What makes a break a good break?

The approach of a break is always a sign of hope for high school students. Break means no early morning alarms, lectures, pop quizzes or tests.

It is often difficult to determine what balance is needed for a break.

It is hailed as a time for rest and relaxation, and for most high school students, as a getaway from school.

Unfortunately, breaks always have an end.

The reality is that when I am on break, the knowledge that it will be over soon and I will have to return to school holds me back from truly enjoying myself. And for some, this thought encourages them to do the opposite, essentially having the “you only live once” break.

This doesn’t necessarily mean going bungee jumping off a cliff, but rather looking past the idea that your break will end, and enjoying the moment.

If you are able to go on a tropical vacation away from home, that’s a wonderful opportunity, but keep in mind that shifting back into school mode after returning home is quite difficult.

At the same time, staying home while studying and doing homework is not much of a break either, which poses the question of how one can create the perfect break.

Think of how much you need this break. If it is a three-day weekend and you don’t feel drained, then stay at home and work on your homework, but set aside some time to go on a hike or shopping with your friends. This way, you are not confined.

But if you just finished a long week of finals and can no longer look at a textbook, then it is best to take some time away from school work and enjoy what makes you happy, so your break is memorable.

Really, it’s about the balance that fulfills your need for a break.

The Hart of the Matter: Gender disparity affects all

For years now, women have outnumbered men in college. In a patriarchal society, this is hugely significant; knowledge is power.

In 2017, women made up 56 percent of students in college, according to the U.S. Department of Education. While this may not seem like a significant difference, that is 2.2 million more women than men.

The gender disparity, though it favors women, is a product of sexism. Gender norms hurt everyone. Although there are many factors affecting the disparity, such as high school graduation rates or a higher likelihood for men to enter prison, a large factor is unwillingness to enter female-dominated fields.

Women have been entering male-dominated fields at higher rates each year. Since Rosie the Riveter in WWII, women have succeeded in traditionally masculine careers, despite barriers against them. They have become doctors, lawyers, scientists and businesspeople. While these fields may still hold more men than women, women are present and rising, which can be seen in the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau’s annual statistics.

Meanwhile, few men seek female-dominated careers. Traditionally feminine fields such as teaching and nursing have very few males pursuing college degrees in the subject. This is seen in the workforce — according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 90 percent of nurses were women in 2011.

Essentially, women are expanding in career choices, while men refuse to. As a result, more men opt for careers that do not require a college degree but still fit into the traditional notion of masculinity, such as manufacturing or construction.

While no one should feel forced to attend college, men should not feel pressured into any career because of gender roles. The disparity in college attendance is one of many examples of the ways sexism hurts men. Males are conditioned by society to fit into the idea of masculinity, which is a very narrow and fixed concept. Even the traditionally feminine gender roles set for women have wider bounds allowing more freedom.

The point of feminism is not that more women should be in college than men, or more men should be in college. It’s not even that there should be an exactly equal amount of each gender in higher education. There shouldn’t be any societal barriers stopping anyone from pursuing what they truly want.

The incurable disease of senioritis

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here reaches a point in every teen’s life when one realizes their high school is ending. This is called senioritis, and it might as well be an actual, clinical disease.

The early symptoms seem normal. Hitting the submit button on the last college application and beginning to hear back from schools is definitely an incredible feeling.

But the moment I officially committed to the University of Montana, I began thinking less about high school and more about my future and how different my life will be in five months. That’s when senioritis hit me. And, for me, it’s terminal.

Long before my self-diagnosis, I found myself often bored after school. It was hard to get motivated, especially as second semester approached.

So, I took the matters of motivation into my own hands and found myself doing stuff that I actually enjoy. I figured if I found motivation for other things in life, such as a part-time job, school would come easier. However, the opposite occurred.

And that’s when the symptoms really flared up.

Symptom 1: prioritizing sleep over homework.

I don’t get much sleep anymore because I often work late. The loss of sleep makes me lose even more motivation for school. And as a result, I began prioritizing sleep over homework.

Years ago, I would never have even let that thought cross my mind, especially not in junior year.

Symptom 2: excessive tardiness.

As a freshman, I always made sure to show up at least 10 minutes early to school. For the rare times I was late, I would basically get a sick feeling in my gut that lasted all day long.

But now, when I wake up late, since I already know I’m late to class, rather than rushing, I take my time and have a huge breakfast or grab a cup of coffee before sauntering in under the 30 minute “truant tardy” cutoff.

Senioritis is not all bad, however. Experiencing the “disease” has been a learning opportunity for me. Through my job, I have effectively learned how to work on a team and have come to value the significance of a good work ethic. These are skills I could actually apply to my later life and that will help me in the future.

Senioritis allows students to experience what life is like outside of school, and for that reason, we should embrace it as a natural part of life.

So class of 2019, embrace your academic death.

 

JNHS volunteers at Cherry Blossom Festival

Members of JNHS promoted Japanese culture and explained how to play yoyo tsuri. Photo by Eileen Chih.

JNHS members volunteered at the Cherry Blossom Festival held on April 28 and 29 and participated in spreading Japanese culture through a game and interaction with children. JNHS event coordinator Erin Tsai and secretary Kaitlyn Lee said the club attends the event every year.

“It is a really significant holiday in Japan and this year it’s being held at Memorial Park so it’s a way for people here to celebrate Cherry Blossom Festival,” Tsai said.

Lee said this event is different from other volunteer events because they get to organize their own booth instead of volunteering through another organization.

“We do yoyo tsuri, which is like a traditional Japanese festival game where you try to fish yoyos out of a pool of water and it spreads appreciation of Japanese culture,” Lee said. “It’s really fun to play with the little kids, they’re always really excited. It’s fun to explain what it is and talk to people about Japanese culture.”

Sophomore club member Kelly Chow said she always wanted to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival and thought it would be fun to see it while running JNHS activities.

“It’s a fun way to learn about Japanese culture,” Chow said. “Seeing a bunch of different cultural things around is really cool, like seeing live taiko performances and Japanese games like yoyo tsuri.”

Tsai said she enjoys seeing how happy the kids are to be there and interacting with the community.

“Being in JNHS or J-Club isn’t just using what we learn in Japanese,” Tsai said, “but how do we apply that to the community and how do we help out more, while learning about the culture and being involved with it at the same time.”

The Denome’s Advocate: California’s crime against inmates

The recent fires in California have wrought incredible damages on the state, particularly in the human cost. According to Reuters and NBC News, 45 people total died between the Tubbs Fire in Napa and the Thomas Fire near Los Angeles. The human costs don’t end with just the deaths, however — some 3,800 of California’s firefighters are inmates battling blazes for a dollar an hour, according to KQED.

The inmate firefighter program has existed in California since World War II, when, according to the Atlantic, California pressed prisoners into service to replace the men who had gone overseas to fight the war. Since then, the program has expanded and become voluntary.

In the program’s history, four inmates have died in action, including two in the past two years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Not counted in those deaths are inmates who died in the program while not fighting fires; just recently, an inmate perished on a training hike, according to KQED.

This begs the question of how humane the program actually is. Regardless of whether the inmates are volunteers, no one, incarcerated or free, should be receiving slave wages for a job in which they run the risk of death.

In its explanation of the conservation camps, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation stresses the work that the inmates do, and the results of their efforts. It particularly highlights the public works projects and safer activities, such as conservation projects and search-and-rescue missions.

And yes, we should recognize the good work these camps do, whether it be fighting fires or clearing a hiking trail. However, The Marshall Project, a criminal justice watchdog, showed that the inmate firefighters are typically responsible for more backbreaking and thankless labor while fighting fires.

This only adds to the heightened risks for diseases firefighters already face. According to the International Association of Firefighters, a labor union, all fighting personnel have a higher risk for cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and hepatitis B and C. In short, California sends 3,000 inmates into treacherous situations, with their risking death or impairment down the line — all for a dollar an hour and a few days off their sentence.

Does the system necessarily need to be done away with? No, the inmates are volunteers, and housing them at conservation camps year-round helps reduce California’s overcrowded prison system. However, does the system need reforms? Most definitely.

Inmate firefighters deserve a far higher wage than they currently make, one that, minus the cost to the state of housing them, is on par with that of normal CalFire personnel. If the fires are going to continue and more people are going to be incarcerated, we might as well compensate them fairly..

The Impatient Patient: Reduced, heightened expectations pressure minority students

Racial stereotypes have been proven to invoke reduced expectations and heightened pressures for students in affected groups. Not only that, but these racial stereotypes also contribute to the achievement gap, or set of disparities in testing scores, between Asian and white students versus non-Asian minorities, according to the National Education Association.

As diverse and accepting of a campus HHS is, it is still not spared from this issue. According to an editorial done in print issue four of The Epitaph, the racial makeup of HHS (73 percent being Asian or Caucasian, 27 percent other) is not consistent in AP and honors level classes.

The achievement gap is not limited to distinctions between different racial groups but also gender and socioeconomic factors. According to an article in US News, the achievement gap between black and white students has improved little over the last 50 years.

Previously, 87 percent of white students in their senior year of high school outscored black students also in their senior year. According to the article, black students placed in the 13th percentile of the score distribution for their white counterparts.

Currently, black students place in the 19th percentile. It has been estimated that should these low rates of change continue, the gap in mathematics between the two groups will be closed only after two and a half centuries. The fact that black students have to wait 250 years for the gap to be closed is ridiculous.

Nationwide, black and Hispanic children account for 37 percent of students. Within this 37 percent, only 27 percent take at least one AP class. Location is another factor in this disparity. Black, Hispanic and Native American students are more likely to live in areas with schools that do not offer advanced courses.

According to a study done by School Psychology Quarterly, teachers viewed black students with lowered expectations and disproportionately refer black students to special education and disciplinary action as compared to their white counterparts. Regardless of high academic standing, black students were given less attention.

Students who are victims of this bias have not only been found to have lower grades, but also a lowered motivation to excel.

The stereotype of black students as “troublemakers” manifests in harsher punishments are doled out by teachers after two infractions due to the belief that this bad behavior is likely to continue. Black students are therefore three times more likely to be suspended and expelled.

If a student is continually led to believe that academic success is not inherent in their racial identity, how can they be motivated to exceed academically? Not to mention, if a student is placed with lowered expectations immediately, it is harder to deviate from these ingrained expectations.

For black and Hispanic youth, the desires to prove stereotypes wrong, or even simply the knowledge of these stereotypes, causes the body to produce more stress hormones as a form of a “coping mechanism.”

According to a study done by Educational Theory, the resilience within successful black students to overcome negative stereotypes manifests into a greater issue of a mental health crisis.

According to the author, “black students work themselves to the point of extreme illness in [an] attempt to escape the constant threat of perceived intellectual inferiority.”

A phenomenon dubbed the “stereotype threat” describes the impact of stereotypes on a student’s development of their identity and intellect. Black students were found to underperform on tests that were not “diagnostic of intellectual ability” due to the “priming” of negative racial stereotypes. Asian students were found to have lowered concentration skills and performance on quantitative skills test due to the “priming” of so-called positive stereotypes such as their presumed adeptness in mathematics.

Moreover, although Asian Americans are not negatively impacted by the achievement gap, racial stereotypes still come into play. Asian American students were viewed as “cooperative” and more successful academically, as per the “model minority” stereotype.

The model minority myth is described as a “cultural expectation” on Asian Americans. Perhaps the most detrimental aspect of the myth is the assumption that Asian Americans are never in need of assistance. The impacts of this is that Asian Americans are less likely to report issues of stress and hopeless feelings, yet not seek help from a counselor.

Asian Americans may be successful (for example, compared to their white counterparts, Asian Americans have a higher percentage of individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher) but these high-achieving statistics mask groups who do not reflect the ideals of the model minority stereotype imposed upon them.

Teachers have been found to be three times more likely to expect their Asian American students to go to college. But 10 percent of Laotian Americans, 13 percent of Hmong Americans and 16 percent of Cambodian Americans in California have some of the lowest attainment of college degrees. In addition, Hmong and Cambodian Americans live in poverty at higher rates than black and Hispanic individuals. These statistics are said to be masked by Chinese and Indian Americans, and as such, is not an accurate reflection of Asian Americans.

As an article in The Atlantic puts it, “The consequences are classrooms where Asian students not excelling in math are seen as an oddity, and black students excelling in math are seen as an outlier.” The stereotypes placed onto these two groups have very real effects, and are more than just unfortunate statistics.

There are countless students who feel as though they may never amount to anything, or inversely, students who feel inadequate because they do not fit into the “mold” of what is expected.

Asian and black individuals are on opposite ends of a spectrum where negative stereotypes are place on to black people and more “positive” ones are placed onto Asian individuals. In the end, both  stereotypes have a negative effect.

We as a whole need to understand that different groups are subjected to different barriers in their success. It is useless to place blame on certain groups for the achievement gap. Stereotypes may always linger, but your choice to partake in the belief and perpetuation of these stereotypes is dependent on yourself. Stereotypes are more than just unfortunate statistics, but have real-life impacts that need to be recognized.

The Ripple Effect: A Cuban continuation

Cuba’s new president was named last Thursday. The plot twist? His name isn’t Castro.

Yes, for the first time in decades, someone unrelated to Fidel Castro holds that office: Miguel Diaz-Canel. It’s no surprise, seeing as he was selected to be the first vice president in 2013.

But apart from the (admittedly nicely-rhyming) name change, it’s unlikely that this shift heralds any greater transformation. This is, after all, the man who promised to bring “continuity to the Cuban revolution,” using variations upon the word ‘continue’ at least four times in his inaugural speech.

Not to say there aren’t elements that set Diaz-Canel apart from his predecessor, Raul Castro. For one, his attempts to embody the everyman led him to cut an extremely recognizable figure to Cubans in the 90s, according to NBC — that of the guy in Bermuda shorts biking to work. For another, he’s advocated for change to an extent in the past, in the form of promoting internet access for Cubans and other modernization, according to the New York Times.

Miguel Diaz-Canel (left), the Cuban first vice president under Raul Castro (right), was named the country’s president on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

But at the same time, the mild front of change is clearly tempered with constancy. The New York Times also reported, for instance, on Diaz-Canel’s support of the censorship of “subversive” websites, no matter the possible backlash. Moreover, Castro still heads the Cuban Communist Party (arguably more powerful than the president himself), still heads the military and will still, according to CNN, have a sizeable say in major decisions.

Had Diaz-Canel replaced Castro in all those roles as well, greater change may have happened — albeit in the opposite direction regarding U.S.-Cuba relations, judging by his criticism of the creakily slow normalization of relations under Castro. (In fairness, President Trump is averse to it as well.)

If anything, Diaz-Canel’s election highlights how much the Cuban Communist Party, once revolutionary with its implementation of things like free medical treatment and education, doesn’t want change. The party — now essentially led by octogenarians — sprang for a fairly young, Bermuda short-wearing, everyman-touting, mildly-revolutionary successor who, when it counts, will continue to defer to Castro on “major decisions.”

And there are definitely major ones coming up. Cubans are staring down an economic recession with an average salary of $30 per month in their pockets, America is shrinking away from the tentative ties reestablished under the Obama administration and modernization is crawling at a snail’s pace.

What’s clear for now is that when these challenges are faced by Diaz-Canel, the party line being held will be that of Raul Castro’s, by any other name.

TEDx host first official conference

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EDx Club hosted its first conference in two years last Friday. The on-campus club shows TED talks, discusses current events and encourages many students to share their perspectives on certain events or ideas.  

Friday’s event welcomed six student and three adult speakers, all presenting on personal experiences that audience members could relate to or learn from.

“We are holding this event to echo TED’s message: ideas worth spreading,” said Junior Arleen Liu, an organizer of the event.

Organizers explained how they chose people who discussed different topics so there would be a variety throughout the presentations.

“Part of the thing with TED Talks is that they are personal, so in order to engage the audience you have to be personal,” said Junior Ashna Reddy. “We look for a message but also how the speaker got there, so it’s kind of like a personal talk but also with a message that can relate to the audience.”

There was one TEDx conference last year, but this was TEDx Club’s first official conference, which they had to get licensed by the official TED talk company, said senior Sahaj Putcha, who is also a TEDx officer.

Senior Brandon Young gave a speech titled “One Voice, One Action. It makes all the difference.” In his speech, he reflected volunteering he had done to train a little boy with autism in soccer. He also spoke openly about his own life struggles such as living with ADHD and the lessons he has learned from his experiences.

Young advocated for making a change in the community by reaching out to those in need and making a positive impact on their lives.

Junior Kathy Rodriguez who attended thought that it was an eye-opening experience.

“I thought it was inspiring to hear stories of people who have experienced life changing moments. The speeches made me look at many things from a new perspective too,” said Rodriguez.

“Our school is so diverse and there are all these different thoughts and ideas that everyone has, so we just try to bring that together in this club,” said Putcha.

According to the officers, the desired outcome for the first official TEDx conference was to inspire audience members to share their stories and advocate for diversity in thought. Rodriguez confirmed that the conference did exactly that.

“I hope the audience will kind of have a deeper understanding of the world and themselves when they leave,” said Reddy.

TEDx club held its first official conference in the cafeteria last Friday.

‘On My Block’ sheds light on teens of color in LA

On My Block” is refreshingly connected to not only teens of color, but communities of color.

The 10 episode Netflix Original is the latest coming-of-age comedy set in East L.A. that follows five young teens as they transition from the safety of middle school to the ever-changing dynamic of high school.

As a whole, the show attempts to bring light to several societal issues, from the prevalence and reality of gangs, family pressure, relationships, immigration laws, racism and discrimination. Through its genuine characters and hilarious one-liners, “On My Block” succeeds at opening its viewers’ eyes.

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

To tackle gang culture, Cesar, a protagonist (Diego Tinoco), is drawn into a gang, the Santos, by his brother and is expected to rise in power. Cesar struggles to adhere to familial pressure, connect with his brother and maintain his relationship with his friends.

The reality of gangs is further addressed with Cesar acing his classes and being on a path to success academically juxtaposed against the demands made by his brother, the gang leader, to be more involved. Despite his friends trying to get him out of the Santos, a feeling of lost potential permeates the show.

One of the first messages of the show is that to survive high school, one needs to stick with their friends. With Monse and Cesar beginning to see each other romantically, this becomes exceedingly difficult as they struggle to keep their relationship a secret from the Ruby, Jamal and Olivia in fear of it ruining the group dynamic.

While Monse’s actress, Sierra Capri, is arguably the weakest of the five with her headstrong personality often coming across as annoying, she introduces several important themes. Monse and Olivia are strong female characters who constantly battle being surrounded by teenage boys and being objectified by gang members.

Olivia is the newest member of the group and learns to adjust to her new life without her parents. After their deportation, she is left alone in the states and ends up living with Ruby, the anxious, talkative and adorable friend who is enamored by her very existence.

That leaves Jamal, who is the running joke of the show for always being forgotten. No one ever seems to believe in Jamal, especially when it comes to the RollerWorld conspiracy. The premise is that thousands of dollars were buried somewhere in the neighborhood by the Santos’ founders, and Jamal believes that finding the money will be the answer to getting Cesar out of the gang.

Ultimately, the show succeeds because everything is incredibly thought out. My favorite one-liners include “You can’t declare yourself woke. Someone needs to tell you.” and “You lose the tone when you use the phone.” With the quirky characters, the sick soundtrack (peep “Devil’s Whisper” by Raury) and each intro being specific to the episode’s themes, “On My Block” is a blockbuster.

The Impatient Patient: In defense of a lazy, smartphone-obsessed generation

Lazy. Entitled. Snowflakes. According to Media Post, these are the qualities 71 percent of past American generations attribute to Generation Z. These sentiments are reflected not only by the parents of Generation Z, but in those belonging to it. 40 percent of parents and 45 percent of Generation Z themselves agree that within this “selfie generation” lies an inherent trait of laziness.

HHS students participated in a walkout on March 14. Photo by Riley Anderson.

Generation Z, or the cleverly nicknamed iGeneration are the 23 million born from 1995 to 2012. 4 million of Generation Z own a smartphone, and most have never known a world without apps and instant gratification. And some fear that the implications of a generation shaped by social media and smartphone are dire.

Lonely. Dislocated. Unhappy. Another triplet of not so flattering traits attributed to Generation Z. A study by The Atlantic ties the rapidly increasing rates of depression in teens to the devices they cultivate their entire persona upon — smartphones.

Teens hang out together less too, with a 40 percent drop from 2000 to 2015. Screen-related activities are linked to unhappiness, while non-screen-related activities are linked to a greater overall wellbeing.

    Yet although Generation Z may be suffering at the hands of of their smartphones, they’re also saving lives. A large social media following and the ability to condense thoughts into a relatable, retweetable 140-character limit may not be necessary an advantageous skill set for most, but the Parkland students and many other teen activists across the country beg to differ.

    Take one of the most well-known of the Parkland students, Emma Gonzalez. With her steely gaze, the high school senior, among with many others of Never Again MSD, organized the largest student-driven protest in American history thus far. Not only that, but Never Again MSD has been credited with the Florida Legislature enacting several gun control measures. Lazy? I think not. And Gonzalez has a remarkable 1.2 million followers on Twitter. Lonely? I think not.

And, who is to forget David Hogg, the Parkland shooting survivor who also made headlines following provocations from those like Jamie Allman and Laura Ingraham, who saw it fit to make jokes about sexually assaulting the 18-year-old, and mock his rejection from colleges.

While Ingraham boasts a net worth of 45 million, Hoggs boasts 753,000 Twitter followers. And, while there is not yet a conversion between American dollars and Twitter followers, Hoggs engaged followers in asking Ingraham’s advertisers to boycott her show. 25 have dropped so far.

While it is easy to argue that the Parkland activists are simply outliers in the convoluted model of how a Generation Z individual is supposed to act, many researchers who study adolescents believe that they are not. I know, because I see feats of activism among my friends, among my classmates, within my community.

The HHS March for our Lives protest was organized by two sophomores. The protest then made a detour to Sunnyvale City Hall made possible by a group of juniors and seniors, poor weather conditions be damned. They were joined by neighboring schools such as FHS and De Anza.

Inspiring. Revolutionary. Tenacious. This is what I believe Generation Z to be.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is an endearing and well-made film

The movie features both stunning visuals and off-beat humor. Photo courtesy to IMDB.

Director Wes Anderson’s most recent movie, “Isle of Dogs,” is a success similar to his previous films, which include “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

The plot of the movie is set in the future, where a rampant “canine flu” in Japan forces all dogs of the nation to be quarantined on an island. A young boy named Atari ventures to this place in hopes of finding his beloved pet, Spots. As he searches for his furry friend and evades authorities, he’s assisted by five other anthropomorphic dogs: Chief, Rex, Boss, Duke and King.

“Isle of Dogs” carries the distinctive style that all of Anderson’s past films have: meticulously symmetrical compositions, distinct color palettes and an awesome soundtrack. As usual, it’s made with extreme technical proficiency, featuring creative and frequently stunning animation.

The dry and darkly humorous dialogue regularly seen in Anderson’s work is also featured. However, I found “Isle of Dogs” to be considerably funnier than his other films.

Maybe this is because of the story’s focus on dogs or just the talent of the actors themselves, but the innocently awkward conversations and endearingly naive nature of characters made the film far more comedic and pleasant to watch.  

I will admit that Anderson’s films can be a bit jarring at times. His casual and apathetic handling of dreary subjects can be easily misinterpreted as insensitive, rather than an attempt at humor. “Isle of Dogs” focuses on subjects that are less dark than those featured in Anderson’s previous films, such as death, suicide and parental neglect. It is a much more light-hearted and pleasant film.

As funny and beautifully animated as “Isle of Dogs” is, it does have some flaws. The main one being is that the storyline is unpredictable, and not always in a good way. Subplots become more crucial than expected, plot twists have surprisingly little impact and impractical solutions are used to solve serious problems.

It’s not a movie to see if you’re really focused on the plot. This sounds a bit strange, as most movies are watched for their story, specifically. But Anderson’s films are intentionally made to be more than that; instead having numerous little details that eventually make a wonderful final product.

So if you enjoy lovable characters, amusingly eccentric dialogue and exquisite visuals, then this is definitely a movie for you.