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The Black & White is an open forum for student views from Walt Whitman High School, 7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD, 20817. The Black & White’s website is The B&W magazine is published six times a year. Signed opinion pieces reflect the positions of individual staff members and not necessarily the opinion of Walt Whitman High School or Montgomery County Public Schools. Unsigned editorial pieces reflect the opinion of the newspaper. All content in the paper is reviewed to ensure that it meets the highest level of legal and ethical standards with respect to the material as libelous, obscene or invasive of


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

privacy. All corrections are posted on the website. Recent awards include the 2019 CSPA Gold Crown, 2018 and 2017 CSPA Hybrid Silver Crowns, 2013 CSPA Gold Medalist and 2012 NSPA Online Pacemaker. The Black & White encourages readers to submit opinions on relevant topics in the form of letters to the editor, which must be signed to be printed. Anonymity can be granted on request.The Black & White reserves the right to edit letters for content and space. Letters to the editor may be emailed to Annual mail subscriptions cost $35 ($120 for four-year subscription) and can be purchased through the online school store.

LE T TER FROM THE EDITORS Whitman has never been a static community — how could we be? Every June, we bid farewell to hundreds of seniors who, for the past four years, have cemented themselves as cornerstones of our school — then we welcome an incoming freshman class, most of whom we’ve never met. But this constant dynamic of high school is what makes it such a unique and exciting place to be. We live in the transition between adolescence and adulthood, on a fence between traditions and the formation of new memories. Here at The Black and White, change is more noticeable than ever. In the midst of the pandemic, we’ve adapted and thrived in an entirely online setting –– and then readapted to hybrid learning when some of us returned to school in April. And we’ll have to adjust again in the fall, when students return to a full-time, in-person learning environment that we haven’t seen in over a year. Changes, however, go deeper than merely where we’re doing our work. As the school year comes to a close, some

staff and students will be leaving us — including one crossword-creating Math teacher, as chronicled by a writer. For most seniors, on the other hand, change represents not an end, but a new beginning: One writer recounted the experiences of female students matriculating at service academies. In a year of “new normals,” our writers followed a student who launched a business to support the Alzheimer’s Association, and another who ventured into music producing. We would be remiss, however, if we didn’t acknowledge that some things have yet to change in the Whitman community — and need to. Two writers highlighted their experiences dealing with subtle –– and not so subtle –– instances of racism as minorities, while another writer investigated the history of fatal collisions on River Road, in hopes of understanding the changes necessary to bring about safer traffic. We covered the intense, competitive environments that many Whitman athletes face today, and we listened to why some students believe them to be harmful to their men-

tal and physical wellbeing. In May, Vol. 59 of The Black and White came to an end, so we want to take a moment to recognize Vol. 59 senior staff’s enormous contribution to our paper — in a pandemic, no less. To all the editors, columnists, production staff, social media staff, business staff and photography staff of the past year, thank you for guiding us and consistently pushing the envelope of what quality student journalism looks like. We’re excited to continue this collective legacy in the upcoming school year. As always, we want to thank our dedicated adviser, Ryan Derenberger, for all he has done for the publication, constantly going above and beyond to help us reach our goals. We also want to thank our writers, who reflect, research and investigate to inform our community, and members of the production team, who bring our writers’ stories to life on the page. As Vol. 60 kicks off, we look forward to tackling the trials — and inevitably, the changes — that the next year will bring.

photo by Josie Lane

Alex Schupak Managing Editor

Kendall Headley Editor-in-Chief

Tara Davoodi

Managing Editor 3


20 A farewell to a beloved Whitman math teacher, Mr. Rosen


A student’s passion for producing music doesn’t fall flat of talent


A writer’s experience with an underground radical feminist movement


Don’t trust your brain: A guide to political bias


Analyzing the efforts to reduce accidents on River Road



A taste of our satire publication, The Rutabaga


Competitive sports push Whitman athletes to reflect: How far is too far?


A writer reckons with anti-Muslim rhetoric


A student’s perspective on the role of social media activism in fighting racism


Student sells hand-painted greeting cards to support the Alzheimer’s Association


Female students reflect on the rigorous process of applying to service academies

24 26

The best (and worst) burritos of Bethesda


Senior destinations collage

Senior destinations









After 30 devoted years, math teacher Mr. rosen concludes his teaching career at whitman by lauren heberlee

Every Sunday, math department head James Kuhn could always rely on finding math teacher David Rosen in his office, meticulously poring over assignments and lessons for the coming week. Spending countless late afternoons, lunch breaks and off-days working for his students was nothing new to Rosen — in his nearly 30 years of teaching, he was always willing to drop everything to go above and beyond. The 2020–2021 academic year is Rosen’s last before retirement. His brilliance and devotion to his work have become a staple of the math department, and his enthusiasm and passion for the subject will be sorely missed, Kuhn said. Rosen has taught many math classes throughout his career, ranging from Algebra I up through AP Calculus. He’s also taught business math, computer programming and college test prep courses. His intellectual curiosity and deep knowledge of mathematics have established him as a reliable resource for all students, no matter their skill level, Kuhn said. “The math department will be different because we’re not going to always have somebody sitting in the office that can answer any question about a particular topic at any given moment,” Kuhn said. When Rosen first started his teaching career, he prioritized simply distributing the material over individualizing student instruction, he said, but as the years went on, he learned what was most important to him: listening to student needs. “I try to roll with students in terms of where they are,” Rosen said. “I try to see things from their standpoint and accommodate their learning styles.” For Rosen, some of the most rewarding moments of his career have occurred when teaching entry-level high school math classes like Algebra I and Geometry. To Rosen, there is no better feeling than a student telling you that your class is the first math class where they’ve ever achieved some level of success. “What separated him from other teachers is his passion for the subject — he really enjoyed teaching math to us,” sophomore Colin Koonce said. “Whenever I needed extra help, he would tell me to come into class during out of school hours and he would help me out.”


Rosen’s lessons often drew attention to objectives that aren’t available in textbooks or online courses. Whether they were the ways in which mathematical concepts relate to real-life situations, or interesting facts about different functions and patterns, Rosen constantly searched for new methods to engage students, his coworkers and students said. “Rosen has an insight into higher-level mathematics that you can’t really teach someone,” Kuhn said. “He raises the bar and elevates the level of math instruction at this high school.” Outside of his teaching career at Whitman, Rosen made a name for himself in the puzzle world by winning the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament four times and previously working as a crossword puzzle tester for The New York Times. His interest in word puzzles spans all the way back to the age of 10, when he would create puzzles from scratch for his classmates. At the age of 13, he finished 11th in the National Spelling Bee. In high school, Rosen went on to captain his school’s team to the Western New York championship of “It’s Academic,” a student quiz show. “I enjoy puzzles, whether word-based, number-based or trivia-based, because of the intellectual challenge,” Rosen said. “Unlike many problems in life, the process of solving puzzles can actually arrive at a successful conclusion — a complete answer.” Rosen was always eager to share his passion for crossword puzzles with his classes. On many half days and the last day of each school year, Rosen would give his classes the opportunity to solve puzzles, teaching them tips and tricks along the way. Rosen realized he wanted to pursue a career in education and mathematics when he was in high school. As a senior, his guidance counselor referred him to a student who needed help studying for a business-math test, and the next day, he assisted her during his study hall. After the test, she returned to Rosen smiling because she’d received an A for the very first time. “That experience flipped the switch,” Rosen said. “I thought well, I really enjoyed this, I think I want to be a teacher.” Rosen went on to double-major in mathematics and Latin at Cornell University. During

his senior year, he wrote a thesis that translated the works of first century Greek mathematician Diophantus into English. While studying at Cornell, he student-taught at Ithaca High School with a teacher who co-wrote the AP Statistics textbook that Whitman uses today. In 1976, Rosen started his full-time teaching career in his hometown, Buffalo, New York, instructing high school students until 1986. From 1986 to 2001, Rosen took a break from teaching to work in the information technology industry where he programmed interactive voice-response systems for telephones. After a few more teaching stints in different parts of the country, Rosen relocated to Bethesda in 2006 and began teaching at Whitman. The procedures for teaching math have evolved greatly over Rosen’s decades-long career, he said. He can recount a time when calculators weren’t available in schools and instructional tools were limited to a simple blackboard, chalk and textbook. Unlike the technological evolution that Rosen has experienced at Whitman, the teachers in the math department have seen a low turnover rate over the past 10 years, Rosen said, which has helped them build strong relationships with one another. Rosen has attributed much of his positive experience at Whitman to his fellow staff members. “It’s really helpful that I’ve been able to have people who I can rely on for help, advice or lesson planning, and [vice versa],” Rosen said. “We have an absolutely terrific faculty and staff at Whitman.” The stability of the math department has also allowed colleagues to become better friends, Kuhn said, and Rosen’s work ethic and willingness to go the extra step are what set him apart and made him an asset to the department and the Whitman community. In Rosen’s next chapter of life, he plans on spending free time learning how to play the piano in addition to continuing one of his passions — solving and constructing puzzles. While he’s happy to have a more relaxed schedule, Rosen will thoroughly miss spending his time in the classroom with students. “Teaching goes above and beyond just the math.” Rosen said. “It made me feel like I was a contributor to society; I just can’t tell you what a wonderful feeling that is.”

“It’s a break from all the noise in my life”:

Rory Marlin cultivates a passion for music production graphic by LEAH GOLDSTEIN

by Samie Travis It’s midnight. Freshman Rory Marlin’s computer lies open on her desk, displaying the bright waves and colorful currents of Logic Pro, the music editing software she uses. She picks up the keyboard that lays next to her bed and starts experimenting with some basic chords, intuitively forming lyrics and sequences. Marlin presses the record button on her computer and plays a fresh keyboard melody — the first step in what will eventually become a full song. Throughout the night, Marlin layers instruments, pitches and vocals until her final product takes shape. Music has had a constant presence in Marlin’s life from a young age. Whether she was listening to pop hits in the car, watching live performances on TV or finding underground artists online, Marlin always had a love for a good tune, she said. “I would pick up a toy guitar or toy piano when I was little, and it felt like I could be in music if I wanted to,” Marlin said. “When I decided I wanted to learn how to play the instruments, it was really cool to see all these people that I looked up to and be able to do the same thing that they were doing.” Although Marlin’s deep passion for music dates back to her early childhood, she has only recently ventured into a new area of artistry: producing. “I watched Pitch Perfect when I was 10, and the whole music producing thing that the main character Beca did was really cool to me,” Marlin said. “Once I started getting into the building side of music and realized it could be a career, I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.” Marlin learned how to play the piano at age seven and taught herself how to play the drums, guitar and bass in middle school. After many enthusiastic pushes from her music teacher — Whitman alum Sinta Spector (‘97) — Marlin decided to take her musical talents to the next level: songwriting. Once Marlin began songwriting, her dad encouraged her to learn the process of manufacturing songs from a computer. In December, Marlin invested in the music-creation software Logic Pro, and with help from her music teacher, learned the process of forming songs from scratch. “Rory was interested in songwriting and producing from day one. In order to manufacture songs, you need to understand the process of composition — so that’s where we started,” Spector said. For each song Marlin produces, she initially brainstorms musical concepts and then

chooses a basic instrument to fit her ideas. She plays it from her MIDI — a keyboard-like gadget that can imitate the sound of a variety of musical instruments — plugged into the music software on her computer. Next, she records the melody, chords and other layers of effects that form the base of the song. “I usually start with creating what I like to call a skeleton, where I have chords and the melody playing for two minutes long,” Marlin said. “From there, I usually add in lyrics for the chorus because I like to start from the middle and then work outwards. Overall, I start with an idea, create the initial concept and then add depth by including more instruments and sounds.” While singing is a hobby of Marlin’s, she doesn’t intend on pursuing it past the walls of her bedroom. “I’m very self conscious about my voice and it makes me more comfortable when someone else is singing,” Marlin said. “People are judgmental and I enjoy the music part much more, so taking out the singing element is just better for me.” Marlin is currently in the process of producing an EP, which she aims to release on Spotify and Apple Music by the end of the year. In addition to her solo work, Marlin often composes songs for other students. In the beginning of April, she produced two songs: one called “Split,” for sophomores Ellie Morrison and Norah Rothman’s band Purely Sage, and another called “Monster Inside,” for freshman Josey Long, this year’s Whitman Idol champion. In January, Marlin reached out to Long — one of her friends — about co-writing a song that Marlin would produce. Marlin knew Long enjoyed writing songs, and Marlin was eager to use her skills in music construction. Marlin and Long first developed the message they wanted the song to convey and then wrote down lyrical ideas separately before sharing them with each other. Long devised the remainder of the lyrics while Marlin used her composition skills to add more musical depth to Long’s guitar. After recording all parts of the song, the two sent audio clips back and forth over text until they were content with the final product. “I loved how collaborative the process was,” Long said. “I feel like we used each other’s ideas a lot, which made it really enjoyable.” On their song, “Monster Inside,” Marlin used subdued instrumentals to compliment

themes of suffering and isolation in Long’s lyrics. “The soft pop rhythm was just what worked,” Marlin said. “The chords that I picked weren’t your general bouncy chords; it matched the tone of the song.” For Marlin, one enjoyable component of producing is the sense of achievement her end products provide. Although composing is a tedious process, her passion for music keeps her coming back. “I don’t need motivation to do it — it’s relaxing,” Marlin said. “Once it’s all finished I feel really accomplished and happy that I have this finished product that I made.” Currently, Marlin is attempting to get the necessary licensing to upload the songs she’s created onto Spotify, which would be a big step in her recording career since the platform is so popular, Marlin said. Marlin is also working to overcome the systemic challenges women face in the male-dominated music industry. A March 2020 study conducted by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Institute found that across 900 top songs in the last nine years — 2012 to 2020 — women made up only 2.6% of all the song’s producers. Since February, Marlin has been part of a small business called Nomadixx Music Production, founded by Spector. The business aims to support women working in all sections of the music industry, with a focus on supporting victims of sexual assault. “I wanted to start Nomadixx because there is a lot of sexual harassment in the music industry for women specifically,” Spector said. “I’m looking to create a place where people feel comfortable and confident, and where they don’t have to deal with those situations.” Spector has offered Marlin positions in both music production and as one of the signed artists. “She’s been working on this for years — I’m just here for support and whatever I can help with,” Marlin said. “She bounces ideas off of me and sends me things to get my feedback.” Looking to the future, Marlin hopes to pursue music production as a full time career. She’s always appreciative of the rewards that creating music provides, she said. “Music has always come naturally to me — it’s such a positive thing for me because it’s something that I like to spend my time doing and it’s a break from all the noise in my life,” Marlin said. “It’s really therapeutic for me to take all of my energy, good and bad, and put it into something that I love.”


Every girl should be a Riot Grrrl By Eliana Joftus


I used to be sure that everyone was a feminist. After all, isn’t feminism just the belief that men and women should be considered as equals? To me, equality of the sexes was simply a 21st century norm. So, at the beginning of my freshman year, when a female classmate mentioned to me that she wasn’t a feminist, I was stunned. It was completely foreign to hear that a woman didn’t believe in her own right to equality. Only when I joined the Riot Grrrl movement — a radical feminist movement that focuses on female liberation and opposing patriarchal standards — did I learn that feminism is so much more complex than equality. It’s easy to see why my female classmate might have been turned off by radical feminism; its unapologetic punk attitude is often too abrasive for women who have been told to “be quiet” their entire lives. But this defiance is precisely where the movement gets its power. Since first joining social media in sixth grade, I’d followed mainstream, surface level feminist Instagram and Twitter accounts that posted about “girl bosses” and female politicians. It was empowering, but ultimately, it wasn’t effective in creating lasting change. Accounts would post about body positivity and sexist phrases to avoid, all while failing to acknowledge the systemic injustices in our society. I knew more radical strains of feminism existed, but I was skeptical if identifying with them would be a little too “out there” for my middle school sensibilities. However, after following the Riot Grrrl movement on social media in Jan. 2020, I began to understand the difference between the generic feminist media I had been exposed to and the grassroots movement just below the surface; these communities were places for all women and non-binary folk to come together, speak their mind and demand action from popular, widely supported women’s movements. The Riot Grrrl movement stems from an underground music scene in the ‘90s that aimed to highlight female rockers in the largely male-dominated and historically misogynistic genre of punk. Music and media from the Riot Grrrl era emphasized a certain duality: being both a rebel and an unapologetic woman. Many Riot Grrrls would get ready in the morning “the same way a man would.” For them, this might have meant not brushing their hair or not concerning themselves with their appearance. At the same time, many Riot Grrrls wore traditionally feminine clothes — dresses and floral patterned skirts — on stage to claim their womanhood. The Riot Grrrl attitude inspired me to completely transform my day-to-day life; every little change I

made to my traditional female habits is now a purposeful and targeted attempt to rebel against our sexist systems. A couple months ago, while scrolling through Riot Grrrl content on Twitter, I started chatting with 18-year-old Riot Grrrl Mina, known as @Fem1na on social media. I had asked her if she had any advice for young people interested in the movement, expecting only a short response. Instead, she responded instantly with voice memos and long paragraphs filled with guidance. Her words and advice gave me a better understanding of the deeper issues that plague women, and motivated me to further understand the movement and explore my female identity. Mina elaborated on the lack of education that teen girls receive about true female liberation. It’s evident that women often suffer in silence because we think we’re alone in our experiences regarding sexual assault, harassment and gender-based discrimination. But, when girls begin to talk to each other about negative gender-based experiences, we realize we’re stronger as a collective. While mainstream feminism is a good starting point for young girls, it fails to properly represent all types of women. Mainstream feminism is often nicknamed “white liberal feminism” for the narrow demographic it’s focused toward. On the other hand, radical feminism ensures intersectionality and collectivity on all fronts, never neglecting non-binary, transgender and BIPOC (Black, Indingenous, and People of Color). Intersectionality highlights the deeper struggle that these marginalized groups of women face — whether that’s experiencing extreme forms of prejudice or dealing with the internalized effects of Eurocentric beauty standards. Instead of focusing on what women can do to solve their own issues, radical feminism focuses on the root of these problems: corporations and individuals benefiting from the sexualization and abuse of women, especially queer women and women of color. Becoming a Riot Grrrl made me realize that women must be proactive in abandoning male-oriented versions of our lives. Traditional feminine culture revolves around appealing to the male gaze even when we think it doesn’t. Much of teen girl culture is shaped by a desire to please men — shaving, covering blemishes with makeup and cosmetic surgery are all forms of conformity if your motivation doesn’t lie in personal autonomy. Many women like doing these actions for themselves, and people with gender dysphoria undergo surgical procedures, to feel comfortable in their own skin. It’s true that many of these small actions are impacted by male desires — but as long as we

can acknowledge their roots, they won’t aid the patriarchy. An important lesson I’ve struggled to become comfortable with is that you don’t need to follow the media’s beauty standards or worry about how other people view you in order to have value. In the past, consciously or subconsciously, I compared myself to other women I barely knew, both on screen and in my daily life. I wanted to “surpass” other women, and attempted to differentiate myself from “other girls.” Throughout the past year, however, I’ve come to consistently recognize these faults in my mindset. I was unintentionally supporting the idea that womanhood is about competition, and I reinforced this by looking for someone in the room who might be prettier, smarter or more talented than myself. Even if I’m a woman, I’m not excused for promoting sexist behavior. Nobody is. Instead of catering to misogynistic conceptions that value a woman’s worth solely through her appearance, I wanted to better myself, starting from the inside, by reading, listening, and trying to unlearn lessons that are hammered into girls for all of their youth. Of course, meeting these societal standards doesn’t make you any less of a feminist. Preaching a complete rejection of the “norm” would be hypocritical of me. I enjoy wearing makeup and feeling feminine as a form of gender expression. I have an unnecessary amount of skirts and dresses. Any person can paint any action as empowerment, which is why it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re living for yourself rather than for other people. In the past year as a Riot Grrrl, I’ve seen drastic changes in my self-perception. Today, I’m a stronger individual — I’m more aware of the effects of misogyny in our society and more active in fighting conformity, which includes celebrating and highlighting all women, regardless of their sexual or gender identity, racial background or class. And, no matter how much I learn, I’m going to continue to listen to other women and grow my knowledge on these topics. To the girl from freshman year: I hope that you understand the strength your words have. Being a woman and openly refuting feminism is dangerous and allows toxicity from those who permit misogyny. Letting any man dictate how much you care about a topic is wrong. If you want to riot, then riot. To teenage girls who do consider themselves feminists: Let yourself break down and get angry, because you deserve to. I hope the next generation of radical feminists never shuts up, never leaves you alone and will never sit back and watch ever again.

DON’T TRUST YOUR BRAIN: A Guide to Politics’ Most Pervasive Biases by GABE SCHANER

graphics by LEAH GOLDSTEIN


Forming opinions

Not all opinions are created equally. Some are evidence-based. Some aren’t. When we promote the ones that aren’t, we ignore reality and create more problems than we solve. At the center of our biases lies the essential decision-making process through which we understand the basics of policies, and quickly decide to what extent we can see them working and to what degree we support them. Let’s start with the all-too-common driving fallacy in decision making: confirmation bias. Confirmation bias appears when people seek to confirm their existing beliefs before considering alternate sides; it’s wide-reaching in the realm of politics, especially in discussions on controversial topics, since it allows a debater to arm themselves with false confidence in the face of opposing views. A passionate anti-vaccination advocate may fail to acknowledge, for example, the credible research that refutes the supposed correlation between vaccines and autism. They may consciously — or subconsciously — choose to disengage with whatever evidence does exist. Confirmation bias has roots in the emotional complex of “being right,” which makes it extremely durable. Whether they lean right or left on the political spectrum, people often disregard the opinions of their political opposition, especially on hot-button issues. The faulty process which confirmation bias incites is called reactive devaluation: We “devalue” information contrary to what we expect and desire, not because it’s faulty, but simply because it challenges our beliefs and in turn our confidence in ourselves. Another related bias that affects opinion formation — or in this case, opinion revision — is conservatism bias, a phenomenon in which people are only willing to


alter their beliefs when given information that overwhelmingly contradicts their own opinions. In this case, conservatism refers to an insufficient and small perspective shift, not to be confused with the political ideology. Conservatism bias is slightly less damaging than confirmation bias, allowing for some, albeit minor, changes in opinion based on evidence. In everyday life, we project confidence even to ourselves and often think we know everything, when, in actuality, we may know very little about a subject — barely enough to get by. The Dunning-Kruger effect, a staple of introductory psychology courses, is the phenomenon in which those who gain more knowledge in a subject might actually lose confidence in their abilities as a result of coming to terms with how little, it turned out, they actually knew. The opposite is also true with the Dunning-Kruger effect; too often, the person with the least knowhow in the room believes themselves to be the smartest and most knowledgeable.

almost every single political actor... will regularly fall victim to the grip of cognitive biases and logical fallacies. Bias in political media

It’s no secret that American politics is an incredibly divisive subject that has long been a cause of anger, disdain and, sadly, violence in our country. Perhaps less well-known is just how tangible our collective errors in thinking — our biases — have been in distorting our political beliefs. Good intentions or not, almost every single political actor, from 16-year-olds arguing with their friends, to nationally syndicated political pundits, will regularly fall victim to the grip of cognitive biases and logical fallacies. Some of these biases are detectable just beneath the surface of our arguments, but others are systemically entrenched and encoded into laws and party platforms. Hopefully, taking a look at some of the more concerning errors and biases in action will allow for greater political awareness and the cognitive rewiring of a broken country.

Research shows that excessive media coverage causes the average person to believe that significant, recent and highly covered events are more common than they really are — this is the availability heuristic in action. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the media covered the events, almost exclusively, for weeks. Of course, the attacks deserved significant coverage. However, during that period of shock, legislators passed the Patriot Act, which significantly curbed civil liberties, and the president initiated the “War on Terror,” a military campaign that we now know has had a multitude of negative consequences on the lives of American soldiers and the political stability of the Middle East. Those who were transfixed by the repeating images of the smoking towers and media commentary on terrorism could easily assume that the most “available” example of news — the events on 9/11 — were an accurate representation of the religion of Islam. The availability heuristic is not only relevant to saturated news, but out-and-out false news as well. According to a 2018 MIT-affil-

iated research paper, “The spread of true and false news online,” misinformation travels over six times as fast as legitimate news does on Twitter. The distance it travels and its speed are important, as the frequency of coverage affects how we differentiate between what news is somewhat important and what news is the most important to us. This differentiation is altogether independent of logical metrics for importance, like potential impact on our own lives or our children’s lives, and is instead based simply on what’s front-and-center in our attention. Similarly sounding is the availability cascade, a self-reinforcing cycle in which an idea or thought seems to gain credibility and validity as it echoes over social media and television. Days before the insurrection, for example, some politicians used statistics on “citizens’ distrust of the election” to justify their hesitancy to approve the electoral vote count that would confirm Joe Biden as the 46th president. Yet it was those same politicians who conjured such buzz in the first place: Their constant rhetoric about Americans’ distrust of the election results made even more people less confident in their validity, only to then cite how many people weren’t confident as new evidence for their stance. The proportionality bias causes people to believe that large events have equally large causes, when often, reality is much more varied. This bias has shown its colors in the recent, and not so recent, proliferation of conspiracy theories and the spread of absurd conclusions to explain them. Blood libel, the satanic panic and the Jewish occupational government conspiracy theory all rely on absurd conclusions to back their absurd premises. Recently, far-right conspiracies like Pizzagate and QAnon have gained popularity among those who fall prey to this bias. Conspiracists expect big, awful, coordinated institutions of child-trafficking politicians to be behind tragic, real cases of rape, murder and death. A striking similarity between so many cases of unconscious bias is how the slightest change in the handling of a topic can lead to drastically different conclusions. Media outlets and most politicians use the framing effect, the manipulation of the wording or “framing” of an event, to elicit a desired response from their viewers. As stories begin to appear in the news cycle, the media — consciously or subconsciously — begins to frame. Some framing may be accurate, some less so. Which sounds better, being “anti-abortion” or being “prolife”? What about the terms “human life” or “clump of cells”? These editorialized phrases are everywhere. Even subtler are the different focuses of headlines: Consider The New York Times’ “Democrats win, flip control of the Senate” versus The Wall Street Journal’s “Trump loses the Senate.” After former President Donald Trump announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a leader of ISIS, The Washington Post referred to him as “an austere religious scholar,” sparking criticism for the

framing of his attribution. Was this an attempt to diminish Trump’s accomplishment or a fair characterization of a religious man? Framing can make or break a policy’s viability and implicitly direct readers towards a particular emotion and, ultimately, a particular vote.

Cognitive errors surrounding COVID-19

Amidst the pandemic, numerous biases have risen in full force. Anti-maskers tend to cite their personal freedoms as the primary reason for not wearing masks, while ignoring the possible health risks to themselves and those around them. In the study of biases, this skepticism of expert advice and guidelines may be a form of reactance. Reactance occurs when people have an urge to defy those in authority from encroaching on their liberties, even if the encroachment may be to their benefit. Additionally, the sunk cost fallacy is a cognitive pattern that describes a continued investment of time, energy and money, into something that will likely fail, out of a refusal to accept that the initial investment was a poor choice. Out of this fallacy, the plan-continuation bias appears, which describes a desire for one to press on with their original plans even if that course of action may no longer be sound. This type of misthinking has occurred often throughout the pandemic, as many continue with their routines of a pre-pandemic world, plans intact and unaffected by new health risks and guidelines.

The core bias of the center

Centrism may seem appealing to people who love nuance and diplomacy. Beware, though, of the “argumentum ad temperantiam”: The phrase is Latin for “false compromise,” better known to cognitive researchers as the middle ground fallacy. This error occurs when people look for the truth to be exactly in between two opposing ideas, even if evidence is imbalanced to heavily favor one side or another. While almost no issue is black and white, little is perfectly in between, either. If you’re centrist, look for gradation in your stances; expect shades of gray to be more accurate, and evidence-based, than perfect gray.

The core bias of libertarianism

Libertarianism offers an interesting case study in biased thinking, since it doesn’t engage in the same types of misthinkings that appear on the typical liberal-conservative spectrum. While libertarian positions can be fairly nuanced, they also tend to exhibit what cognitive researchers call the status quo bias. The status quo bias describes libertarians’ economic position, laissez-faire capitalism, perfectly. This bias causes people to prefer the current state of affairs over changes, which are seen as overreaching or overly complicated. The laissez-faire economic model is based on the belief that businesses should be effectively unregulated by the government in order to facilitate a healthy economy. The bias seeps into their hands-off approach to government-sponsored poverty relief, as well. Yet, leaving things com-

pletely to the “invisible hand” has seldom been the most effective solution to complex issues, according to the majority of sociologists and economists. By oversimplifying our economics into a theoretically pure model, we overlook very real issues such as irrational behavior, the consolidation of power and market inefficiencies in the system.

The core bias of the right

Sometimes we wear examples of cognitive biases on our sleeves — or hats. Consider the conservative slogan “Make America Great Again.” The phrase sounds relatively innocent, but this slogan exhibits a fallacy cognitive researchers call declinism. Declinism is when conservatives may assume past eras were better since they are viewed through rose-colored glasses, when in reality, there were as many — if not more — issues in the past as there are now. From worse medical services, to fewer people legally allowed to vote, our past is anything but a perfect utopia to return to.

The core bias of the left

The curse of knowledge bias is a common bias that permeates among liberals. According to a Pew Research study, college educated adults are more likely to take liberal stances on issues. The curse of knowledge bias comes into play when liberal college graduates assume that others possess the same background on certain academic subjects that they do. Often, they’re incredulous that others don’t think the same way as they do. That incredulity translates into poor communication, a feeling that others should have already come to their same conclusions and ultimately, accusations of elitism from the right. Often, just labeling yourself “liberal” translates to elitism, even if you don’t have the academic background to be considered any more knowledgeable than the average citizen — once again, the Dunning-Kruger effect. Superficial Instagram slideshows, performative activism and approval from like-minded Hollywood celebrities enables some liberal people to feel correct about their positions without knowing exactly why they are correct. Too often, liberals are content in thinking they are probably on the right side of policy when commonly, after doing more digging, they discover nuances, subtleties and weaknesses inherent to a position, according to a 2013 study by researchers from Harvard, UCLA, the University of Colorado and Brown.

General political biases

Whether we care to admit it or not, biases are ubiquitous in American politics. Our system is tainted to the point where we’ve become almost dependent on these biases. American democracy itself is perhaps inherently biased. Through our participation in the electoral process, we tacitly endorse the either-or-fallacy, in which every election seems to be a decision between only two choices. Our election structure — including the electoral college — greatly silences third-party candidates who may offer more nuanced ideas, and it expects the impos-

sible of the two frontrunner candidates: universal expertise. There are almost never going to be only two clear sides to any given issue, yet we default to this false dichotomy daily, leaving those who do not fit into either ingroup without a voice. It seems that our current electoral system — mainly the primary and caucus systems — has calcified our political duality. Another general bias that appears on all sides of the political spectrum is groupthink. Groupthink is the tendency to conform to a group consensus to appease others, even if, silently, one disagrees. If you’re in a group — whether it be your family or friends — and find yourself nodding along, make sure to avoid groupthink, and think first in order to voice only what you truly believe. Lastly, in-group favoritism is a bias that rears its head often in political discussion. This is the tendency to ascribe inflated significance to America’s place on the world stage, and ignore the issues of the rest of the world. On the world stage, the United States is one out of 195 countries. Americans tend to disregard issues in other countries, due to the distance and seeming disconnect between us and other nations. There’s no denying America’s importance as a world power, but that doesn’t mean supposedly external foreign affairs aren’t just as important. In the 21st century, all economies are now tied to each other. International social concerns should also be on our radars: Some of us may be able to help. Presently, India is undergoing a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, China is “re-educating” groups of Uyghur Muslim in detention facilties and Syria has been in a civil war for a decade. These are matters of life and death, but often, many of us tend not to concern ourselves with issues beyond our borders. The world is interconnected, and solely focusing on our own exceptionalism ignores this reality.

How do we move forward?

Everyone should take a moment to recognize their own cognitive fallacies: Don’t always trust your brain. However, common decency still counts, and can still help. When arguing with someone you disagree with, try and find a consensus on certain facts. Once you’re on the same page about some initial truths, draw the conclusions you want, but do not discredit others’ opinions haphazardly. If they’re using some fallacy or bias, point it out if you can, but be aware that it doesn’t necessarily discredit their general position, only their specific argument. Believe it or not, if you assume a fallacy always indicates a wrong conclusion, you’re falling victim to what’s called the fallacy fallacy. Handling an unwieldy mind is no easy task. Some of these outlined biases are easy to recognize in ourselves and others, some not so much. But they all certainly exist –– we see them in action everywhere –– and it’s our job as rational, honest citizens and humans to root out as many of them as we can.


Efforts to make River Road safer continue,yet slowly by ETHAN SCHENKER At 11:28 a.m. on April 19, a Bethesda man passed away after he was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident at the intersection of River Road and Beech Tree Road. Nine months prior and less than a mile away, motorcyclist Scott Emerson Hess was killed on the same road while traveling in the same direction. And in 2016, three members of the Buarque de Macedo family lost their lives on their way to a Whitman school play — only two miles away from the most recent collision. The grief and fear attached to each fatal accident on River Road prompted demand for effective solutions. However, after each crash passed through the news cycle, discussions of roadway safety slowed and action typically ceased — until the next collision. Today, the pattern of fatal crashes on the 1.5-mile stretch of River Road from Braeburn Parkway to Burdette Road has become a morbid reminder of the local government’s failed efforts to slow drivers down. Since the 2016 crash that devastated the Whitman community, both state and county authorities have attempted to implement speed reduction measures to enhance pedestrian and driver safety. “There’s two different ways we look at reducing crashes,” said Montgomery County Police Department Collision Reconstruction Unit Supervisor Eli Kinser. “We look at how we can change our enforcement priorities, and we look at traffic engineering.” While traffic enforcement aims to ensure driver compliance through existing laws and traffic signals, traffic engineering focuses on creating a roadway environment beneficial to driver safety through new traffic signals, lane designs and physical speed barriers. In Dec. 2018, the Maryland State Highway Administration first approached the River Road task from an enforcement standpoint by lowering the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph. Robert Owolabi, Maryland’s Third District Transportation Engineering Manager, was involved in the decision to change the speed limit, and he believes that while the measure won’t stop all speeders, the change will effectively slow down the av-



erage driver. “While some motorists will try to drive at high speeds no matter what, others can lose focus and find themselves driving at a higher speed than intended — especially when there is less traffic around them on the road,” said Owolabi. “Speed limit reductions are intended to lower the potential for more severe crashes, and lower speeds provide more time for motorists to react to unsafe conditions.” The state instituted the speed reduction west of the Capital Beltway, where the majority of fatal crashes have occured. Yet nearly three years after the transition, many community members believe that the state has taken the wrong approach. “River Road is a major road and there are a lot of people [who want to get places], so the speed of 35 mph isn’t really conducive to how that road flows at any given time,” said sophomore Rebecca Levy. “People simply ignore it.” Although the disregard for speed limits isn’t uncommon on many Bethesda roads, River Road poses a unique danger due to its linear design, experts say. The two-lane road lacks physical barriers to speed — known as traffic-calming devices — like road curves, widened medians, speed bumps, narrower lanes and sidewalk extensions. These devices deliberately increase the difficulty of driving, forcing safe drivers to slow or come to a complete stop in dangerous areas, especially at times of heavy traffic. “River Road is heavily used by commuters but has much less traffic volume on it during non-peak periods,” Owolabi said. “While River Road is well designed for the larger volumes of traffic it sees during rush hours, it’s [too straight] for these non-peak periods, leading to higher speeds and less safe conditions.” According to a 2021 Washington Post report, the pandemic has only exacerbated the area’s speed problem. The report found that in the early months of lockdown, average rush hour speeds on the Capital Beltway rose from 27 mph to almost 70 mph. The dramatic rise in speed has had grave consequences: Despite a 68% reduction in DMV road use from 2019 to 2020, traffic fatalities have increased over 20% from pre-pandemic levels. Speed is a large factor in the severity of crashes, Owolabi said. In the past year, the county recorded almost 160 speeding violations at the

site of last month’s fatal motorcycle collision — which may indicate that county leaders and developers have overlooked warning signs. However, MCPD said that these violation reports are part of the department’s high-visibility enforcement strategy. The strategy employs greater use of speed sensors, collision data and enforcement data to identify specific locations that would benefit from a conspicuous police presence, in hopes of catching speeding drivers and changing dangerous behavior, Kinser said. “We go out and do the enforcement, evaluate and then come back periodically,” he said. “You don’t want to tell people when you’re going to be there because the idea is to force a behavioral change.” After the deployment period, the department uses speed sensor data to evaluate the impact of the visible law enforcement presence. “The high-visibility enforcement is very effective,” Kinser said. “It’s been shown to reduce collisions and speed — that’s why we use that particular model.” The department is currently implementing this strategy on River Road in response to increased speeds. However, personnel limitations have severely restricted the scope and effectiveness of the method, one of the department’s most successful tactics, Kinser said. Following nationwide protests against police brutality and racial violence, police departments have seen unprecedented falls in officer recruitment and retention, forcing departments to adjust accordingly. “Given what’s going on in policing today, we are finding it hard to recruit people to be in the police department, and we have people leaving the department in droves,” Kinser said. “Our numbers are down, so we

have to give priority to running 911 calls and going to domestic violence. Secondary to that would be the enforcement of traffic and safety.” Independent of police efforts, the other approach to reducing speed — infrastructure — is the basis for the State Highway Administration’s new construction project on River Road, which is currently underway near the site of the 2016 collision. The project includes the construction of a new traffic signal at the intersection of River Road and Braeburn Parkway, pedestrian crossing signals on both sides of River Road and additional sidewalks near newly relocated crosswalks. However, many community members feel that the state’s infrastructure-based approach won’t fare any better than enforcement efforts. “I think it’s gonna look pretty,” said Bethesda resident Brenda Laham West. “I don’t think it will slow people down, but I think it will create a safe passageway for pedestrians.” In both 2003 and 2008 — a decade before the 2016 crash — community members lobbied the State Highway Administration to install a traffic signal at the same location, but the state denied the request, citing what they thought were low traffic numbers. A 2017 USA Today report revealed that shortly after the State Highway Administration’s 2008 denial of the proposal, Bethesda resident Richard Boltuck began requesting to view the engineering studies that served as the state’s rationale for the decision, but the requests sparked a lengthy legal battle. The state refused to provide the traffic and engineering studies they conducted at the intersection of Braeburn and River Road, citing a 1987 federal transportation law that allows states to withhold traffic studies on dangerous roads from the public. The law was specifically designed to shield states from liability if they face a lawsuit for failing to make infrastructure adjustments or repairs, USA Today reported. Boltuck’s request for the studies was denied by a judge on the grounds that he might “widely disseminate” the findings, leading to a lawsuit against the state. Only after the State Highway Administration voluntarily released the documents did Boltuck discover that they had omitted seven of the 13 accidents in the reports that served as the basis for their decision to deny requests for a signal. Three deaths later, the State Highway Administration approved the project to install a new traffic signal. Failures to effectively employ speed reduction measures have resulted in another cycle of deadly crashes — but with an infrastructure-centered approach to reducing speeds, community members have reasons to be optimistic. “I hope that it sends a signal to other parts of the county that putting infrastructure in place can actually help keep people safe,” Levy said. “I think it also shows people that the government is willing to make a permanent change that’s not just telling you to drive slower.”


A bite of the Rutabaga, the finest name in news! As the 12 — and one month — year anniversary of Whitman’s finest satire publication rolls around, we thought it was high time to highlight some of our favorite Rutabaga stories. From hard-hitting news to introspective op-eds, The Rutabaga has it all, and we couldn’t be happier to call it our satire sister-in-arms. A reminder, then: All of these stories are satirical. All of them are fictional. And all of them take aim at specific social observations and trends. Additionally, each story is being adapted into a full-length novel: They’re all pending publication with Random House LLC. Below are three stories from this past year originally published onto The Rutabaga’s website, We hope you enjoy. Stories have been edited for clarity.

Guys who wear shorts to school in December are outraged about online school Posted by Glizzy McGee, Dec. 17, 2020 The pandemic has affected all of us in some way or another. Some lost their jobs, others lost loved ones, but absolutely nobody has lost more than December shorts-wearers. We’ve all seen them: standing outside the school wearing Under Armour™ athletic shorts in 31 degree weather. They do so with absolutely no shame. They come in many forms: Brad, Brendan and the occasional Nathan. The shorts-wearers have formed a group, calling themselves the ADSW (Alliance of December Shorts Wearers). The ADSW members describe their group as a “safe space” for shorts-wearers of “all kinds” on their website, When questioned about the website name, ADSW’s website developer admitted, “I spelled shorts wrong, the ADSW does not support sharts.” Many ADSW members are outraged over the virtual schooling situation. The Rutabaga interviewed club leader, Gilbert Shorts, to find out more. “Online school is oppressing the December shorts-wearing community,” said Shorts. “How else are we supposed to show how tough and cool we are, if we can’t show up to school in December with shorts on?” Recently, the ADSW created a slogan: “You know my shorts, not my story.” It’s currently being processed for a trademark.

SGA solves the Israeli-Palestinian con ict Posted by Vince OfficeDepot, May 12, 2021 The Whitman SGA has made waves internationally after solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week. In typical SGA fashion, the student-elected body has sparked monumental change on a global scale, after proposing a revolutionary seven-state solution which ended all conflict between the former nations of Israel and Palestine. Apparently, by further splitting the region into seven sovereign nations, the SGA was able to generate enough confusion to bring about an immediate peace. Our surveys showed that a whopping 98% of individuals on both sides of this formerly two-sided crisis have elected to stay home and watch “The Office” instead of attempting the mental gymnastics now necessary to figure out who is on which side. After the undeniable success of POCO — a post homecoming event to “increase school spirit” — ending a 70 year-long international conflict was light work for the SGA. Rumors are circulating that the incredibly effective and proactive SGA now has plans to end hostilities between North and South Korea, by hosting a “demilitarized dine out night” at Mama Lucia’s Pizzeria in Bethesda.

Racism at Whitman: Survey nds white students no longer feel welcome in the community Posted by Glizzy McGee, Sept. 13, 2020 A Sep. 3 survey conducted by Turning Point Whitman® has reported some shocking results. According to the survey, over 72% of white students at Whitman “have experienced severe discrimination.” “These results are really tragic,” said Turning Point Whitman® lead chairman Shen Bapiro. “Now, I see this school in a completely different light.” Ebenezer Smith, the faculty representative of Turning Point Whitman®, is both astonished and dismayed by the survey. “When the United States ended racism with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I never thought I would see something like this again,” said Smith, a U.S. History teacher. “I guess I was wrong.” Many students who participated in the survey felt compelled to share their thoughts. “As a white student, I’ve found it really difficult to fit in amongst my peers at Whitman,” said sophomore Hubert Plant Emoji. “I feel like we need to come together as a community and stand up for us white people.” One student, who chose to remain anonymous, courageously came forward with his story of experiencing hardship due to his white skin. He recalls being “made fun of” because he couldn’t “jump very high.” “I don’t think people understand how hurtful these stereotypes can be,” he said. “Racism is not cool.” Unfortunately, this kind of injustice against Caucasians isn’t just confined to the school building. Whitman student and Bethesda Country Club member Dylan White remembers a time when a club waiter “refused to give him a second serving of dessert.” Many students have discussed the creation of a White Student Union. This movement, spearheaded by Plant Emoji and Bapiro, is already gaining significant traction with administration. Bapiro is optimistic about the movement’s success, but acknowledges that it has a long way to go. “Sometimes, it feels like even the sun is out to get us,” he said.



Push till you puke:

competitive sports take a toll on Whitman athletes by LAUREN HEBERLEE and NOEY SHELDON 15

graphic by MAYA WIESE

Some names have been changed to protect students’ privacy. There’s no room for rest. Every day after school, senior Natalie warms up, stretches and then runs as fast as she possibly can. Stride after stride, the only option is reaching the finish line. For Natalie, a Whitman track athlete, running through the pain is simply routine. Although daily training is standard procedure for student athletes, in excess, it can be overly exhausting and debilitating, Natalie said. When athletes are pushed beyond their limits, intense exercise, competitive environments and unreasonable expectations can take a toll on their mental and physical wellbeing. As a member of the Whitman track team, Natalie finds that the line often blurs between training hard and training to an unhealthy extreme. Natalie began playing competitive sports at a young age, which is common for many student athletes. In middle school, she loved the fun, competitive nature of sports and craved the adrenaline rush that came from scoring a goal or sprinting across a finish line. As Natalie moved onto high school level athletics, the pressure rose, changing her perception of one of her earliest passions. Training intensifies as athletes get older, and it consumes more time, which forces student athletes to specialize in and “pick” a single sport, said Dr. Frank Smoll, a former psychology professor at the University of Washington. By the time a student reaches high school sports, the stakes are much higher, due to the increase of social pressures to succeed and the prevalence of athletes vying for college scholarships. But even student athletes with smaller-scale goals become a part of the


culture, quickly learning to value success just as intensely as anyone else. “I feel a lot of pressure in football because I want to play, I want to do well and I want to win,” said Whitman football player Jack, a sophomore. Often, students have to give up other interests and activities in order to devote time and energy to their sport. Almost all of Whitman’s athletic teams practice at least five days a week, forcing students to juggle academics, a demanding practice schedule and a healthy social life. To reach these high expectations, many student athletes are expected to over-exert themselves, which often leads to physical injuries, Smoll said. “With more and more scholarships becoming available, many young athletes and their parents think specialization is going to be the road to a professional contract,” he said. “But when athletes start to specialize at too early an age and cut themselves off from learning skills of other sports, they’re really shortchanging themselves.” For many athletes, burnout is a common consequence of early specialization of their skill set. “As I got older, it was kind of a slow fade out from [track],” said former Whitman track athlete Julie Elfin (‘12). “ I was very excited about all the events freshman year, and then as I got older, I kind of just dropped off.” While some students gradually lose motivation for their sports, others push themselves, in spite of anxiety, to perform. After spending hundreds of hours on the field or court — possibly paying thousands of dollars for training and expensive equipment — some student athletes begin to feel that their sport is their whole identity, leaving them trapped in their activity, said Kate, a former Whitman rower (‘20). “I could never get away from rowing, even when I had issues and I felt like I needed space, because I didn’t have time for anything else,” Kate said. “There wasn’t anybody

I could talk to or anywhere I could go without it being rowing related.” For students, the team community is one of the most important aspects of playing a sport. When an adolescent is surrounded by a positive team environment, it provides them with approval and encouragement — even in circumstances where the coach is excessively authoritative and cold, Smoll said. This social support boosts young adults’ self-esteem, which acts as a deterrent against stress. “Working with the team is the best part of football because everybody around you is pushing each other,” Jack said. However, when students are trapped in an isolated team environment, they don’t have the same support systems that often boost confidence, Smoll said. The pressure-cooker climate in many Whitman athletic teams — driven by coaches, parents and teammates — can create harmful conditions which force some athletes to exceed their limits. “People on the team had similar experiences to me where they thought, ‘I can’t handle this negativity that the coaches are bringing into my life,” Kate said. “‘I enjoy winning, but the coach is making me feel like this is not worth it.’” According to Smoll, coaches generally tend to establish either an “ego” or “mastery” team climate, which differ greatly and affect athletes in unique ways. An ego climate enforces high performance levels and heavily emphasizes winning at all costs. A mastery climate, on the other hand, encourages athletes to set goals and focus on individual improvement. While some athletes believe that an extremely competitive environment isn’t conducive to achieving high performance levels, coaches often feel differently. “It’s individual to every athlete, but as a coach you try to play mental games with the athlete to motivate them and get them to work harder,” said Whitman track and field coach

Stephen Hays. “You want to help the team come together because if I see you’re working hard, and I’m your teammate, I’ll try and work harder too.” Some students say they’re more focused on the holistic team experience rather than individual results. For Whitman track athletes, camaraderie and friendships are important too, Natalie said, while coaches prioritize outcome. As a result, the line between pushing students to reach their fullest potential and pushing them past their limits can be hard to define.

injured athletes. “I don’t think the coaches directly put pressure on us to play through it, but the fact that they would think less of us pushed us to push through our injuries,” Kate said. “When I got injured, I kept going because I was afraid the coach would think less of me.” Along with injuries, athletes regularly force themselves past rational health limits during practice in order to fulfill coaches’ expectations. On the Whitman football team, it’s not uncommon for students to be pushed to the point of vomiting or nearly passing out in hopes of improvement, Jack said. Track athletes face similar conditions during practices. “If we’re doing a workout on the track, there’s tons of pressure to do the whole thing,” Natalie said. “Even if you’re feeling injured, or feeling like you’re going to throw up or you’re just not feeling well, you have to finish it.” For student athletes, it’s difficult to distinguish whether they should persist through a specific practice or drill, or if their sport as a whole is doing more harm than good to their bodies. “It’s not the young athletes’ responsibility to be tuned into when they have passed their breaking point,” Dr. Smoll said. “It’s the responsibility of the coaches and the parents.” When an athlete makes a commitment to a team, it’s easy to overlook the negative impacts — after all, team sports can make for an exciting and positive experience. And while many student athletes still have to deal with competitive environments and extreme pressures in their respective sports, the push to reduce the stigma against quitting is more prevalent in sports psychology today than it was 10 years ago, Smoll said. Many Whitman athletes have come to realize the importance of self check-ins on both the physical and mental level. “One day I realized that my sport wasn’t good for me,” Kate said. “And I needed to start making sure that I was okay.”

“To reach these high expectations, many student athletes are expected to over-exert themselves, which often leads to physical injuries.” “There are athletes that aren’t as into the sport as I am, and that probably frustrates them,” Hays said. “I’m not going to excuse who I am because I think it makes the ones who want to get better, better.” Over the past few years, many Whitman athletic teams have noticed that injuries are becoming more common; Natalie noted that almost all of her friends on the track team have experienced some form of injury, ranging from short-term ankle sprains and shin splints to more serious, debilitating issues, like torn muscles. Additionally, feelings of guilt and an eagerness to return to competition too quickly are common among


Are you a terrorist?

Dispelling Muslim American stereotypes by Nada Fadul


not at military targets but at innocent civilians in Iraq for half a decade? Are they considered perpetrators of terrorism? Far-right terrorism, too, is widespread, dangerous and growing, and according to the FBI, currently consitutes a much greater threat to our country than does any nondomestic terrorism. We hesitate to call these actual terrorists terrorists despite their tactics, despite their zealotry. Wasn’t it terrorists who planned to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer and execute her on television? And didn’t terrorists plan to hang Mike Pence outside the Capitol? Progress can only come to fruition if we stop using this divisive, othering rhetoric that amounts to nothing more than black and white thinking, and instead start listening to one another with open minds. While American media is the gatekeeper of information, we need to fortify our walls against governments’ attempts at politicization of religion, to protect ourselves from bias and prejudice by filtering the information presented to us by the media today. As a society, in order to impel progress, move forward and improve the world we live in, we have to educate each other. We have to distance ourselves from our society’s deep-rooted system of stereotypes, labels and misinformation; we must acquire enough courage to confront our implicit biases and leverage what we have learned to change them. To each Whitman student who asked me if I was a terrorist, I hope you’ve learned where the ongoing threats to both of us lie. It’s not here. Discrimination doesn’t do us any good; it doesn’t quell the threat of terrorism. Only through empathy, education and an open mind can we come together and collectively bring about change.




all too familiar with headlines that uniqely associate Muslims, or the religion of Islam, with terrorism, jihadism and oppression, among many other suprious epithets, while the same crimes from those of other races and religions are represented with soft features on their background, circumstance and mental health. Diluting the term to apply to peaceful people helps no one, and those who deserve the attention, regardless of their race, skate by. It hurts me to have to say this outright: Terrorism does not equate to Islam. Since its inception 14 centuries ago, the Islam that I have come to know and love continues to be a religion of peace, a system of beliefs that promotes the rudimentary principles of kindness and justice, not violence and war — I implore you to take this from a faithful Muslim American who has read the Qur’an in its entirety. How fringe followers skew its words echoes how other religions’ followers do the same. Historically, there is more to unpack, too. The Oxford Dictionary defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” And according to Merriam-Webster, terrorism refers to the systematic and coercive use of terror, defined as “violent or destructive acts (such as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.” While these definitions are not necessarily universally accepted, according to both Oxford and Merriam-Webster, were the revolutionary colonists, who slaughtered Native Americans during the French and Indian War in the United States, considered terrorists? The Christian Crusades fit these definitions, too: Western European Catholics killed thousands of innocent Muslims to gain control of Palestine and persecuted Jews simply because they weren’t Christians, forcing anyone who stood in their way to surrender and convert. After these Christian Crusades in 1095 AD, did the world label Catholicism as a religion that endorses terrorism? Based on what I have read about history, the answer is no, which leads to me to my final question: Why do so many Americans distinctively associate the religion of Islam with terrorism, as opposed to radical forms of most ideologies? Zealotry is not unique to any one ideology, institution or individual; on the fringe in most exists the danger. In accordance with these same definitions, how do we perceive the actions of powerful figures in the United States government, who, after the execution of Sadam Hussein and the declaration that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, continued to bomb and aim air strikes

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rab. Muslim. American. My family tree has roots that spread throughout Mesopotamia — I am Arab. My religious beliefs align with those of Islam — I am Muslim. I was born and brought up in the U.S. — I am American. Yet, in the words of credulous Americans who are seemingly unexposed to religiously and ethnically diverse communities — including some of my fellow classmates — I am a terrorist. I grew up in an anti-Muslim climate that flourished after the harrowing events of 9/11. The only reflections of people like myself in the news seemed to be brown men in orange jumpsuits and women who were labeled as silent and oppressed, because of Islam. Everyday, the Muslim community was bombarded with headlines and propaganda that promulgated trumped-up associations between the religion of Islam and the insitution of terrorism. For years, however, few in American media seemed to report on the fact that, according to data compiled by researchers at California State University, hate crimes against Muslim Americans increased by 78% during 2015 — a year of presidential campaigns that earned votes through xenophobia. Attacks on Americans perceived as Arab or Middle Eastern rose even more sharply. Wearing traditional attire of the Arab culture — such as a headscarf or hijab — places a target on the backs of Muslim women, putting us in danger of being attacked, harassed and threatened. For a long time, fitting into the stereotype of a typical Middle Eastern made Arab Americans vulnerable to not only marginalization and discrimination, but also violence. While hate crimes against Muslim Americans in 2015 reached unprecedent levels in the aftermath of 9/11 — marking the second sharpest spike in anti-Muslim attacks since the 1990s, according to federal data — it was exceedingly difficult for me to find information in the media on these hundreds of attacks, including arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence. Why were my people invisible in this country for so long? Was all this fundamental antipathy really stemming from an attack carried out by a few dozen, who claimed to be Muslims yet committed heinous crimes that violate the rudimentary principles of Islam? Why do they hate us? Among the Muslim community in the U.S., one of the most widely discussed issues is American media’s propagation of negative, prejudiced portrayals of of Islam. This issue is not one-sided: Both Republican and Democratic-leaning media are active participants in the weaponization of anti-Muslim rhetoric. I am

Underneath the infographic: My experience with masked racism


had just finished school, and was on FaceTime with a friend, chatting about a test we had taken earlier in the day. We both agreed that it hadn’t been our best performance and shared a laugh about how we were going to start the year off with failing grades. “Your parents are going to kill you,” my classmate said. “Those towelheads probably won’t feed you for weeks.” I faked a laugh and changed the subject, shrugging off his casual use of the word “towelhead,” a deragotory term referring to people of Middle Eastern or Indian descent. Suddenly, my mom walked in and cut our conversation short. She started to raise questions about what she had just heard over the phone. I tried my best to explain to her the mindlessness of the joke and how it was customary to share off-color quips amongst friends. “It’s just how we talk,” I explained. She raised an eyebrow at my response, and in a rare moment, reacted with genuine disappointment and sadness. “Since when have you become so immune to such hurtful words?” she asked me. “We moved here for you to not have to hear things like that, not for you to become accustomed to it.” As I checked my phone before going to sleep that night, I noticed that the same friend who made the comment had liked a post on Instagram about combating racism in schools. I barely slept that night, tossing and turning in my bed as memories of overlooked racist insults filled my head. I realized I had become so desensitized to being made fun of for my race that it now left me unfazed. Even from my earliest memories of elementary school, I can still distinctly recall being verbally and physically harassed for having a different skin color than my classmates. From being the target of countless racist jokes to nearly breaking my nose after a fellow first-grader shoved me to the ground for “looking wrong,” racism has been no stranger to me. I remember feeling as if it were my price to pay for being a child of immi-

by Jaiden Vikram

grants in a foreign country. I felt like the prejudice I encountered was a tax I was not only asked to pay, but which I was required to accept, solely for being different. My mother was right; I had let myself become immune and even accepting of the racism I regularly encountered. From that night on, I became increasingly aware of the microaggressions that permeated throughout most of my social interactions, especially from my classmates. The subtle remarks that went unnoticed by most of my friends began to weigh on me heavily.

“Underneath viral infographics, I’ve found reposters’ behaviors to be nothing short of racist.” While racist microagressions and spite-ridden comments plagued my day-to-day life, anti-racist infographics and socially conscious Instagram stories flooded my social media feed. I began to recognize a pattern: The people who posted online about ending systemic racism in America were some of the same peers who perpetuated interpersonal racism. The friend of mine whom my mom had overheard was part of a larger group of two-faced “slacktivists,” and it infuriated me. I began to question the integrity and true intentions of performative activism, which, to this day, dominates my social media feeds. In today’s socially distanced environment, a person’s social status is reliant on their online appearance. Based on my own experiences, I suspect that the reason so many students are making use of social media to spread anti-bias and “woke” content is to feel better about themselves, to go

with the trend of the masses or a combination of both. The notion that someone can mask their prejudicial tendencies through effortless, sanctimonious advocacy is laughable, but it still deeply pains me. Underneath viral infographics, I’ve found reposters’ behavior to be nothing short of racist. I was never courageous enough to speak up against performative activism, though. The fear of further alienating myself from those around me rendered me silent. My ethnicity had already separated me from the majority of my peers in so many aspects of my life. Everything from my home life, religion and culture had already set me apart from most of my friends and classmates. Calling people out for microaggressions, ones that most people wouldn’t think twice about — or even consider to be offensive — would just exacerbate that sense of solitude. In light of the past summer’s national racial reckoning, high schoolers are becoming more aware of social issues that have plagued the lives of minorities in America for centuries. The distinction between performative activism and genuine allyship may be increasingly blurred, but one message should remain clear: Practice what you preach. Our generation has the potential to put an end to the systemic and structural racism which have tainted American society for centuries and, until recently, went largely unaddressed. But such aspirations cannot be achieved unless we put in the time and effort to truly understand and confront the problem at hand — it has to go beyond absentminded posting.

graphics by EMMA LIN

Social media is a gift in its ability to spread awareness and information at the snap of a finger, but activism can’t begin and end online. An effort to treat everyone equally, with kindness and respect, regardless of their differences, is vital to creating a space where everyone feels not only welcomed, but wanted.



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rom carefully shaped pottery to water color paintings, senior Lila Wohl can’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating art. Wohl’s bedroom — covered floor to ceiling in her original artwork — doubles as an art studio where she experiments with countless mediums. During the pandemic, Wohl channeled her passion for art into charity by creating her own business. In Nov. 2020, Wohl launched Art for Alzheimer’s, an enterprise through which she sells prints of her art on greeting cards. She donates all of the profits to the Alzheimer’s Association, an organization that works on the early detection and prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Ever since the beginning of her freshman year, Wohl volunteered at Cedar Creek Auxiliary Home, a nursing home in Bethesda that specializes in advanced Alzheimer’s care. “Lila would go several times a week, just to volunteer and to be with her ‘ladies,’ as she called them,” said Michael Wohl, Lila’s dad. “She would do all sorts of things, from music to art, and talk with them. She just had the patience of a saint — it was really remarkable.” When the pandemic first hit, however, the care center’s COVID-19 guidelines prohibited Wohl from visiting patients. “I wanted to think of some way that I could continue my outreach into the Alzheimer’s community and try to do some good, even through COVID-19,” Wohl said. Wohl’s passion for art came naturally, as both of her parents are musicians and her younger brother, Adeev, is a talented colored pencil artist, she said. During quarantine, when she wasn’t doing yoga or practicing piano, Wohl spent her free time at the Potomac River or sitting on her lawn, letting the fresh air fuel her creativity. Having taken few formal art classes, she prefers to mess around and have fun when creating her art, she said.

“She’s got a very wide imagination,” Michael said. “It doesn’t matter where she starts out — she will figure out what the art is and how she can apply her capabilities to it.” Each Art for Alzheimer’s greeting card starts with an original painting. Wohl uses a combination of watercolor and acrylic paint on either canvas or watercolor paper to create vivid landscapes. She then photographs the paintings, edits the photos to enhance the colors and prints the image onto stock greeting cards that she sells in bundles of three. The bundles are grouped based on naturalistic themes like desert, spring and blue sky — Wohl’s personal favorite. She sells them on Etsy, which is an online marketplace that offers vintage items, handmade goods and art and crafts. The shop allows the public easy access to purchase Wohl’s art. While Michael orders some of the supplies and Adeev occasionally helps package the greeting cards, Lila runs Art for Alzheimer’s largely by herself, juggling the business and her schoolwork every day. “She handles the marketing piece and all the pieces necessary to have a successful social impact through commerce,” Michael said. Wohl’s relationship with her great aunt, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, helps her resonate with the messages she’s received from peers and customers who’ve also experienced the damaging effects of the disease. “When I started the project, I got a lot of messages from people who I didn’t really even know super well saying, ‘My grandmother just passed away from Alzheimer’s’ or ‘I have a family member who’s experiencing Alzheimer’s,’” Wohl said. “Alzheimer’s affects every single aspect of a person’s life, and it really affects their families and how they interact with their loved ones. It’s a really, really devastating disease.” Beyond painting for Alzheimer’s, Lila has found that experimenting with artistic mediums — be it clay, oil paints or watercolors — has done more than generate a creative outlet; it also helps her focus during online classes. “When I’m painting or doing something with my hands, it’s actually much easier for me to pay attention to what the teacher is saying, which I know sounds counterintuitive,” Wohl said. “But because it’s such a fun thing to do, it actually keeps me more

focused. It’s just like when I FaceTime my friends or we have a group Zoom and we’re all talking — that’s when I’ll be painting.” To help grow the business, Wohl created the Instagram page @art_for_alzheimers, where she posts updates and sneak peaks of new card bundles. Often, her friends and family help out by promoting the account on their own social media pages. “I’m working toward spreading as much awareness and raising as much funds toward Alzheimer’s research as I can,” Wohl said. “Any support, not even financial, but just anyone who shares what we’re doing is super helpful.” By the end of April, Wohl had raised nearly $1,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Kids can do a lot, whether they’re involved with Alzheimer’s residents or are fundraising,” said Sheila Griffith, program manager for the National Capital Area chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Wohl hopes to volunteer again at the nursing home when restrictions lift, and is planning to attend American University to major in psychology with a focus on geriatrics –– a branch of medicine that focuses on the health and care of the elderly. She aims to continue Art for Alzheimer’s in college and even start a fundraising club. “I think geriatric work is super important,” Wohl said. “It’s a field that doesn’t get a lot of attention, and it’s something I definitely want to be a part of.” Wohl’s love for the elderly has shaped who she is as a person, Wohl said, and she believes there’s much wisdom that elderly community members can impart from their years of knowledge. “She’s always had a gravitational pull towards the elderly, even if it’s just an old dog walking down the street,” Michael said. “An important piece of Lila’s personality is making sure no one gets left behind in terms of care.”

TOP: Wohl displays her greeting card which is sold as part of her “Desert Travels” set. Wohl’s original painting is printed on thick card stock and is 9” by 6”. BOTTOM: Lila Wohl stands in her backyard holding three handmade greeting cards. These prints display her one of a kind landscape paintings that are for sale on her Etsy shop, ArtsForAlzheimers. Photos courtesy Lila Wohl.


A typical Whitman senior might spend their summer lounging by the pool, working at a summer camp or taking trips to the beach before heading off to college in the fall. But for senior Ida McLaughlin, the final few weeks of adolescent freedom will be anything but relaxing. On June 26, McLaughlin will report to the United States Military Academy — also known as West Point — for Cadet Basic Training, or what they call “BEAST Barracks.” Every day for six weeks, McLaughlin will wake up at 6:00 a.m. sharp for extensive military training to prepare her for enrollment at the prestigious military academy. As a child, McLaughlin was always inspired by her relatives in the military — an aunt and two grandfathers who served in the Army and Navy. When college application season rolled around, it was no surprise to McLaughlin’s family that she was interested in serving in a branch of the military. “Both of my parents were super excited and supportive when I told them that I wanted to apply to a service academy,” McLaughlin said. “My dad was the one who pushed me to finish my application to the Military Academy because he thought that it would be a good fit for me.” At West Point, McLaughlin intends on majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering while also rowing for the crew team. However, unlike students at most four-year universities, McLaughlin will also be training to become a future military


leader; she hopes to be commissioned as a second lieutenant for the U.S. Army following graduation. “For some people, going to college and getting an engineering degree is exactly what they want,” McLaughlin said. “I thought that I could do that, but I wanted to take it a step further and do something to help others.” Federal service academies, including West Point, each have a unique and rigorous application process. Applicants formally begin the process during their junior year, McLaughlin said. In addition to submitting high school transcripts and standardized test scores, applicants must be interviewed by an admissions representative with military experience. If an applicant is deemed fit for the academy during the interview, they progress to the next stage in the process, where they must obtain one of the limited congressional nominations in their state. “I did underestimate the application process,” McLaughlin said. “There were so many steps within obtaining a nomination and different people to contact, that it was overwhelming at times.” At any time, a maximum of five admits nominated by any given member of Congress may attend each academy. For each slot vacancy, a congressman may nominate up to 10 new applicants for consideration by each academy. The Naval Academy, located in Annapolis, produces a large pool of service academy applicants each year, making nominations from Maryland’s members of Congress especially competitive. McLaughlin had to submit around 20 short essays about her extracurricular activities and academic pursuits to each congressional representative. The congressmen then narrowed the application pool down and invited each applicant to another interview with a panel of qualified military personnel. McLaughlin applied for nominations from both of Maryland’s state senators and a state

representative, ultimately obtaining the nomination from Rep. Jamie Raskin. Each academy then admits the nominees whom they believe will best fulfill their admission requirements. Beyond the rigorous required paperwork and interviews, female applicants face the added hurdle of gender disparity. 50 years ago, McLaughlin wouldn’t have been able to apply to West Point — they didn’t admit women until 1976. Although service academies have slowly seen a rising number of female students, the gender gap within the school is still a prevalent concern, McLaughlin said. “At first I was hesitant to apply because of the overwhelming ratio of male to female cadets,” McLaughlin said. “But that worry went away after getting in touch with alumni at service academies who reassured me that I will have the same opportunities as the male cadets.” According to a 2019 study by the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, members of the 116th Congress — sworn into office in Jan. 2019 — nominated far more men for service academies than other applicants, with female students making up only 21% of congressional nominations, despite the fact that they represent roughly a third of the total applications for each academy. Service academies are exempt from Title IX, which prohibits all forms of sexbased discrimination in education. The

37% female

63% male

Congressman Jamie Raskin’s Nominations, 2019

academies haven’t offered a clear explanation to the reasoning behind their exception from these policies, but data show that the exemption has led to gender inequalities within the service academies and their application process, McLaughlin said. “You hear these stories about women in the military that are facing inequalities because of their gender,” McLaughlin said. “I want to change that culture and become a trusted leader for my enlisted personnel.” After McLaughlin obtained a nomination, she had to complete the Candidate Fitness Assessment, or CFA, which predicts an applicant’s aptitude to handle the physical requirements of the service academies. The assessment consists of cadence pull-ups, situps, push-ups, a 40-yard sprint, a one-mile run and a basketball throw, where applicants must kneel with both knees on the ground and throw a basketball as far as they can with one hand. McLaughlin completed the CFA in the spring of her junior year. “Everybody I’ve talked to agrees that the basketball throw is only in there so that they can see who’s actually committed to working on these events,” she said. “The farther that the basketball travels, [the more] it shows that you’ve dedicated yourself to practicing the skill.” Every year, the academies release a document that outlines the average CFA scores for each event and gender. The applicant’s raw scores from each event convert to a point scale that ranks their performance against the performances of their peers. The CFA and other unique aspects within the application discourage many students from applying, McLaughlin said. Even after applicants complete these exhaustive requirements, they’re far from a guaranteed acceptance. According to the Na-

tional Center for Education Statistics, out of the 41,989 applicants to the five military academies for the class of 2023, only about 4,100 candidates were accepted, producing an acceptance rate of 8% — comparable to that of universities like Dartmouth and Duke. At Whitman, applying to service academies isn’t common: In the past five years, only 24 students have applied. Of those students, only six have attended, half of whom were female. When a student enrolls in a service academy, there is a greater level of commitment expected than of many other collegiate paths; each academy requires five years of active duty after graduation. West Point and Air Force Academy graduates serve an additional three years in the reserves, where soldiers are able to live close to home while continuing military training. Cadet Carleigh Armstrong, a graduate of The Academy of the Holy Cross (‘20), plays for the West Point women’s lacrosse team. Armstrong is a “plebe” — the West Point equivalent of a freshman — and comes from a long line of Naval Academy graduates. Although she had mild interest in attending a service academy after high school, she never thought that she would follow through until she got in touch with a West Point lacrosse recruiter, she said. “When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after high school, I reached out to a coach at West Point because I figured that it couldn’t hurt,” Armstrong said. “The fall of my junior year, I came to the campus for an unofficial visit and instantly fell in love with the academy.” On a typical day, Armstrong wakes up at 6:20 a.m. to complete chores such as mopping the halls and taking out the trash before formation, one of many cadet meetings throughout the day. During formation, cadets assemble into uniform rows for a variety of exercises and training. Following breakfast, she heads straight to her classes. At West Point, students can choose to take a variety of courses, ranging in focus from academics to athletics to combat training.

“One of the more interesting classes that I took this year was ‘plebe’ boxing,” Armstrong said. “Even though I got punched in the face at 7 a.m., it was a super cool class that taught me a lot that I can use in the field.” At West Point, women make up less than 20% of the student population. Despite the lack of female students around her, Armstrong feels empowered by her minority status, she said. “I think that many high school girls are discouraged from this route because they think that being a woman in a predominantly male-dominated profession is a hard challenge to overcome,” Armstrong said. “The

Academy does not tolerate any form of inequality towards women and the encouragement that I get from my male counterparts is enormous — they’re some of my closest friends.” Armstrong and McLaughlin both agree that life at service academies does not resemble a typical college experience. There are strict restrictions on alcohol, drugs and parties, and Greek life is absent. Still, they agree that the service academy route is a rewarding path to take. “I can’t imagine going anywhere else for college,” Armstrong said. “West Point has been such a great experience for me, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

FAR LEFT: McLaughlin visiting Mitchie Stadium, home to the Army Black Knights, during one of her visits to West Point. Photo courtesy Ida McLaughlin. LEFT: Armstrong during West point tactical training. Photo courtesy Carleigh Armstrong. RIGHT: Armstrong (47) celebrating during a Westpoint Lacrosse game. Photo courtesy Carleigh Armstrong. FAR RIGHT: McLaughlin holding her Certificate of Appointment after committing to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Photo courtesy Ida McLaughlin.


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Bethesda’s Best Burritos Burri tos

by Sasha Blake, Zoe Cantor, Skylar Chasen, Rafe Epstein, Alex Schupak

After a long year of online school, five newly-vaccinated Black & White burrito enthusiasts attempted to answer the longstanding query: What’s the best burrito in Bethesda? As it turns out, we asked the wrong question altogether — there isn’t a best burrito in Bethesda. In our two-hour trip around Bethesda, the five of us drove the wrong way down a one-way street, ran our car into a concrete pole and nearly got a parking ticket. And what did our toils reward us with? Five burritos ranging from passable to downright disgusting. At each burrito establishment, we asked servers for the restaurant’s most commonly ordered burrito to eliminate any confounding variables. Our grading scale ranged from a 5/5, the perfect beans in a blanket, to a 0/5, something so horrid it didn’t deserve to be classified as a “burrito.”

California Tortilla: Rating: 1.2/5

We ordered the California Screamin’ burrito with blackened chicken, rice, queso, fajita veggies, Cal Tort’s signature California Screamin’ sauce and salsa for $8.69. As we entered Cal Tort, we were greeted by festive lights and the unforgettable “Wall of Flame,” a decorative wall of hot sauces. While the restaurant didn’t scream Mexican authenticity, we were optimistic about the flavor of the burrito — however, after ordering, things went downhill quickly. Visually, the burrito looked sad: limp, structurally unstable and filled with what looked like microwaved veggies. Bite after bite, nobody tasted even a hint of queso, salsa or their signature sauce. One word we unanimously agreed to describe this burrito was “awful.” The contents of the burrito were not sufficiently mixed, to say the least. Chunks of chicken and peppers were clumped together with uneven distribution, and the burrito as a whole did not embody what Cal Tort prides itself on: fresh ingredients. Their saving grace was the blackened chicken, which, after dissecting the burrito, we finished eating. All of us had enjoyed a Cal Tort meal before, but this burrito sadly did not reflect our past experiences. Although it was priced reasonably, the meal wasn’t even worth the nine dollars.

Fish Taco: Rating: 2.4/5

We ordered the chicken burrito filled with grilled adobo chicken, rice, beans, pico de gallo, guajillo sauce and crema for $8. The comforting atmosphere along with the reasonable prices set our expectations for Fish Taco high — too high. After ordering, we excitedly made our way to their outdoor seating area and sliced the burrito open. Right off the bat, there was too much rice, not enough beans and a striking lack of chicken. The initial presentation was disappointing, but we held our heads high, optimistic for the taste test. As we dug in, however, a somber wave washed over the table, and we silently put down our burrito pieces. While the quality of the ingredients was acceptable, this specific combination didn’t create the harmony we wanted to see. It was light on toppings, light on flavoring and light on mixing — overall, it was just a relatively bland burrito. At the end of the day, while we have nothing against Fish Taco as a restaurant, this particular meal does not lend itself to reordering. We now understand why the restaurant is called “Fish Taco” and not “Chicken Burrito.”


We ordered a customized burrito with white rice, chicken, black beans, roasted chili-corn salsa, fresh tomato salsa, sour cream, cheese and guacamole (and yes, we got extra) for $10.20. Chipotle had been a burrito staple for our entire lives. The company has locations around the world and rarely disappoints customers — despite the occasional E. Coli outbreak. To be honest, we expected this meal would rank pretty low on our list, considering Chipotle is a chain. But, surprisingly, it was a resounding favorite (which, when compared to all the other establishments, really doesn’t say much). Chipotle’s burrito customization was the highlight of our experience. With a selection of tasty flavors everyone knows and loves, it’s hard to make a burrito you don’t enjoy. With that being said, a perfect burrito needs to make you feel some type of emotion. Joy. Inspiration. Gratitude. You have to be knocked off your feet, and Chipotle’s interpretation of the classic Mexican dish just didn’t do so. If you’re in the mood for a solid burrito, Chipotle is a reliable option. But for any burrito aficionado, “passable” is a pretty fair assessment. For a burrito that you’ll be telling your grandkids about, you might have to drive a little further than your local Chipotle to find it.


Rating: 3.8 /5

Gringos and Mariachis:

Rating: 2.3/5

We ordered the “birria burrito with esquites,” a modern spin on a classic burrito that housed pulled short rib, green rice and black beans inside a soft tortilla with sides of esquites (Mexican street corn), avocado salsa, queso and sour cream for $14. Anyone with solid burrito-tasting experience is sure to recall the classic truism, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” Sadly, the folks over at G&M’s didn’t get the memo. While the ingredients were fresh, it was the unconventional mashup of “gringo” and “mariachi” flavors that turned us off from the meal. Barbecue pulled ribs felt wrong in a burrito, especially with nothing more than unnecessarily colorful rice and beans to compliment it. While the numerous extras that came with the meal definitely helped improve our appraisal, they weren’t enough to make up for the bland, gentrifi-rrito that deserves a spot on a 2014 food blog alongside “cronuts” and “kombucha.” In all fairness, we did not consume the burrito as it was intended: as an appetizer platter at a sit-down restaurant. The sleekly modern design of the restaurant might have aided us in a more thorough analysis of the entire eating experience as the chefs may have intended. But can anyone blame us for leaving? Burritos are, by nature, a to-go food. They are pre-bundled packages ready for traveling, transporting and shipping. Any attempt to deconstruct these fundamental elements reckons a burrito not so burrito-like.

We ordered a beef burrito with Mexican rice, refried beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and tortilla chips for $12.95. The final stretch of our burrito journey landed us at Guapo’s, where loud music and energetic decor welcomed us as we walked through the door. We placed an order for pick up and sat outside, feeling pessimistic from the past experiences. Finally, we received our last meal of the day, and, frankly, we weren’t ready for what was coming. We all glanced at each other in horror as we opened the box: At first glance, the burrito resembled a melted mound of cheese. It took us a minute or two, but underneath all the greasy cheese lay our prize: a Guapo’s burrito. Some of us were apprehensive about diving into the burrito, but we persevered. Instantly, the flavors burst out. Each bite of steak, combined with the Mexican four-cheese blend and rice, was delectable. This felt authentic — a stark contrast to G&M’s. Soon thereafter, however, a multitude of problems fatal to the burrito’s rating became apparent. The burrito lacked functionality, an essential aspect of burritos. The burrito was incredibly messy, and impossible to eat without utensils — an instant point deduction in our book. Additionally, the density and richness of the burrito made eating it feel like a bottomless pit. While Guapo’s might be a welcome option for those that are extra hungry, for anyone else, the authenticity is sure to sit in your stomach.

Guapos: Rating: 2.5/5

photo courtesy of ALEX SCHUPAK




Camilla Abdullaeva Ella Adams Holly Adams Bethel Addis Samantha Albert Pía Alexander Chunlin An Defne Aslan Andrew Audas Muhammad Azaan Benjamin Baisinger-Rosen Livia Baker-McKee Bennett Bartels Alexander Bartleman Chloe Bautista Sebastian Bazan Jorian Benke Ava Berger Anna Berger Finn Berkhout Rhea Bhattacharjee Ezra Bird Eli Blanks Marc Blitz John Bowers Lillian Brady Clarissa Branson Boulder Brenner Lucrezia Brody Isabella Brody Daniel Bronfman Benjamin Brown Francesca Brown Abigail Brown Anna Bunch Emma Buxton Margaret Canniff James Carrington Sophie Cashin Riggs Chamberlin Ava Chambers Tyler Chapman Abigail Chen Zachary Chirico Halle Cho Elliot Clark Brennan Connell Roman Conway Charlotte Cook Chloe Cooper Alec Cooper Téa Costello Julia Cronin Trinidad Cubillos Valdes Connor Darragh John Davis

University of Rochester Valentine De Pue University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Adri Dervishi University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Joni Dervishi Northeastern University Matthew Dickstein University of Oregon Satine Diouf Dartmouth College Alexandra Dobbins Barnard College Andrew Dodson Jr. University of Southern California Sebastian Druehl Colgate University Althea Dulany Northeastern University Anna Eagle Washington University in St. Louis Andrew Eagle Belmont University Max Ehrlich Indiana University, Bloomington Lukas Einberg Michigan State University Olivia Eisenberg Indiana University, Bloomington Chloe Eisenberg Colorado State University Deshawn Ejiogu Massachusetts Institute of Technology Stetson Eliason Ringling College of Art and Design Spencer Ellis Lehigh University Abigail Ellis University of Amsterdam, PPLE Juan Luis Elorza Massachusetts Institute of Technology Grayson Esherick University of Southern California Sophia Esquenet Northwestern University Connor Fang Tufts University Tyson Fang University of Tampa Josephine Fay College of Charleston Julia Federing Gap Year Ethan Feigin University of Arizona Andrew Fisher American University Allison Fitzgerald University of California, Santa Barbara Alexa Fleck University of Virginia Katherine Fleming University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Patrick Fletcher Miami University Cameron Fong Sarah Lawrence College Luke Frankel Indiana University, Bloomington Celina Fratzscher University of California, Los Angeles Marlo Friedland Rochester Institute of Technology Mia Friedman University of Wisconsin, Madison Aimee Friloux Coastal Carolina University Katherine Galvez Virginia Tech Dakota Gambrell Syracuse University Kathryn Garcia University of Wisconsin, Madison Leila Garner University of Pennsylvania Natalia Giacchino Stevens Institute of Technology Catherine Gilley Johns Hopkins University Kaya Ginsky Carnegie Mellon University Logan Glazier The New School in New York City Peter Godschalk Wake Forest University Toby Goldberg William & Mary/St. Andrews Lucy Goldberg University of Virginia Jack Goldman University of Virginia Jerry Golub Towson University Henry Golub Oberlin College Cecilia Goncalves de Azeredo University of Maryland, College Park Paula Gonzalez Alvarez University of California, Santa Barbara Jamison Gordon University of Colorado, Boulder Katerina Gorlenko

Vrije Universiteit Brussel University of Maryland, Baltimore County University of Maryland, College Park University of Maryland, College Park University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Tufts University Salisbury University Colgate University Princeton University University of Wisconsin, Madison University of Virginia University of Pittsburgh University of Maryland, College Park University of Vermont University of Delaware Harvard College University of Georgia Ithaca College University of Vermont University Carlos III of Madrid The University of Alabama Macalester College Case Western Reserve University University of Michigan, Ann Arbor University of Maryland, College Park Emerson College Tufts University Tufts University Salisbury University University of California, Los Angeles University of Maryland, College Park Lafayette College Virginia Tech Tulane University University of Toronto, St. George Florida State University University of Michigan, Ann Arbor University of California, Los Angeles Lake Forest College Virginia Tech University of Maryland, College Park Boston University University of Utah University of Southern California University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Vanderbilt University University of Wisconsin, Madison Washington University in St Louis Wellesley College University of Wisconsin, Madison Auburn University Virginia Tech Sarah Lawrence College École Polytechnique de Paris Vanderbilt University University Of Maryland, College Park

SS OF 2021 Allison Grau Gillian Gravatt Isabella Grumet Renee Guerrere Kipper Gwyn Taylor Haber Abigail Hall Stella Hamman Maxwell Hane Joshua Harkins Maayan Harris Lia Harrison Samantha Heberlee Gideon Helf Audrey Henning Christian Hill Molli Hillman Brandon Hotchkiss Claudia Hull Carlisle Imperial Brady Infeld James Jabara Katherine Jacobi Marta Janeiro Jacqueline Jevtich Jiahe Jin Cayla Joftus Tatiana Johnson Margaret Jones Spencer Jones Lekha Kachoria Joseph Kaplan Aki Kawakami Madeline Kemp Diana Kentell Joshua Kim Martin Kiron Sophia Klubes Kamila Koralasbayev Maxwell Krauth Geoffrey Kreutzberg Anna Kulbashny Neesha Kuntamukkala Bella Kwaterski Mathilde Lambert Nadia Lanz Sara Lapidus Madeline Laprade Michaela Larson Christian Larson Kyle Lawson Vincent Le Bella Learn William Lee Joon Lee Matthew Lennie

Pennsylvania State University Jonah Leonhardt Rice University Natalie Lerner University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Jordan Lerner California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo Chloe Lesser Purdue University Robert Leventer Dartmouth College Samantha Levine Columbia University Jordan Levine-Schenk University of Vermont Eva Levy University of Colorado, Boulder Jonathan Lindstrom Middlebury College Rachael Lipsitz Drexel University Caroline Liu Tufts University Emily London Vanderbilt University Zachary Ludwig New York University Chloe Maciejewski University of California, San Diego Nina Madeddu Elon University Jordan Maggin Wake Forest University Percy Magnus University of Wisconsin, Madison Isabella Main George Washington University Bennett Mallios Princeton University Matthew Mande University of Alabama Marc Margolis Cornell University Gabriel Marks Appalachian State University Finn Martin University of Maryland, College Park Michael Martino College of Charleston James Marzolf-Miller Washington University in St. Louis Alexa Maupin Wesleyan University Cecily McArdle American University David McCrystal University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Mary Grace McGrath University of Cincinnati Grace McGuire University of Wisconsin, Madison John McGuire Northeastern University Ida McLaughlin Gap Year Sasha McLeod Bates College Charlotte McNulty Pratt Institute, Brooklyn Theodore Meline Stanford University Bridget Meng University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Simon Merenstein Pennsylvania State University Jocelyn Mintz University of Florida Sophia Modell University of California, Santa Barbara Barzin Mohammadian Purdue University Daniel Molina Lewis and Clark College Sophie Monroe Wake Forest University Jaclyn Morgan California Institute of Technology Lily Muchimba Columbia University/Sciences Po Samantha Mulford Gap Year Nicholas Mumm Washington University in St. Louis Samuel Nickerson University of Iowa Nikhil Niyogi University of Wisconsin, Madison Margaret Nowell DePaul University Gregory O’Connell University of Arizona Ryan O’Connor Rochester Institute of Technology Megan O’Hara New York University Brielle Ohana University of California, Los Angeles Charles Olsen Gap Year Risako Ota Stanford University Esme Padgett

Gap Year Washington University in St. Louis College of William & Mary Oberlin College Rochester Institute of Technology Syracuse University Cornell University University of Pennsylvania Carnegie Mellon University Pennsylvania State University Northwestern University Rice University University of Maryland, College Park Case Western Reserve University Trinity College, Dublin University of Maryland, College Park Denison University University of Texas, Austin Syracuse University Washington University in St. Louis Emory University Pennsylvania State University University of California, Los Angeles High Point University McGill University University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Amsterdam University College Pennsylvania State University University of Vermont Davidson College Middlebury College United States Military Academy, West Point Boston University University of Maryland, College Park Wake Forest University University of California, Los Angeles Case Western Reserve University Northwestern University Florida State University Indiana University University of Wisconsin, Madison Cornell University The University of Texas, Austin Arizona State University Rice University Indiana University, Kelley School of Business Denison University McDaniel College University of Maryland, College Park The George Washington University Virginia Tech University of South Carolina Cornell University University of Virginia University of California, Los Angeles Durham University



Jane Pampillonia Peter Paras Aaron Park Faith Parker Audrey Pechilis Emilia Pedreros Ottavia Personeni Gavin Peters Nicole Peterson Matthew Polan Isabella Prill Eli Putnam Richard Qin Sandra Radakovic Nathaniel Radcliffe Sam Rahbin Colby Reeder Morgan Riso Thomas Robinson Lily Robinson Susan Rodgers Margot Rojas Ashley Rommel Katelyn Rommel Jolie Rosenstein Ankan Roy Samantha Rubin Alicia Ruiz Ella Ryan Matthew Ryan Zachary Safford Charles Sagner Miriam Saletan Jacob Sandler Anisha Sankar Meghan Santora Shivani Sawant Gabriel Schaner Manuel Schimpl Sander Schulman Sebastian Schwarz Rachel Scissors John Seevers Jeannie She Willoughby Sheldon Claire Shnerson Ryan Shojaei Meera Shroff Ela Shroff Zayaan Siddique Dawn Siegall Leonardo Silva Ritter Lila Smith Jessica Solomon Samuel Solomon Bryan Solomon


Belmont University University of Maryland, College Park Virginia Tech Dickinson College University of California, Santa Barbara University of Maryland, College Park Massachusetts Institute of Technology College Of Charleston James Madison University University of Maryland, College Park Savannah College of Art and Design Davidson College Emory University University of Maryland, College Park Wake Forest University University of Maryland, College Park The Citadel Texas Christian University George Mason University The University of Edinburgh Georgetown University Ceu San Pablo University of Madrid University of Virginia University of South Carolina University of Michigan, Ann Arbor University of Maryland, College Park University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Georgetown University College of William and Mary University of Maryland, Baltimore County Northeastern Columbia University Smith College University of Maryland, College Park University of Pittsburgh University of Maryland, College Park Smith College University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill University of Liverpool University of Maryland Husson University University of Michigan, Ann Arbor University of California, Santa Barbara Gap year Tufts University, SMFA/main campus Tulane University Colgate University Vassar College Vanderbilt University University of Maryland, College Park Tulane University University of Westminster Ohio University Georgetown University University of Wisconsin, Madison University of North Dakota

William Sonne Claire Sorkin Jacob Spector Cameron Spicer Therice Spicer Emily Sporkin Summer Steinmiller Kennedy Stenger Reuben Stoll Benjamin Stricker Margot Su Riley Sullivan Brendan Sullivan Solomon Sussman Ava Sutcliffe Hailee Swiggett Patricio Tamez Annie Tang Eleanor Taylor Thomas Tayman Gabriel Thomas Eve Titlebaum Sarah Tong Luke Trainor Mary-Austin Tutt Olivia Tyler Leyla Ulku Sohan Upadhya Bella Valdes-Houghton Arthur Verhoeven Dylan Vohra Ian Von Pechmann Ethan Wagner Benjamin Waldman Abby Waldvogel Andrew Wang Heather Wang Andrew Warner Kushan Weerakoon Alissa Weisman Tyler Werkman Zoe White Nicole Widra Ted Wiese Kaelan Wilfred John B Williams jr Lila Wohl Josephine Wolfe Angela Xiong Haige Xu Erez Yarden Madeline Young Ava Zambri Madison Zhao Zachary Zindler Jan Zitko

Middlebury College University of Virginia Swarthmore College Northeastern University University of Georgia Boston University Yale University University of South Carolina Juniata College University of Notre Dame Indiana University, Bloomington University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Indiana University, Bloomington Working The University of Mississippi Brigham Young University, Provo University of Toronto, Scarborough University of Maryland, Baltimore County Bryn Mawr College University of Virginia Lake Forest College Tulane University New York University University of Wisconsin, Madison Dickinson College Pratt Institute, Brooklyn University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Indiana University, Bloomington Loyola Marymount University TBD (McGill) or (College of Maastricht) University of Wisconsin, Madison University of Colorado, Boulder Kenyon College University of Chicago University of Denver Carnegie Mellon University Dartmouth College Tulane University Harvard College Colorado College Virginia Tech Carnegie Mellon University University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Syracuse University Towson University Clemson University American University Emerson College Johns Hopkins University Pennsylvania State University Gap Year University of Wisconsin, Madison University of Virginia Pacific College of Oriental Medicine University of Florida University of Wisconsin, Madison

SS OF 2021



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The Black & White Vol. 60 Issue 1  

The Black & White Vol. 60 Issue 1  

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