It’s Now a Fact: We Need to Make School Lunches More Accessible to Everybody

By Garima Prabhakar

Lunch is one of the most important parts of the day for most students—and most of the time, our school cafeteria is more than adequate. With the countless lunch options available—from the seasonal Christmas cookies to yearly valentine’s day cupcakes—Shrewsbury High School really takes the importance of lunch to heart. As a vegetarian, however, the school provides few options for a filling meal; in fact, most of the time I’ll have to settle for greasy pizza with a mountain of cheese, its staggering peaks marinated in slick oil and tomato sauce. Aside from the questionable healthiness of having pizza half the week (with cheese pasta one day and a (delicious) taco salad another), school lunches provide barely any variety for a big and an increasing vegetarian population at our school.

Investing in more vegetarian options at our school would not only be healthier, but it would also be more economically fiscal. Furthermore, aside from more options, many people would benefit from just putting a list of ingredients for each of the items in the school lunches. This would not only help people with diet restrictions become more knowledgeable about what they can and can’t eat, it would help everyone understand what they are eating.

Vegetarian meals provide a healthier alternative for those who need it. With frequent plant-based meals being linked to increased longevity, a lesser probability of being obese, and more likely to be the healthy low-carb and high-fiber diet growing students need, the need for vegetarian options in schools is definitely a must. However, most of the time the only option is pizza (brimful with saturated fats and flushed with high amounts of sodium) with potato fries. Even though our school does above and beyond in incorporating the occasional pasta and healthier taco salad—many times this isn’t enough.

For students with dietary restrictions, healthier plant-based meals could allow them to be able to enjoy vegetarian school lunches every day, instead of three days a week. Moreover, with the increasing hot topic of eliminating obesity-causing foods from the school lunch system to enforce and encourage students to be healthier, having plant-based meal options every day would allow students without dietary restrictions to enjoy vegetarian meals as well.

Continue reading

Advertisements

While Not a Masterpiece, “Green Book” Remains Uplifting

By David Lee

Ian era when discrimination was the norm, the Negro Motorist’s Green-Book was a comprehensive list of places where black people could stay. It’s given to Tony Vallelonga (portrayed by Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings) as he embarks on his two-month job of driving African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, who won his second Oscar in three years for this role) for his cross-country tour of music. As the trailers and poster suggest, “Green Book” is about Tony and Don overcoming their massive differences and becoming friends. Whether or not it remains entirely true to history is uncertain. However, “Green Book” is a movie, not a documentary; once some potential artistic liberties are accepted, it becomes a respectful look at segregation at that time as well as a well-done road trip film.

It surprised me that I had seen “Green Book” director Peter Farrelly’s films in the past. What shocked me even more was that those films were “Dumb and Dumber To” and “The Three Stooges”. “Green Book” is something completely different from those immature comedies, but it still provides plenty of opportunities for laughter. From character faults like Tony’s difficulty in writing letters to his wife to Don’s inexperience in eating fried chicken, the script makes its comedy subtle but effective. The film is no stranger to drama as well. There are several scenes highlighting the rampant racism at the time, but the climax of emotion comes when Tony wildly speculates that his life is “blacker” than Don’s; the resulting exchange powerfully deconstructs stereotypes and showcases the powerhouse acting of both lead actors. In fact, “Green Book” does a lot to break tropes when developing its characters: in one scene, Don tells Tony that he would prefer to play something other than jazz, but nobody would accept a black classical musician.

Although it is a commendable film, “Green Book” does not feel like Best Picture-winning material. In a year where filmmakers dared to tell increasingly audacious stories, especially about the role of African Americans in society (looking at “Black Panther”), “Green Book” feels like a very safe choice. Ali acts admirably as a man whose profession and blackness has left him detached from the world, but his performance didn’t feel like it really deserved the Oscar. In my opinion, Richard E. Grant from “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” deserved the award. The same goes for Mortenson, who pales in comparison to Rami Malek from “Bohemian Rhapsody”; sure, maybe Mortenson had more nuance, but Malek’s acting was well worth the money. The script is well-written but forgettable. In fact, “Green Book” isn’t a film that is likely to stick in your memory. It still manages to make its premise interesting and offers a smooth-riding story that’s relatively free of offensive bumps. If you want to see “Green Book”, it’s worth a watch.

Screen-Time Use in Schools is a Sight for Sore Eyes

By Garima Prabhakar

        Our iPads have brought the entire world into the palm of our hands. From being able to access the library at home to one-click assignment submissions through Schoology, learning has never been so efficient and convenient, making technology-integrated classrooms ever-so-lucrative. Yet despite the push to make schools more digital, it is more important now than ever to achieve an equilibrium between screen time and everything else, in the face of mounting evidence pointing towards the fact that our screens should be more of a resource than our life. Indeed, in many cases, schools may be contributing even more to growing computer-related health problems in teenagers who are forced to acquiesce to an increased focus on screen time-based assignments because their grade depends on it.

        Screen time has been almost uncannily linked to many of America’s contemporary epidemics– from a recent skyrocket in nearsightedness to the undeniable increase in obesity to assertions that excessive technology has been turning children to social wallflowers and otherwise emotionally unintelligent misanthropes. Almost all of these claims alarmingly hold true– over the last thirty years myopia has spread from 25% to 41.6% of the population, and a significant number of studies have correlated screen time to increases in chances of becoming obese; obesity rates are already sky-high and on the rise. Moreover, breakthrough studies have shown that screen-time for more than two hours has been shown to cause children to have a worse memory, language skills, and cognitive abilities– indicating that increasing our screen time has undeniable impacts.

        From so much research on the detrimental effects of screens in our daily lives, government recommendations present the lofty ideal of two hours of screen time per day for teenagers–a rule we, as students and schools, tend to ignore. As much as mindfulness in technology is emphasized in the day-to-day school curriculum (as it should be), the classroom is not the ideal first step in emphasizing the importance of cutting down on the overwhelming use of technology in day-to-day life. In reality, class time use of screens and the excessive amounts of homework given through the iPads make keeping the amount of screen time to the healthy maximum a quixotic goal. And since there is no explicit limitation to the work that can be given through the iPads, students could have to stare at a screen for four hours in school and another two hours for homework without a second thought.

        Although the integration of technology in the classroom is a necessity going forward, giving the message that we should try to reduce the time we spend on looking at screens but then overloading students every day with daily technology-based activities and immense amounts of homework on the iPads seems to present a paradox. Furthermore, recent studies have found that the effects of technology in schools seem to have little effect on student performance at all– from forty schools analyzed, there seemed to be no conclusive increase between schools with access to technology than those not– and it seems that the fate of the school is more tied into the teaching style of the teachers.

        Considering that banning all technology from the school system is not an option, it is still important for schools to stand by the message they are transmitting and regulate the amount of straight-on screen time children are given to use on their school-use devices. iPad-based class assignments can be done in groups so that students will interact face-to-face as well as complete the assignment. Homework on the iPads can be limited to only 20-30 minutes per night for each class, and the Pomodoro technique can be applied in class to give the eyes rest every twenty minutes after working on the iPads and prevent eye strain. There are many ways to regulate and mitigate the negative effects of excessive screen-time in school– because in the end, even though in today’s world screen time can be a sight for sore eyes, it doesn’t mean school-based technology has to be.

 

IMG_2185

The above cartoon illustrates the all-too-common extent to which the use of excessive technology for school-related learning can affect student health and behavior.

Trump Calls a “National Emergency” In Order to Build Wall

By Retna Arun

President Donald Trump has recently called a “National Emergency” so that he can use national funds from various departments to build a highly controversial wall in an effort to try to stop illegal immigration.

According to The Heritage Foundation’s article “The Real Problem with Immigration… and the Real Solution”, illegal immigration is a security problem for the United States. Approximately 3% of the US population consisted of illegal immigrants in 2006, and the rate is rapidly increasing with 700,000 illegal immigrants entering the country every year. These high illegal immigration rates “distort the law, distract resources, and effectively creates a cover for terrorists and criminals”. Donald Trump has been proposing that a $5.7 billion wall is built to solve this problem since his presidential campaign began. Although this may not be the wisest decision, and although the wall could be destroyed in the coming presidential term if a Democrat is elected, at least Trump has an idea and wants to attempt to stop this problem as soon as possible.

After the government reopened last month, Trump threatened that he would call a “National Emergency”, however, Senator Ron Johnson confirmed that the case would be sent to “court and the wall won’t get built”. A “National Emergency”, by definition, will allow the President to divert federal funds towards an unordinary situation which threatens the health or safety of citizens. Though illegal immigration is a problem in the US, there are more dire issues in the world today. Additionally, it is not worth it to weaken our federal economy, especially when most Democrats disagree with the building of the wall, which may cause it to be destroyed in the future, leading to a complete waste of money. However, it is understandable that Trump wants actions to be taken more quickly to prevent illegal immigration. Due to the US government’s many checks and balances, it is often difficult to get anything so major done quickly, or even at all. Therefore, if Trump truly wants this wall to be built, he first must cooperate with the Democrats and form an agreement due to the structure of the American government.

IMG_2183

Trump plans to build a wall similar to this one across the entire US-Mexico border, which spans 1,954 miles and will cost a total of 5.7 billion dollars.

Social-Emotional Learning: Why the “Social” Part of it Matters

By Garima Prabhakar

As put by a proverb seen too often: “A high IQ can get you a job, but a low EQ can get you fired from it.”. And indeed, this couldn’t be closer to the truth. In reality, whether it be high school or at the local nonprofit, emotional intelligence and social skills aren’t only crucial, they’re essential for navigating through the challenges we meet face-to-face every day. After all, we as humans base our entire existence around social networks and successful communications. Not only that, many people can attest to the fact that skills like knowing how to set up a smart budget are more important than knowing how to solve for the width of a river using the law of cosines. So how can we make sure we learn both the academic and practical necessities in the real world?

Social emotional learning (SEL) is the act of learning social and emotional skills– these skills are almost always integral parts of our lives– such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making. These important aspects are what allow us, as human beings, to communicate effectively, engage face-to-face with the people around us, and ultimately, achieve what we want. These skills seem like a no-brainer that should apply in every student’s education, but only recently these ideas have gained momentum in the education community. Indeed, students that have undergone SEL are about 50% more likely to graduate high school and have a full-time paid job by 25, and they’re two times more likely to get a college degree. SEL is beneficial to both schools and students alike, increasing school reputations, as well as a student’s ability to succeed; SEL is about as important as academics, if not more in the real world.

Continue reading

Water Works & Sells

Aquaman Breaks the Dry Spell of Bad DC Films with Fresh Storytelling, Vivid Special Effects and Jason Momoa’s Charisma

By David Lee

When snow melts, you get water. What’s the best film out there about water? “Aquaman”, directed by James Wan and starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Nicole Kidman. Queen Atlanna of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman in a small role) falls in love with a human after he saves her. They raise a child named Arthur Curry. Unfortunately, Atlanna must leave them as Atlantis-folk are forbidden to interact with the humans above. When the king of Atlantis (Patrick Wilson) seeks to wage war on humanity for polluting the oceans, Arthur, whose Atlantean heritage grants him superpowers, is called to dethrone him.

If you’re an attentive moviegoer, you’ll notice that parts of Best Picture nominee “Black Panther” have migrated into “Aquaman” via osmosis. The most obvious is the “existing king is threatened by outsider relative with good intentions” plot. “Black Panther” had their outsider as the main antagonist, but “Aquaman” runs in the opposite direction and makes the outsider the good guy. As a result, it doesn’t have much complexity or emotional hook, but that actually works in its favor. Free from the sludgy treacle of pathos that plagued DC films like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, “Aquaman” chugs forward with a fresh vision. It’s sort of surprising, given that the director’s best known for starting the “Saw”, “Conjuring” and “Insidious” horror franchises.

“Aquaman” hits the ground running with a bouncy pace and mile-a-minute storytelling. A wide range of settings from sea to sky help maintain the film’s adventurous tone. The film sticks to its linear storyline without excessive flashback scenes. There are solid supporting characters like Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe), as well as the aforementioned Atlanna. There are some funny jokes (not too many to distract from the story) and one or two plot twists/unexpected moments that spice up the story.

Of course, the boldest and best part of “Aquaman” are the visuals. Make no mistake, this is the best-looking DC film I’ve seen. Underwater locales are vibrant with color and creatures. Action sequences are comprehensible and pulse-pounding. One highlight is a brief rooftop chase against mercenaries: the camerawork, which zooms around (seamlessly at times) between the heroes and villains, really sells this scene. Momoa has the charm, humor, muscles and tattoos to make you root for him throughout the film. The rest of the characters make themselves worthwhile, but this is Momoa’s film.

With all the fun I had, I noticed a couple missteps and oddities. Underwater sequences were done a bit too well, since some of the dialogue gets a bit muddled with the booming sound effects. A side villain disappears and never shows up in the film again (a bummer, since he had some cool weaponry). The main baddie throws around stern orders and taunts, but nothing that makes him sound like a real threat. Some parts of “Aquaman” are genuinely great, while others are more of a noble failure. Quite simply, “Aquaman” is no masterpiece.

Still, “Aquaman” is a great way to spend two hours. Director James Wan must’ve had an absolute blast making this film. It’s a little cheesy and feels like a B-movie at parts, but that’s part of its charm. Remember to bring popcorn, but you can skip the soda.

 

Midterm Exams

By Grace Foley

Midterms are a stressful component of the school year, especially for students who have never taken a midyear exam before. However, to help reduce stress and test anxiety, at SHS we only take a maximum of two exams a day. The first day of exams are periods one and two; the second day of exams are periods three and four; the third day of exams are periods five and six; and the last day of exams is period seven and a make-up block. Each exam is roughly 90 minutes in length, designed to provide every student sufficient time to finish. In addition, each school day of exams ends at eleven o’clock. Early dismissal allows for extra study time, extra time for rest and down-time to destress from a long day. The whole process is meant to ease stress and help students succeed on their exams.

It is a stressful time and many students panic with the expectation of perfect scores. The tests themselves are difficult but for most students their grade will be close to their average grade in the class. Most teachers try to help their students and for the most part we are prepared to take them. They are a great way to give your grade a last-minute boost, and to show your teachers all that you have learned so far. All that is needed to do well on them is to study a little every night and try to review everything and spend some extra time on things that you don’t remember as clearly. As long as you have worked hard up to that point and try your hardest the exams will not be difficult.

Although these tests are overwhelming and stressful it’s important to remember that exams don’t just signify the end of the semester but also the beginning of a new one. With a new semester comes a new plate, grades reset and every student is given the chance to improve from the last semester. Also, many students have fun activities planned with friends during the afternoon on our half days. This is a good way to relieve stress and makes the whole process of taking the tests a little more bearable.

Midterms are over now, and final grades are pretty much set. We look back at them now and see that they were not as hard or worth as much stress and we had actually put into them. They are a good indicator for your teacher and yourselves as to how well you understand the information and how well you actually retained it. In all, they are a stressful time of year and many students do well on their tests.