22-23 Amplifier preview

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‘21- ‘22

Why Amplify? It was August 2021 when we were selected to lead The Amplifier, the countywide student journalism magazine of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. For some of us, it was a “do it for college” kind of thing. You know, something that would look good on a college application supplemental. Then, the 2021-2022 school year happened. We all expected turbulence returning to full-time, in-person school after the pandemic, but we did not expect violence to drag MCPS onto the evening news night after night. We knew mental health was on the decline among teens, but we could not imagine it would take classmates from us. In April, we learned from the CDC that 44% of American teens feel persistently hopeless (up from 26% in 2009). Less than a month later, we watched in horror as an 18 year-old killed 10 in a Buffalo supermarket. A week later, another 18 year-old killed 19 children and 2 adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. What seemed like a “nice” thing to do back in August is now clearly a public safety imperative. While we watch Congress squabble over sensible gun legislation, there is something else each of us can do right now. Listen to teens. It is the right thing to do: morally, psychologically, and for the greater well-being. Listen to teens. We are not trying to be sensational or alarmist. However, if almost half of teens are feeling persistently hopeless, an unbearable number (i.e. any number greater than zero) of teens are at risk of doing harm to themselves or others. We either listen to teenagers or we are in for a world of hurt.

America clearly understands the power of teen voices. In 2018, we crowded the streets of D.C. for March for Our Lives to hear David Hogg and Emma “X” González, Stoneman Douglas survivors, and gun control activists. Yet, America fails to provide a consistent platform for teen voices. --Assembling The Amplifier, we realized that print journalism is a luxury restricted more and more to schools in higher-income zip codes, leaving too many without a voice. The Amplifier aims to change that narrative. Over the past three months, we assembled a team of talented writers, editors, and artists representing 15 schools in Montgomery County. We applaud MCPS for having our back, agreeing to finance the printing of thousands of copies of The Amplifier, with no censorship whatsoever. They have made it possible for The Amplifier to be a magazine purely for student expression: free of cost, free of advertisement, and free of spin. This edition of the magazine is organized around a day in the life of a high school student. Each chapter chronicles a different point of the day: the hallway, class, lunch, a party, etc. --If those in power refuse to give students a platform, we will do it ourselves. This edition of The Amplifier tells the story of students and pushes their voices to center stage. It is a platform where student voices and concerns can be communicated, where their opinions can be heard en masse, where they are represented, expressed, and most importantly… Amplified. The Editorial Staff

This edition of the Amplifier features student writing, art and ideas from:

Bethesda-Chevy Chase James Hubert Blake Winston Churchill Damascus Albert Einstein Walter Johnson John F. Kennedy Col. Zadok Magruder Richard Montgomery Northwest Quince Orchard Paint Branch Watkins Mill Walt Whitman Thomas Wootton Now, a word about the art on the covers (all 11 of them) That word is “Jack.” If you think Gen Z lacks passion, talent, follow-through, attention span, and empathy, then clearly you don’t know Jack Clauss. We shared with Jack our vision. We asked him to help us follow a senior through the last day of school (Friday May 27, 2022). Jack created an 11-point POV adventure that the creators of Oculus could only dream of replicating.

Special thanks to Emerson Delfin for designing our logo





de to the high school hallway. Hollywood and TV have made the hallway a place of mystique; the reality is a bit different. Today’s lockers, for example, remain mostly empty: scarcely used for holding books, let alone cowering freshmen. Yet, as one of the few authentic melting pots of school, the hallway is the perfect place to study high school culture.

n the last few years, teenagers have moved to the forefront of activism. From the courageous voices of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to the unrelenting tenacity of young leaders throughout the Black Lives Matter movement, we have witnessed the power of the teenage voice time and time again. In Montgomery County, teens carry on the tradition.




he pandemic has plagued us for far too long. This section seeks to examine the wide range of effects that can be attributed to COVID. Only after conducting a thorough analysis of these effects can we seek to move forward from such a wild period in time.



dults, close your eyes. This section might scare you a little. Or take you back to a younger version of yourself. Sometimes, the things we need to hear the most are the things we talk about the least. Life as a teenager is not as glamorous as Hollywood makes it out to be.


herever we go, Gen Z receives unrelenting criticism from previous generations. Now, we are taking back the narrative.

Editors in Chief the

‘21-‘22 Amplifier Staff

Aaron Tiao Michael Shapiro

Managing Editors: Josh Garber Gabe Gebrekristose Elyas Laubach Nathaniel Schrader Sammy Schuchman Sydney Theis



igotry is an unfortunate reality throughout our nation. However, if we want to stop hate in our county, we cannot run from it. Instead, we need to confront it. We must inform and commit ourselves to substantive action to eliminate hatred in our communities.




his was the first full year of high school sports in Montgomery County since 2019 and, boy, have things changed since then. A generation of MoCo student-athletes have the game on lock, and they are not afraid to make themselves heard.

rying to emulate older kids, role models, and celebrity personas, it is commonplace for high school students to use parties to engage in activities far beyond their age and maturity. While parties can be a positive opportunity to connect with classmates and friends, they can also be wildly unpredictable.



Section Editors: Katherine Comer Bennett Galper Hannah Troubh Madison Sherman Sofia Norberte Nikki Mirala Karenna Barmada Samantha Wu Micah Schuchman Kate FitzGerald Mimi Danzis Sophie Hummel

or many students, lunch is the highlight of the school day. You get to sit, eat, and unwind, all while catching up with your friends. What more could one wish for? Over the course of this section, you will read about school “tea” pages, snitch culture, the art of the ratio, and much more.


Featured Artists: Jack Clauss Sydney Theis Sanjay Fernando Nina Pollak Claire Wang Lawrence Strothers Aubrey Samuels Elizabeth Dorokhina


David Lopilato

The Amplifier is made possible through the generous financial support and tireless professional support of MCPS Editorial, Graphics & Publishing Services. EGPS just gets it - the importance of teen voices to solving cultural problems.



I watched my country torn apart. Don’t let it happen here. BY NAVEED AHMAD

A photo my friend took while fleeing Kabul, Afghanisan


n August 15th, rays of sun splashed my eyes, waking me up to a beautiful Maryland sunrise. Nevertheless, I quickly brought myself back to the reality of Afghanistan, checking my Facebook feed for updates regarding the situation in my home country. That morning, my mom had made me pancakes, my favorite. We were all seated together, eating breakfast, when I noticed that my dad seemed upset. I did not think anything of it, nor did I ask what was wrong; he worked from home and is a journalist, so it was not unusual for a journalist. After breakfast, I went to my room and checked my phone. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I thought to myself I could not have read the message properly. I skimmed through all my messages and they were all the same. One of the messages, from my best friend, struck me especially; it read, “Kabul has fallen to the Taliban. I am so scared.” I went to check the news and other social media platforms to see if it was true. Unfortunately, it was. Kabul was trending on social media. My heart skipped a beat and I immediately called my friend to ask what was going on. He was so scared and even cried at the thought of what might happen to him and his family. I tried to calm him down by saying that everything would

be fine. I went out of my room to tell my family, but they already knew about it. It was then that I came to know the reason for my father’s dismay. He had gotten the news early in the morningdaytime in Kabul-but elected to keep the news to himself. Maybe he did so hoping the news would end up being false. I cannot blame him. He has spent a couple of years working in various government, non-government, national, and international organizations and has huge hopes for the future of Afghanistan. Not only that, but my father’s brothers, sisters, and close friends still live in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s brutality continued as they tried to cement their grip on the city. Watching news footage of how people were running and crying to save their lives made me feel like it was the end of the world. The country was gripped by terror, and hearing that the government officials had fled the country was even worse. I would recall those memories of myself enjoying Afghanistan and how things were normal just weeks before this tragedy. Day and night I thought about my relatives, not to mention all of the other innocent people. Everytime these two questions came to my mind: How are they feeling? What are they going to do?

When I watched the news, I saw thousands of people in the airport trying to flee the country to save their lives. Those who were lucky pushed themselves among the crowd and somehow managed to get onto an airplane. It was chaos in the airport; people spent days and nights just to get a chance to get onto a flight. In one instance, people were so frightened by the prospect of living under the Taliban that they clung to an airplane’s wing; when the plane took off, they all fell off and died. A few days later, there was a bombing attack on the airport, killing hundreds of innocent people. The streams of Kabul, once blue and filled with water, were now red and filled with blood. Though the collapse of the democratic system in Afghanistan affected me negatively, causing me unspeakable anguish, I am still optimistic about the future of my country. I believe that throughout our history, Afghanistan has been through its ups and downs. I, as a teenager, have a lot of hopes for my country’s future. I am certain that one day the people of my country will wake up to a peaceful, bright morning, as I can in Maryland. Rather than bad news or gunfire, they will be greeted by the sounds of birds chirping a happy hymn. Naveed is currently a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School



De facto Segregation: not always visible but always toxic BY MARIA BORDON & NANA OSEI-KUFFOUR


tudents of Color (SOC) at predominantly white schools often languish at the margins of social groups, advanced classes, and extracurricular activities. Some argue this kind of marginalization comes down to choice and shouldn’t be regarded as a structural issue. Yet this exact scenario has a name: De facto segregation. De facto segregation is segregation that is not dictated by the law yet instead by trends and lack of desire or effort to integrate. De facto segregation can be a barrier for minority students when it comes to accessing resources, joining school events and taking higher-level

classes. MCPS has experienced dramatic recent demographic shifts. In 2000, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) was predominantly white. Two decade later, 2/3 of its 149,000 students identified as racial or ethnic minorities. MCPS today: 32.4% Hispanic/Latino 26.9% White 21.4% Black 14.1% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander 0.3% Native American Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other 4.9% of students are two or more races

MCPS rightfully celebrates its diversity; yet our schools are failing students of Color.

It was a big hit not being acknowledged. If you're wondering what it feels to not be acknowledged, think about being the only student of color in an IB class, in a graduating class of over 400 students”.

I don’t get along with the prideful B-CC students. The people who are prideful at B-CC overlook its problems. It has been a lonely experience. Even though I have always been a part of a friend group, I have always felt different.”

Decades of systemic racism have left minority neighborhoods and their academic support structures weakened. Virtual learning during the pandemic only accelerated the problem. Black and Hispanic students failed classes at rates 5 to 6 times higher than before the pandemic. White students saw an almost imperceptibe shift over the same period. So what does de facto segregation look, sound, and feel like? We asked Students of Color at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Here is some of what they had to say:

Social groups are exclusive but you can bump into somebody and have a short convo, but I made friends when I started a sports club, joining the football team really helped, but that's not the case for most sports clubs, I just got lucky.”

It [B-CC] is very segregated. When it's not, there are a couple of minorities who are the tokens.”

I’m very much smart and yet I was often looked down upon especially in my freshman and sophomore year. I don't feel a part of it [B-CC] because the school lacks diversity. There aren't many people that look like me and I relate to. I've tried to reach out but because of my personality and the way I conduct myself, I feel like I'm perceived as too black for white kids and too white for black kids.”


Ready for the World to Shake spoken-word By Charlie Williams


ttention! Attention! May I have your attention please.

They left us hanging, whether from a tree or from the shake of a hand.

Listen closely to the words I am about to say. Let’s talk about our history. The one others try so hard to forget.

It was almost like we were a disease that spread like wildfires over the coast of Cali.

They murdered our people for something so out of our control. They held us back from being great, so when I talk loud, don’t silence me.

Like we were the cheese touch, what ignited so much fear within our youth. But they were monsters. With N words flying from their mouths like venom,

throwing us around like the asymmetrical rocks they once used to kill. They still don’t seem to get it… Get how we fought from the depths of hell with our hands behind our heads… knowing they were pointing the caliber towards the bright red targets placed on our backs, crying for dear life, but somehow they want me to act like they saved us? Let's talk about how police were created to keep black people below, rocking brown uniforms resembling a skin color they seemed to despise. Let’s talk about the people shot and killed for refusing to be manhandled by those who claim to protect us. This is not a dig at the white community because I know not all are bad, but if you feel uncomfortable. Good. Now you’ve felt a sliver of what black people have had to feel. We accept and appreciate our allies, but don’t confuse the bare minimum for heroism. Thank you to those who marched and gave me the right to vote. Thank you to those who allowed themselves to be held captive in a jail cell so that I can walk the streets freely. Thank you for being the hero. As the black youth it is our turn to be the change. It is our turn to make a difference. When we get loud, don’t silence us. When we raise a hand, don’t leave us hanging. And when we put our foot down, be ready for the world to shake.

Photo By Johanna Krejza

This story originally appeared in the March 2022 B-CC Tattler



MCPS: The Fall of Violence followed by a fall in violence BY ELYAS LAUBACH


021 brought with it the return of students in MCPS to in-person learning. There were several incidents of hate and violence in our school system shortly after the return to in-person school. The most notable incidents of violence occurred at Magruder High School, where a student was assaulted and shot in a school bathroom, and at Blair High School, where a student was stabbed in the head. Follow ing these incidents, as well as an online bomb threat, the security presence increased in MCPS. However, since the shooting at Magruder on January 21, there have been significantly fewer acts of violence. Many questions remain unanswered. Why did we see a jump in violence after students returned to school? And why have these violent acts seemingly abated? Before we get into why violence has returned to relatively normal levels in MCPS, we have to look at what may have caused it to increase in the first place. An important piece of context is necessary to examine this trend. The coronavirus pandemic created huge problems, ranging from disrupted schooling and the tragic public health situation, to economic struggles and high unemployment. Even before many places in the US issued stay-athome orders and before the number of confirmed infections skyrocketed, there was a massive decrease in reported rates for almost all types of crime. In the months after initial lockdowns, as our society adjusted to the new normal and many cities started to ease restrictions, crime rates in the U.S. did not revert to the patterns of previous years; something had changed. However, the impact has varied by type of crime, and there have been notable exceptions. Overall crime rates are lower than they have been in past years, but more violent crimes (homicides and shootings) are much higher than usual. What we know about crime during the

pandemic is that overall, crime fell 23% in the first month of the COVID lockdown and has stayed lower than usual since. The overall drop in crime corresponds with a drop in the U.S. population’s mobility. Stay-at-home orders and business closures meant that peo ple were not driving, shopping, or walking around on the streets as much as they normally were. Data from the FBI shows the number of homicides in the U.S. rose about 30% in 2020 from the year before, although the homicide rate is still lower than it was in the 1990s. Home burglaries dropped, while commercial burglaries and car thefts rose. The discrepancy in types of burglaries suggests that the population’s reduced mobility had a significant effect on the types of crime people committed. When the pandemic hit, people began spending their entire days at home; the residential burglary rate fell by 24%. This drop in mobility also resulted in fewer people in public spaces, less surveillance of non-residential buildings and a resulting 38% increase in burglaries across the US. So why did violent crime increase during the pandemic? Experts have been making the case for years that keeping communities safe depends on the availability of resources that keep communities stable. Namely: affordable housing, quality education, mental health resources, consistent food access, child care, etc. The pandemic reduced or eliminated access to all of these. A key factor that has been neglected for too long, especially in light of recent events in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, is gun control. If guns were not so easy to buy, there would be fewer cases where a violent outburst reaches the level of a mass shooting. That’s how many criminologists explained why violent crime increased everywhere during Covid-19, even if the situation was most acute in low-income communities where these problems already existed. Even

Montgomery County, the most affluent county in the state of Maryland, was not spared these issues. A lack of food access, social isolation leading to mental health challenges, a drop in education, and high unemployment were seen throughout the county. However, this does not answer the question of why violence continued trending upwards--at least in MCPS-after students returned to normal schooling. With the quality of instruction back to pre-pandemic levels and students’ social lives also beginning to look more like they used to, this time should have relieved stress, resulting in a happier student body and less violence. Obviously, this was not the case. Teachers, not only in MCPS but across the country, reported having to break up fights, and are raising concerns about their own safety. Students have been caught with guns or other weapons on campuses in several highprofile incidents. And school shootings in 2021 surpassed their pre-pandemic high. More worrisome for students, experts say, is the social isolation caused by the pandemic. Isolation is among the risk factors for students who commit violent acts in schools, the Department of Homeland Security warned in May 2021. The agency noted that the pandemic also denied many students access to mental health professionals and put financial strains on many families. “The reduced access to services coupled with the exposure to additional risk factors suggests schools--and the communities in which they are located--will need to increase support services to help students adjust to in-person learning as they cope with the potential trauma associated with the pandemic response,” read a Homeland Security bulletin. The toxic stress of everything going on during the pandemic built up with kids and adults. After returning to school, students had to relearn how to be around each other, handle their


emotions in a much more stimulating environment than their bedroom, and complete school work on time-- the relaxed due date policy that teachers used during the pandemic has ended for the most part. Teachers and even some students say the level of disturbance this fall has gone far beyond years past. In some cases, students are unaccustomed to following the rules that govern a school building. They don’t grasp the expectations for their ages because the last time

many of them were in school was two grades ago. There is no national data on less-serious instances of violence in schools, but teachers and school administrators across the country say they are seeing a rise in everything from minor misbehaviors to fighting in the hallways. Since the Magruder shooting, we have seen a clear drop in violent incidents in MCPS. This decrease appears to have been caused by a multitude of factors. Students seem to have finally


adjusted to in-person schooling and by now are better able to cope with the accompanying stressors than they were in the first semester. Another reason could be that this violence has brought school communities closer together, eliminating the negative feelings that cause students to lash out. Perhaps the end of winter and beginning of warmer weather has improved the mental health of students, leading to more amicable relations between them. A last possible explanation, or at least factor, is the increased police presence. The violence in MCPS buildings has meant the return of police officers to schools, which comes as a blow to opponents of SROs, who in the summer of 2021 won a landmark victory with the removal of student resource officers. But it seems as though there is a correlation between an increased police presence and less violence. It remains to be seen whether this is causation, or really just correlation. No matter the reason, the end of the frightening and troubling spike has been received by MCPS with great relief, but skepticism. Only time will tell whether the past few months have been a mere break in the upwards trend of hate and violence in schools, or whether they are an indicator that the resocialization of students--and adherence to school rules--has occurred.

Student analysis BY GABE GEBREKRISTOSE With Bill 46-20 passing in a landslide, and countless instances of the county reassuring that hate will not be tolerated and condemning violence in schools, it is clear what county authorities think about hate and Student Resource Officers (SROs) in our county. But what do students think? On March 31st, we opened a Google Form and collected answers from over 50 students in our county, asking them to answer six questions about major MCPS hate incidents and SROs. When we closed the form on April 7th, we were unable to find a student con-

sensus relating to hate in MCPS. Yet, the greater takeaway is that discussion around hate in our schools needs to happen more often. 48% of the 56 students believe that restorative justice and community circles were at the heart of decreasing the frequency of major hate incidents. In fact, 67.9% of sampled students weren’t even aware of how many major hate incidents occurred in the first semester of this school year. 50% of sampled students believe that political polarization was the primary cause of hate incidents in our county. 51% of

sampled students were not sure if the removal of SROs correlated to the increase in major hate incidents, yet 41% of sampled students do not want SROs to be reinstated. While The Amplifier did not include data from previous surveys that MCPS may have conducted on this topic, we can safely guess that the answers we have collected right now look completely different from the answers we would have gotten if we had done the poll in October 2021.



The Reality of American Gun Violence BY AARON TIAO


of tone in the news these past couple of days. For the next two weeks, we will remember that a teenager can legally buy an AR-15 before they can drink alcohol. We will remember the names of the victims. We will remember what happened in Buffalo. We will remember the headlines in the news. And we will remember everyone offering their thoughts and prayers. But is that where it will end? Will the lives of the children and families in Texas be memories and just that? Will the cycle of the mass shooting, breaking news, thoughts and prayers, and moving on simply continue? Will there

just be another moment of silence like every single mass shooting we have had in the past two decades? Or, will this be an opportunity where our country can re-evaluate and change so more children do not perish? Honestly, as much as I would like to say we can and should look to our country’s leaders for hope, I don’t know if I believe that will do anything. We’ve been through this exact scenario before, and at the end of the day, it comes down to elected officials deciding whether to prioritize children’s lives or the NRA’s campaign contributions.


n May 24th, 2022, an 18-yearold took an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 19 children and two adults. It marked the deadliest school shooting in the United States since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Ten days earlier, another 18-year-old, in Buffalo, New York opened fire in a grocery store, fueled by white supremacist ideology, hate, and bigotry. In total, there have been over 200 mass shootings this year alone. At the start of this spread, we wrote an article highlighting the decrease in violence in Montgomery County and the United States. After observing how the spike of violence in schools settled down over the year, we attributed this increase in hate incidents and violence early on to the process of returning to normalcy after the pandemic. But as the pandemic seemingly is calming down and people are returning to normal life, we must remember that while problems regarding the transition from the pandemic to normalcy may be dying down, the problems that persisted before the pandemic are still alive. In a year that can only be characterized as unpredictable, amidst news cycles that move on to the next event within seconds, and attention spans that get shorter every day, we forget. We forget that little to no police reform was made after the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. We forget that voter registration laws were passed-with no foundation--to suppress the minority vote. In this situation, we forget that gun violence in the US reaches higher levels each year. We forget that the NRA has a chokehold on the GOP. We forget that gun control laws are appallingly loose. We forget that we go through the same grieving process every year, to no avail. It is the reason why there is a change



Dont Use The R’-Word BY: ANONYMOUS


lmost every day at school, I come across a group of people laughing about something they think is dumb, expressing that whatever they were just talking about is “retarded.” I am autistic, and I find that word extremely offensive. That word plays into the systemic ableism ingrained within our society, yet nobody talks about it. So I will. That word treats autistic people like they are small children, incapable of forming and expressing their thoughts and emotions. It encourages ableist behavior such as demeaning slow-talking: as if our disability lies in our ears instead of our brains. Who could forget the grimacing when an autistic person begins to Note: I am one Autistic person, and I am one Autistic woman. I speak only for myself and my experiences. I do not intend to speak for anyone else.


stim? You know, the “Do they have to do that now?” coming out of the mouth of the thoroughly entertained starer. The word “retarded” has a long history of dismissing and dehumanizing mentally disabled people. The word itself stems from the preconceived notion of mentally disabled people being exceptionally dumb. That is ironic because the majority of autistic and other mentally disabled people I know are quite smart. It is very harmful to anyone to assume that they are intellectually incapable; mentally disabled people are no exception. It does not take a genius of any kind to figure out that such a message directed at a historically marginalized

group is incredibly offensive. I was always put off and offended by the r-word, even years before my diagnosis. I knew autistic people. Chances are, you know some as well. Autistic people are everywhere, and it is in the best interest of neurotypicals (non-autistic people) to accommodate us. Try to accept us for who we are, and maybe even let us talk about our special interest with you one too many times. Most importantly, do not be an ableist. On behalf of one autistic person and one only, please think about the reputation of the word “retarded” before you use it. Just say stupid instead.



The Rise in Asian Hate BY: JORGE HERERA, RILEY NEE, AND RAHMA WADOOD With an increase of 339% in 2021, it would be a blatant lie to say Asian related hate crimes have not skyrocketed. Locally, this holds true; discrimination has evoked a sense of hostility and toxicity among our student population. Montgomery County, despite being the most diverse county in the state of Maryland, is troubled with prejudice within our own community. The dramatic increase in Asian hate is most notably attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The words of former President Donald Trump heightened the xenophobia and racism toward Asians; his referral to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and the “Kung flu” among various Anti-Asian tweets have been largely regarded as one of the bigger factors towards the rise in Anti-Asian crimes. Of all major US cities, D.C. sees the most hate crimes reported by police - 22 cases per 100K people. Seeing news channels report on violent acts against the Asian-American community is nothing new. Back in March of 2021, six Asian women were targeted and killed in a spa in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, there are several incidents of Asian Americans being shoved onto subway tracks and killed, and there was an assault on an Asian family near the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. This April, Arvin Kim, a junior at Walt Whitman High School, was elected to be the 45th Student Member of the Board in Montgomery County. As an Asian-American candidate, Arvin faced discrimination during the four months of his campaign; Arvin de scribes “hateful messages sent online, or comments that [he] hears shouted at [him] as [he] traveled across the county,” meeting students at their respective schools. He depicts a scenario that many can imagine other students ex-

periencing - Arvin says in an interview, “Asian Americans across the nation and in our community are definitely aware of [the increase in hate crimes]. As an Asian American myself, it takes a toll on you to read and see in the news the instances that arise; see how things around you might be affected by an increase in hate.” However, the rise in hateful occurrences has not deterred Arvin in the slightest. Using his elected position as a catalyst for change is one of his priorities in his upcoming term. Among his current advocacy, which include working alongside the Asian American Progressive Student Union to increase inclusivity of AAPI history in curricula, Arvin intends to bring up ways that Asian representation can be implemented into the Board of Education, saying, “In a county as large and diverse as [MCPS], all perspectives should be heard by the Board [of Education] - Asian American students included.” As Arvin illustrated, across the county, students are advocating for representation of Asian American students to counteract the stream of recent hate. Although students may not see representation in school curricula, they may be able to see representation through their teachers. Ms. Gu, a teacher at B-CC, mentions she has had an “overall positive” experience in the county and has “not received hate” from any staff or student. She asserts that B-CC has “done a great job recognizing there is a problem and [has] done things to fix that.” It is evident that B-CC, students and teachers alike, have done well to make her feel at home in this community. A sharp contrast to neighboring communities, Ms. Gu expresses that in concern for her safety she “tries to avoid certain areas, like D.C.”.

Ting Ting Li is another junior, and founder of the Asian Advocates at B-CC. Her advocacy work was initially inspired by “the rise of anti-asian hate crime, and no one addressing it.” TingTing has contributed to making safe spaces for her Asian peers, an environment where they can “be themselves.” Along with the class of ’23 SGA, she has helped inform through town halls, and create new elective courses that dive deeper into the history and culture of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American communities, so students see themselves represented. There’s still substantial changes to be made, and Ting Ting describes her own experience with racism, receiving and witnessing, in our school community. “Microaggressions… are more subtle [to the point] where one [student] might not even know they are using a microaggression,” she says. “AntiAsian hate isn’t anything new, but has only recently received the necessary attention, acknowledgement, and action to fight against it.” However, other times it is not subtle at all. Just this past fall, students from Albert Einstein High School received racist comments from Sherwood students during two separate athletic events. The altercations involved slurs toward Asian students and sexist remarks. It would be naive to say that AntiAsian racism isn’t common when students are being targeted and harassed right within our county. Instances such as this remind us that even in our own community, with a diverse body and range of identity, we have work to do in promoting acceptance and safe learning spaces - changes to implement so that the entirety of our students feel respected and have a sense of belonging in MCPS.




The Myth of the Model Minority BY VALERIE HOANG


he American perspective on Asian Americans has changed drastically. 140 years ago, Chinese immigrants were restricted from migrating to the United States under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Today, Asian Americans are portrayed as a universally successful group: the “model minority.” While the latter perspective may seem positive, the model minority myth is rooted in racism and stereotypes. As a child, the stereotypes placed on me took a while to sink in. The first instance I can remember was when a classmate said to me in middle school, “Aren’t you Asian? You should be good at math.” Though a joke, it highlights the underlying stereotypical ideas that people harbor: Asian American students are often expected to do well in class. Only recently, I was watching a documentary in class where the interviewee stated something along the lines of “when an Asian student walks into my classroom, I know they will be a good student.” Due to this stereotype, there is pressure placed on Asian American students to do well, contributing to a highly competitive environment which forces Asian students to wonder: “If everyone in my demographic is successful, how do I make myself stand out?” “How do I become ac-

knowledged for any traits other than academics?” Such pressure is worsened when added up with the conventional pressures that a student’s parents or peers may put on them. When success is the perceived standard of a population, there is the idea that falling behind means letting down those around you. While these pressures may not be true for all Asian Americans, it is not an unfamiliar concept. The model minority myth is not only harmful to Asian Americans - it perpetuates the racist idea that other minority groups are unsatisfactory. There is the idea that if Asian Americans are able to “make it” and overcome racism, then other minority groups should be able to do so as well - such a tactic is used to downplay the struggles of other minorities. Likening the racism against Asians to the racism against other groups is wildly inaccurate; for example, Asian Americans have not experienced the systemic racism that Black people have faced for centuries in this country. It’s unrealistic, and racist, to assume that because some Asian Americans are able to succeed and achieve the “American Dream,” other groups are just being lazy. This assumption also overlooks the fact that Asians have the largest

range of income in the United States, and although income is not necessarily an indication of success. In the eyes of those who amplify the model minority myth and continue to categorize minorities, it is. Furthermore, many people who attribute success to Asian Americans only apply it to East Asians, ignoring the diversity among Asian Americans in America. This failure to recognize the various different groups among Asian Americans takes away the unique differences that define each culture, in turn resulting in division within the Asian community, and furthering the idea that to one’s peers, they may not seem “Asian” enough if they do not fit the stereotypical image. While this stereotypical image that Americans have constructed for Asians may be considered positive since it aligns with success and obedience, its foundations in racism and the need to categorize minorities and populations they think less of displays the fact that the idea of a model minority is not rooted in logic, but myth. Placing such labels on young students, who are facing pressure from their peers, academics, and life at home, harms their mental well-being and creates an inequitable school environment.



The Toxicity of Teen Political Discourse BY TREVOR O. BURRUSS-TAMBAJANG


wake up filled with rage thinking of Black people and Jews.” Blau, 17, reevaluated his political ideology throughout the pandemic and arrived at one antithetical to the liberal sentiments shared amongst his peers. In June, he began immersing himself in right-wing punditry, following the likes of Alex Jones and Nicholas Fuentes. He now frequents internet forums that align with his newfound conservatism, such as 4chan’s politically incorrect board /pol/, which serves as an oasis for politically motivated rhetoric and memes. “I hate all news everywhere, so I get my news from a small group of internet racists online,” Blau said. 52% of American adults prefer to get their news from digital platforms, so this notion is not unfounded. The isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic facilitated criticism and rejection of the status quo, leading to self-reflection, indoctrination, and borderline radicalization into communities with less than palatable beliefs. “I do not hate Democrats; they are empathetic people who think they’re doing the right thing. I hate the evil pedophile billionaire elites with penchants for small hats,” Blau says. Polarization leaves those on both sides of the aisle feeling dejected, driving them to their haven community of choice. 61% of adolescents state they feel “serious loneliness,” a percentage which drastically increased during lockdown, further shepherding young folks into communities that may not have their best interests at heart. After the election of Donald Trump, a rebranding of conservative ideology occurred, blurring the line between the familiar right-wing thought and fringe authoritarian or ethnonational sentiments. The internet’s anonymity exacerbates this notion, considering the prevalence of subtle methods of spreading opinions via memes and trolling, backed up by plausible deniability. Widespread misinformation, intentional or otherwise, indiscriminate of party affiliation, furthers the creation of echo chambers, leaving ordinary folks vulnerable to be capitalized upon

by bad faith actors seeking profit and power. Problems arise due to lack of communication; all ideologies will become extreme if not presented and debated in the marketplace of ideas. Conversations often occur in 280 characters or less, with reactions simply visceral, contributing to a fractured truth and national identity. “Political memes are one of the best ways of attracting people to a cause,” Blau says. He is correct. After exposure to many consecutive unprecedented historical events, including the murder of George Floyd, COVID-19, the insurrection at the Capitol, and numerous others, the American public has become accustomed to the media bubble, which can easily be one-sided. This trauma has led many young people to, as a means of coping or coercion, utilize comedy, satire, and mockery to communicate in a less abrasive manner. Blau “grew up on the internet,” so he is not easily offended or off-put by edgy or unsavory comments online, and his tolerance for adversity and backlash is strong. Blau is more conservative than those in his community and feels unrepresented and unheard by politicians on both sides of the aisle locally and nationally. “The Republican party are gay r******d shills owned by Israel and only marginally better than Democrats; (they are) socially liberal...as for the Democrats, they might as well be the ‘Demon-cratic party’ as they worship Satan,” Blau states. Blau is also quite religious, and being an Orthodox Christian, he does not use the term demon lightly. Blau’s ideal candidate is “racist, really racist, resilient, someone who will not bow down to lobbyists, and who gets things done via executive order.” Qualities he believes are not currently present in politics and will not be for the foreseeable future. Regardless of political leaning, Blau’s main qualm with society and politics is shared by many. He believes those with wealth, authority, and power have overstepped their bounds and acquired an unjust amount of control over America in many instances. And though he believes those in power are “the pedophile billionaire elites with

penchants for small hats,” the sentiment still stands. “They don’t want you to think,” Blau says, “They just want you to believe what you’re told.” People feel lied to, and that revelation is at least disheartening and most destructive, be it broken political promises, the status of democracy at large, or the feeling that peers and politicians alike do not care about their stability, success, or safety. Specifically, regarding COVID-19, Blau distrusts government recommendations and guidelines due to changing and evolving scientific protocols regarding the number of vaccinations required and vaccine efficacy. Blau finds it imperative to understand the intentions behind every action to find the best solution. He thinks that if COVID-19 is as severe as scientists and politicians would have him believe, then someone should be held accountable for the physical and mental harm inflicted by the virus and social isolation. Since this information is unavailable, he distrusts all subsequent information regarding COVID-19. But most of all, Blau simply wants to talk. He describes multiple instances in which friendships were ruined over political debates that have gone awry and devolved into ad hominem character assassinations. Romantic relationships have also been ruined over averseness to unfamiliar and uncomfortable topics by either partner. Blau also feels discriminated against frequently based on his race and gender. He says that often, in academic settings, his perspective and lived experiences are typically interpreted as the privileged predisposition and thus less valued and respected in the classroom. He has been threatened with expulsion on numerous occasions under the pretense that he makes community members feel unsafe and espouse hateful rhetoric. Yet, he attests that he has never made remarks or attacks on individuals at his high school based on an immutable characteristic and instead only criticizes systems and public figures. “If they would just talk to me, they would see I’m not that bad,” Blau says. So set the politics aside now and then, and love one another.



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