opinion

Bagpipe and its Fake Differences

These past few years, race has emerged as a topic of discussion in Highland Park, a community whiter than a marshmallow. One reason is the influx of minorities; thankfully, HP is gradually getting more diverse as time goes on. However, not all are receptive to this change. There have been numerous incidents of overt racism, ranging from hate crimes to petty remarks. This became the exigence for the Bagpipe‘s (our school’s newsmagazine) largest endeavor yet, a long-form about race.

The idea is noteworthy. Brave. To broach this ugly topic in such an unwelcoming neighborhood takes some otherworldly chutzpah. The execution? Botched would be an understatement.

Instead of pulling back the curtains of ignorance and negligence, the piece added more and more curtains, hiding a stage for students of color to honestly talk about racism in their home. The majority of students interviewed provided little, if any, substantial insight on this matter; what was written included not urgency and passion, but lassitude and nonchalance. Given the elevated socioeconomic background of most of those in the profile, racism ceases to become a major factor in quality of life. That’s not the case in everywhere else in the U.S. It is understandable that some of these Scots of color didn’t add much to the public discourse on racism in the modern era, but noxious aftereffects lie latent. White readers might be convinced that racism doesn’t exist in 2017 after all, given the lame answers in the article, more likely to perpetuate racial discord with a complete lack of understanding of the topic of racism. This is dangerous to everyone, not just Americans of color. Such illiteracy will only snowball, encouraging the continuation of the decades of racism and intolerance that plague the Park Cities and the United States as a whole. The future generation of America must understand the far-reaching repercussions of racism and be willing to act to ameliorate unequal social and political conditions for minorities.

What’s even more concerning is the inadvertent limelight on Asian stereotypes. As grade-grubbing. As nerds. As incompetent in social skills. As foreigners, outsiders, those who are so different from the rest of “us.” This not only hinders Asian-Americans’ easing into the American cultural tapestry but also misrepresents an entire race. Millions of people–completely different in class, gender identity, sexual orientation, social and academic background and affiliation–suffer from this myth, and this article will surely not help out with unifying Americans and promoting racial equality and mutual understanding.

We need some chicken noodle soup for the soul in order to make a dent in this centuries-old juggernaut. What does that entail? Dialogue, empathy, and an open heart.

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personal, time capsule

*Sophomore Reflections

It’s been two weeks since school ended and a week of Latin summer school completed; now is a good transition–a time to reflect on what happened this last year at HP.

First impressions? The most conspicuous difference from freshman year to sophomore year was the addition of AP courses. I took four this year (Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, and World History), which wasn’t as bad I thought it would be. Along the way I’ve met great teachers who go beyond what is called for in order to instill a newfound understanding and appreciation of the classes they’re teaching: Mr. Sanders made sure we were awake first period by telling the most *dad* puns I’ve ever heard in my life, Ms. Leediker roasted us from the first core lab (which actually involved a titration, so it’s not exactly biology) and never stopped, Mr. Chuang burnt sugar on fire for us in Chemistry, and Dr. Wright greeted our Calc BC class with a smile every day. The teachers in my life have continued to make a difference in all of the students’ lives (including me!) and have inspired me to give back to my community as they have. I’m now interested in taking a few classes in history or linear algebra two years form now in college, even though it has nothing to do with my planned major (biophysics? biochemistry? chemistry? something like that).

Another wonderful addition to my life this past year was participating in my school’s U.S. Academic Decathlon program, endearingly referred to as “AcDec.” AcDec was another very conspicuous addition to my already-hectic schedule (I only go home at 3:30 on Fridays >__<). On top of Monday afternoon meetings that regularly go to 5, AcDec required me to read at least 1 to 2 hours a day outside of other homework from my other classes. On top of all of this, the overarching topic was “India,” something I knew next to nothing about (I probably know more about you than I did about India before this year!) However, I can say that I’ve truly enjoyed every minute absorbing more foreign culture than I could’ve ever hoped for (except Social Science: that was a pain). I also memorized a painfully-awkward speech, wrote numerous bland essays that somehow scored well, and took part in interviews with deceptively-friendly faces. The best I got out of this program so far is definitely the new friends I’ve made for a lifetime! I’ve never met such a concentrated group of smart and funny people in my life. Go Decathletes!

This was also my first full year of Student Council (last year I was stuck in Latin most of the time). Every day I looked forward to meeting with this lovely bunch, especially the freshmen (freshmen!!?! We’re supposed to avoid them like the plague, but some of them are better than what you’d think). We started and supported many projects, old and new, especially Project Purple, which seeks to reduce alcohol and drug use among the high schoolers in our community. I’m also really proud that we’ve paired up with many wonderful organizations, some of which have been started by HP alumni, including Bonton Farms, Project Starfish, and One Million 4 Anna. What I enjoyed the most was my “family,” composed of two seniors (our “moms”), one junior, two sophomores, and one freshmen. We got to eat off-campus and hang out, and I’ve never felt so carefree and relaxed. I’ll hold these memories dear to me for a lifetime!

A last note about the club with the most explosions: Applied Science Club. To be honest, initially, I was afraid the hours I spent on my cathode ray tube would be wasted, time that could have been spent on AcDec (I’m totally not a nerd..psh…). Instead, opening myself up to the club and its members have been wise choices, as I’ve gained hands-on knowledge on building my own gadgets and have had some interesting, memorable experiences.


Finally, less formal than a school organization or club, my “squads” have been there for me! I loved solidifying our bonds and making a few new friends as well–they make life in high school much better than it seems. They’re glial cells to my axons, peanut butter to my jelly, vitamin D to my calcium. Graduation was especially bittersweet, as in a few months, I won’t see some of my best friends lurking the hallways of this high school anymore. One senior said to me, “See you in the afterlife,”… I hope to see them before that!

P.S. I’ve just thought of another observation: compared to last year, even though this year’s teachers were fantastic, I still feel that I haven’t connected as much with my classmates, teachers, and courses. I distinctly remember one day in second semester of WHAP that I thought to myself, “When will I stay becoming conformable with this class? I still feel like it’s the first day of school.” Maybe it was just the unadulterated fascination with high school as a freshman last year… all I hope for next year is a renewed sense of belonging.

opinion

Fahrenheit 451: Some Burning Thoughts

For the most part, reading books for English class may be described as a chore, a redundancy, or a task to be pushed to the night before the test. Sometimes, it may not even occur at all, thanks to our trustworthy buddy Sparknotes, who still thinks themes are three-word phrases. But I read every book assigned to me, sometimes to delight, sometimes to disdain; this time, my latest book to read was Fahrenheit 451, a canon of American literature, the pièce de résistance of the acclaimed author Ray Bradbury. Thus, I have already read it two times before this year, but, as all of my English teachers say, every time one re-reads a book, one will spot something different. This time, I fell in love with Bradbury’s mastery of stringing together just the right words…

From page one I realized how delicate and poised the language is. Bradbury artfully ties together unique similes, beautiful metaphors, and engaging dialogue. I don’t drag my eyes, I prance from line to line in delight, my mind spinning around as I absorb the beauty that lies between the lines of prose; I find poetry of the imagination, paintings from my memory, sightings from my perspective.

Some examples:

“This book has pores. It has features… You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion… So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless” (79).

“The way the clouds moved aside and came back, and the way the stars looked, a million of them swimming between the clouds, like the enemy disks, and the feeling that the sky might fall upon the city and turn it into chalk dust, and the moon go up in red fire” (88).

“Mildred ran from the parlor like a native fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius. Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles came through the front door and vanished into the volcano’s mouth with martinis in their hands. Montag stopped eating. They were like a monstrous crystal chandelier tinkling in a thousand chimes, he was their Cheshire cat smiles burning through the walls of the house” (89).

“[T]he old man would go on with this talking and this talking, drop by drop, stone by stone, flake by flake… [H]e would not be Montag any more, this old man told him, assured him, promised him. He would be Montag-plus-Faber, fire plus water, and then, one day, after everything had mixed and simmered and worked away in silence, there would be neither fire nor water, but wine… And one day he would look back upon the fool and know the fool” (99).

“There was a crash like the falling parts of a dream fashioned out of warped glass, mirrors, and crystal prisms. Montag drifted about as if still another incomprehensible storm had turned him” (108).

“It [the house] bedded itself down in sleepy pink-gray cinders and a smoke plume blew over it, rising and waving slowly back and forth in the sky… the great tents of the circus had slumped into charcoal and rubble and the show was well over” (111).

“Montag caught it with a bloom of fire, a single wondrous blossom that curled in petals of yellow and blue and orange” (114).

Also invigorating were the connections I made with myself and my world; the dystopian society lacking in any depth at all, seems too close to home. In the fictional setting of the novel, Americans no longer read any print material; instead, housewives fill their time with interacting with their “parlor families,” displayed on all four screens in its own room. Cacophonic and vapid, the parlors allow not an iota of thought, for it’s simply responding to the prompt given. Likewise in today’s society, we have become more vacuous, constantly focusing on the newest cat video or latest meme to break through.
Instead of pondering, thinking, wondering, we are tweeting, snapping, and browsing. Sooner or later, we may become like the insipid simpletons found in F451, a scary thought to behold.

 

opinion, time capsule

*Edited version of “Be a Stargirl”

Hello,

As I’ve looked back on my blogposts, I’ve realized how much I have grown (will expound upon once school ends). One piece really stuck out to me: “Be a Stargirl.” I know can see the pure (almost obnoxious) naïveté of my freshman years. Now I’ve learned to craft, to mold, to pinch a distinct form for my writing, and not just a swish of a paintbrush. So here goes, a revised version of one of my very first posts here:

Eccentricity, believe it or not, is not just used in conic sections. Neither is it just anti-war student protesters of the 70s, vegan automobile-boycotters in hipster-land, or vagabond artists whom we tend to associate with this term. We may think of these more extreme examples, but non-conformists live all around us and end up fundamentally changing the world.

The twisted brother of eccentricity, conformity hits close to home. For example, in our town, young girls run in hordes in matching, oversized Cotton Island T-shirts. In middle school, baggy athletic shorts are the must-haves for boys. Both male and female high-schoolers wear the same few brands as well—so different in their dress and yet so similar in their willingness to mindlessly jump on the rickety bandwagon.

Another community has a similar issue: the setting of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Jonas, the protagonist, lives in a world without hunger, war, or uncertainty but also devoid of color, love, and music. His life in this dystopian community is merely a shell of himself. Jonas takes special pills to hide romantic feelings, and his thoughts and actions are the same as everyone else’s—nothing distinguishes him from the rest of the citizens. However, this all changes when Jonas is selected (without his input) to be the next “Receiver,” the sole human repository of all past memories, ranging from pleasant to heartbreaking. With these powerful emotions instilled in him, Jonas peels off the veneer of his home, uncovering the ugly truth of his hometown and its complete suppression of the human soul. After realizing the disaster of homogeneity and the eery orthodoxy in his former home, Jonas flees; he jeopardizes survival for a taste of living as a unique individual, and not like a grain of sand in a dust storm.

Although the world we live in will never be as monochromatic as the “sameness” sphere in the novel, the story still inspires me and thousands of others across the world to pick Dr. Pepper in Coke vs. Pepsi, to think outside of the shackled box we live in. The Giver reminds us to enjoy the adventure of free expression that we take for granted.

Non-conformity make real-life global impacts too, not just in some fictional dystopian town. If our history on Earth were a book, the dog-eared pages would be ones written by non-conformists—those who dared to say that our planet wasn’t flat or wasn’t the center of the universe, those who argued that humans could go into outer space, those who refused to let go of their seats to another man just because of his race. Non-conformists have brought exciting innovation and radical transformations of our understanding of our natural surroundings, our society, and, most importantly, ourselves. They remind us to take off any masks we put on and provide a key to unlock our real personalities and passions embedded deep inside of us.

Then again, you don’t have to be anyone extraordinary or seemingly-superhuman to reject the status quo. Right here, everyone can participate in making our high school and community-at-large a welcoming haven for acceptance of everyone. Our community doesn’t have to be just a simple drawing of uniform blue and gold; it can, and should, be a vibrant mosaic of many different colors and shapes and patterns. Our community shouldn’t be a single tuning note; it can develop into a symphony of different sounds and rhythms and textures. It should be a celebration of who each one of us is.

In a famous scene of the movie Dead Poets Society, the English teacher John Keating leads his students to walk outside in the courtyard. Soon, they are walking together, and everyone is clapping to a singular beat. Keating then tells his students that conformity is easy, but going against what your friends are doing is hard. He challenges them to walk at their own pace and to stride in their own beat.

My challenge to you? Dare to be different.

Uncategorized

Bonton, Take 2

Recently, I visited Bonton Farms again (for the original blog post on Bonton, click here). In the last seven months, a lot has changed; I feel like I’ve been swept under the feet!

This time, our (HPHS Student Council’s) visit was much more organized; the farm has been absorbed by a church organization, and this Saturday was called “Restoration Saturday,” in which some regulars split a group of around 70 sleepy volunteers to walk the goats, clean out the pigpens, lay out hay for the upcoming winter in the barn, and harvest the vegetables, which were sold to local chefs. I chose to help out with plucking leafy greens under the direction of our fearless team leader, who owns a farm!

Much has changed; there are now turkeys (!!), wall art was added, and covers for the garden were put up. Even in the garden itself, there seemed to be more plants ready to harvest; months before, the sea of green was merely a plot of dirt. It’s refreshing to see some positive change, especially in this food desert; I can’t wait to see the effects felt years after I stepped onto this farm.

While I was working in the garden, I talked to a radiologist who accompanied her son on this service opportunity; chatting with a doctor (and kale connoisseur) for this future doctor was pretty cool. She was very agile, quick-minded, and inquisitive–character traits I’d like to develop more in 2016! Working with her, her son, and our team leader, we made our way through the aisles quickly, sampling a few plants along the way; the mustard green-collard green hybrid exploded my mouth and nose with spice, a sensation I’ll never forget.

In the very beginning of the day, the coordinator Darren told us that we were to leave Bonton with a new relationship built–it doesn’t matter what else one did (or did not do), everyone was to make a new friend by the end of the day. Needless to say, I think I accomplished that task!

After the “day” of service ended, we headed to the rec center down the street, which functioned as the community living room. All the children were in the gym, playing basketball or football or making Christmas crafts. The adults were starting to eat lunch, and laughter filled the air. As each member was to donate a toy, StuCo amassed a roomful of toys for the local children, who will receive these presents in a special Christmas Day dinner. I wish all of them and my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

-MX

opinion

Self-Ionization

First off, friends, sorry for not blogging for more than a month. It’s been hectic, a marathon of weekends full of academic competitions (yes, I spend my Saturdays at high schools taking tests.)

In Chemistry I PAP TAG last year, near the end of school, I was taught the self- ionization of water. It was scandalous that pure water wasn’t so pure after all–the concentration of hydroxide ions (OH-) and hydrogen ions (H+) multiply to a slim sum of 1.0*10^-14.

The high school I go to has few people of color, the majority of whom are Asian. This is a direct contrast from the school I used to go to, where there were hordes of Asians in comparison to a few white middle-schoolers sprinkled around like salt on a pretzel.

What I’ve noticed in two, such-differing environments is that Asians tend to stick to themselves–that is, Asians spend time around other Asians (with an occasional white kid), and white children around other white children. Everyone seems complacent; no one complains. It’s been ingrained in our school system almost naturally. Given the emphasis on integration within the late-20th century, it makes you wonder why. 

One hypothesis is that Asians just have more exposure and more in common with other Asians. After all, we frequent the same few restaurants, supermarkets, and bakeries geared toward the Asian community in Dallas.  We’ve gone to the same after-school centers and preschools for years in a row. An early introduction, combined with forced meetings, naturally leads to more natural interactions later on. The more we get to know each other, the more we’re hooked. Once children progress through middle and high school, we’re less likely to make new friends and are more willing to stay with old ones.

Socioeconomic factors may play a role as well. In my former and current community, Asians were less well-off economically; we mostly lived in the cookie-cutter, typical suburban section, while our neighborhood’s white residents lived in older, more-expensive houses. Here in my current community, the same is typically true. Asians tend to focus on academic performance and its accompanying measures of success, such as SAT scores, math and science competitions, and scientific research. While we cram for AMC, an average white kid of the same neighborhood might be working a job, playing sports, lying in bed with friends, or swimming at the lake house.

Whatever the case, it’s important that we meet new people in all stages of life, regardless how cozy we are in our current circles of friends and acquaintances. New people bring in fresh perspectives ranging in a variety of topics; these new friends build up our personal storehouse of wisdom, our jar of memories that we can cling onto for a lifetime.

–MX

 

 

Uncategorized

A Golden Experience

Well, I haven’t blogged in about a month, and I thus apologize! School has been really catching me by the tail, and I will try to make up for my absence in the next week or so.

Last Saturday, my high school invited all alumni who have graduated for at least 50 years to come back to Dallas for a reunion. The old folks were supposed to arrive at around 9:30, and lunch was served at 11, but many started trickling in a hour in advance! The main competition gym was adorned with an exhibit showcasing the school’s history, evolution, and ultimate growth. As there were enough people starting to come, I had the privilege of leading the tour around the school. Many of my guests were well-mannered and made jokes at a pace faster than they could walk–I couldn’t outwit a man 50 years my senior! In fact, the wittiest of them all was the salutatorian of her class! Showing around her and her friends, whom she bumped into, made this experience unforgettable.

Oh my, has ol’ High Park High changed! The students used to be served lunch, ate in the small cafeteria, and headed on to the auditorium (untouched since the 50s) for some postprandial conversations. There were much fewer students, with the average class size of around 430; the high school also only accommodated three grades– sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I’m sure that if these alumni were to visit their beloved high school during passing periods, they would run away in fear of being trampled upon. Those were the golden days…

I enjoyed the tour so much that I took too long–lines were already forming for the fried and roasted chicken and various sides available. During this time, I had no opportunity to rest and continued to serve everyone, even the oldest of the class of 1937. My main job was to refill all the water and tea placed on each table. All of the graduates looked radiant, with florid cheeks glowing in enthusiasm, hearts filled with joy, stomachs full of chicken. 

   After some time, the HP Alumni Foundation president gave a short speech (the perspiration was unbelievable), and Park Version, HP’s elite choir group of around 15 members, sang three songs, including one by the Beach Boys that tugged some tears and elicited the nostalgia that permeated the cafeteria.

If the foundation president is right, then our school district is the only one in Texas or even the nation that conducts such an event. I do hope that I will be able to make this reunion… in 2068!