The Ethics of Minecraft

Have you ever cut down a tree? A living, breathing, woody tree? It’s frowned upon in our society, much to my dismay, and that’s only scratching the surface of what you can do in minecraft but can’t in real life. I can’t go and dig a hole in somebody’s backyard and build a house in it. I can’t go and take bread from a person’s kitchen. I can’t raise my own herd of cattle in my backyard and then kill them on a whim. I can’t build a personal railroad down the sidewalk. But in Minecraft, things are different.

One of the most significant attributes in the wonderful game is that your actions are limited by nothing other than your imagination. I can build a house for the purpose of burning it down post completion. I can interbreed my herd of cows with each other multiple times a day so they can have an accelerated gestation period. I can fight off zombies in the night.  I can go and kill other people and loot their houses. I can basically do anything I want, and I like the freedom that carries. In a world dictated by a “do this do that” attitude, sometimes I just don’t want to do anything.  People push you and force you to do things you don’t want to do.  If this was Minecraft, I’d burn their house down.  In certain situations that kind of behavior is what the world needs.

The ever-expanding list of rebellious actions in Minecraft has raised a question for me. Are those things even ethical? The implications of Minecraft actions, through the lense of modern day society, are unacceptable and inappropriate. Imagine what the world would be like with true free will, with the kind of freedom one attains in minecraft. Politics would be solved with diamond swords and armor. Every aspect of arguing would be, at the very least, much more simplified.  People would have to face their enemies, and literally duel it out.  It’s a much more direct way of negotiation and confrontation, and frankly, that sounds better than people getting to duck behind others, deceiving their peers left and right. However, I still question Minecraft’s ethical maturity. Is this the next form of government for the United States? People didn’t really like our first form of U.S government. People sat down at a table and thought of our constitution. Years and centuries later, people sat down at a table to write the revolutionary code that built Minecraft.  Quite obvious parallels show that Minecraft is the way of the future. It simplifies life. Everything is based on the will of the person to survive. It gives individuals the choice to either pull themselves up and make responsible choices, or perish. Maybe it’s harsh, and I do acknowledge that possible viewpoint, but in reality it’s not much more cutthroat than our current societal norms. In real life, people always have to look out for their jobs, guard their family and block people from taking what is theirs, which is like constantly watching your infrastructure in Minecraft. If one were to boil down our current society, it’s really not tamer than Minecraft.

At the end of the day, which is about nine minutes in Minecraft, a true connoisseur of the sport must see the possible advances that the United States can make by adopting fundamental ideas of a true Minecraftian society. Those are, in fact, nothing. But maybe that’s what our society needs, although admittedly this level of change in our government is almost completely predestined to never happen. The use of Minecraft can still give us that freedom though, and it’s important to point out this available outlet. I can detox; zone out for a bit. Or four hours. But the point is, Minecraft gives people what they need, which is an outlet to let their mind roam free for however long without facing the possible consequences our real-life society puts in place.
story by Gil Johnson

AISD Jazz and Pops Festival

The LBJ Stage Band performed at the AISD Jazz and Pops Festival at Central Market North on May 3rd. Here are photos from solo artists and ensembles performing at the event.

photos by Hannah Marks

LASA Class of 2015 Moves on to Bigger and Better Things

LBJ and LASA’s class of 2015 is soon to graduate and move on to a wide array of higher education programs. Students are setting forth into four-year bachelor’s degree programs, two-year associate’s programs, military school, vocational education programs, public servant training and gap years. The class of 2015 has applied their high-school education to their post-secondary search process and applications, and consequently will disperse throughout the nation to pursue their passions.

LBJ college counselor Carmen Tucker and LASA college counselor Jamie Kocian said they agree that the success of the class of 2015 is unprecedented, and that their students are headed off to bigger and better things. Tucker said these impressive results did not come easily.

“This year’s students are intrinsically motivated and they’re excited about their next steps in their life,” Tucker said. “They come in here, they work hard, and they don’t leave the college center until they’re done, and that’s something I’m proud of.”

Tucker said the vast majority of college-bound LBJ students are soon to attend in-state, public institutions, with the most popular being Sam Houston University, Texas A&M University and Texas Southern University. About 4 percent will attend out-of-state private schools.

“A lot of our students have decided to attend community college for six months up to two years and then move on to a four year college or university,” Tucker said. “[This is because] we focus more on financial aid and scholarships.”

Thirty-nine LASA students will be attending University of Texas, Austin next year, which is slightly higher than in years passed. Kocian said many LASA students have been granted impressive scholarships and admitted to academic programs that make in-state schools more enticing.

“Getting accepted into an engineering program or a business program well known across the country can sweeten the deal,” Kocian said. “But a lot of the time, students think ‘Well, I know I’m going to graduate school so why don’t I just keep costs down by attending my local university?’”

Both Kocian and Tucker said the class of 2015 has accomplished things in the college-search process that past classes have not. Kocian said the amount of financial aid LASA students received this year is unparallelled and thus many students are headed out of state to private colleges on scholarships.

“Although this is the largest class, [the class of 2015] has earned the most money in scholarships and grants and gift-aid ever in LASA history and that’s incredible,” Kocian said. “We don’t even have everyone reporting all of their aid yet, maybe under 50 percent reporting their scholarships, and we’re still at $25.2 million.”

Tucker said LBJ’s graduation rate and college enrollment rate keeps improving from year to year. This year, the LBJ graduation rate is over 90 percent, 100 percent of students have applied to a college or trade-school and 60 percent will be attending a college or trade-school. These numbers are unprecedented.

“Most jobs [require] that you have some sort of certification or degree, and not just a high school diploma,” Tucker said. “Students are starting to realize that, and they are getting in the driver’s seat as far as their careers. Now they understand that in order to be employed they need more than a high school diploma.”

Tucker and Kocian said they have noticed a pattern with their LBJ and LASA students: as colleges and the job-market become more competitive, the students continue to work harder and harder to achieve their goals. Tucker said she is tremendously proud of her students and knows they will go far.

“I’m very excited,” Tucker said. “I know I’m going to be emotional at graduation, but I’m already getting excited about next year because I know it’s just going to get better and better.”

There are also many students who are avoiding the traditional college experience and will be traveling to countries such as Scotland, France and Germany or will be moving to remote areas without any family nearby.

“Students are rising to the challenge as far as my expectations like being a little bit more adventurous,” Kocian said. “Our students are going to international schools or even this gap year experience. They are taking a leap of faith like ‘I am going to have an adventure and get out of my comfort zone.’”

The college counselors agree that we should celebrate every post-secondary choice that their students are pursuing. Whether it’s attending an international school, going on a full-ride scholarship, taking a gap year or training to be a fireman, Kocian said we should be proud of their hard work and give them our blessing.

“I think that there is no one path that everyone has to follow that is going to make that student successful,” Kocian said. “Some students are going to have a different path, such as a licensure program or other opportunities that are out there for students that a four-year degree does not equate. Sometimes it’s a certification program, sometimes it’s a four-year program, sometimes it’s a master’s program or a doctorate. I think that whatever a student wants to do, we should be celebrating that and be saying, ‘You’re going on for secondary opportunities, you are striving for something higher, dreaming bigger and reaching higher.’ As corny as that sounds, that should be celebrated.”

story by Willow Higgins

Rocks Rock so Rock On

Meris McHaney, the rock enthusiast herself.

Meris McHaney, the rock enthusiast herself.

In each rock there is a story. In a creek bed, in a forest, in an aquarium; rocks are all around us. As well as fish. The rock is an essential compound in the build up of life, and that is why I have decided to bring attention to it in this article. When searching images of rocks on Google I came across an alluring and jarring fact: rocks come in all shapes and sizes. Brown, gray, white, off white, on white, stone wash, khaki, coffee brown, coffee tan, dirt colored, mahogany, and of course, ash. These are the colors of rocks. Being an avid rock collector, I collect a plethora of extraordinary rocks and I believe this exemplifies a strong sense of skilled, hard work.

According to Wikipedia, a rock is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids, but I like to believe a rock is so much more. Rocks are the building blocks to our society, unless your society is in Bora Bora and you live in villas over the water. But, even then, I’m pretty sure there are still rocks in the water.

From rocks, we have been given the Grand Canyon, rock and roll, counter-tops, Dwayne Johnson, the word “quarry,” and paperweights. Honestly, I owe my life to rocks. With no other real way of securing my mother, my dad had to use rocks glued to a gold band. To think that if it weren’t for the diamonds and sapphires around my mom’s finger, I wouldn’t be here giving you this insight on rocks today.

Rocks have been around since Jesus. To prove this, look at the bible; it’s just a big, giant rock. Actually, come to think about it, a lot of things are rocks: my backpack, bricks, bricks in my backpack. In fact, this ode to rocks is just a metaphor for my life. Throughout my life, I’ve had several rocks and punches thrown at me: when Chipotle is closed, when Changos, my backup taco supplier, is closed, when Netflix decides to stop a season early on a show, when my mom says “make your own dinner” and, of course, when my calculator’s in radians.

Take the Aztecs, a tribe of fellow rock subscribers, who carved their history into rocks. Although the Aztecs revolutionized agriculture, architecture, probably invented Mexican food, and impacted today’s society greatly, we need to see them as who they really are: rock writers (ones who write on rock of course). The essence of true history, true passion. Blood, sweat and tears probably lie within the rocks that surround us today.

This article honestly captures years and years of history, much like rocks themselves. Rocks have been used for centuries in feudal warfare. Launched at castles and over walls, they were able to win a war for many. The Neolithic peoples were quite fond of the rock. They used it for buildings, weapons, cooking, and many more completely functionable household appliances such as a washing machine. Although they may have smelled bad due to the fact that they thought you could wash a shirt with a rock, the Neolithic peoples understood and respected the rock. When it comes down to it, that’s what my project is all about: capturing respect. I think it’s important that kids in America learn about respect. The fact that I could capture that in a few paragraphs, well, rock on to me.

I know my extensive knowledge of rocks has inspired you to become an avid rock collector, but just remember, the Aztecs put rocks, and corn tortillas, on this earth for us to share.

In my concluding research, I’ve found that rocks can be smooth, rigid, or soft. But just because they’re soft, you still can’t throw them at people. Even if you hate them.
If you hate them, throw a boulder.

story by Meris McHaney

Texas Community Music Festival Showcases Local Artists

The brassy blare of a French horn drowns out the sweet harmonies of a duo performing across the deck of Central Market North during the 10th annual Texas Community Music Festival (TCMF), which kicked off Friday, April 17. The audience of Austin music lovers expects a cacophony of sounds swirling through the creative chaos of this free, grassroots festival.

The festival, founded by saxophonist and political consultant Herb Holland, is hosted by the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, Austin’s oldest community band. Holland said the festival featured such diverse acts from across the state as a zombie marching band, belly dancers, banjo club, classical quartets, and jazz and polka bands, in previous years.

“One of the best things about this festival is that it promotes the work of hundreds of area musicians,” Holland said. “It provides a forum for young performers to share their talent.”

TCMF is a family friendly and educational event, and the audience enjoys the diverse cross-section of genres performed, Holland said. Last year, he estimated 10,000 attended during the 10-day festival, and he said he expects even more for this year. The daily timeline is structured with numerous 15-minute slots, called “break sets” which allows larger bands to get set up and small groups to showcase their music. This structure allows for more than 60 musical groups to showcase their music during the festival.

“Our performing acts range in size from solo artists to ensembles, to concert bands of 70 pieces or more, and it runs the musical gamut from classical, to rock, to jazz, to world beat and everything in between,” Holland said. “TCMF truly has something for everyone’s musical taste.”

Musician Jane Nelson has performed at TCMF with several bands over the past three years, but this was the first time her 13-year-old daughter, Tori, performed. Tori sang a duet of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. She said although she got nervous and forgot a few of the lyrics, she felt very accomplished once she was finished.

“What’s beautiful about this festival is that it gives young musicians a chance to perform in front of an audience and build their confidence,” Nelson said.

Musicians interested in performing at the next festival should check the website at www.tcmfestival.com.

Local sponsors of the event include H-E-B, Central Market, Strait Music Co., Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, and Russell Korman. For more information on TCMF go to www.tcmfestival.com.

story by Mason Crowell

The Essence of Language Sensitivity: Political Correctness

This is going to have a lot of caveats. That is, of course, inevitable when you’re talking about people’s feelings and thousands of years of discrimination and hatred. Words matter, and our language reflects our attitudes, so of course there should be debate on what is acceptable language. I want to start with a couple of ground points, a few things I think we can mostly agree on. Number one: people who aren’t members of an ethnicity shouldn’t use slurs about or against that ethnicity. There’s an entire debate to be had about whether people should be socially allowed to use slurs against themselves, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. Number two: language that incites violence against a group of people is not OK. I seriously hope we can agree on those two premises, or at least the second one. It would be ironic if my foray into the realm of Political Correctness (PC) was offensive, and I fear it might be, but I also know that it is near impossible to discuss the way we should and shouldn’t talk about race, religion and sexuality without ruffling someone’s feathers. With all that in mind, here we go.

Political Correctness is avoiding forms of expression, mostly language, that might exclude groups of folks who have historically been marginalized. Being PC, however, is not an identity that is generally met with any enthusiasm. It’s met with sighs and anger. It’s a mark of a culture obsessed with itself, that can’t take a joke, with too many terms to remember and too many people that get offended too easily. People are just too sensitive these days. More cynical folks claim that being PC is going to ruin free expression and speech, the foundations of our society will be worn away by these cry-babies! Woah. Slow down. Whenever there’s a long-term and widespread phenomenon in language and ideas, there’s usually a reason. I think it’s intellectually lazy to pass it off as the cries of a weak and whiny minority.

There are two prices we all pay for living in a multicultural society with free speech. The first is being respectful to the histories and experiences of people who are different from you. Some would call this ‘common courtesy.’ It is a good thing. Without it we would feel free to just hurl hateful insults at whomever we pleased and racism would be OK. The second is being offended by people who mess up, who don’t realize what they’re saying is offensive, or who are just racists and bigots. You will hear from them, and you usually can’t have them arrested or hit them. These two prices, the certain levels of being offended and self-censorship, seem contradictory, but they really aren’t. All these prices establish is certain level of give and take, a social tax of courtesy, if you will. I don’t think you’ll find many people who disagree with this idea, so let’s go to where it gets messy.

Comedy. Programs like the Daily Show have become really important to our generation’s political knowledge and insight. We take our right to ridicule very seriously. How much of a pass do comedians get when it comes to being PC? The short answer is: they get a larger pass and a bigger responsibility. We, as a society, give them permission to criticize and ridicule us, to take a sarcastic and biting look at our uncomfortable truths for the sake of laughter. On that same token, however, they understand that if we decide that they are no longer in good faith trying to make us laugh, that they will fall hard. When a comedian goes too far, that would be making light of something where there is nothing to laugh about, genocide or rape, perhaps, we have a job as the viewer to respond with an appropriate reproach. The way we discover whether or not something has gone too far is rather simple. We do a little thought experiment. If I were a rational member of the group this comedian is making fun of, would I feel like I was being made to feel like less of a human being because of this joke? Am I being delegitimized? If the answer is yes, then they have gone too far and should suffer the consequences.

Philosopher-comedian Emily Levine said something in a TED talk about comedy that really stuck with me. At one point she says “I don’t think that a person of color making fun of white people is the same thing as a white person making fun of people of color. Or women making fun of men is the same as men making fun of women. Or poor people making fun of rich people, the same as rich people [making fun of poor people]. I think you can make fun of the have but not the have-nots.” So, with comedy comes two general rules: be wary of making fun of the have-nots, and avoid delegitimizing groups of people. Otherwise, comedians should rip us to shreds.

There is, as always, a caveat. Can a Jew make jokes about big noses? Can a Black person say the N word? When it comes to being PC, people making fun of their own minority groups get a special set of social rules and regulations. In short, a person can make jokes about their minority, the intensity of their jokes grows with the proportion of the audience that is in that minority. But they must also be wary not to ‘green-light’ other people who would take their comedy and use it inappropriately. There are jokes told by black comedians that I, as a white person, simply cannot repeat. I shouldn’t say them, but I’ve seen other white people say them, in front of black folks, with no social repercussions. Relationships and context, obviously, play a huge role in figuring out what is appropriate. There are no hard and fast rules here, merely a guideline: when you make fun of a group to which you do not belong, tread lightly.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. A tale of two slurs. We’re going to delve into the worlds of queer folks and black folks as far as a privileged white dude can. When I first learned that LASA had a Queer-Straight alliance (QSA) I was a little thrown off. I had assumed ‘queer’ was an anti-gay slur. Many people still do. Here at LASA, however, our QSA uses queer as an umbrella term for the entire alphabet soup of different identities. The goal is to reclaim the word and change its definition until it’s usable again. Also while at LASA and Kealing, I heard another word I always thought was a slur. I thought I was witnessing the 1950’s flashing before my ears in a chorus of the N-word being tossed around like a football. Except, unlike the 50’s, it wasn’t some racist white bigot saying that word, it was the folks that word was supposed to delegitimize. As a white person, I was uncomfortable, but then, as a white person, I was uncomfortable to be uncomfortable with a word that I had no experience with or right to be made uncomfortable by. Context, as usual, is key. In the case of words like Queer or the N-word, there’s a lot of opinions as to when, where, how and who should say them. I’ve been told that people who use the latter slur are attempting to do with a racial slur what LGBT+ people are trying to do with their former slur. I have, as a white person, no experience or authority to speak about this, so take this as you will. I feel like, unlike the word ‘queer,’ the N-word is too far gone to be saved. There is too long and deep and hateful a history behind that word, it might just be better to let it die out. Then again, perhaps there’s some saving to be done. Being PC requires that you not attempt to tell groups you have no insider knowledge about how they should act towards each other. I can’t tell a black person how he should treat other black people, all I can do is be honest about that, from this end, it makes me uncomfortable and doesn’t look like a great idea. I can only hope that we all make efforts to be open about what makes us comfortable or uncomfortable so we can begin to have a better dialogue moving forward.

Being PC is not easy. It never has been, and as those groups who have historically been oppressed continue to gain the liberty to define themselves in their own words, it will only get more complicated. The rules of offense are fluid and largely defined by the social situations these interactions occur in. We didn’t even talk about the push-back against queer expression, the reaction against feminism, and self-victimization by those groups who have historically been the oppressors, not the oppressed. Wars on Christmas, white history month, meninism, all of these fly in the face of Political Correctness and, if we’re being honest, basic intelligence and common decency. I hope that with some of the basic guidelines of Political Correctness established, we will be better able to express our feelings of discomfort and move towards kindness not being attacked for political gain, but seen as it should be: basic human decency.

story by Alex Friedman

Reconciling with Zayn’s Departure via Sims

Zayn Malik engulfs my every thought. The minute I wake up, I ask myself, “Is Zayn doing OK today? Has he dumped his fiancee yet?”  I married him on Sims 3, we’re expecting kids, and we live in a big postmodern mansion on a woodsy cul-de-sac. I got a Twitter a couple years ago so I could tweet him and his cohorts. My life revolves around him and only him.  When he left One Direction, I was in Facing History learning about the Weimar Republic. Everything after that was a blur. I was miserable, and I didn’t eat for two hours.

I considered going on one of those youth retreats so I could find God and forget Zayn. Instead, I just resorted to immersing myself in virtual reality, Sims 3, where Zayn COULD NEVER LEAVE ME. My half-Pakistani lover is now trapped in The Sims, going through the constant cycle of being a line cook who is desperately in love with me. We have two Porsches, a bunch of palm trees and an endless love tank that gets filled up every time I “ctrl+shift+c ‘testingcheatsenabled true.’” We have stock in the cemetery, the observatory, and two restaurants. I’m a world-renowned surgeon and I look fly in my lab coat. We have an unlimited amount of Simoleons in the bank, and things are looking good.

However, when he shaved his head a couple days ago, my life turned upside down. I was convinced that I was in a great place with my new husband. We just bought another sculpture to go in our sculpture garden, and I got promoted to Head Cardiothoracic Surgeon. All of this organization had completely gone to waste. I felt personally betrayed. What was I to do? Start anew? Do away with all the hard work I put into building a home and a family so I could accommodate a newly bald Zayn? It’s impossible to really get into my Sims family if Sims Zayn doesn’t look like IRL Zayn. Not to mention that he got his nose pierced on the left side. I’ve got mine on the right, so I’m certain that when we take cute couple photos looking into each other’s eyes, both our piercings will be visible in the picture. I’ve got it all planned out. Except for on The Sims. He has a full head of hair, a stud-free nose, and a really ugly apron that he doesn’t change out of when he gets off of work. Thank God he kept his five-o’clock shadow intact so I wouldn’t have to worry about that, too. I started to realize whether I was investing too much time in my virtual world. I expelled that thought from my mind when my Sim urinated herself. True story. My life’s in shambles.

My family is a little worried about me, suffice to say. The second I’m done with my AP English essay practice, I’m queuing up The Sims 3. Yesterday, I spent 15 minutes figuring out which door matches my window trim the best. I spent another five arguing about which stairs suited the house more. After I decided on the perfect chair for Zayn to relax in after a long day of “Learn Cooking Skill” at Hogan’s Deep Fried Diner, I came to a realization.

Zayn and I will probably never be married, expecting children, or updating the mausoleum next door. He will probably never have the pleasure of meeting me, and I him. We will probably never be able to touch nose piercings like I always wanted. He is a celestial being–no more, no less. I sat wide-eyed in front of my laptop screen for what felt like hours upon this epiphany. Ana Malik is no more. Small Zayn, our unborn baby, has no real stake in life. I had been living completely in a virtual reality.

This made me really think. Are we real, or are we just the figment of God’s imagination? Are we all just Sims without the weird green jewel rotating above our heads? Someone, somewhere, is sitting on his Pottery Barn couch, laptop burning into his thighs, controlling our every move. One day, our hunger meter will go too low for too long, or a meteor will hit our house. We could forget to pay our bills and our house would be repo-ed. An unfinished paint job in the bathroom will give us a -10 mood and we will not be able to perform at work. Just one glitch in the system–one change in routine could ruin us all. I’m questioning my entire existence because of this 2009 PC game, and Zayn still hasn’t tweeted me back.

 

story by Ana Lopez

LBJ and LASA First Ladies Present Spring Show

Three dozen girls stretch their splits on the checkered floor of the dance room, faces twisted in agony. They get up to practice calypso combinations across the floor, then they scurry into formation to run through their Modern piece. Their hair is pulled in tight, slick ponytails, whipping in their face when they execute double pirouettes. The determination to excel is evident in each dancer’s expression. It all rests in their hands. It’s life or death. It’s Spring Show season.

Every year, between April and May, LBJ and LASA’s First Ladies put on the Spring Show. Taking place after competition season, the Spring Show serves as a showcase for the team’s accomplishments over the year. This year, since the departure of the previous director, Darlene Hughes, the LBJ/LASA First Ladies have been under new management. Rae Collins, the new director, has reinvented the dance team by changing the structure of practice and performances. LASA senior and First Lady Mehraz Rahman said that the team performs with a newfound energy, and their organization is unprecedented.

“The new director, Ms. Collins, has an awesome vision for the team,” Rahman said. “Though a lot of things have changed, it is to be expected since every director has her own style; and really, she’s just another member of the team.”

LASA junior and First Lady officer Jessica Lopez said that this year, some major changes will be made to make Spring Show even better than before. The venue is different from past years and the structure of the performance has changed noticeably.

“Having the AISD Performing Arts Center as a venue this year means a bigger stage,” Lopez said. “This allows us to include cool stunts and more creative choreography.”

Along with the different venue, the First Ladies said that they must adapt to a change in tradition. The new stage and setup requires the ladies to think carefully about group dance formations.

“This year is slightly different because it was decided to not go with a theme so the dances don’t have one specific connecting factor,” LASA junior and First Lady Officer Hannah Read said. “Some of the previous dances in Spring Show couldn’t be done this year such as New Officer and New Team (performances reserved only for incoming First Lady members and officers) because tryouts for next year haven’t happened. The dances are clean and I think the show will come out nicely.”

The choreography changes from show to show, with new student choreographers teaching the team different styles of dance each year. The First Ladies said they look forward to the audience seeing the dances at this year’s Spring Show.

“I’m most excited for the two hip-hop dances I’m in since it’s my favorite style,” Rahman said. “It’s just so fun to do and upbeat, and an awesome way to express yourself.”

Similarly, First Ladies who choreograph some team and company dances said they are enthused to see their teammates show off their hard work. The officers in particular said that they have worked extra hard this year to practice every routine to perfect.

“This year I choreographed a hip-hop company piece with Jessica Lopez for a group of girls on the team,” Read said. “For the piece, I made up the moves, taught my company and cleaned the dance. It’s also my job to help any girls with questions in any of the dances and make sure everyone knows what’s going on. ”

According to many dancers, the choreography is just as fun to organize and direct as it is to dance. The First Lady choreographers have to be able to incorporate their leadership skills into their physical capabilities in order to create a dance of their own.

“I choreographed Team Pom, which is more like a cheerleading routine,” LASA sophomore and First Ladies officer Hannah Bradford said. “With my experience in cheerleading for years, I feel like this dance will be really fun to watch.”

This year, unlike past spring shows, the seniors are given a piece all to themselves. They are able to dance, for the last time, with the teammates they’ve spent so much time with. Not only will Spring Show feature several arrangements of group and full team dances, there will also be a duet with two seasoned First Ladies.

“I am most excited for my duet with Mehraz,” Read said. “We have been wanting to do a dance for several years and have been planning for a while. I’m proud of how it turned out.”

Along with the senior piece and the duet, the officers have organized another special feature to honor the senior girls. They spent weeks gathering statements from each senior girl about their experience as a First Lady.

“This year, I was in charge of filming senior interviews,” Lopez said. “Every Spring Show, we like to do something special for our seniors and this year, their interviews will also be displayed on screen.”

The First Ladies, as a whole, said they remain hopeful and optimistic about how the show will turn out. They said that they overcame all odds and still put together a huge production.

“This year’s preparation has been completely different from last year’s,” Bradford said. “We’ve been going through a lot of changes with having a new director. Hopefully, it all comes together and we have a great show.”

story by Ana Lopez

LASA First Lady seniors Ana Lopez (top left), Abby Kappelman, Caitlin Anderson and Ellie Pepperel pose to commemorate their last year on the team.

LASA First Lady seniors Ana Lopez (top left), Abby Kappelman, Caitlin Anderson and Ellie Pepperel pose to commemorate their last year on the team.

LASA seniors Mehraz Rahman (left), Caitlin Anderson, Mary Ellen Haskett, and Ellie Pepperel perform at a district football game.

LASA seniors Mehraz Rahman (left), Caitlin Anderson, Mary Ellen Haskett, and Ellie Pepperel perform at a district football game.

LASA senior Mehraz Rahman performing at halftime at a district football game.

LASA senior Mehraz Rahman performing at halftime at a district football game.

Sal Kahn Inspires Perserverance in Education

This year, several LBJ Liberator editors had the privilege of reporting on the events at SXSW Education, a conference that features up and coming leaders and entrepreneurs in the field of education. Below is a blogpost written for Compass Learning about a student journalist’s experience at SXSW Education. 

I have always thought, as many teenagers do, that math is not my subject. During many late nights before algebra tests, in a sleep-deprived fury, I convince myself that my brain is just not built to understand logarithms or the quadratic formula. But Sal Kahn has taught me otherwise. All any person needs to know is that you can learn anything you want if you put your mind to it.

Today at SXSWedu, I had the privilege of meeting Sal Kahn. He spoke of how he decided to found the Kahn Academy because of an experience he had with his cousin. She, just like me, was falling behind in math because she had convinced herself that her brain was simply not capable of understanding the material. She was not getting the help she needed from her teachers, and thus was moved down to a remedial level math class. But after a few tutoring sessions with Kahn, she was able to get a good grasp on the subjects she was confused on, and was moved up to an advanced level class. After seeing that just a little bit of effort made an enormous impact on a child’s academic trajectory, he decided to develop an online, free of cost, tutoring program that aimed to give students across the globe the extra explanations they may need in order to succeed in school

If there is anything that SXSWedu has taught me, it’s that the world is full of people like me and Kahn’s cousin. Different brains work in different ways, but we can’t let that discourage our efforts. Learning is about resilience, perseverance, and confidence. We should nurture different learning styles, and be patient with different learning curves. Because as Kahn said, everybody is capable of learning anything they want if they believe in themselves.

story by Willow Higgins

SXSWedu

Barrier Breakdown: Educating All Types of Learners

This year, several LBJ Liberator editors had the privilege of reporting on the events at SXSW Education, a conference that features up and coming leaders and entrepreneurs in the field of education. Below is a blogpost written for Compass Learning about a student journalist’s experience at SXSW Education. 

Today SXSWedu was all about breaking down the barriers of education to reach all types of learners. Thanks to Compass Learning, my fellow high school students and I had the opportunity to delve into what we understand as the educational platform, and who can benefit from expanded educational opportunities. Visiting multiple sessions on different core conversations about education gave me this newly formed sphere of knowledge.

 

“Let’s Talk About Race and Equity in Education”

In this session, Michelle Molitor, founder of The Fellowship for Race & Equity in Education (FREE), gave me and other listeners the chance to break out of our comfort zones and talk about social identifiers in education, like gender and race, that give us opportunities for discussion, and also those that limit us because of their taboo connotations. While the discussion of race and equality in education is sometimes an uncomfortable subject, in this session I learned that it is these uncomfortable and inconvenient topics that are the most important to emphasize in order to make a real change. The absence of representation of culturally and socially diverse experiences is what keeps us from moving forward in education and reaching the peak where we can maximize education without bias. Molitor pointed out that while the introduction of “revolutionary” new ideas seems to present itself year after year, in actuality we are not moving forward because we avoid such uncomfortable topics such as privilege and inequality, a reality which I found not only frighteningly true, but also optimistic in the opportunity to improve in such ways. I left this session motivated to open the topic of educational equality, and excited to see what chances I could find to discuss the issues further with my peers, whether it be in school or not.

 

“Robot Teaches Real Life Social Skills”

One in 68 children in America has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a group of developmental disabilities which classifies a range of symptoms and patterns of behavior and learning deficits that range from being nearly unrecognizable to incredibly severe. With this staggering statistic comes the task of educating those children whose learning styles can require to be more involved. The staffing and manpower deficit that exists for children with ASD could be solved thanks to Milo, a robot produced by RoboKind, a social robotics company, with curriculum developed by Dr. Pamela Rollins, a professor of early social communication and autism at The University of Texas, Dallas. At this awe-inspiring presentation, I had the unique opportunity to hear about Milo from the robot himself and view his interactions with children with ASD. The progression videos of children from session to session showed the transformative ability of technology on children with ASD and the unique ability of that technology to teach the children how to interact with their peers. Instead of how I typically assumed the process of teaching social cues to those who inherently don’t understand them went, with instruction from therapists and specialized teachers, I realized while watching the videos that to truly help these children, it is necessary to connect education with student interest. In this case, the topic of interest was most typically technology. Dr. Rollins’ research and Milo, I hope, will soon become the norm for autism education, allowing us to more fully understand how to establish a connection with those who think differently.

story by Chloe Edmiston

 

An Education Revolution: Student Desires Progress After Hearing Ideas at SXSWedu

This year, several LBJ Liberator editors had the privilege of reporting on the events at SXSW Education, a conference that features up and coming leaders and entrepreneurs in the field of education. Below is a blogpost written for Compass Learning about a student journalist’s experience at SXSW Education. 

Despite rush hour traffic and struggling to find parking, my morning at SXSWedu got off to a great start with sessions about the biggest issues in education that opened up a dialogue between speakers and attendees.

The first talk I made it to was by Betsy DeVos and focused on the achievement gap in education and how we should go about solving it. DeVos’s main focus was on school choice and its efficacy in rectifying what many consider to be a broken system. In her own words, “It is not defensible that today we can predict educational outcomes by the zip code in which someone lives.” DeVos’s no-holds-barred approach to her talk resonated well with the audience and attendees, from teachers to policy advocates, who quickly took to the microphone to pose their own questions. I myself (nervously) asked about what I find to be one of the biggest barriers that low income schools often deal with, i.e. teacher retention. DeVos’s reply and her talk as a whole was incredibly inspiring to me and, based on the constant clicking of keyboards throughout the session, everyone else in the room.

After a quick break, I headed over to the Hilton to hear a panel discussion on post-graduation career readiness. What I learned was disconcerting as I, someone who is beginning the college search process, was told that many employers were struggling to find college graduates that were actually competent enough to work. The panel, consisting of Barnaby Dorfman, Kristin Hamilton, Tony Wagner and Zach First, talked about how the knowledge and facts students learn to pass their standardized tests and get into colleges aren’t useful in the workplace. Rather, skills like critical thinking and cooperation are often overlooked in the college curriculum even though they are really what makes a good employee. In Wagner’s words, “the world doesn’t care what you know, the world cares what you can do with what you know.”

As I walked out of that second talk, I stumbled on a sort of connection between DeVos’s talk that morning and the one I had just attended: there needs to be an education revolution. There needs to be more connection with entrepreneurs and schools so that schools can prepare their students for the world outside of academia. There should be more fluidity in the schooling options students have so they don’t remain trapped in failing schools. And, as was said in both sessions, schools need to graduate into the digital age and truly use technology for work, for learning and as a means to give access to all students to the best possible education experience.

This is what makes an event like SXSWedu so important. At a convention like this, innovators from all over the world can converge and spread ideas and share experiences that will be implemented into the today’s classrooms to make for an even better future. Thank you so much to Compass Learning for giving me the amazing opportunity to attend SXSWedu. Now I’m off to see even more of what the convention has to offer. Happy learning!

story by Sam Zern

Reinstating Creativity Via LEGOS: Achievement Gaps and Educational Equality

This year, several LBJ Liberator editors had the privilege of reporting on the events at SXSW Education, a conference that features up and coming leaders and entrepreneurs in the field of education. Below is a blogpost written for Compass Learning about a student journalist’s experience at SXSW Education. 

When I was in elementary school, my brother and I would spend hours playing with LEGOs. I would design houses and buildings while my brother would have mini-battles with LEGO men that lost their heads defending their castles. The colored blocks were strewed across our portion of the living room, ready to be picked up on a whim. But as we got older and my brother and I became more focused on school and studying, the LEGOs stayed in boxes, hidden from view.

I hadn’t played with LEGOs in years when I was handed a small package of four yellow blocks and two red blocks at the door of the SXSWEdu session Employers Need More Than Just a Test Score. Audience members were asked to use these blocks and their own creativity to build a duck. My duck had red wings and a stocky body while one of my fellow editors chose to use the red pieces to create a beak for his duck. Each small duck was unique, representing how each of our reasoning skills and way of thinking is different. Stephan Turnipseed, of LEGO Education and one of the panelists on this session, then projected a picture of the duck he designed and asked the question, “What if the only people who passed were those who made the same exact duck as me?” The message was clear–creativity is being stifled by our current system of testing in schools and we need to start teaching children how to think rather than how to take tests.

Turnipseed then went on to share that at five years old children get 100% on a test of creativity but as 25 year old adults, they only get 3% on the same scale. Creativity seems to disappear as people grow up, and move through a school system that places such a huge emphasis on testing. Over the past year I have taken the SAT, the ACT, multiple SAT subject tests, multiple AP tests and a surplus of tests in my various classes. I, like many students in grades K-12, recognize that this many tests is at some point regressive. How am I supposed to learn if my time is spent worrying about memorization and eliminating answer choices on a multiple choice test, rather than formulating my own thought and engaging others?

Linda Darling-Hammond, a panelist from the Stanford University Center for Opportunity Policy in Education said that we must develop a new framework for assessments in school. This new model must focus on taking a wider look on how information can shape students and develop creative thinking. She went on to say that “assessments should be models of good instruction and be used as exemplars of quality work and standards… they should be used for information, not punishment.”

Throughout the presentation I found myself fiddling with the LEGO pieces; changing my version of a duck into various other shapes and designs. Creativity is within each of us and sometimes it simply takes sitting down and designing something with LEGOs to nurture it. I agree with Darling-Hammond and Turnipseed that the magnitude to which we test students is wrong and we should instead focus on teaching students to be adaptable and able to learn. Maybe the best way to prepare kids for the so-called real world is to give them a handful of LEGOs, let them take the reigns, and watch what they can create.

story by Zia Lyle

Reading, Writing and Retweeting: Literacy Redefined

This year, several LBJ Liberator editors had the privilege of reporting on the events at SXSW Education, a conference that features up and coming leaders and entrepreneurs in the field of education. Below is a blogpost written for Compass Learning about a student journalist’s experience at SXSW Education.

In the digital age, defining literacy is a more difficult feat than it once was. Historically, literacy was defined as the ability to read words, and education was centered around reading, writing and arithmetic. But as the human race has developed and evolved, the way we learn has fundamentally changed. Liz Radzicki said that although this influx of technology and media has changed the way we think and interact, most modern educators fail to incorporate those changes into their curriculum.

Today, literacy requires us to consume, create and connect silmultaneously. Children growing up in the modern world are forced to engage all parts of their brain at once as they are constantly flooded with information from different types of media and technology. Because of this influx of information, kids between eight and 18 only spend 5% of their time viewing media with print. But in school, print is still the primary way that we teach and test students on the information they learn. By doing this, we are depriving students of the intellectual stimulus that they get outside of school, and thus teach them at a much slower pace than we could if we implemented modern education techniques.

Liz Radzicki said that in terms of the way we educate our children, we must look forward. Although a print based curriculum may be the easiest way to teach our kids, it is not the most effective nor the most efficient. She said we have to bridge this cultural gap between adults and children, and encourage everybody to become comfortable with technology. As we close that gap, we should begin to integrate different techniques into education, and start shying away from the traditional definition of literacy. Instead, we should define literacy to include consuming, creating and connecting, and encourage students to learn with their hands. If educators incorporate assignments such as photography projects, media analysis, and hands on experiments, we can turn student’s passions into a purpose by giving them the tools they need to apply their knowledge into the real world.

Although I am nostalgic for the days where every kid on the block thought that reading was the coolest form of entertainment, the truth is that today print functions in conjunction with other forms of media to create a comprehensive book of information. We need to embrace this new form of media and the technological resources we have and use it to our advantage. This is a step forward in the age of information and should be used to give children a top notch education.

story by Willow Higgins

Employers Need More Than Just a Test Score: Achievement Gaps and Educational Equality

This year, several LBJ Liberator editors had the privilege of reporting on the events at SXSW Education, a conference that features up and coming leaders and entrepreneurs in the field of education. Below is a blogpost written for Compass Learning about a student journalist’s experience at SXSW Education. 

Test anxiety is not a foreign circumstance for me. During my journey through AISD education, I have often found myself clammy and shaky in my desk, racking my brain to correctly decipher a multiple choice question. With each singular question, there are five possible answers, each loaded with keywords from the unit, and as a result all five answers look slightly correct, but not quite perfect. Beneath the prompt, in italics, lies the words “Choose the best answer”. But as I read and reread the question, none of my options really seem like the “best answer”. I yearn for a place on the scantron where I can articulate the answer in my own words, using my own thought process, but I have no such luck. So instead I fidget nervously, thinking about the high stakes of my test results, and bubble in the answer that looks the least wrong. Unsatisfied with my answers, I cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Lego education researcher Stephan Turnipseed and professor of Opportunity Policy in Education at Stanford University Linda Darling-Hammond understand that this is not the way that we should be educating our future generation. During their session at SXSWedu, they discussed the importance of creativity in today’s economy, and the true value of innovation and forward thinking in the job market. Turnipseed and Darling-Hammond articulated the notion that modern education and multiple choice assessment is beating the creativity out of the young mind. A study even showed that 100% of five year olds tested as creative geniuses, but at age 25, post-education, only 3% of people tested as creative geniuses on the same scale. By assessing the skills of our children with a multiple choice test, we are teaching the idea that only one answer is correct; there is only one way to think about things; learning is a one-sided process. Turnipseed and Darling-Hammond said that not only is this discouraging students to think outside of the box, but it also is an inaccurate determinant of their grades and college education.

Instead of quizzes, final exams, and even the SAT and ACT, Turnipseed and Darling-Hammond recommend that students should graduate from high school with a comprehensive portfolio that contains every project, extra-curricular, and educational conquest that the student has achieved over the years. This portfolio will allow college admission counselors and employers to view the student as an entire package rather than a number that is supposedly representative of their intelligence. The portfolio evaluation will encourage students to educate themselves beyond the material that will appear on their history AP or english final exam. It will allow students to study subjects that they are actually interested in and to track their progress and display the achievement of their goals in a comprehensive way. It will give students credit for extra-curricular activities and volunteer work, but most importantly, it will prevent students from being hindered by a faulty test score.

As a student who has always struggled with multiple choice testing, the words of Turnipseed and Darling-Hammond rang true to me. The current education system has fought to rob my creative mind, forcing me to think in black and white. But I refuse to let my creativity be confiscated. As a student, an education activist, and a creative person, I will stand behind Turnipseed and Darling-Hammond as we fight an accurate assessment method. At 25, I will not be part of the 97% that is no longer a creative genius. I will advance the message of Turnipseed and Darling-Hammond and fight to achieve the education system that America’s future generation deserves.

story by Willow Higgins

Just Monday Math at JMM

LASA Math Club students cheered on a teammate and listened to various mathematical talks at the Joint Mathematics Meeting (JMM), the largest professional mathematics conference in the nation, which was held in San Antonio this year. At the conference, according to LASA junior Jonathan Sadun, who attended with his mathematician father, mathematicians present their results to each other and talk about their interests, what they have been doing and get inspired by other peoples’ work.

“A lot of great results can come from looking at someone else’s seemingly unrelated work and seeing a connection, and realizing that you can mix fields and use results from their field in your field, and basically that seems to me to be a lot of how you get important mathematical results; you can’t just do all of math on your own,” Sadun said. “JMM allows mathematicians to mingle in that way and learn a bunch of things.”

The registration price for high school students was only $11, while it cost a few hundred dollars for professional mathematicians. LASA senior Sam Grayson said the affordability as well as the one-time opportunity nature of having the largest math conference in the nation held in Texas encouraged him to attend JMM.

“I got an idea for what it would be like to go into math,” Grayson said. “I realized that it’s a lot more broad than I thought. I thought of math as this specific topic, but really math is a diverse field.”

Other parts of JMM programming included semifinals of the “Who Wants To Be a Mathematician” (WWTBAM) contest, activities for younger students and presentations by undergraduate and graduate students, who can present to and get feedback from professional mathematicians. The LASA Math Club competed in a preliminary round of WWTBAM. After a couple more rounds, LASA junior DiCarlo advanced to semi-finals along with 10 other students nationally.

“In the preliminary level, you do the math problems, and then everyone just talks about the events: which ones are hard, and the strategies, all that kind of stuff; it’s fun to talk about the problems,” DiCarlo said. “It’s that element of explaining how you do every problem, all over.”

DiCarlo competed in a five-person round of semi-finals on stage at JMM in San Antonio on Monday, January 10. He won second place in semi-finals, earning $1,000 for himself and $1,000 for the school, but not performing well enough to advance to finals. After each multiple choice question, the contestants’ responses were projected, and host Mike Breen chose one participant who answered correctly to explain how they arrived at their answer.

“The problems got progressively harder as the semifinal went on,” DiCarlo said. “On stage, I had to stand at the podium to do the problems, and I stood next to the person who won the semifinal, Shyam. I tried to stay relaxed and not panic, and it worked pretty well. When Shyam explained in a joking manner how he got the Sperner’s Lemma problem, we all laughed and the tension eased. On the Riverwalk problem, casual talking helped ease the tension and helped me focus without the pressure. Those two events helped make it less stressful and more fun to be up there.”

A few members of the LASA Math Club attended JMM and took a break from attending talks to cheer DiCarlo on during the semifinals. Though at first discouraged by concepts she did not understand, LASA senior Ceci Gould said JMM made her more curious about math.

“I realized there’s a lot more about math I did not know,” Gould said. “You always think there’s this limited amount of math you can learn in the world, and then when you go to something like this math conference, where everyone is a grad student or beyond, you realize there’s so much stuff I don’t know at all. [JMM] opened my eyes to the field of math, and it made me more interested in taking math in the future because now I want to understand all this stuff that I saw.”

Anyone can register for JMM, but high school student attendees are unusual. Sadun said he thinks this is because of the inconvenience of traveling to a national conference for just the experience, since the math discussed is high level and not as accessible to high school students. He also said high school students might expect that not understanding the material means the experience would not be beneficial. Sadun said he disagrees with this belief and encourages other high school students to attend similar events if the opportunity arises.

“A lot of people can understand more math than they realize, especially by sticking to trying to go to more talks by undergraduate and graduate students, or the plenaries, which are supposed to be accessible to all mathematicians, so make sure to cover any definitions and such that are used in there, so they can understand some of the mathematics that’s going on there,” Sadun said. “[JMM] also gives people a sense for what mathematics is really about, that I think is missing from many of even the best math classes.”


story by Frankie Marchan

A Concern for Safety: Jews in Europe

After the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, there is a discussion to be had about the freedom of press and the right to be offended, but, if you’ll recall, there was a second crisis in France during those three days. Jews were held hostage in a Kosher deli in Paris and four of them were murdered by their hostage-taker for their Judaism. I have nothing new to say about freedom of press, but the murder of Jews because of their religion in Europe sets off alarm bells in my head.

As the accounts from Jews in Paris come rolling in, I read again and again that the Paris Jewish community, while horrified by the attack, was not surprised by it. And why should they be? In 2012, a French-Algerian murdered three Jewish children and a Rabbi. Another French national shot four Jewish people dead at a Jewish History Museum last May. A popular French comedian invented and spread what’s been described as an “inverted Nazi salute” and advocates for the death of Jews in gas chambers once again. His jokes were so inflammatory and hateful that the French government banned his comedy tour. Right after the Charlie attack, accusations started rolling in that Jews and Israel were secretly behind the attack. Leaders in American anti-Zionist organizations were blaming the Israeli intelligence agencies for committing the attack. In an MSNBC interview, a woman said her conversations with young French-Algerian Muslims in the suburbs of Paris taught her that some of them believe the attacks were carried out by magical shape-shifting Jews to undermine the relations between Muslim and non-Muslim French people.

The idea of magical Jews sounds crazy, and it should, but it also reminds me of the old Soviet-era and Nazi-era propaganda. More and more, Jews in France no longer feel safe being openly Jewish, or wearing Stars of David or Kippahs. Aggression toward openly practicing Jews is common; to be glared at, harassed or beat-up for wearing a Kippah is commonplace. The scars of the Nazi occupation, French xenophobia, and an economic downturn have created a toxic situation for France’s 500,000 Jewish citizens. Jews are leaving France for Israel and the United States by the thousands. Last year, 7,000 French Jews fled to Israel double the previous year’s figure. It’s been estimated that after these attacks, this years could see as many as 15,000 fleeing for Israel. France, the European nation with the highest number of Jewish inhabitants, is losing them at an insane rate.

When it comes to a rising tide of xenophobia and hatred of Jews, however, France is not alone. Xenophobia never entirely left German society. For the past decades, those Germans who never reconciled their hatred of Jews were made to conceal their anti semitism because of their country’s shame. The shame of Germany is what created its strong relationship with Israel and its intake of immigrants, the largest in Europe. That, however, can’t hold forever. Last October, during the Jewish High Holy days, Synagogues rebuilt after their destruction during Kristallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust, came under armed guard after nearly weekly attacks. Jewish institutions are seeing an influx of anti-Semitic mail evoking old stereotypes, chants of “Jew! Jew! Cowardly pig!” and “Burn the Jews!” are being heard once again in Germany’s streets during protests against Israel. German and European citizens have been using Gaza and support of the Palestinians as a pretext to let old hatreds out for a stroll. Let me be clear, you can be critical of the State of Israel without being an anti-semite. No nation should be above criticism, especially one that is so important to so many people. That being said, when you go from being critical to questioning Israel’s right to exist, or if your protests turn to those hateful cries, your original reason for protesting against Israel becomes a lot more apparent.

For Jews in France and Germany, and the rest of the EU for that matter, this is absolutely terrifying. For Jews around the world, this evokes images of emaciated bodies in death camps, of pogroms, and of store-fronts with broken windows and a Star of David painted on the door. It is disturbing. It comes as no surprise then, the exodus from Europe. Unlike the 1930’s, there is a now place to run: Israel. This is the purpose and situation that Israel was created for; what Zionism fights for; a place to run to and be safe as a Jew. No nation can be trusted, it seems, to learn from its history. European anti-Semitism, which always bubbles beneath the surface, is being fed by an economic downturn and an influx of immigrants from one of the most anti-semitic regions in the world. This is not safe.

In a three thousand year history of persecution and death, the Jewish people have learned to never take their safety for granted and that the goodwill of their neighbors can be easily turned. French Prime minister, Manuel Valls, said in an interview before the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher deli attacks that “If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.” I would like to expand on that. If the Jews are made to flee Europe once again, Western civilization should be judged a failure. Je suis Charlie. Je suis Juif.

story by Alex Friedman

LASA Sees “Selma”

LASA students from AP U.S. History (APUSH) and Facing History and Ourselves classes went to see “Selma,” a movie about events in Selma, Alabama during the civil rights movement. After the movie, director of the LBJ Presidential Library Mark Updegrove spoke to the students about Lyndon B. Johnson’s (LBJ) portrayal in the film and LBJ’s involvement in the civil rights movement.

On Wednesday, Jan. 21, the field trip attendees viewed the movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. LASA junior Zoë Feder said that before the movie, she didn’t have much knowledge of the events in Selma.

“I am a little embarrassed to admit that, but all I had really retained over the years about MLK was just a more general picture and then the March on Washington,” Feder said. “It just serves as a reminder how incredibly cruel and inhumane anything other than equal rights is.”

LASA APUSH teacher Jason Flowers designed the field trip to see “Selma” after reading articles about the historical accuracy of the movie. Flowers decided to arrange for Updegrove to come speak to the students about LBJ’s portrayal in the movie after reading an article written by Updegrove. Flowers said having Updegrove come to speak after the students saw the movie made the experience more memorable.

“I was really proud of the questions the students asked,” Flowers said. “They were insightful and drove the discussion in a very productive direction and, of course, Mr. Updegrove told great stories about LBJ and the civil rights leaders depicted in the film. I hope [the students] were able to get a greater appreciation for the struggle undertaken by these civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, John Lewis and all the others depicted in the film, in order to end segregation and regain the franchise, and also to more fully understand the part that Lyndon Johnson played in that struggle.”

LASA Facing History and Ourselves teacher Neil Loewenstern said Updegrove’s presentation clarified the history between LBJ and MLK. The movie showed an antagonistic relationship between the two when history, presented by Updegrove, showed they were actually working together. Loewenstern’s Facing History and Ourselves classes are doing a unit on discrimination in America.

“I hope students take away a better sense of the levels of discrimination minorities faced and struggled to overcome in this country,” Loewenstern said. “I hope students come to realize they have a place in that struggle, and that it is the actions of ordinary citizens like themselves that can create change. In terms of the presentation, I want them to understand there is a difference between a Hollywood movie representation of history and what that actual history is.”

Updegrove is the author of several books about LBJ’s presidency. Since the movie was released, Updegrove has been interviewed for several articles about his disagreement with the portrayal of LBJ in the film. During his presentation to the students after the movie, he discussed this fact with them. Though not happy with LBJ’s portrayal, Updegrove said he feels that “Selma” is a powerful movie that helps show the events of the civil rights movement.

“I’m glad that it illustrates, for young people in particular, how different this nation was just a half a century ago and how different it might still be if not for the leadership and sacrifices of so many who put themselves in harm’s way to create a better America,” Updegrove said. “I regret only that it doesn’t accurately capture President Johnson’s passion for civil rights and social justice and his productive partnership with Martin Luther King.”

The 2014-2015 school year is also the 50th anniversary of the passing of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The events leading to the passing of the Voting Rights Act were what made up “Selma.”

“I thought it was important to observe that in some significant way,” Flowers said. “On a more practical level, College Board often observes these anniversaries in the form of essay questions on the AP exam, so I thought this type of activity would cement this period in the students’ minds better than a normal class.”

Feder said the movie changed the way she views the civil rights movement and that it added to her knowledge of the events during this time. She said that the movie helped her personally connect more to the events.

“I think movies really help us feel more personally connected to stories and characters,” Feder said. “So [‘Selma’] helped me see just how much the issues spread. To gain the civil rights they deserved, the people who fought through it had to consider so many different angles such as publicity, politics and just any person they encountered.”

Updegrove said that he hopes his presentation was able to help students learn more about the history behind the civil rights movement and LBJ’s involvement.

“I hope students know that we had a president 50 years ago, Lyndon Johnson, who partnered with Martin Luther King in the cause of civil rights for all Americans,” Updegrove said. “They may have disagreed at times on timing and tactics, but they shared a common goal to make good on the words that are written in our Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson exemplify what we can do, despite our differences, if we work together.”

story by Hannah Marks

No Place for Hate Flashmob

Throughout the cafeteria, LBJ students weave through bustling lunch lines and crowded tables holding signs with statistics about bullying and teen suicide. With nervous and somber energy in the air, the club members continued to parade their protests until suddenly and in synchronicity, everybody fell to the floor.

On Jan. 16, LBJ’s chapter of No Place for Hate club, a national anti-defamation league, held a suicide and bullying awareness flash mob to spread concern for hate speech and hate crimes throughout the community. The flashmob aimed to give the student body hard facts about the reality of bullying, which they displayed on posters, and to demonstrate the emotional damage hate speech can cause people by having the participants drop to the floor as if they fell dead. With the increased use of social media amongst teens and publicized social issues, the LBJ community has noted that bullying has become a greater issue that sometimes leads to dangerous and severe actions such as suicide and violent crimes. LBJ junior and No Place for Hate Club member Hannah Gromwald helped run and organize the event. Gromwald said she has recently realized the severity of bullying for teenagers across the nation and she hopes to educate her classmates to minimize bullying in the LBJ student body.

“I have seen bullying before, you know, on commercials and in real life,” Gromwald said. “This event just seems like something that sounds kind of fun, and it’s something we haven’t done before. We should try and expand our knowledge and learning new things to raise awareness to people because [bullying] is a very big problem.”

LBJ sophomore Regan Smith made posters with statistics and messages about bullying to be displayed at the flashmob and helped plan the logistics of the event. Smith said that this is a very serious issue and that it is important for the student body to work together to spread awareness.

“I haven’t been bullied here, but there was a little thing that happened in middle school so I understand about bullying and the importance of awareness,” Smith said. “It’s not fun. I hope people will think about [the event] and understand and think about if it happened to them and how they would feel.”

Smith said bullying perplexes her. She plans to do everything she can to educate the community and she said she hopes her actions affect her classmates.

“The flashmob may or may not have an impact, but I really just hope people will stop and think about it for a minute,” Smith said. “They need to remember the bullying that happens in schools all the time.”

No Place for Hate club members said they were glad to hear students discussing the significance of the event. LBJ junior Yasmine Ardomon witnessed the flash mob and said she was surprised by the statistics that were presented on the posters.

“I speak for everyone when I say our reaction was ‘what’s going on?’” Ardomon said. “We were flabbergasted. Maybe the LBJ community will benefit from the awareness. I’ve never heard of anybody being suicidal but you never really know what anyone is thinking.”

No Place for Hate Club members said they are proud of the message they fight to spread and are satisfied with the results of their hard-work because the flashmob was well-received by the students in the cafeteria.

“I am hoping to voice my opinion because there are so many people who witness this but they won’t say anything or really try to bring awareness to that,” Gromwald said. “Just one person can make a huge impact in someone else’s life and that’s what we are trying to get across. They should know that [bullying] happens and they should want to get involved to help this growing problem.”

story by Willow Higgins

A Salute to Second Semester Seniors

I’ve waited all my life to be a senior. Graduating from elementary school, banners painted with “2015” gleamed from doorways. Pictures of classmates flashing one finger on one hand and five on the other have dominated my newsfeed since the seventh grade. The hottest topic at freshman year slumber parties was to fantasize about where we may be going come graduation. The anticipation was astronomical. But as I walked through the doors of my beloved high school on my first day as a second semester senior, I was surprised to find myself fighting back tears, (partly caused by bad allergies but also by an overwhelming sense of sadness). I have finally come face to face with 2015. After years of crossing off the days on my calendars, the moments I’ve been waiting for are now staring me dead in the eye.

As I look around me, I realize that I am enclosed in a thick and warm comfort zone. My teachers and administrators have become my mentors. Strangers and acquaintances have become my best friends. The school that I found so very daunting four exhausting years ago has become my home. So as I walk the halls, embodying a sense of poise that tells freshman to stay out of my way, I realize that the anticipation and excitement that have been embedded in my psyche for 10 years have entirely transformed into fear of an uncertain future. Friends, family and colleagues, the class of 2015 is about to leave the nest.

My classmates are going to do tremendous things with their lives; there is no doubt about that. It’s only January and I already have friends admitted to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, the list goes on and on. I am graduating with 235 intelligent young adults, all of whom will, someday, change the world in one way or another. But it’s these intelligent young adults who have helped me become the person I am today. Together, we have grown. We have learned how to learn, how to study, how to retain and apply our knowledge to the real world. The past four years have been a journey of self discovery. I have transformed into the almost-adult I am today, and I owe my success, in part, to the company that has surrounded me. Although we all have worked hard to become who we are now, we have made our accomplishments hand-in-hand with our classmates and teachers. It is their love and support that has encouraged me to persevere in stressful and challenging times, and until now, in my dwindling moments, I overlooked that.

My second semester as a senior will be exactly what it should be. I expect a constant battle with severe senioritis, hour-long bathroom breaks, late night adventures with friends, lunch with teachers, movies with family and nonstop interaction with loved ones. I will prove my gratitude to the classmates I have left unthanked and advertise my faith in my friend’s futures. I intend to squeeze every last moment I can out of my LASA family because this school is my home and has taught me everything I need to know to be a smashing success in real life. Walking out of LASA as a college student will be even scarier than it was to walk in as a squalid freshman, but, with time, I will gather the strength to access my inner jaguar, hold my head high and walk out those purple doors with a sense of pride.

story by Willow Higgins