Abortion Bans Undermine Basic Human Rights
May 17, 2019
Having the option to abort a pregnancy is a human right. This stance, of course, comes from the privileged mindset of those who have been reminded of this fact for their entire teenage lives. Growing up in a politically engaged city has the potential to shape one’s moral compass, especially when our city is located in one of the most liberal regions of California. At Berkeley High School (BHS), many students are closely following the abortion debate. Considering the progressive culture around sexual health at BHS, exemplified by the existence of resources such as Sexual Health Information From Teens (SHIFT) and the on-campus Health Center, the student body has shaped well-informed opinions on the matter. These opinions are no secret to society, nor farfetched to governing bodies.
State legislatures in Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, and Alabama recently passed extremely restrictive abortion bans, all of which are designed to make their way through the federal court system so as to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, which allows abortions to be provided across the United States (US). Repealing such an important ruling has the potential to put the welfare of current and future Americans at risk.
Furthermore, abortion bans are not at all effective in eliminating abortions; if these laws are enacted, it will inevitably increase the amount of illegal abortions that take place. The need for abortion will not disappear because, for many women, it is their only option, especially for those who lack the money to support a child, rape victims, teen mothers, those in abusive relationships, and women whose health is put at risk by pregnancy. Because the need for abortions will persist, black market abortions will be at a higher demand, and these circumstances will make abortions significantly more dangerous. Yet, history shows that women will take these risks if pregnancy is not their best option.
If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, both unemployment and poverty levels would increase. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 59 percent of women who have abortions are already mothers. Having a child is one of the largest financial expenses a person can take on. People of reproductive age who want abortions and do not have access will be forced to experience nine months of pregnancy against their will. Symptoms of this include nausea, vomiting, headaches, and more serious medical risks, not excluding death. Women may be forced to take time off or even quit their job during and after their pregnancy to take care of the baby, specifically because many employers do not supply sufficient maternity leave. Considering that in 2014, 49 percent of people who had abortions were below the federal poverty level, and 75 percent were considered low income, many of these women won’t have a salary to support the children they are already raising. Single mothers will be put in an especially terrible situation, and their chances of dropping below the poverty threshold will increase.
The passed legislation in Georgia and Alabama has the potential to make these terrible outcomes a reality in the US. The Georgia law defines a fetus, when the first heartbeat is detected, as a full person, meaning that an abortion at this time is murder in the eyes of the law. Any person who miscarries in this state can be subject to investigation. On the other hand, the Alabama law places most of the punishment on the doctor, outlawing the procedure entirely, with essentially no exceptions. A doctor who performs an abortion in Alabama can be charged with a Class A felony and faced with up to 99 years in prison. The criminalizing of abortions will inevitably lead to doctors entering the prison system, and women being treated as state property. The governing bodies of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and Mississippi are proving that women don’t have the right to control what happens to their bodies.
This is a scary time for Americans, especially for the youth. In six months, legal abortions will be entirely unavailable to all youth in Alabama. Students at BHS should feel lucky that our reproductive rights are not under attack, yet. We have been granted the privilege of choice, the right to our bodies.
Amid Threats of Censorship, Free Press Flourishes
May 3, 2019
Kathi Duffel, a high school English teacher and faculty advisor of Bear Creek High School’s award winning newspaper The Bruin Voice, might be out of a job. On April 11, she received a letter from the Lodi Unified School District in Stockton threatening to fire her if she didn’t allow the school administration to pre-approve an upcoming article. The story involved an 18-year-old senior at the school by the name of Caitlin Fink who was known to have worked in adult entertainment.
Rumors had been circulating about Fink’s work for some time, so a journalist on The Bruin Voice staff took up the story in order to set the record straight publicly and provide an opportunity to humanize Fink. The student happily consented to both her name and her story being told to the world. When school administration heard about the story, scheduled to publish on May 3, they became concerned, and threatened the journalism teacher with the aim to acquire the story beforehand. In their attempts to censor the student journalists, these school officials overstepped major boundaries. All school publications should have the right to publish their own information without school involvement.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press should not only apply to people over the age of 18. The ideas and desires of the youth are often overshadowed by the demands of society, especially in terms of privacy and speech. Minor or adult, individuals living within one society should all be held to the same standards. The First Amendment of the Constitution says that all US citizens have the right to free speech and freedom of the press. These two rights are two of the most important civil liberties that Americans have, and they are essential to a successful democracy.
The Constitution is intended to apply to all citizens, meaning that neither the governing body of a country nor the governing body of a school has the right to censor students and infringe upon their First Amendment rights. In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Duffel said she believes the attempt by the district was overreach, and she has plans to combat them legally should they continue to threaten her and her students’ right to free speech.
A trusted and free press is vital to a working democracy. Without the free press, society would be uninformed of the happenings in the government, and citizens have a right to journalistic checks and balances. School publications often manifest the struggles we see on a national level when it comes to censorship and freedom of the press. At Bear Creek High School, the administration has attempted to censor The Bruin Voice more than once. Previously, the paper was planning to publish a story about the school’s failing safety policy and the principal of the school confiscated all 1700 copies of that issue. This is censorship at its extremes, and it shows how a free student press is necessary to keep the student body and surrounding community informed on important local issues.
Section 48907 of the California Education Code asserts the right of high school newspapers to publish whatever they choose, so long as the content is not explicitly obscene, libelous, or slanderous. The district’s notion of obscenity stems from the administration’s clear discomfort towards their students’ sexual activity being publicized. The administration at Bear Creek High School is showing less maturity than the student journalists who are ready to examine these issues in a serious and respectful manner. Fink’s willingness to publicize her story should mean that nothing stands in the way of its release. The district’s threat of termination hanging above Duffel’s head is causing more outrage than the story itself. Though the school administration wanted to steer the public away from this story, they ended up doing the opposite. This demonstrates to students that their own personal lives can be publicized by the American press but not by their own school’s newspaper.
Censorship is a major threat to the First Amendment rights of all people, no matter their age. As a student publication, the Jacket stands in solidarity with Duffel and the journalists at Bear Creek High School.
Eurocentric News Coverage Inhibits Social Awareness
April 19, 2019
The cultural significance of a historical site is crafted by the attention it receives, often due to factors such as religion and money. The fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 highlights exactly that. People were shocked and horrified to hear that the Paris cathedral went up in flames because it holds some of France’s most prized art possessions, and keeps the history of France in its halls. In addition to social media, this event took over the headlines of the majority of American news outlets for the entire day. In just one day this tragedy got more airtime than equally current human rights violations have in years. This perpetual cycle of disregarding the lives of minorities in the media has gone on for far too long with no signs of change in coverage by major media outlets.
Today, the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region of Western China are being sent to detention facilities against their will. Their crime in the eyes of the Chinese government is being Muslim. These camps were first opened in 2014, and the US State Department estimates that there are between 800,000 and two million people being held in them. People have been detained for prayer, choosing not to consume pork, and declining to shave their beards. The Chinese government is forcing men, women, and children to produce clothes and other goods as well as participate in “re-education lessons” and complete vocational training. The end goal is to produce the next generation of communist Chinese loyalists and to eradicate Islamic practices in China. None of the major world powers have made a clear effort to try and find a solution. Non-Muslim people may feel disconnected from the issue in China because it doesn’t directly affect them, and Chinese government officials deny that this is even taking place. Those in the general public who are aware of this attack on human rights seem to be taking a passive stance, which is unacceptable. The hardships that the Uyghurs experience are getting only whispers and worried glances while very little action is being taken.
The Notre-Dame holds religious and historical significance, and it’s burning is certainly notable, but the level of attention it has gained highlights the Eurocentric bias of the mainstream media. Considering Eurocentric values are prevalent in society, it is no wonder that news consumers find information about European countries more compelling. In the past year, many examples of devastation and loss were largely passed over by Western media outlets. Last September, the Brazilian National Museum burned down and with it went over two million relics, a much greater loss than the Notre-Dame. Other significant examples include three historically black churches being burned down in the South, and lack of water on multiple Native American reservations. Like the camps in China, these terrible events and human rights violations have been overshadowed by European news like the fire at the Notre-Dame. This is problematic because the magnitude of the situation was judged by the location rather than the seriousness of the event. What we are shown in the news determines what we ask of society, which is why the lives of human beings should be treated with more importance than a building. The media must acknowledge the effects of their disproportionate coverage.
Not only has there been a large amount of media reports on the Notre-Dame fire, but France’s three wealthiest families have already donated upwards of $565 million to support efforts to help repair the Paris cathedral. This shows that the rich are more motivated to help rebuild historic religious structures than to combat human rights issues.
Money and Catholicism have been dominant factors in the decision-making of the world for far too long, so much so that the fear of parting with a historic structure and the possibility of losing priceless art pieces was far more relevant to the American public than the ethnic genocide taking place in Western China. The history and successes of white people hold more relevancy in society than the lives and struggles of minorities worldwide. The news is proving this, social media is perpetuating it further, and society is doing nothing to change it.
Abuse of Income Inequality Corrupts College Admissions
March 15, 2019
Everything has a price, but that doesn’t mean it should be up for sale. This past week it was revealed that wealthy parents lied and bribed to secure their childrens’ admissions to some of the most elite academic institutions in the world. Forty-six parents and coaches were charged with federal crimes regarding the corruption of the college admissions process. Rich celebrities and successful bankers paid to improve poor American College Testing (ACT) scores and bribed college coaches to use their recruitment spots for non-athletes. These cases reaffirm the idea that economic status plays a pivotal role in the admissions system.
Regardless of wealth, the college application process requires payment at every step. Low-income students often struggle to keep up with the recurring fees, while rich ones get every prep book and tutor they need to succeed. The requirement of standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT makes registration fees mandatory, and encourages a system that favors those who can afford tutors to study for the tests. On top of all this, most colleges require a fee of at least $50 just to apply to their school. Despite all this financial investment, the student has not even ensured their acceptance to a college, and the most expensive part is yet to come.
The parents in the scandal, who poured a total of $25 million into securing spots for their children at top educational institutions, make it strikingly clear just how competitive and cutthroat this process is, and remind us how idolized name-brand colleges have become. Getting into an elite college is sometimes as much about the reputation it gets you as it is about the quality of education you may receive. To many, being accepted into an Ivy League school is like being handed a golden ticket. The lengths to which people are willing to go to be accepted to these schools have only increased as acceptance rates have dropped.
The question of “was it really worth it?” must be passing through the minds of these students and parents. The students, who were reaping the benefits of this crooked scheme, are now cast into limbo. Some schools, such as University of California, Los Angeles are threatening to rescind their admission. After all, the crime committed was not victimless. Hardworking high school students were denied the opportunity to attend these colleges so that celebrities’ children could. If the students were unaware of the bribery, which seems far-fetched, then it does seem odd to punish them. However, if they were involved in the scandal, then there should be consequences.
The charges don’t suggest that the problem has been snuffed out altogether. In fact, buying one’s way into college is a common phenomenon. Every year, those affluent enough to do so donate millions of dollars to colleges in order for their children to have eased admission.
According to an article in the Harvard Crimson regarding their $35.8 billion endowment, the newspaper said that the majority comes from “donations.” Financial donations to these endowment funds have become a legal way to essentially buy a spot into any college. In reality, this situation is not far from the actions taken by the parents involved in the scandal.
If we look at the charges as individual acts, we ignore the overall trends. The overwhelming expenses that come with applying to college, the increasing focus on a school’s status, the dropping acceptance rates, and the general acceptance process all favor affluent families.
To fix this broken system, colleges must prioritize eduction over their endowments for the sake of equal opportunity. While almost every elite university claims to be an institution of high moral character and integrity, they continue to unethically accept students because of their wealth rather than their intelligence. Ultimately, this process works to make the wealthy wealthier and limit the upward mobility of those who are already disenfranchised.
Teacher Strikes Prove Necessity of School Funding
March 1, 2019
Recently, news outlets and social media platforms have been flooded with coverage of teacher strikes across the country, from West Virginia to Denver to Los Angeles. Education funding has been a pressing issue for a long time now, and all of these strikes show just how dire the situation has become, especially in California. Despite being the nation’s wealthiest state, California ranks close to the bottom in nearly every measure of educational support, coming 45th in student-teacher ratio and 41st in per student funding, according to the California School Boards Association. Teacher strikes are needed to pressure each district to increase these numbers to an acceptable standard. On a local level, we can see our Bay Area teachers taking action to make this happen.
Starting on Thursday, February 21, Oakland teachers have been out on the picket lines to protest for increased wages, smaller class sizes, and better educational resources for students across Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Around 50,000 students are affected by this Oakland strike, depriving them of their education and requiring thousands of parents to scramble for alternative childcare. Although the immediate impact of the strikes is detrimental to their education, better funding for teachers and school districts ameliorates the underlying, systemic issues that impede students’ success.
The Oakland strike has also opened up the conversation of education funding within our own community. Recently, Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) announced millions of dollars in budget cuts to be enacted soon, with more proposed for the future. These cuts would undoubtedly have pernicious effects on our school, such as more staff cuts and lower teacher wages, which further demonstrate the necessity of taking action. Many BUSD teachers have stood in solidarity with Oakland teachers, whether by going out on the picket lines or holding walk-in demonstrations at their respective BUSD schools.
The fundamental cause of these financial obstacles comes down to legislation. Since the stock market crash of 2008, legislators nationwide have been looking for any way to balance the budget. Instead of attempting to fix the root cause of the economic crisis by increasing funding for education, state governments have severely reduced it, which results in under-resourced schools and underpaid teachers. In turn, this hurt teachers’ livelihoods nationwide, making the situation worse than ever before. “I recently moved into the OUSD district from a charter school in Berkeley,” said Aaron Darden, a teacher at Life Academy in Oakland. “That move in itself caused me to lose about $10,000 in pay between the two districts. I have not received a raise since moving to this district,” he continued. Additionally, BHS history teacher Angela Coppola said, “Our pay has not returned to pre-2008 levels. Bay Area living costs, on the other hand, have steadily increased since then.” These financial struggles are shared by teachers across the Bay Area, explaining the massive community support surrounding the movement.
Overall, this severe lack of funding for education manifests into larger social issues, such as wealth disparity and under representation in the job market. Moreover, in many instances, the most qualified teachers will choose to teach at private schools in exchange for better pay, which further expands the achievement gap. Public education serves as a vessel for upward mobility, but when adequate resources aren’t allocated towards it, school can perpetuate these aspects of social repression.
To combat this, educators need to be paid more and districts need to receive better funding, which is the entire point of the teachers’ protests. Their demands are not too high to meet, given that many OUSD educators aren’t even earning a living wage. A sense of hope can be found in these strikes, as teachers are fighting for better lives not just for themselves, but also all of the students they serve. Darden said, “I see the community’s support. I see the passion of my fellow educators. I see students engaged in the rallies and marches. These are things that will last forever.”
Bright Moments Bring Optimism to a Dark Year
January 11, 2019
Before we commit to a “new year, new me” mindset, make new year’s resolutions, and think about the year to come, it’s important to take a step back and reflect. 2018 was a chaotic year. It was filled with both national and international political tension, economic uncertainty, deadly natural disasters, and unethical immigration practices. While some believe 2018 should be a year to forget and bury in the past, it is necessary to recognize the good that emerged from this busy year. In both positive and negative ways, 2018 was a groundbreaking year, and it’s time to take a look back on the accomplishments that caught the United States and the world by storm.
Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students began planning a movement for gun control that soon evolved into the March for Our Lives demonstration on March 24. At Berkeley High School (BHS), students walked out and spoke on taking action, improving gun laws, and honoring the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.
Blockbuster movies, such as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, proved that having a nearly all minority cast can not only bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, but also shine as a celebration of black and Asian pride, identity, and culture. Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, and Blindspotting all had strong roots in the Bay Area; these three films included scenes that were shot in Oakland, and featured or were directed by East Bay natives. Specifically, BHS alumni Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal produced, wrote, and starred in Blindspotting, which focused on police shootings, racial profiling, and gentrification.
With over 100 million ballots sent into the polls, voter turnout for the 2018 midterms was the highest in over a century, and there were several notable outcomes. In Berkeley, the highest number of Asian American officials serving at one time were elected. In the House of Representatives, 43 women of color were elected. Among these were Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim American women elected to Congress, and Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first Native American women elected to Congress. Also elected was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to ever be in Congress. She is already shifting the tide by proposing the Green New Deal, which several BHS students showed early support for by protesting in front of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco office.
Internationally, India overturned its ban on consensual gay sex, which guided the country’s legislation for over 150 years. Hopefully, this ban will lead to legally recognizing same-sex marriage in a place where so many people are fighting for this basic human right.
Trapped in the Tham Luang Cave in Thailand, 12 boys and their soccer coach were brought to safety by divers from around the world. In order to rescue the soccer team, divers strapped oxygen masks around the boys’ faces and harnessed them to a stretcher to transfer them through the flooded passageways. The quick international response garnered the resources and expertise necessary to bring the boys to safety.
2018 was also a year filled with laughable moments that probably, in one way or another, brought a smile to everybody’s face. Society split in half, fighting over an auditory illusion: Is it Yanny or Laurel? New stars emerged like kid yodeler Mason Ramsey, a raccoon climbed a 25-story building, and Fortnite dance moves travelled off the screen into reality.
Like any other year, 2018 was a bumpy ride. We could be dispirited and wistful, but we should also recognize, celebrate, and most importantly build on the progress we’ve made. Youth engagement in issues like climate change, gun control, and representation in the government surged in 2018. Last year, we marched through streets while chanting “Enough is Enough,” ran for congressional seats, knocked on doors for grassroots campaigns, and packed the theaters to support diverse casts. As young people, we have an obligation to be civically engaged and continue the momentum we made in 2018 at a local, national, and international level in 2019.
Youth Must Lead Charge Against Climate Change
December 14, 2018
All across campus, Berkeley High School (BHS) clubs are tackling important issues from classroom harassment to nationwide gun violence. While many of these clubs don’t solve national-scale issues, they raise awareness and provide a platform for discourse around their topics. Giving students the opportunity to express their voices will harbor a generation that can make the changes we desperately need to see.
With so many activist groups and nonprofits making themselves more accessible through social media, finding local protests, movements, and organizations to join is easier than ever. An example of this is representative elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s new bill idea that would stimulate job growth in the clean energy market, aptly named the Green New Deal. The aim is to create a Special Committee to enact climate friendly policies, and several representatives are pushing for this to be on the agenda when the House meets in 2019. As of Wednesday, December 12, only 35 of the 535 members of congress have expressed their support for Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal.
For the Green New Deal to come to fruition any time soon, there needs to be massive action. Many activists have taken up the cause and youth-led demonstrations have been held across the country. One such protest took place in San Francisco earlier this week as part of the larger Sunrise Movement that has recently gained traction. Over 250 demonstrators, BHS students amongst them, took to the Federal Building in San Francisco to pressure Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to support this deal.
We may not be responsible for the creation of the severe environmental issues facing our world, but we have a duty to ameliorate them. There are many ways to do this; school clubs, volunteer work, and protesting are all effective in making change. By and large, students do participate in these activities to make their community a better place, and it’s important to recognize that. There is more that can be done though. We need to utilize the privilege and voice we have to advocate for the environment.
Several clubs such as the Wildlife Conservation Club and Water for People work hard to fight individual effects of the changing climate, but there is not a club specifically dedicated to working on solutions to the broad problems posed by climate change. The implementation of more water bottle filling stations has helped to decrease waste from single-use water bottles, but beyond that neither students nor administration seem to be making much of a coordinated effort to fix these issues.
While we alone can’t stop climate change, it is our responsibility to at least do our part not to add to it. Apart from changes to our individual lives, such as not driving to school and eating less red meat, there are several steps that we can take as a school and community. An easy thing to start with would be fixing the sinks in the bathrooms, which consistently leak or gush water, so that they don’t cause as much waste. Several other Bay Area schools have also installed solar panels on their campuses. While BHS doesn’t have a parking lot on which to put solar panels, it would be feasible to install them on several of our flat-topped buildings. The cost and installation fee of solar panels could easily be recovered by savings in energy costs.
Switching to a renewable form of energy would do wonders to minimize our carbon footprint, but another area we could improve upon is food waste and distribution. BHS should work with the city and school board to prioritize local food for its meal programs. Not only would this support local farmers and benefit our economy, it would minimize the pollution created from food transportation. Placing compost bins in every classroom is another simple measure the school could take to promote a culture of conservation.
Our generation has a responsibility to lower our own impact on the environment. Additionally, we can protest and petition the government to enact reforms targeted at companies, which are responsible for around 71 percent of global emissions, according to The Guardian.
Extracurriculars Should Fulfill Rather Than Fluff
November 30, 2018
Your high school experience is worth more than what a college admissions officer reads on the few sheets of paper that make up your application. To define yourself in 650 words or less and describe only the activities and aspects of your life that look good on paper is a reductive and tedious procedure. The college application process asks us to frame our lives in a way that doesn’t reflect our reality. Passionless internships, mindless volunteering, National Honor Society, and clubs that never actually meet consistently gain mention on applications in place of the traits that truly make us who we are.
Some people do enjoy the grind of AP Chemistry or dedicate years of their life to Youth and Government, but that doesn’t have to be you. Maybe you find joy in apprenticing at a glass blowing studio or decorating cakes. These interests could lead to careers, but more importantly, lead to a holistic lifestyle. The experience of working hard at something that engages your attention will better prepare you for whatever you do in adulthood, and can provide invaluable personal insight. By branching out, not being hindered by the expectations of colleges, you may just find something that sticks.
It can be difficult to understand how people find themselves participating in unique extracurriculars that generally aren’t seen as clear or ‘productive’ options. There’s a very simple answer; they try them. Without knowing if they will be successful they sign up or attend a meeting and discover something that may become essential to their identity. So if you find yourself paralyzed by the possibilities or unsure of what you can do to make good use of your time, try something. You may hate it, and you can quit. Nonetheless, it is likely that you will eventually stumble into something that you’re passionate about.
When approaching any area of our lives where we have room to choose — usually time outside of school — we must remember that the values of the adults who make so many choices for us are not all that matters. For those who choose to make a big time commitment to an extracurricular, don’t settle for the first table at the club fair, the one your mom wants you to join, or the one that will look the most impressive on college applications. Keep in mind that an extracurricular could become your community, support system, and a place to make the best of the complex experience that is high school. Rather than wasting precious time and energy out of a feeling of obligation, use these years to experiment and attempt to find something that makes you proud.
Unlearning the way of thinking practiced by most everyone in this country is by no means easy. The majority of systems and institutions in our country are predicated on the basis of external results being valued over the parts of us that bring us joy and pride. This is a system that has become internalized and accepted by many, and though it works for the subset of the population that has the privilege and resources to benefit from it, it is grossly simplistic.
All of this is not to say that school, college, and traditional extracurriculars are unimportant. Success in these areas can open doors, and for many, they do lead to happy lives. Grades are important, test scores are important, but only as important as you make them out to be. Don’t give up on school because it’s hard, or drop your extracurriculars because you feel stressed about time management. Just recognize that your accomplishments can differ from what the system defines them to be. Learn for the sake of learning, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of what interests you. Don’t shy away from struggle, but try to challenge yourself in the areas where you believe you can grow, as that will take you much further than any superficial pursuit.
We are lucky that BHS has a diverse selection of activities that are open to all. Every student should take advantage of this spread of extracurriculars to create their own high school experience, one that will reflect their true self, and one that goes beyond the college admissions process.
In Troubling Times We Reflect and Seek Comfort
November 9, 2018
Given that the holiday season is underway, the Editorial Board finds it important to recognize the things we are grateful for. While celebrating the people and things in our lives, the Editorial Board would also like to be conscious of the atrocities committed against the indigenous populations in 1621, and the continuing ways that our country’s misguided celebration of Thanksgiving furthers the oppression of native people.
We would like to recognize the protests occurring nationwide on the fourth Thursday of November by indigenous communities and their allies.
Thanksgiving, like many parts of this nations history, stems from systematic oppression and a deeply flawed political system. Despite this, the general concept of gratitude is important, and recognizing the aspects of our lives that bring us hope and joy amid this time of chaos is essential.
In light of the holiday season and prompted by the results of the midterm elections, we would like to mention some of the aspects of our political climate that we are grateful to have the privilege to experience.
It gives us hope that we live in an area with copious amounts of political activism.
It gives us hope that there are more female figures in politics than ever before.
It gives us hope that we have been taught the importance of a vote and the power it holds, in addition to how to spread and share that power.
It gives us hope that despite the flaws in our democracy, we have a movement to remedy them.
It gives us hope that freedom of speech is protected by the Constitution, and that we have opportunities to speak up.
It gives us hope that we are encouraged to take action and make change.
It gives us hope that we have Freedom of the Press.
It gives us hope that voter turnout increased this year.
In addition to our political freedoms:
We are grateful for bagels,
For dogs that are set as laptop screensavers, looking up at their owners,
For healthy bodies and nice weather,
For our families and bus drivers and Mac Miller.
We are grateful for Ms. Jacobs,
For teachers who care about our well-being,
For access to good public education,
For the resources Berkeley High School provides.
We are grateful for Christmas and Hanukkah,
For being able to drive at 16,
For the people who care about us,
For the phenomenal people who support us.
We are grateful for the intelligent and interesting people who challenge us to think bigger,
For the food that gets put on the table,
For the beauty of the nearby national parks,
For those who inspire us everyday to do better.
Voting Imperative to a Successful Democracy
October 26, 2018
Over the past few years, it has become increasingly apparent that our nation is divided. Both parties have fundamentally different opinions, and with either one of them governing the entire country, it’s inevitable that half of the population’s values won’t be honored. On November 6, these parties will, yet again, be pit against each other. Given the current Republican majority in both houses of Congress, the presidency of Donald Trump, and the recent appointment of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a House majority would mean a lot for Democrats. A great deal of changes could also be just around the corner if Republicans maintain their majority, such as more tax cuts for the rich and stricter voting laws. As November 6 approaches, so does the possibility of a change in leadership, which is why it’s extremely important that in this election in particular, all eligible citizens get off the couch and vote.
The current state of our country has left a lot of Americans feeling helpless. News comes from across the country nearly every day that leaves us wondering how we came to this, how people in power are getting away with terrible actions and are still backed by millions of Americans. One of the few times we have some control over what goes on in Washington is when we get to elect people to represent us in Congress.
Unfortunately, the luxury of having a say in the outcome of your country doesn’t extend to those of us still under the legal voting age. We may be young, but our minds are developed enough to recognize when something is unjust. When we’re forced to sit idly by and watch as the future of our country slips away, we don’t just feel powerless, we’re angry. Every time we criticize our government, someone reminds us to feel lucky we live in a democracy. Every time we bring up an issue or concern, we’re told to stop whining and do something about it. It’s difficult to be a young person in America and not care about politics, but when we’re excluded from the democratic process, we aren’t left with many avenues for change. We are the ones who will be affected by the current government’s legislation for the rest of our lives, yet we have no say in the matter.
Despite this, we have to remember that we will be able to vote in just a few years, while some Americans are being robbed of their voting rights as we speak.
In North Dakota, weeks away from one of the election’s most critical Senate races, voter identification requirements are being proposed again, after being deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in 2013. These requirements were blocked because they largely disenfranchise Native American voters. Now, Republicans are bringing them back in an attempt to make the election go their way.
Strict voter ID regulations also have a tremendous effect on voting rights for transgender and non-binary citizens. If somebody’s gender presentation doesn’t match what’s on their ID, they can be faced with problems that prevent them from voting. In most cases, the people who will be affected by Congressional decisions the most are the ones who get to contribute the least.
However, this could all change this year. Christine Hallquist of Vermont could be the nation’s first openly transgender governor, and Paulette Jordan of Idaho could become the first Native American governor. In the midterm elections, there are also two candidates who could be the first Native American Congresswomen. The fact that any of these candidates would be serving as firsts shows that we have a long way to go, but if they are elected, we’ll be stepping towards a more hopeful future, one in which Americans see themselves represented in their government, rather than targeted by it.
Nearly every American has something to say about politics these days, but the weight of their words is lost if they don’t even bother to vote. This coming election could have detrimental effects on our country. If you are eligible, it is your right and your civic duty to vote. Vote before it’s too late, and vote for those who aren’t able to, but most of all, vote for what you believe in, because you have the right to make your voice heard.
Students Deserve Media Literacy Curriculum
October 5, 2018
We have all had that moment: you are on Snapchat and all of a sudden you find yourself watching a video of your friends having fun together without you. Suddenly, what was once a nice night at home has turned into a rush of anxiety. You just caught a bad case of FOMO. When it comes to social media, however, anxiety and mental health issues are just the tip of the iceberg. There is the other time: when you made a political post, and abruptly you are flooded with hateful replies, not even about your opinion, but your character instead. Social media is a maze; take a wrong turn and you could easily be misinformed.
The use of social media can have devastating effects, such as feeling depressed, anxious, unconfident and so much more. If we had some way to learn how to safely navigate social media we would be more informed, happier, and healthier.
The clear solution to this is educating teenagers about the effect that social media can have in the same way that teenagers are taught sexual education. Some classes at Berkeley High School (BHS) are already trying to do this. How to see news through a subjective lens is explored in the Communications, Arts, and Sciences (CAS) senior seminar.
Politics and Power is another popular BHS class that has a unit on media literacy. Since BHS’s mission statement involves educating all students, and is meant to include social education, surely more classes on media literacy are essential to achieving a well-rounded social education. Not just book smarts, but smarts to maneuver through the world and make an impact.
The consequences of our experiences of using social media stretch beyond emotional effects. Misinformation is rampant all over the internet, but especially on social media. While being informed is absolutely vital to our democracy, social media is often not the place to look. When it comes to controversial issues, social media is littered with political takes on the issues. For the most part, we don’t know who is posting the information or if they are a reputable source, which is why it is so important that we read the news. While everyone has some bias, news written by writers who are credible in their fields remains the best way to gather accurate news.
Media literacy is especially relevant, since the president of our country regularly questions the validity of the news. When the one institution we should be turning to for objective and accurate information is attacked, we’re faced with mixed messages from all directions.
In order to be the future of our country, we have to know what is true and what isn’t. This knowledge certainly isn’t coming from our phones, which emphasizes the necessity of integrating it into our curriculum. We need to learn to develop our own opinions based off of facts, rather than simply consuming the first thing that comes up in our Instagram feeds.
As technology advances, media literacy is becoming increasingly critical. Ten-year-olds are getting cell phones, toddlers are enthralled in their iPads, and we’re approaching a time when our sole source of information is a six-inch screen.
While endless forms of social media and entertainment are only a click away, so are major news outlets.
This contributes to the unfortunate decline of print newspaper sales, but it also veers us in the direction of accessibility. The fact that anyone with a cell phone can have a comprehensive understanding of something happening thousands of miles away is what makes our generation different from any other. We have been faced with an ability to relate to the world like nobody has before, and what we choose to do with this privilege will make or break our future.
The Implications of Defining High School “Mistakes”
September 21, 2018
High school is a time of constant change. It’s also the time of our lives where we are old enough to begin to make decisions for ourselves. But we’ll often make mistakes as we venture through this process. We can only hope that we don’t make a decision so catastrophic, hateful, or wrong that it will have an effect on the rest of our lives.
Someone getting a lot of media attention is realizing he may have made a decision so bad that it is affecting him decades later. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, former White House staff secretary, is President Trump’s current nominee for the open seat on the Supreme Court. With recent allegations of sexual assault against researcher and professor Dr. Christina Blasey Ford back in high school, his nomination is in jeopardy. Kavanaugh adamantly denied all allegations, but should his past disqualify him from serving as a Supreme Court Justice?
Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty, but for the sake of discussing transgressions from our past, we’ll assume his guilt. If Kavanaugh accepted responsibility at the time of the event, then this would be an entirely different conversation. Kavanaugh never recognized his actions as wrong, has not been held accountable, and has had success after success throughout his career. Meanwhile, along with becoming a prominent member of her academic field throughout her professional career, Dr. Ford has had to overcome this trauma and its effects on her personal life.
For some Berkeley High School (BHS) students, this topic hits home. Two years ago, there was an incident where a group of students, who called themselves “Team 18,” sexually harassed classmates and “joked” about sexual assault over social media. Just last year, it was found that BHS students made a racist, ablist, and antisemetic meme account on instagram. As these students progress further in their professional careers, is it justified for them to face repercussions and be held back from positions due to mistakes that they made in high school? To call things like sexual assault and harassment and racism momentary “mistakes” is not entirely correct: many different components of a person’s life can lead them to make bad decisions. Additionally, these bad decisions aren’t always isolated incidents, they can be a testament to someone’s character.
These students, at the very least, have recognized their actions. They’ve begun to do the four things that should prevent them from being attacked later on in their careers: acknowledge, understand, make reparations, and begin to change. Acknowledgment of their actions is self-explanatory. Understanding forces them to empathize and attempt to put themselves in other people’s positions, and they can start to comprehend the extent and severity of their actions. Reparations require them to make amends with those they’ve wronged, if even possible.
Change is perhaps the most important step. Without learning anything from your past you cannot move forward and improve as a person. Showing change, putting your money where your mouth is in terms of being a better person, that’s where it counts. Whatever screwed up things you do before then aren’t erased, but without change it is impossible to progress.
It is valid to say that the things we do in high school will affect us later in life, but we can learn from Kavanaugh’s wrongdoing. In Kavanaugh’s case, it probably isn’t wise to have someone who has allegations of sexually assaulting a woman also be in the position to rule on women’s rights issues, such as abortion. But not everyone is going to be a Supreme Court nominee in their future, so making amends for your transgressions if possible. We can deal with our actions as they happen, take responsibility for them, and learn how to make our community and ourselves better.
Ban on School Traditions Smothers Spirit
May 18, 2018
When alumni realize you go to Berkeley High School (BHS), their questions are rarely about students, teachers, or the campus. Instead, questions are about Rally Day, Senior Streak, and Assassin: the quintessential traditions of the BHS experience. Rally Day is the last day of Unity Week, Senior Streak entertains us with seniors running across campus naked at the end of the year, and Assassin is a game where students compete to “kill” their targets with water-guns, timers, and salt. These traditions, while often the highlights of our high school years, are undoubtedly controversial and face valid opposition from administration.
In past years, administration has launched a “war on tradition.” After Rally Day a few years ago, campus was cleared immediately following dismissal. Last year, students playing Assassin were threatened with suspension and the gates were locked for Senior Streak, displaying tremendous effort to clamp down on certain unique traditions BHS students love and look forward to the most.
Admittedly, some traditions have overstepped the line. Dare Night, a game involving teams of students completing dares for points for 24 hours, include a range of actions, some as innocent as seniors walking the halls in their graduation gowns or walking downtown barefoot. Unfortunately, the excitement of dare night was cut short last year when a student jumped from the roof of a building and received serious injuries. Many students feel the traditions hardly ever result in harm, but this was a clear example of when the danger outweighed any benefit. Usually, the administration is like a hawk-eyed parent, sheltering students from any possible risk; even when there is virtually no risk associated with the activity. This makes it so that when the administration sends out an email ridiculing something that happened, it just becomes white noise, another message from administration trying to get us to stop having fun. In the instance of dare night, it was important for the administration to step in, but the fact that they step in so often delegitimizes their response.
In a perfect world, the traditions we hold so dearly would not be accompanied by the danger that comes with them. That begs the question, can our traditions even live on if they are somehow stripped of their danger? It seems clear that the Rally Day atmosphere, created by rowdiness and class competition, wouldn’t be the same without these things. Over the decades, Rally Day has calmed as administration and students have reached an unsteady equilibrium, but that doesn’t mean it has been dealt with in a way where both parties win. Perhaps the solution could be found if administration managed Rally Day in a way that allowed the student body to enjoy and participate in one of the most revered days of the school year instead of attempting to eliminate the aspects that make Rally Day fun.
Assassin is another example of a tradition that would not work without its risks. Without timers and strategic skipping of class, the game would lose its competitive spirit. Ironically, it seems as if administration only strictly enforces class attendance during Assassin. Throughout the year, students can skip class at their own risk, with no real punishment by administration. But when it is for a tradition like Assassin, suddenly the administration feels they must suspend students.
The administration has to realize that it is impossible to take the danger out of these traditions while keeping them special and dear to our hearts. These traditions create community and memories like little else at BHS. The school spirit and “unity” that administrators claim to encourage is diminished with the termination of tradition. When students come together for these events, they create bonds that the administration hardly ever recognizes as beneficial. In coming years, hopefully students and administration can work together to reach a long term plan that makes the administration comfortable with these traditions staying forever.
Evaluations of Teachers Ignore Student Needs
May 4, 2018
A bazooka in the classroom is unexpected under any conditions, but is especially surprising in Berkeley after prolonged discussions surrounding guns and the plague of school shootings. After history teacher Alex Angell was recorded on video demonstrating how to use a decommissioned weapon on April 10, he was placed on administrative leave. For almost two weeks various substitute teachers instructed students while administrators investigated whether any policies were violated until Angell returned on April 24.
Overwhelmingly, the response of students and parents has been to question the premise of the leave. Displaying a historic bazooka that had been a long term classroom decoration does not seem to justify a two week absence. Speculation about additional reasons for his absence, including his conduct with students, have been circulating campus, but administrators have yet to confirm or deny any suspicions.
In this situation, while it was blatantly obvious that no student was in physical danger, the same cannot be said for their psychological welfare. It is highly possible that a student was uncomfortable with a military weapon being prominently exhibited in the classroom. On the other hand, academics should also be a factor. In the weeks preceding Advanced Placement tests, the preparation offered by a substitute teacher can hardly compare to the expertise of a respected teacher. Any student who has experienced a long term stream of substitutes can attest to the fact that having a teacher removed from the classroom severely inhibits learning, which raises the question: how can we determine when it’s justified for administration to remove a teacher from a class, and when are other resolutions more appropriate?
Ultimately, whether or not the decision was warranted in this particular case, students should be the focus of teacher accountability. Despite the specifics of this circumstance, a pattern emerges in the overall topic of teacher discipline. In the experience of most Berkeley High School (BHS) students, the current systems used to evaluate teachers doesn’t address the largest concerns for students.
The most common measure of teacher success is evaluations from administrators. At BHS, this looks like a Vice Principal stopping by a class for a few minutes maybe once a year to take some notes and then promptly leave. This current framework is better than nothing, but that is just about it. Students are constantly assessed for their knowledge, understanding, and ability, yet the teachers administering those evaluations are rarely reviewed. As a result, students are left frustrated as teachers who are harmful to their learning – whether that be a result of inappropriate conduct or poor teaching methodology – remain in spite of the school’s efforts to address problem teachers.
If the aim of the administration in performing evaluations is the determine the effectiveness of teachers in educating students, they should be looking to students to provide additional evaluations. This would give those who are most influenced by the competency of a teacher the opportunity to call attention to problems in their educational experience. Not only would the content of classes improve, but the entire environment would be held to a higher standard as teachers would be forced to foster a productive space for learning and prioritize the needs of students. The daily events that offend students and impede their education would no longer go unnoticed. Student evaluations are the only way to differentiate between teachers who make an isolated error, and those who show consistent negligence in their role. They are the only way to ensure that strong teachers are able to remain in front of the class.
If it is truly the school’s mission to “educate and inspire all students in a safe, respectful and supportive environment,” then students ought to be assured the primary facilitators of that school environment, teachers, are held to some semblance of a standard.
Online Privacy Demands our Attention
April 20, 2018
After Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress last week, many questions were raised about the future of both his company, Facebook, and more broadly, privacy in American society. However, what became startlingly obvious was the lawmakers’ complete lack of understanding of the social media giant’s basic structure. In their privileged opportunity to question the person ultimately responsible for the leak of the personal data of 87 million Americans to the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, they first had to surpass the hurdle of determining whether Twitter is “the same as what you do.”
There are more intelligent conversations happening in ninth grade social living courses than in the United States Senate on the topic of social media. Today’s American youth are well aware of the dangers of a public profile, have expertise with the repercussions of what they choose to share, and can explain the difference between Snapchat and Instagram. When confronted with a debate on the ongoing definition of privacy in a legal, moral, and practical sense, young adults can respond with poise, competence, and personal experience.
As this next generation becomes the voting populace for the country, it is imperative that the discussion includes voices educated on the subject and capable of enacting restrictions that will prevent election interference.
The current system of allowing social media companies to proceed without restrictions is discernibly not the answer, yet many of the proposed regulations miss the point. For example, a new European Union privacy law will require that opt-in is standard for personal data collection. While potentially beneficial in providing users more control over their privacy setting, there is regrettable neglect of the need to question why Facebook retains that data.
Studies have demonstrated that “like” data, which is public information, can reliably predict gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, personality type, and critically, political party membership. Facebook provides any business that uses its platform with access to this data, essentially profiting off each user’s likeness. It is frightening that this data is in the hands of an unregulated business. While the precise impact on the 2016 election has yet to be determined, targeted advertisements using Facebook data undoubtedly influenced voters, and considering the size of the leak, altered the election. Responsible legislation would confront that aspect of the conversation.
It is clear that this data is powerful, especially in the wrong hands. This is a truth with which our generation has grown up. While older age groups are baffled by the amount of personal data available, younger people have grown up in the tech revolution and are well accustomed to its intricacies. This generation understands that Facebook will claim that the data is necessary to personalize the online experience, to communicate a public profile, and form the basis of a person’s interaction with the media.
The younger generation is also able to question whether this system of public information is even desirable. Unfortunately, that is not the age group tasked with handling this societal shift.
We are now at a point where failing to address privacy issues is no longer acceptable Facebook should be regulated in its use of the data with legislation that prevents the company from deserting the person behind the keyboard. It is clear that meaningful change must be enacted, and it is even more clear who ought to spearhead that effort.
We Walkout for More than Student Safety
March 16, 2018
We, as a nation, share a common goal of making schools safe. While feeling secure in the classroom is a significant component, so is the safety of students beyond the confines of school walls. It is imperative to recognize that a sense of security means something different to each student. Student leaders from across Berkeley High School (BHS) demonstrated that fact magnificently in their speeches at the national walkout that took place on March 14. Students, on behalf of specific clubs or student organizations, described the multifaceted and intersectional nature of gun violence and offered a unifying path to enact change.
All over the country, schools practiced lockdown drills to educate students not on coursework, but that throwing textbooks is an ideal solution to combat an armed intruder. Textbooks intended to teach students are thrown away as carelessly as the lives of students each day gun reform is not implemented. It is disturbing that students are being taught to use their school materials as a way to protect themselves from the threat of a shooter.
The dispute over the best way to protect schools from gun violence has become a national issue over the past weeks as result from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14. As students have become hyper aware of the dangers they face simply by attending school, we at BHS are forced to look inward on the safety precautions necessary to protect the student body.
BHS administrators have taken small steps to bring greater safety to our campus by keeping security guards at entrances and requiring students to show student identification if they enter campus after classes have begun. While these precautions may be beneficial, a greater change must occur for students to be able to truly feel comfortable in school. Security guards are not necessarily prepared to stop an armed intruder, especially after the budget cuts that will further decrease their presence.
The issue is that the most that any action taken by our school administration will accomplish is providing a false sense of security because it does nothing for the issue of gun reform, yet their attempts only contribute to a constant fear among students. School administrations can attempt to make schools safer for their students. However, stricter gun control legislation is the only approach that can truly suffice in ending this epidemic; other precautions are superfluous.
Common sense gun laws serve to protect more than the students who have become the focus of the gun debate. While the walkout was, on a national scale, used to drive gun control forward as it centers around school shootings and our experience as students, the leaders of our campus reminded us of the multitude of broader issues at stake: gun violence disproportionately harms the Latinx community, African Americans, women in domestically violent relationships, members of the LGBT+ community, people with disabilities, and people with mental health issues. It was during these speeches that a sense of perspective settled on the crowd and, as is typical of BHS’s campus dialogue, we collectively stepped away from our conversation around lockdowns and broadened the conversation to a national scale.
The school shooting in Florida has been a catalyst for the change that has been necessary for a long time. Gun violence affects many more people in United States than just the students in schools who walked out on March 14. There are approximately 13,000 gun homicides a year in the United States, and twice as many incidents of non-fatal shootings. How can our country lessen the devastation caused by gun violence? Common sense gun laws.
Enough is enough. Everyone must contribute to making our country a safe environment to live and learn in. It is time that this nation starts prioritizing the protection of its people over its firearms. Now it is up to lawmakers to consider to our thoughts and prayers and implement real change.
We Must Not Debase Student Activism
March 2, 2018
With eight school shootings in 2018, and more than four hundred injuries in over two hundred school shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012, the American public has become nearly desensitized to these horrors. However, this time the survivors are speaking up, and people are actually listening. Peers of the seventeen students and staff members who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14 have taken strides to impact the nation’s gun control policies. Our deepest condolences are with the victims of this tragedy and their families. Our hearts go out to the students of Stoneman Douglas whose experience hits close to home — especially in light of the shooting threat that Berkeley High School administrators were notified of on March 1. The students’ unremitting advocacy in wake of such trauma has galvanized our own response.
In response to the shooting, students from Parkland have spoken up to demand that their elected officials act to prevent such a tragedy from reoccurring. Despite their remarkable strength, courage, and determination, mainstream media has been nothing short of condescending to these teenagers. One Washington Post article credited the students’ success to “… their very youth, and the all-digital world of social media — the water they’ve always swum in — that makes it possible,” going on to refer to teenagers as the “Snapchat generation.” The insistence across news platforms that youth’s ability to be agents of change should be solely credited to technology ignores the research, intelligence, and hard work of the students.
Perhaps, this is because the concept of high schoolers engaging in their civic duty is counter to the dominating narrative of “apathetic youth.” The New York Times went as far as to say that the activists are “precocious.” One word in one headline can gloss over decades of teenage agency, forgetting the determination of the Little Rock Nine and the grassroots organization of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement to name a few precedents for today’s events.
The more extreme practice of suggesting that Parkland survivors are “crisis actors,” or paid to distribute political propaganda made its rounds on the internet. These outlandish theories were easily debunked, but their mere existence reminds us that some will go to far lengths to discredit the arguments of politically aware teens.
The Berkeley community is by no means immune to this phenomenon, from bitter Berkeleyside readers who comment that Berkeley High students only walk out of class to skip tests to well-meaning administrators who insist that students should refrain from sharing their experiences of sexual harassment with the public, as it causes discomfort. Our age does not prevent us from engaging with the news and our values to make informed choices. In a school that prides itself on awareness and the myriad of social justice organizations on campus, we are in a prime position to shift culture towards recognizing the capabilities of youth.
Not everyone has the resources to devote themselves to activism full-time, but everyone has the power to support young people in our community when we do speak out. Support us by listening. Treat us and our peers as the global citizens that we are, disagree or agree freely, but do not shut us down simply because we are still in high school. Broadly speaking, many teenagers are sick of systems of power that do not serve the people they are by their nature supposed to protect, and we feel a sense of duty to leave the world more just than when we inherited it.
Our community and our nation must reckon with the fact that today’s teens are educated, intelligent, and motivated. We know the power of words and emotional appeals. When we step into the public spotlight to demand change, it is with intention and is reflective of careful planning. Do not underestimate us.
Black History Holds the Key to Tolerance
February 9, 2018
As Jacket read over the many submissions received for the Black History Month issue, the Editorial Board began to consider what black history means in our education system. Education is universally regarded as a means of achieving and promoting equity, and ethnic studies has been repeatedly demonstrated to improve academic achievement across the board.
At Berkeley High School, black history may be the subject of an entire course, incorporated into the curriculum all year, resigned to a single month, or ignored. A common sentiment among students in all classes is that the current focus on black history is lacking. Beyond the Eurocentric nature of many history classes, English classes rarely teach works of black authors, science is guided by the laws of white men, and for many of us, and for many of us it took watching a movie to learn that of one of the most spectacular applications of calculus was by an African American woman.
There is no reason to confine black history, and education about it, to only a single month every year. When teachers allot time to learning specifically about black history, the lessons most often consist of the extraordinary efforts of Martin Luther King Jr.. The African American struggle against oppression began more than three centuries before Dr. King. The extensive impact that black people have had in the United States throughout history cannot be given justice from a few class periods once a year.
The deep roots of black history must be integrated with the “traditional” curriculum of our history classes. There are numerous black heroes and influencers from throughout history who have never gotten the recognition they deserve. It is not merely a race issue, but a socioeconomic, gendered, religious, and colorist one. Every aspect of how black history is taught significantly influences the contemporary perception of black people, and has the potential to reinforce the racist stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination.
There is a specific month dedicated to black history because it took nearly two hundred years for African Americans to be legally guaranteed the purported “unalienable” rights of Thomas Jefferson. This month also serves to remind everyone that equality has not been achieved, that the efforts are ongoing, and that history is being written. Ultimately, black history is our history. It should be taught that way. Neglecting to teach the vast contributions of black people in our country threatens to define and sustain our national intolerance in ignorance.
January 19, 2018
Women’s March Must Improve
Whereas January 20, 2017 marked the infamous inauguration of Donald Trump, in 2018 that day will commemorate the second annual Women’s March. Along with sister marches all across the world, the protest march in Washington DC champions the ongoing fight toward gender equality.
The monumental number of people who participated in marches around the world created a resounding impact. Although many felt empowered by the sizable participation, the marches, and more broadly the feminist movement, have been critiqued for being dominated mainly by “white feminists.” While the 2017 Women’s March on Washington was the most diverse demonstration for women’s rights in history, it was denounced for disproportionately supporting cisgendered, able-bodied, and affluent white women.
The progression towards an intersectional feminism that promotes equality of all people, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, or ability, has been widespread, especially after the critique of the Women’s March. The 2018 march organizers are attempting to address the issues regarding the lack of intersectionality of the inaugural march in order to encourage inclusivity in the anniversary demonstration.
Often, for white women, being a woman is one of the most occupying parts of their identity and ultimately determines the adversities that apply to them, whereas for women of color, transgender women, and disabled women, other aspects of their identity define their character more and shape the adversities they must overcome. White women throughout history have, often obviously, disregarded the adversities that less privileged women endure.
The tension between white women and women of color has been taut for centuries. White women have consistently ignored the struggles of women of color, and benefitted from the lack of opportunities available to these women. The suffrage movement of the early 1900s, during which white suffragists excluded black women from the movement, exemplifies this, as does the original name of the Women’s March, “Million Women March,” which was appropriated from a historical milestone in African American history. That is why many intersectional feminists have advocated a new word for feminism, “womanism,” that is more inclusive than the current standard of feminism.
Feminism, and its ambitious principles of unconditional equity between all people, is finally being realized with intersectional feminism. That’s an ideal we can all march for.
December 15, 2017
Here’s to Hoping 2018 Will be Better
2017 was a year defined by struggle. Initially it was the struggle to see the office of the President sullied by the inauguration of a bigoted, unqualified “businessman.” There was rapid resistance to this event, beginning with the Women’s Marches across the nation the very next day.
There was a boisterous voice of defiance to the policies, lies, and disrespect originating in the White House. This continued on the occasions when many of us were certain an impeachment was undoubtable. Even when we were left confused, bewildered, and looking for an explanation where there was none, the opposition nevertheless persisted.
This hatred came to Berkeley’s Sather Gate when white supremacists and other assorted conservative provocateurs decided to use our front yard as their platform for divisive politics. Their protests shook the core of our city, but Berkeley residents were determined to show that Berkeley is united against hate.
After the announcement of an executive order to enact the Muslim Ban, protesters went to airports to stand against the blatant Islamophobic legislation. The ban was then overruled multiple times in various appellate courts, preventing this extremely Islamophobic law from being enacted.
The nation was left reeling from devastating natural disasters, including the hurricanes striking the gulf coast and fires that raged across California. Despite the catastrophic effects, aid and relief efforts were immediate as communities banded together to aid victims and help rebuild.
National issues came to the front door of Berkeley High’s campus. When DACA was repealed, Berkeley High students organized a walkout and display of unity to demonstrate our cohesive resolve. Berkeley has reaffirmed its sanctuary city status, while California became a sanctuary state through Senate Bill 54.
Following the discovery of a racist, anti-Semitic, and ableist Instagram account, students responded valiantly to denounce these beliefs at our school and to advocate for more to be done to address systemic disrespect and discrimination.
Although the challenges of 2017 can be seen with a silver lining, it was also home to events that have yielded progression in our period of turmoil. Women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to drive, Australia and Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage, and allies took Mosel from the grasps of ISIS.
Across the nation, people have responded with unfettered determination to the publicity of sexual harassment allegations. The #MeToo movement came to the forefront of national conversations, revisiting the public perception of sexual harassment in all forms. What started with the condemnation of Harvey Weinstein led to empowerment of harassment victims to speak out against prominent figures across many industries, leading to their removal from positions of power.
This retribution unveiled the pedophile who was disguised as a Senate candidate in Alabama and empowered the deeply Republican state to elect a Democrat to that position for the first time in twenty years.
The election of Doug Jones was not an isolated event. The elections of November saw many notable firsts, including the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature in Virginia.
The Golden State Warriors, after one of the most heartbreaking defeats in the 2016 NBA finals, rebounded to win their second championship in three years in 2017.
The Bay Area is thriving in the face of intense scrutiny, vicious attacks, and a despondent national situation. Berkeley is at the forefront of that success. Entering a new year, we must remain cognizant of the global and national change that will persist as a test of our resilience. As the next generation of leaders and as Berkeley High students, we have a responsibility to pursue change and protect justice in 2018.
December 1, 2017
Youth Must Engage With Accessible News
Countless hours are spent scrolling through Instagram feeds, looking into other people’s lives, obsessing over the way others present themselves to the world, yet so many teens feel unable to spend a few minutes of their day reading a news article or listening to a podcast.
With news being so much more accessible than it has ever been before, it is surprising how few teens engage with current events.
In order to encourage an interest in current events, youth need reliable and easy-to-read news. In 2015, Snapchat launched “Discover” which gave its users access to different media sites’ stories, yet what passes for news on this platform is a far cry from the investigative reporting, comprehensive analysis, and nuanced opinions that youth really need. In the past week, numerous articles have been published covering the Kardashians and their outfits on the Discover component of Snapchat, but only one regarding the political divide plaguing America.
The stories are meant to target the interests of young people, but knowing that Kim Kardashian wore eight thousand-dollar shoes yesterday is not expanding our world view in any way.
Beyond just reading the news, youth involvement in journalism is vital for a stable and well-educated community. When young people are involved in the process of composing the local stories, the news becomes more accessible to a younger audience.
Laboring through a thousand word article in the Washington Post that is convoluted and unrelated to our daily lives can feel like a waste of time. The representative journalism of student-run newspapers delivers original content that engages both its writers and audience.
Involvement of youth in the process of this journalism shows us how news is produced, and what it means to be a good journalist, allowing us to better analyze the media we take in.
Knowing how journalism functions encourages readers to collect a range of sources, yielding less biased opinions and discouraging parochial views on the world. While reading news from the same types of sources unnecessarily limits your access to information, reading multiple stories on the same topic from different sources encourages individuality, new perspectives, and results in a more thorough understanding.
It is easy to get stuck in our own bubbles. Our worlds revolve around busy lives, and it is often difficult to connect with events in distant places that do not seem to impact us. It would be easier to turn a blind eye, but all the depressing and disturbing things that are occurring in the world are real.
There is no reason that we should allow only the same educated adults to be aware of current events, reinforcing the power structures that granted them their privilege. Copious amounts of news stories, podcasts, and educational videos that aim to inform people of the occurrences around the world are just a click of a button away. With such accessibility, there is no excuse for not actively consuming news – and responding.
Engaging in current events is surprisingly easy. There are numerous newsletters with free subscriptions that provide unfettered access to straightforward information of global relevance.
Wake Up To Politics is a newsletter written by a 15-year-old from Missouri that offers a comprehensible, non-partisan briefing on news regarding United States politics. Apple offers a free podcast app where it is possible to find tons of captivating podcasts dedicated to international current events. The daily podcast produced by The New York Times lends engrossing thirty minute stories about a range of relevant topics.
Media offers us students the rare opportunity to take our education into our own hands. Read the news. Get inspired. Engage with Change
November 2, 2017
Rally Day Unites Amid Chaos
Known to administration as “Red and Gold Day” and to students as “Rally Day,” the Friday of Spirit Week always seems to cause a ruckus. On this one special day out of the year, the entire school enters a raving red and gold frenzy. The noise as grades collectively shout their graduating year has the power to drown out other divisions in the student body.
There is love in our hatred. From an outside perspective, this practice is dividing us even further from each other, but to most students, Rally Day brings us together in fervent pride of our differing grades. Rally day is the one day a year that we stand with people who we have never seen outside of Berkeley High School’s (BHS) hallways and join together in trying to out-scream our rivaling grades.
There is a natural and permanent hierarchy of grades in high school that no amount of Unity Assemblies will remedy. Taking away Rally Day means rescinding the chance to unite Berkeley High students across small schools, race, and socioeconomic status. Hating people because of their graduating class is arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, and we all understand that. And while the tradition of celebrating the senior class creates superficial division, it is one of the only times when the senior class is able to come together to take pride in surviving the strenuous past four years.
The fun spirit behind the celebration of Rally Day is sadly taken over by the frustration of having students use Rally Day as an excuse to drink to the point of belligerence, throw bottles at people, and get into physical fights in the streets. This kind of dangerous and inappropriate behavior is agreed to be intolerable between administration and most of the student body. Most students don’t like to be thrown into the mix of that behavior either and find it infuriating that our right to have Rally Day is regularly threatened due to the poor decisions of a few students.
While things are not perfect now, they were exponentially worse only a decade ago, when students threw watermelons on Freshman Friday, set fire to school buildings, and got drunk at school on any given day. The culture surrounding Rally Day has shifted in the right direction, and if it continues on this positive trend as it has in past years, there is the possibility that the student body will naturally neglect the negative components of Rally Day.
Whether or not the BHS administration endorses Rally Day, students will proceed to participate in their infamous behavior. The administration can decide to either embrace Rally Day, or suppress the tradition, with the likelihood of even worse repercussions from the student body as the desire to rally will inevitably endure.
October 20, 2017
NFL Protests Are Dignified, not Unpatriotic
Last year, the Berkeley High School (BHS) football team knelt and locked arms during the national anthem to protest black oppression and ongoing police brutality. After three players raised their fists in a previous game, a discussion was sparked among the team, which eventually decided to display a united protest.
Current BHS senior Isaiah Mays said last year, “We’re Berkeley High, we don’t care about the scrutiny we are going to get, we don’t care about what other people say about it. We want to care about what we think the country should represent.” The football team was following in the footsteps of Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who first sat, and later knelt, during the national anthem.
Kaepernick’s actions startled the National Football League (NFL), with many interpreting his actions as disrespectful to veterans, the military, and the flag. While players throughout the league imitated the protest, many others in the sport admonished the gesture. Although the protests have continued in 2017, Kaepernick has not participated because no team signed him as a free agent. Nevertheless, he has followed through on his commitment to donate one million dollars to organizations working in oppressed communities, detailing the amount and the purpose of every dollar on his website.
With this knowledge, it should come as no surprise that President Donald Trump has lambasted Kaepernick’s protest in Twitter tirades.
Trump puppeteered Vice President Mike Pence into staging a counter-protest by walking out of an Indianapolis Colts game after players knelt for the national anthem. Trump’s immature diatribe proceeded as he focused attention on the NFL in numerous tweets.
The animosity towards Bay Area sports reached its pinnacle when, in another Twitter tirade, Trump withdrew the customary invitation to the White House of the Golden State Warriors. It appears that this resentment is not reserved for the Bay Area either, as it is no coincidence that Trump has failed to express any sentiment of remorse for the victims of the California fires.
Truly, more than a political or athletic issue, this is a racial one. Detractors of the national anthem protests find no fault in free speech when it allows them to spew hate speech, yet when it is employed by a black athlete choosing to abstain from standing for the national anthem it becomes morally reprehensible.
Kaepernick and BHS student-athletes alike have eloquently stated their cause, their position, and their reasonings. The national anthem is the symbol for the American ideals of rights, freedom, and opportunity. These athletes are entitled to protest to bring attention to the fact that these values are not offered without discrimination to all Americans.
Critics can come nowhere within the vicinity of doing the same, even when they distort the intent of the protesters to fit their narrative.
There are countless ways to demonstrate that kneeling for the national anthem is not unpatriotic, but only one matters. That is the one unanimously repeated by athletes: they are protesting police brutality.
If someone, anyone, is legitimately striving to improve the country and the conditions for the citizens living in it, they should be applauded, and any label of unpatriotic should be disregarded.
NFL ratings have declined because America is racist. Kaepernick is viewed as toxic to NFL franchises because America is racist. NFL owners and general managers are resistant to accept Kaepernick onto their team because they are racist.
With that platform, protesting is the only ideal option.
October 6, 2017
By Daniel Martinez-Krams
Why do we seek retribution as a solution? Why do we continuously condemn individuals as if that will absolve the community of pain and hurt? Why do we pretend that this is an isolated incident? Why do we consistently fail to realize that this problem is universal, systemic, and institutional?
It would be wonderful if this space could be used to applaud the incredible resiliency, determination, and efforts of the Chicanx Latinx United Voices in the face of immense hatred. However, now, and all too often, it feels that our time, effort, and resources are being redirected — misdirected — to reactionary discipline, leaving us no ability to proactively educate, celebrate, or honor heritage. We as a Berkeley High School community have to stop excusing perpetrators of racism by claiming that they are not racist. We cannot excuse bigotry by attempting to explain that they “really are good people.” When we vindicate the latest offenders by asserting that they did not truly believe what they said, that they were passive bystanders, or that it was a joke, we are excusing racism.
The argument that any one of those individuals is not a racist, an ableist, or an anti-Semite is wholly invalid. Any individual who could tolerate the sight of such egregious writing without being abhorred, disgusted, and revolted, retains explicit biases.
Our community wants to find a culprit. This allows us to pretend that the issue is atypical. We want to punish our culprit. Suspension, expulsion, social ostracization. We want to discuss, but only if that discussion lasts less than a week and does not take away from class time. None of that addresses the problem. Racism, bigotry, hatred, injustice, and discrimination will not be expunged if we contextualize the problem as a singular issue. We must denounce those who to take action with the sole objective of making themselves feel better. We must unify to confront hatred at its source, we must be absolutely intolerant of intolerance, and we must never excuse bigotry — whether it is thrown in our face or swept under the rug. Instead of focusing on individuals, we should be asking how we have failed as peers, as teachers, and as a community.
Our conviction must be evident in every facet of our lives. Berkeley is well aware that these actions do not represent our community. Now we must work to ensure that they cannot persist in our community.
September 22, 2017
Everyday, students suffer from sexual harassment. There is no reason that students should be forced to endure additional trauma when the administration becomes involved. However, that is often the situation in which Berkeley High School (BHS) students find themselves after reporting harassment.
For too long, complaints of sexual harassment at BHS have not been taken seriously. Reported cases of harassment have often been handled without the degree of respect necessary.
No matter how much effort the administration puts towards making the process of reporting harassment easier, the history of mishandled cases still stands and will continue to deter students from coming forward with their experiences. This has proven to create an additional barrier to the already incredibly intimidating task of reporting experiences of sexual harassment.
Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) needs to improve upon sexual harassment policies that guide the handling of reports of sexual harassment that occur on and off campus.
The administration is clearly making an effort to better the conditions for students at BHS through the numerous sexual harassment assemblies held over the last few years. The assemblies focused on educating students about what sexual harassment actually is; however, they do not address or change the way real life cases of harassment are handled. Even though they have tried to mend a part of the issue, administrators continue to be unclear about what students should do if they experience or witness sexual harassment or if they witness it.
The BHS administration needs to be completely transparent with students about how they will handle reports of sexual harassment. There needs to be an accessible way for students to report sexual harassment and it has to be clear to students what steps the administration will take after the harassment is reported.
It is precisely the administration’s objective to foster a safe environment for all students. This includes one in which sexual harassment is universally regarded as inexcusable and students are comfortable to reveal experiences of assault without fear of backlash. Student groups have done more than enough to advocate for their righteous cause. It is now up to the administration and the district to step up to the plate to finally confront the systemic issues perpetuating sexual harassment at our school.