students and PSAL players). Bowling alleys have been open since the middle of August and are taking many precautions. As soon as a good number of members are comfortable gathering at bowling alleys, we will have practice and potentially hold tryouts. We mainly want to build a team and engage more interest in our sport even if the PSAL is not continuing this year.” —Kelly Guo, senior “Football is a contact-heavy sport, so while we are uncertain about our ability to play this year, we are still getting ready. The team has held Zoom meetings and a few informal practices at Pier 40. The coaches have given us revised workout plans that include using equipment, as gyms are now reopening. We have heard rumors of a spring football season, but for now, we are trying our best to stay in shape and be
“Cross country should be able to officially practice soon, but right now, captains have been holding informal practices with three to five people at a time. We should get some answers from the PSAL soon about how practices (and maybe meets) will be held.” —Erica Li, sophomore “As New York City health guidelines prevent fall interscholastic sports from proceeding as usual, the soccer season has been delayed indefinitely. Nonetheless, members of the boys’ soccer team have been meeting up at Pier 40 to practice around twice a week. We have a much smaller number of players present than we normally would, given that not every player can come, and we were unable to hold tryouts in August. We typically play small-sided scrimmages and possession games and occasionally practice with the girls’ soccer team as well. It’s been a great way to stay in shape and catch up with friends. I believe that once PSAL sports return, we will have an exciting season with athletes eager to officially get back on the fields.” —Matt Melucci, junior
“Because the PSAL has canceled all school sports, the girls’ soccer team has been unofficially practicing at Pier 40 every week. The captains are running the practices, and we do a lot of scrimmaging to build chemistry on the field. Because our season is currently very unclear, we still want to be prepared and have tried to be consistent with practicing. Practice is a great opportunity to improve skill, but it’s also just nice being with friends again.” —Shivali Korgaonkar, junior
“The Lady Lobsters, Stuyvesant’s girls’ varsity tennis team, have tried to maintain the sense of community among the team through workouts two or three times a week. Though tennis could be practiced with social distancing guidelines in place, it is really difficult to find and book tennis courts in New York City without the permit that PSAL usually provides to us, so the best option for our team was to practice virtually. Our online workouts are, of course, not perfect but have afforded us the opportunity to continue bonding with our teammates and exercise together. And, we are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be back on the court together in the spring.” —Talia Kahan, senior
unacceptable. This situation represents a large part of the criticism toward the NCAA. It relates to why the NCAA refuses to pay their athletes in the first place. They put their profit first and the well-being of their athletes second. Other conferences also have incentive to make the Big Ten play. The College Football Playoff is owned jointly by Notre Dame and the conferences that make up the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), and their revenue per year is estimated to be around 600 million dollars. Without the Big Ten, the legitimacy of the playoff and the eventual champion is put into question. The decline in viewers, primarily on TV, would lower the financial yield that the playoff would bring. Ironically, many other conferences and the NCAA are putting pressure on the Big Ten while
they too are struggling to keep their season afloat after 21 games had already been postponed or moved due to COVID-19. One particular anecdote captures the NCAA’s struggle to keep the season going. Two games scheduled for September 12 were canceled and rescheduled for September 18. First, the Baylor vs. Louisiana Tech game was postponed due to an outbreak inside Louisiana Tech’s team. That same day, the University of Houston vs. the University of Memphis game was canceled due to an outbreak within Houston’s camp. With both games canceled and with no one to play, Memphis and Baylor decided to play each other. The day before the game, Memphis experienced an outbreak within their football team. The Baylor vs. Memphis game was canceled. Baylor had two games postponed in a matter of a few days.
on Tina Charles: Making an Impact on and off the Court By ALICIA YU
ture nonviolent protests within both the WNBA and NBA. AdTina Charles, one of the ditionally, since 2013, she has WNBA’s finest athletes, was been donating portions of her drafted first overall to the ConWNBA salary to the Hopey’s necticut Sun in 2010 and curHeart Foundation, an organizarently plays for the Washington tion that sends defibrillators Mystics. Though often overto schools and recreational shadowed, she has achieved centers. She has also started many accomplishments in donating funds to the Black her 10 year WNBA career. Lives Matter movement She was the Most and COVID-19 relief Valuable Player in organizations. In 2012, selected as doing so, Charles a WNBA Allsends the powStar seven times, erful message and has won that people, two Olympic especially athgold medals. Her letes, should not impact, however, exbe afraid to speak tends far beyond the up about important numbers. matters. Following the death Afra Mahmud / The Spectator As Charles stated of Charles Kinsey in in a New York Times 2016, Charles wore her warm-up article, “At the end of the day… shirt inside out in violation of it’s just about how I was able to the league’s uniform policies to leave a lasting impact on somesend a message about his tragic one [whom] I came across. I’m death. Her courage to go against thankful, regardless of how my the norm set an example for fustory ends basketball-wise.”
SPORTSBEAT Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart was named the Finals Most Valuable Player after the Storm won its fourth WNBA championship against the Las Vegas Aces. Justice Jack L. Libert dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Massapequa school district that attempted to officially resume high school athletics. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James was named the Finals' Most Valuable Player for the fourth time in his career after the Lakers won their record 17th NBA Final against the Miami Heat.
Heaven Fitch, a female high school wrestler from North Carolina, became the first female to win an individual state championship while competing alongside male wrestlers. Tennis players Sofia Kenin and Stefanos Tsitsipas have each been fined $8,500 for receiving coaching assistance in violation of the Grand Slam rulebook at the French Open. Kenyan marathoner Brigid Kosgei won the women’s race at the London Marathon, with American marathoner Sara Hall finishing as the runner-up.