Congratulations! It’s the second semester of senior year. You’ve been accepted to college, high school is ending soon, prom and parties and picnics are coming up, and, if you believe your parents, this is the high point of your hopefully-long life (“What do you mean ‘that’s kind of depressing’?”). Your future is finally secure, and things are winding down academically. You can breathe easy.
Except there’s also student loans, financial aid, scholarship applications, housing assignments, orientation, class scheduling… it’s a cliché, but in some ways, the hard part has only just begun.
The electronic age has made many things easier. Though you might still have to forward some paperwork to your university, most of it is done online. However – and maybe it’s just me – when I’m required to do important things on the Internet (i.e. activities that don’t involve scrolling through blogs about baby animals in human clothes), I become disorganized, confused, and generally incompetent. This is bad news for my future self, who will have to deal with all the life-altering decisions I’ve made by clicking – or not clicking – a button.
I’m willing to admit that this is often my own fault. As previously stated, I’m easily distracted, and I tend to shut down when I feel overwhelmed by pressure. But sometimes things get bungled up over the Internet. Last fall, I signed up for a program called QuestBridge, which connects low-income students to high-ranking private schools. I went through the process and did not qualify for a full ride, but QuestBridge is nice enough to still let the plebeian failures like me apply to their partner schools. I chose Northwestern University and Wellesley College.
Through QuestBridge, I forwarded my essays and short answers to both schools, then filled out their specific essay portions and financial aid requirements on the Common App and FAFSA, respectively. A couple months later I received a rejection letter from Northwestern. A few days after that, I found out that Wellesley was notifying people of their application status – but not me. I sent them an inquiry and was told that they’d never even considered my application. They’d gotten my essays, my short answers, my Common App and FAFSA information, just like Northwestern… but because I didn’t have the intuitive sensibility to email Wellesley and personally tell them “hey, I want to go to your school”, my application sat unread in a slush pile for three months.
Even now, there seems to be a virtual disconnect between me and Michigan State, where I’m enrolled for the fall semester – though for a couple weeks after I submitted my housing application, my move-in date was mistakenly listed as January, 2013. And as a prospective student of Michigan State’s James Madison College, I was encouraged to go online and check my spot on their waitlist. The website didn’t recognize my MSU Net ID, though. I called the IT department, which told me to delete my browser history on Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox, and then try again. When that didn’t work, they found out that I wouldn’t be able to view the waitlist until I signed up for classes in June.
My point with this isn’t to complain or be negative about college. On the contrary – these things worked themselves out, so I’m not bitter, and I’m still in love with Michigan State. But I’ve learned that even – or especially? – at a time when such important life decisions are conducted over the Internet, it’s imperative that you stay focused and follow through. Check your emails. Then double check them. Recognize that people in charge sometimes have communication breakdowns and do things that make no sense, but if you’re determined, don’t let that red tape stop you from doing what you need or want to do. This is the beginning of the rest of your adult life. Try not to let the mistakes of others define it.
When people typically think of a marching band, they think of a bunch of musicians dressed in quirky outfits parading on the football fields during halftime at each football game. Some see the marching band as a form of entertainment; others see the band as a group of dedicated musical performers. There are those who take the role of being in a marching band very seriously, and just recently discoveries have been made that there are some participants whose hearts are not fully invested in the sport, due to prior complications and “forced agreements.”
American sportswriter and novelist Frank Deford released a commentary on NPR on March 13 called “School Bands Should Not Be Entertainment Adjunct For Sports”, where he addressed the issue of high school students being forced to join marching band against their own will. He brought up the case of Lisa Chismire, the parent of a high school band student in Pennsylvania. Being a former lawyer, Chismire was irked when her student had to join the marching band at the school in order to be a part of the rest of the musical programs. Chismire found it to be appalling, and she took the issue to court. As anyone would have guessed because of her prior experience in law, she won the debate and got the school to change its policy on students who are interested in becoming a part of the music program, whether it be marching band or a concert band of sorts.
Even though that Pennsylvania high school changed its policy, a good portion of high schools across the nation still have that marching band requirement tied to their band programs. Being a participant in the marching band program here at HHS, I’ve come to find out that a good majority of the high schools here in Michigan require their musicians to participate in marching band as well as another music course in order to do either of them. Howell is not one of those schools. Here at HHS being in the marching band is an opportunity that students can choose to take. Students in the band program can take just marching band, just a concert band, or both. Sometimes being in the marching band can interfere with work, sports, and personal schedules; other times it can just be out of one’s element.
The HHS marching band has 125 members this year, making it one of the largest the school has ever had. Being in marching band involves attending the summer band camp in August, participating in the home football games, taking part in local parades, and playing at the occasional pep assembly. Ask any of us “bandos” and we’ll tell you that joining marching band voluntarily has been one of the best decisions ever made. With the choice of joining comes discipline, pride, a sense of unity, and a feeling of belonging, which only come from dedicated students participating.
Senior Julia Viel looks back on her experiences with the HHS marching fondly, saying, “I’m so happy I ended up joining the marching band. I never knew what I was missing out on until I actually attended a rehearsal. I love the dedication and the discipline, and I’m definitely going to miss it!”
On the flipside, at some other schools, the students involved in the marching band sometimes feel as if the requirement is too much. Brian Ferro, a high school senior from Forest Hills Eastern in Grand Rapids, has been a part of his high school’s marching band for four years now.
“I have been playing the saxophone since middle school, and I obviously wanted to keep the tradition going in high school, so I signed up for high school band and later found out I was automatically put into the marching band program as well and it kind of threw me for a loop. It’s tough trying to maintain my grades, a job, jazz band, concert band, and marching band, but eventually I grew to love it anyway. Sometimes though, I wish I still had a choice.” Ferro explained.
In response to the Deford commentary as well as Chismire’s actions taken against the school, some parents and dedicated marching band members have expressed their concerns against having marching band become a choice rather than a requirement. Since many schools in the country have very serious competing marching bands, some schools find it completely necessary to have marching band become a requirement in order to acquire enough members to compete. HHS marching band is not competitive, which is another reason why marching band is a choice; we don’t take it to that level.
An anonymous person replied to the online commentary disagreeing with Chismire saying, “The majority of our trips are to marching competitions, which have nothing to do with football (other than the “other” activity that happens before and after our show Friday night). There are few other activities where hundreds of students can move as one body. A concert band simply can’t accommodate 300 students like a marching band can. A sports team CERTAINLY can’t. This experience is valuable to a student.”
All in all, from my personal experiences as well as the majority of the marching band members, we believe that participating in marching band should remain a choice. We see it as a sport with a team involved, just as any other athlete would. As we all know and come to find out, if a team member’s heart isn’t fully invested in the sport, then why are they there in the first place? A team works best when every member wants to be there and wants to take action. By making marching band a choice instead of a requirement, it would allow more success to be made and the performances would be better because the participants would actually want to partake in the wondrous thing that is marching band.
I don’t know what it is about sports and gender norms, but it sure looks like society needs a wake-up call. Traditionally, men are known to “have more strength and ability” compared to women. With the progression of each sport being as rapid as it is, this statement is anything but true. The basis of women’s sports are known to be “less intense” or “not exciting”.
Whether the age is six or twenty-six, society has been teaching children to think the men always have the upper hand. In high school sports, the stands will be packed to the maximum for a boys football game, but at a girls soccer game, the silence is almost unbearable. Society has such a warped view on athletics, and sometimes even the greatest talent is overlooked. Although this has been a major struggle over the years, women have come a long way in making a name for themselves as athletes.
Take the U.S.A National Women’s Soccer program for example: Current MVP, Abby Wambach, an attacker for the team, is currently withholding 152 career goals. Whereas, current MVP Landon Donovan, for the men’s side of things, only holds 49 career goals. The point being made here is pretty apparent in my opinion.
Kelly Clark, a rider who is currently dominating the women’s side of snowboarding, being a five time, half pipe X games gold medalist, has been able to stay afloat and compete with snowboarding superstar Sean White, who is an eight time, half pipe gold medalist and is being considered the best snowboarder on the planet.
Am I saying that girls are better than guys at sports? No, that would be supporting the gender norms that are trying to be steered away from. Talent isn’t based on gender – it is based on physical capability and determination.
This problem isn’t just among professional sports either. It is very much a problem from when an athlete steps on the field, court or mound for the very first time. Each athlete could be a ‘somebody’ someday but support is needed to get there. High school is a crucial time for sport progression and college scholarships. The next small game could mean the next big step in a high school girl’s sporting career. So provide hope for young female athletes around your school and even your city. Take a stand and support their teams.
Women athletes like Wambach and Clark, are continuing to give younger girls hope every day. Hope to stay passionate and stick with the sport. Hope to say, “That could be me one day.” Do you think that 30 years ago, little girls looked at a sporting event on TV and said, “I’m going pro?” Probably not. Wambach and Clark along with hundreds of other female athletes have made that doubt slowly disappear.
Even though there will always be the traditional football watching, chicken wing eating, super bowl fanatic Dad telling his son that girls can’t play sports, there can always be a new generation stepping up to the plate and helping women’s sports get the appreciation and attention that their talent deserves.
Despite the English teachers’ best efforts, punctuation is becoming more of a burden than a necessity. It’s uncommon to see anything handwritten, let alone punctuated correctly. It is to be feared that, sooner than later, commas and periods will be something studied in history class.
The most infuriating mistake made by the average human being is one which makes grammarians cringe; the miss-use of quotation marks. Somehow, it has come to be believed that quotes can be used for emphasis. Unfortunately, this is not so; quotation marks are used, in a social setting, to indicate sarcasm. For example, a man selling eggs on the side of the road wants to ensure his customers that they’re farm fresh, so his sign reads “FRESH” BROWN EGGS. This might leave his more educated customers wondering if they’ve been laid in the last month. This same farmer may also try to distinguish what he’s selling, and instead his sign will read FRESH BROWN “EGGS.” Now customers wonder if those brown things are, in fact, eggs.
The apostrophe is simply being eliminated to save time. The internet has had a hand in this, between social media’s demand for instantaneous responses and its lack of demand for grammatical correctness. The apostrophe has fallen to the wayside, and that means doom for our language. Suddenly “I bought Tom’s apples and oranges” becomes “I bought Toms, apples, and oranges.” The obvious problem here is that the buying and selling of people is (and has been for quite some time) illegal.
The most important form of punctuation, if any sort of consistent meaning is to be restored in English, which needs rescued from the trash heap is the comma. The classic example: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” is an entirely different sentence than “Let’s eat Grandma!” While the second sentence makes for a much more interesting conversation, the fate of grandmas everywhere rests in the hands of the correct use of punctuation.
The reason punctuation no longer matters is technology. A text or an email has to be sent fast, and speed doesn’t get along with grammar. And since texts and emails are the main form of correspondence these days, it seems as though it’d be okay to let commas and apostrophes fall behind the times. Unfortunately, in this constant search for lightning fast responses, this type of negligence can’t be tolerated. Today, it seems like only it’s vs. its, but tomorrow it may be “How was your day today?” vs. “hwurday”.
Though it may seem like punctuation is a fading nuisance, it’s an essential part of the English language that will save the future of communication, and the elderly population of our society.
This past election was one of the closest the nation has seen in years. Not only was the vote split almost completely in half, but each side had very passionate supporters. With all of the newly found hype of election season, certain aspects of the election’s process have come to light, the biggest being the Electoral College. With all of this information just now being discovered by younger generations, the question of, “Does my vote even count?” lingered throughout the election.
The answer is yes, your vote absolutely counts. Voting is a civic duty, and the most important of all duties at that. Having a say in who represents you as a common civilian and who governs you is a right that all people should take pride in having. If your vote did not count, the candidates wouldn’t ask for it.
The most common misunderstanding about the way the Electoral College works is that a gathering of people in a room can effortlessly overturn the country’s majority vote. I’ll break it down step by step for you.
We all remember the times in elementary school where you’d cast your vote for who you wanted to be the next president. Even though it never actually mattered, the popular vote in class decided who was to win, hypothetically of course. The same system applies to our country’s actual voting process. Everyone casts his or her ballot and the next president is elected, that is, if the Electoral College doesn’t choose otherwise.
I know it seems like the Electoral College is taking you back to your elementary days where your vote held no actual weight, but the system was actually put in place to ensure fairness during election time.
The first step in the election process is quite obviously, voting. When you cast your ballot, you’re also voting for an unnamed elector who will cast their vote. That vote decides who the president will be. So to diminish the confusion when it comes to the Electoral College, it is made up of electors who were put there by you, the voter. If you vote Democratic on the ballot, you’re voting for a Democratic elector. If you vote Republican on the ballot, you’re voting for a Republican elector.
As bizarre as it sounds, when you cast your vote, you’re actually casting a vote for someone whose name you aren’t even aware of who will then vote on your behalf. That’s exactly what happens on Election Day.
There is a problem within this process that has caused quite an uproar in past elections. When you vote for someone to represent you, that elector is expected to follow party rules and vote for their party, but they are allowed the choice to vote for the other candidate. This is the main issue that has caused the population to doubt the significance of their vote.
To prevent this from happening, there has been a system put into place called the “winner-take-all” system. This is where the elector votes for whoever won the popular vote. However, this is not active in all 50 states. Maine and Nebraska have the “congressional district method” which splits the state up into districts, and whoever wins each district is awarded electoral votes which when added together within that state, determine the majority vote.
Although all of these systems have fairness stitched into their seams, the country is always faced with the issue of faithless electors during election time. These are the electors who cast a vote other than with their party or with the majority vote in their state.
There’s absolutely no way of sugar coating the situation here and proclaiming there are rules or guidelines that need to be met. If an elector disapproves of their party or their state’s majority vote, they can vote on their own behalf. Simple as that. At least two dozen states have created laws against this, but for a majority of states, this is an option to electors. Although seldom does this happen, there is always a chance and voters need to be aware of that on Election Day.
In almost all cases, a president who wins the popular vote also wins the most electoral votes. Almost. One of the more recent races where this occurred was with Al Gore and George W. Bush. Bush lost the majority vote but won electoral votes, giving him the presidency. Although the system may seem unfair, it’s put into place to enforce fairness in our country during an election season.
The bottom line still remains true. Your vote counts.
In the United States, the average American consumes 260 pounds of meat per year. Surprising, isnʼt it? Especially when other countries are barely eating any. The average person in India swallows seven pounds of meet a year. 260 versus 7 pounds – thatʼs quite a contrast. You would be surprised how much eating meat, speciﬁcally hamburger, affects your everyday life.
The current estimated population of American livestock is a whopping 1.5 billion, each of which produce an estimated 50-150 gallons of methane per day. The ﬂatulence of livestock is so overwhelming that it is having a direct affect on global warming. Certain types of gases are normal and donʼt affect the environment as much. However, methane, like other greenhouse gases, collects high in the sky and traps warm air surrounding the planet. Once greenhouse gases become too thick and too much heat is trapped, then it is called global warming. The overpopulation of livestock is affecting this in a major way.
Thirty percent of the worldʼs land use is devoted to livestock. This practice is creating deserts. Nearly 685 million acres are being overgrazed today and cattle are the number one reason for soil destruction. The United States has lost a third of its topsoil due to these circumstances and that number will continue to increase. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the worldʼs population is expected to be 9.1 billion and the demand for meat is supposed to double. If we do not cut back, someday we wonʼt have any land left to grow crops.
Most of the American population would disagree and say that we need meat, it is essential to survive, we are unable to take in enough protein without it, and our bodies were made to eat meat. I have been a vegetarian for a year and three months now and I am of sound health. There are many ways to receive protein other than meat: nuts, tofu, soy protein, beans, and much more. Vegetarianism has boomed in popularity over the years, so businesses have been coming up with ways to expand their vegetarian product lines to bring in more revenue. Also, our bodies have developed through evolution and our canines are not nearly as sharp as they used to be. They were used for biting into meat and making it easier to rip. This was in the cave dwellers’ age. Over time, our bodies have come to a point where it is unnecessary for those teeth. We are more civilized and use forks and knives instead of our hands and teeth.
Every day there are 100,000 cattle being slaughtered in the United States. In other countries like Canada and Mexico, thousands more are being killed. These deaths are not in the least bit humane, either. They are cruel and saddening. First off, they are stuck in pens that are so small that they cannot turn around or move. They only have the choice to stand or lay, they are centimeters apart from one another, and they are fed hormones and steroids to make them bigger. Under these circumstances, they are usually very sick and already dying. They are shocked with various types of electric prods, hung by their feet, and their throats are cut while they are still fully conscious. The steroids, antibiotics, and hormones they have been injected with before they were killed are going into the bodies of people who consume this meat. Many studies have shown these chemicals to be harmful to the consumer and studies to come may bring even grimmer news.
Eating beef is affecting the Earthʼs global warming, its land use, the animals themselves, and the consumerʼs body. These reasons are having an immense impact on our world and we can make a difference! It has been shown that if 50% of Americans cut down their meat consumption by a mere 30%, we could make huge strides in the presentation of our planet. It would decrease the amount of methane in the atmosphere because we would not need to raise nearly as much cattle, land use would be cut back, and the consumers would be healthier. My call to action is just to make sure that people are aware that simply purchasing a steak is causing major issues in the United States.
On September 13th, New York City’s Board of Health passed a rule banning sugary drinks over 16 ounces from being served at restaurants, fast-food chains, theaters, delis, office cafeterias, and the majority of other places that fall under the Board of Health’s regulation. This measure goes into effect in March of 2013. People who purchase sugary drinks at these places will still have the option to purchase an additional 16 ounce drink, but non-New Yorkers are now concerned that this will spread all over America.
I personally don’t see this as a big deal. I wouldn’t see it as a big deal if it happened here in Michigan either. At the places that are now banned for serving sugary drinks over 16 ounces, you can get refills. Restaurants and most movie theaters give free refills, and most fast-food chains have machines where you get up and get your own refills.
I don’t see how drinking a 16 ounce pop and then refilling it would be any different from drinking a 32 ounce pop. Also, this ban does not affect every single place that sells pop and it only applies to pop, not other beverages. Supermarkets and most convenience stores are not affected and the ban does not apply to alcoholic and dairy-based drinks. In addition, places that make a lot of their money off of super-sized drinks such as 7-11 and other gas stations will not be affected. You can still get drinks larger than 16-ounces, just not in restaurants and other places that serve prepared food.
People who are against this ban say that it’s taking away their freedom to make their own choices. They say that people are smart enough to know what they should eat and drink. The restaurant and beverage industries have spoke out against this plan in public debates and ad campaigns. Some New Yorkers have put down the plan, calling it a “gross government intrusion”.
I see where people are coming from when they say it takes away our freedom, but it honestly doesn’t affect our freedom that much. We can choose what to drink, we can choose to get a refill, but we just can’t have a drink that’s more than 16 ounces in some places. This ban was put in place to fight the obesity epidemic. According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more than half of all adults are overweight or obese and nearly one in five kindergarten students are obese.
While I think this plan is too vague to make an effect on the obesity epidemic, I think it’s a start. A 16 ounce glass of Coke has about 187 calories in it. That may not seem like a lot to you, but for a beverage it is. In a Big Gulp of Coke there’s 364 calories, and those are exempt from this ban.
I think putting this ban in place is a good start to fighting against obesity, even though there are so many other factors to it. I also don’t see it as a problem, and if it starts to spread around America I will be perfectly okay with it.
Trends can be good. Trends can be bad. Trends can also be horribly awfully disgustingly annoying. And then, one level below that lies YOLO.
So what is YOLO, you may ask? Why is it so awful that I literally and visibly cringe whenever someone says it?
It is an acronym for the phrase “You only live once.”
Doesn’t sound that bad, you may say. Sounds free and inspirational and awesome, you may say. You may say, “Gee, I should start using that. Thanks for the idea, Megan.”
No. Don’t. Stop. Please. I am begging you.
To explain the awfulness that is YOLO, we must begin at the beginning.
You see, YOLO started way back in ancient times – 2006. The Strokes released a song titled, “You Only Live Once,” propelling the phrase into pop culture. Or at least into the group of people that listen to The Strokes. When it was released as a single, The Strokes asked their fans to request the song on radio stations and put the track in their MySpace profiles. They named the publicity stunt Operation YOLO.
Also, a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is named YOLO and was opened a little after. I just thought that was interesting.
Then, at the end of October last year, a harmless song lyric in a harmless song by a harmless artist took off – in “The Motto” by Drake featuring Lil’ Wayne, Drake sings about his motto, which is YOLO. I believe the lyric actually goes something like, “You only live once, that’s the motto, [profanity] YOLO”.
That’s fine, whatever, pretty clever. Not annoying yet, even though Drizzy sold over two million copies in just the U.S. and made it onto Billboard’s Top 100, and the song pretty much sucked, in my opinion. It was pretty easy to change the station back to 94.1, though.
But here is where things start to get bad. Around November, Twitter latched on to YOLO and made it a worldwide trending topic for two weeks straight. The hashtag was usually tagged in tweets that made you cringe.
For instance, “Pooped with the door open. #YOLO”
If YOLO was actually used for meaningful things and used sparingly, it probably wouldn’t be annoying, but then a certain celebrity had to take things a step further.
Zac Efron got it tattooed on his right hand. How ironic. For all to see.
And then, it wouldn’t go away. People hung on to YOLO for dear life like a blood-sucking leech that has a thing for rap lyrics – turned tattoos-turned hashtags-turned annoying sayings people actually say in real life. Don’t ask me why, but it’s now the norm to hear YOLO used right alongside the swearing and other profanities of every hallway in HHS.
Every day. All the time.
But the good news is that I’m not stuck with it on my hand for the rest of my life.
Lately, when you go to the theater to see a newly released movie, you notice something off in the MJR lobby. No, those old Star Wars and Disney posters aren’t there as relics. And that third Chipmunk movie isn’t a joke, either. What you’re seeing is the newest money squeezing tactic of film makers.
Apparently, one or two great movies isn’t enough anymore. We all know the epic stories of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Batman; stories that take many movies to reach their final conclusion. But the difference between these and directors who just don’t know when enough is enough is too great to imagine.
Let’s face it, no one wants to see Madagascar 3 or Spy Kids 4. The ending was clear enough the first time. When the most appealing actors lose interest in the show, or when the characters are ten or twenty years older, it turns viewers off almost immediately. These are the shows that sell very few tickets per viewing and what everyone calls a last ditch effort to make a fast buck.
Disney is a huge culprit of this act. From The Little Mermaid 3 to Toy Story Shorts to Belle’s Enchanted Christmas, they have brought back many past characters to new adventures and stories that ruin the original storyline. Imagine the anger there would be if a great production like Harry Potter was continued? The story ended with the last movie.
It’s not that hard to understand.
Also, now original classics are being brought back to theaters in 3D. Movies like Titanic, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and every single Star Wars movie are being pushed back in. It’s like listening to a speech over and over again, or hearing the same joke every single day. It was brilliant the first time, and we’ve all seen it a million times since then. We’ve had enough now.
And why should we pay money to see a movie we probably own on DVD? Just for the three dimensional aspect? Because I’m pretty sure there are such things as 3D televisions now. What ever are filmmakers going to do to make money when everyone has a 3D television in their living room and doesn’t want to bother with seeing old movies in the theaters?
Here’s an idea. Make new movies. That’s what theaters are for. And not excuses for movies either, like Chipwrecked. There are millions of stories out there waiting to be told, thousands of scripts waiting to be made into movies. Pick one and put the effort into making it a new hit.
I hate to be the downer. But if I have a choice between paying eight dollars and fifty cents to see a movie I own at home in 3D or sitting curled up on my couch watching it with my family for free, I’m going to take the latter option. And so is most of America.