Category: Opinion

From Division to Dialogue: Using Truth to Unity

The Wingspan receives guest articles by Centennial students and staff about various subjects important to them and the community. Earlier this week we received a contribution from a former Wingspan writer, Diane Ijoma. We feel that it is important to share Diane’s piece with the community in light of today’s events recognizing diversity of all cultures. 

– Sandy Eichhorn

Guest Writer: Diane Ijoma

It’s been over two weeks since the video that dominated Howard County headlines and conversations reverberated throughout the airwaves. In that time, what originated as banter among friends went on to affect hundreds, even thousands of hearts and minds beyond that dimly-lit room.

In many respects, the response has been very productive. I have been inspired by the energy to strive towards unity in the face of vitriol. In other areas, I have been slightly troubled by a sort of knee-jerk, instinctive dismissal of the notion that such ugliness could ever reside within these halls. Racism is not a Howard County problem, this belief states. It’s a Mount Hebron problem, perhaps a Glenelg problem, but certainly not a Centennial one. Somehow, this video has been used to, by contrast, paint Centennial as the beacon of  the completely unified, flawless multicultural community.

In part, I understand this sentiment. It is hard to recognize and address the flaws within ourselves; projection can be comforting.  In the face of such hate, the last thing we want to do is see any of that in our own community. However, these sentiments are harmful because, in addition to being, unfortunately, false, they work to silence and overshadow those who have significant negative experiences pertaining to these issues. It communicates a refusal to acknowledge what is real to members of the community, and perpetuates the feelings of disenfranchisement already present in certain groups. These actions have genuine consequences,  and to illustrate them, I have decided to share a story of my own.

Months ago, before any racist video made national news, I was the only African-American sitting at a lunch table with several people, some of whom were my close friends. At lunch time, several of my male peers began making demeaning and offensive comments about different females at our school. When I voiced disapproval at these comments, I was met with disdain. Some time after that, these same people began making racially insensitive comments about specific African-Americans at our school,  even going as far as referring to some of my friends as the “N-word”. It became fairly clear that in addition to insulting these people, these comments were intended to target me, intimidate me, and prevent me from being in their company. It worked. Soon, it got to a point where I developed anxiety on days where I would encounter these individuals, and as a result, I avoided lunch entirely.  I felt alone and pushed out of a group in which I had previously felt comfortable.  It was bad enough to hear these hurtful words, but the silence, and even laughter on the part of others seemed to amplify my hurt and discomfort.

I had been prepared to forget this experience and pretend it never happened. However, in light of what has become such an intense dialogue about the power of our words, I’ve realized that in keeping silent, I am giving my own implicit nod of approval to destructive behavior. Instead, reaching out and having open conversations about these types of experiences with other students, teachers, and members of the administration has been incredibly enlightening. I have learned that I am far from the only one with this perspective, and that I am surrounded by so many people that share a want to listen to these narratives so they can use their influence to truly progress as a community. In addition, the dialogues that have ensued from my honesty have developed a mutual understanding that I believe is emblematic of positive change.

No, it’s not particularly easy to talk about being racially intimidated out of the cafeteria on a stage as public as this one, especially when many people view you as a no-nonsense, self- assured individual who works towards unity on a regular basis. The truth is, even the best of us can be affected by what may seem like casual, relatively harmless rhetoric. What is essential, however, is the knowledge that with optimism and courage, there is “light at the end of the tunnel”, a saying that is as trite as it is true.  I hope that in speaking my truth, I can do my part to not only empower others to share their stories, but also facilitate a more open, honest conversation about these extremely difficult topics. To reach that goal, this is a small price to pay.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

That Was So 2015

Words: Ashley Berry

The year 2015 was a long, crazy year filled with social media madness, terrible clothing trends, and much, much more. Despite this, there were also many great achievements that defined 2015: the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup, and the first woman of color won an Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress (Viola Davis). Hopefully, 2016 will be full of similar achievements, and we can leave the following behind:

  • The Dress

Was it black and blue or gold and white? This silly dress caused as much controversy as that Christmas-less red Starbucks’ cup. The dress actually tore friendships apart because people were so determined they knew which color it really was. Now that it’s 2016, does anyone really care? Probably not, so let’s leave it behind.

  • Netflix and Chill

Thank God for Netflix! Not only does it give us an excuse to procrastinate, but it also gives us a sense of accomplishment when we finish four seasons of a show in one sitting. But now, thanks to 2015 pop culture, there is a stigma associated with the statement, “Let’s watch Netflix,” so can we please leave this concept behind and just get our Netflix binge on?

  • Complicated Bathing Suits

If you try on a bathing suit and can’t figure out where to put your arms, there’s a serious problem. Is it a one-piece or a two-piece? What are all those extra straps for? They may look great on a model in a photo shoot, but who actually wants to spend ten minutes getting into that contraption, and who wants those tan lines?

  • Zayn Leaving One Direction

OMG NO WAY! It happened. One Direction went two different directions and your favorite foreign boy band is forever broken. The four remaining members are on a break, presumably looking for a “new” direction. So, sit back, relax, and take bets on which direction the boys will go. If they return, let’s appreciate that the boys are back and get over it.

  • Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge

Have you seen the pictures? That’s all that needs to be said.

  • Man Buns

Pick up a pair of scissors, cut that mess off of your head, and walk proudly into 2016. You can thank me later!

  • Crocs

I was convinced these were left behind years ago, but somehow Crocs made a surprising comeback in 2015. It’s time we all agree to make 2015’s Crocs comeback a onetime thing, and leave them behind forever. Plastic shoes are bad for our environment and just plain ugly.

  • The Whip and Nae Nae

With every New Year comes a new dance craze that is more ridiculous than the one before and 2015 was no different. The Whip and the Nae Nae took 2015 by storm and its corresponding song “Watch Me” was as annoying as, “What does the Fox Say.” Who would have thought that one song could make pretending to drive a car with one hand and waving like the uptight Queen of England so popular. Inevitably, 2016 will bring with it a new dance craze, so it’s time to stop “hitting the whip”.

  • Hoverboards

Where is the Consumer Product Safety Commission when you need them? Americans want to “hover” like Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future” so bad that they are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for what is essentially a segway without the handlebars. It doesn’t even hover; it rolls on two wheels. Some models unexpectedly burst into flames. I don’t know about you, but last time I checked, you couldn’t pay me to stand on top of a burning log, so why on earth would anyone pay to do that? Next time you think about riding a hoverboard, ride it straight back to 2015.

  • “Goals”

You have your own life, so please live it and stop focusing on all the unrealistic photos of couples on the Internet. Like most media, the Internet paints an unrealistic picture of life, so the next time you see a photo of the life you think you want, remember it’s probably not realistic and cut yourself some slack.

  • Selfie Stick

How bad is your double chin that you need to mount your $300 phone on a $20 stick just so you can take a post-worthy selfie? Have we become so vain that we insist on using these devices, which are banned in many amusement parks and other populated areas because of the accidents they cause? To be fair, it’s not the selfie stick’s fault, but instead poor choices made by users, like riding a motorcycle or roller coaster and losing your grip. While the concept was unique, user error abounds and we clearly are not intelligent enough to use selfie stick technology.

  • Dying Armpit Hair and Glitter Beards

Were these seriously things? I still can’t wrap my head around it. No, just NO!

  • Eyebrow Game

Stop drawing on your eyebrows and obsessing over whose eyebrows are most “on fleek.” If you are following the trend, the more “on fleek” you think your eyebrows are, the more likely they are not! Eyebrows exist for the sole purpose of keeping sweat from dripping in your eyes. Don’t shave them off, color them in, or use them to make yourself look like a clown. From those of us who have tried not to stare at your crazy, uneven eyebrows, thank you for leaving them behind.

  • Birkenstock Sandals

I get it, you have wide feet and very little fashion sense, but why wear the same shoes as Fred Flintstone? Even Velma and Betty wore something more stylish. So, send those shoes back to Bedrock and find the nearest DSW. They’re all over the place in 2016.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Black Friday: How It’s Changed

Words: Jacob Mauer

Traditionally, Thanksgiving was a time for appreciating family, food, and all that we hold dear to us. This contrasts greatly with the Black Friday controlled Thanksgiving we celebrate today. Black Friday began as a time when stores would turn financial loss, in the “red,” into profit, “in the black”. Black Friday began in 1960, and is still with us due to it’s ability to generate massive amounts of profit in very little time. All stores have to do is set lower prices and watch as hordes of families mindlessly flow into their stores.

In the past, the two events have been held on the fourth Thursday and Friday of every November. However, stores have started to begin sales the night before the traditional date. Some states prohibit sales on Thanksgiving because of “blue laws”. These laws, which were put into effect in the 1600’s, prohibit sales on certain days. In the past, the laws prohibited sales on Sundays, but Thanksgiving is also protected in some states. Every year, more and more people are beginning to abandon Thanksgiving traditions in favor of waiting for Black Friday sales. Thanksgiving dinners are being cut short and family members are being sent home earlier and earlier as the years progress.

Over the course of just nine years, there have been seven deaths and ninety-eight injuries linked to Black Friday shopping. Although most of the incidents were due to negligent motorists, uncaring of pedestrians, a fair amount of the fatalities were linked to brawls between customers in stores and in parking lots.

On the night of Thanksgiving, 2012 the Tandel family lost two of their daughters in a car accident on their way home from Black Friday shopping. Arvind Tandel, the father, was driving his wife and four daughters back from shopping on Black Friday at 6:49am. Mr. Tandel,  having only had a few hours of sleep, drifted into traffic, causing a collision which resulted in his two daughters being killed.

There is no reason why Black Friday needs to be the day following Thanksgiving.  I am in favor of moving Black Friday to a different date, separate from Thanksgiving. It feels wrong to go from talking amongst family and friends about gratitude, to searching desperately for the best deal of the night. It isn’t just people breaking tradition, it is people jeopardizing their safety for sale items. If stores continue to compete for earlier opening times and bigger sales, then I predict that the same stores will set a precedent for other holidays to be infringed upon.

This year Recreational Equipment Incorporated (R.E.I), an outdoor equipment store, has released a statement saying they will be closing all of their 143 stores on BlackFriday. In lieu of promoting sales, R.E.I created their own campaign encouraging people to spend time outside instead of participating in Black Friday. R.E.I is using #OptOutside to encourage people to show how they are spending their Black Friday. Jerry Stritzke, C.E.O. and president of R.E.I. says, “We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently.”

Hopefully other Companies will follow R.E.I’s footsteps and refrain from having such sales so close to a national holiday.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter@CHSWingspan.

A Student’s Perspective on Finals Week

Words: Maryam Elhabashy

For as long as many of us can remember, the last week of school has been either the most or least demanding weeks of the year. In elementary school we strip our cute name tags off of our desks, a far cry from studying for a final exam that holds the promise of success or failure of the entire year’s grade. In years past, students have been lucky enough to have a full week of half days, allowing for a little calm after every final exam’s storm, also offering optimum time for studying. This year we’re not so lucky.

Mother Nature went particularly heavy on the winter weather this year, leaving us with only two half days during exam week.

USA Today reported that according to the “National Survey of Student Engagement’s” findings, students spend an average of 17 hours a week preparing for classes, about 3.4 hours a day. Finals are notorious for requiring more work, more attention, and more time. With the elimination of three half days, students are going to need to re-assess how they apportion their study time. It’s like adding insult to injury, really. Not only are we ending a week later than originally scheduled, we also have to tighten our grips on final exam studying (and sleeping, when possible!).

But do we have the right to complain?

There’s no time like the present. It’s a fitting proverb to describe the highs and lows of the snow day. Ah! The joy of snow days. Every student knows the rush of relief and glee when their parent creeps quietly into their room, still dark as the night at 6 am on a winter morning, and says that school has been cancelled. The glee quickly melts into more z’s on the pillow. That’s the high.

What goes up must come down. It’s the middle of June (after June 10, the originally scheduled last day of school), and I think we’re there. But after eight snow days (glee!) and eight delayed start days this year (a little bit of glee), we knew we were in for some kind of last day adjustment.

That adjustment is actually a lot more complicated than one might think. The Maryland State Department of Education mandates that high schools complete a total of 180 instructional days, that involve 1,170 instructional hours per year. The hours requirement is what changed the originally scheduled half day on Wednesday, June 17, to a full day, and added an hour of instruction on Thursday, June 18.  With five snow days built into the original calendar, and eight days taken, we had three days to make up. Howard County applied for and received a waiver for one of those days, meaning we needed to add two days to the school year somehow.

Though there is little that can be done beyond the waiver to alter the number of hours or school days that students attend in a year (though I’m slightly baffled by Fairfax County’s THIRTEEN snow days!), there are different ways to determine when those hours and days are made up.

Some Maryland counties actually cut days out of Spring Break (personally not a fan of this one!), acknowledging that they might have a lot of absent kids on those days. Most counties also applied for and received waivers just as Howard County did. In other states that are used to harsh and prolonged winter weather, there are numerous options to make up snow days. In Iowa, the Board of Education allows for holding classes on previously designated holidays, professional days, or half day schedules; or increasing instructional time by adding minutes to each school day, holding classes on Saturdays, or adding days to the end of the year (the option Howard County took).

I want to take a closer look at option number one: holding classes on previously scheduled holidays, professional days, or half days. When I took a look back at the calendar, I realized that there were a few opportunities to knock out some snow day make-ups: two days in February for parent-teacher conferences, a half day before Spring Break began, and a professional day in May. This option might have preserved our half-day exam week, as well as cut fewer days from summer break. It’s not uncommon for parents to receive letters from school administrations, explaining calendar alterations due to snow days. I doubt that parents would have been up in arms about having their students stay for full days on parent-teacher conference days. In fact, I’d argue that if there are issues with a student, parents and/or teachers need not wait for the conference days to discuss them. And if there aren’t any complaints or issues, do parents (or teachers) really need to speak for 15 minutes about how awesome a student is? I’d much rather have spent the rest of the day in class in February (typical school year), than add a day of school in the middle of June (summer break!). The same goes for that “bonus” three hours we got on the Friday before Spring Break. I would have much rather kept a full day of summer break!

The bottom line is this: I guess we don’t have any real right to complain. In actuality, with the approved waiver, we only had 179 days of school instead of the originally mandated 180 days. So we can’t crash in bed at 11:30 in the morning on Wednesday the 17; we’ll deal with it.

Admittedly, I’m looking at the situation purely as a high school student. Summer break is hallowed ground, and the bliss of sleeping in on that winter morning is long forgotten. This high school student, with limited knowledge of how complicated snow day make-ups can be, would like to see more thought given to making up snow days on springtime professional days, half-days, and holidays, instead of cracking into summer break and jostling around final exam week.

But then again, if I had it my way, I’d still be pulling my laminated name tag off of a desk, instead of studying all night for a final exam.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Freedom to Explore, Learn, and Experience

Words: Madhu Lal

As the last day of school is drawing near, many Centennial students are looking forward to playing in the sun, hanging out with friends, and spending days upon days doing anything but homework. Summer vacation serves as a way for students to take a breath from the stress of school.

I feel that summer vacation is a time to do what one feels is important. Hanging out with friends and relaxing should be a part of summer vacation, but I feel that working for a cause or exploring one’s passion is also an important event that should comprise part of summer break.

Many students become bored and do not challenge themselves during vacation. This lack of stimulation in the brain during summer causes students to lose information learned during the school year.

Studies published by summerlearning.org show that “Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months… students also lose more than two months in reading achievement.”

The stimuli that I feel should happen during summer does not necessarily have to fall under the traditional “educational” subjects such as math or English. I want to push students to explore and investigate their interests and get a better understanding of who they are and what they like or dislike.

Students also constantly worry about the future, whether or not they will find what they love to do, if they will get a good job, if they will be happy with their lives. Summer can serve as a perfect time for teens to ponder these questions and explore new jobs, hobbies, and subjects for extended periods of time without the disturbance of school work or exams.

Students always complain about not having time during the school year to do what they are interested in, but then when summer comes, and they have all the time in the world, they waste it by playing mindless video games or wasting money on clothes.

What students need to understand is that, by utilizing their summer and focusing on one or two things that make them happy, they will gain experience and knowledge that will help with their future.

Summer is the time for teens to take responsibility and initiative in learning new things because they want to, not because they are forced to.

One way to explore the vast opportunities and experiences that life has to offer is to visit local community events that are of your interest, whether it be a concert, a festival, carnival or car show. These places are great ways to immerse yourself in the culture behind an interest. Another way to find opportunities to express your interests is by signing up for different camps, clubs, or activities that are available. Finding internships and shadowing programs can also be interesting and exciting ways to spend a part of the summer.

Hanging out with friends is definitely an important aspect of summer, but sitting inside on Tumblr or playing video games in a messy dark room is a waste of a curious mind.

This coming summer I urge everyone to seek out opportunities and activities that will help in finding oneself and understanding one’s abilities and talents. Summer vacation is temporary; we are nearing the end of having vacation during the summer, and we might as well make it useful by uncovering the plethora of talents within ourselves waiting for the opportunity to shine.

To find information on events in Howard County and internship programs please visit: http://www.visithowardcounty.com or http://www.ellicottcity.net/events/.

Technology’s Impact on the Youth

Words: Madhu Lal

Recently I’ve noticed a spike in the usage of electronics in today’s youth population. As a kid growing up, I was assigned a set amount time each day for TV. Watching TV, for me, was a treat, and playing on the 30 pound piece of metal that was known as the computer, was utter bliss. I saw computer time as a treat, not an event that regularly occurred throughout the day. My life didn’t revolve around electronics, rather my life revolved around playing with friends and family. When living in New York, I fondly remember venturing out into Central Park, climbing the trees and chasing after other kids during a game of tag.

The way the youth today regards social interaction and electronics, I feel, has drastically changed since I was a child, only six years ago. Throughout the years I have noticed an increase of kids, not much older than eight, walking around, eyes glued to their iPhone, texting furiously to their friends. Even seven-year-olds, like my cousin, own androids and iPhones, and have Facebook and Instagram accounts! These kids, even in the presence of their friends or peers, would sit in silence tapping away on their phones, almost completely oblivious to each other’s existence.

It is important for kids to independently try to understand and unearth new information regarding peers, nature, and life. When kids are given phones at a young age, they disconnect from the real world, they don’t see discovery or learning of any importance, this is due to the fact that they can instantly google any information needed. Memorizing and storing information is seen as irksome and impractical and questioning and investigating things is regarded as foolish.

The early years of a child’s life is where they start to develop social skills; they talk, interact, and sometimes even fight with other kids. The interaction between peers is important because this helps children learn how to resolve conflict, interact with others in an acceptable way, and get a better understanding of others’ emotions.

I have witnessed kids doing just the opposite of that, six-year-olds taking “selfies” with makeup caked on their faces, and boys huddled in a corner playing fruit ninja vacuously. These kids are oblivious to events going on in the real world, absentmindedly walking, phone-in-hand.

The introduction of electronics into the lives of the young have contorted what kids see as important life skills, and, in some cases, have resulted in physically and developmental handicaps. Kids who grow up using electronics regularly, are more likely to lack cognitive skills (acquiring and understanding knowledge), they also may lack the ability to properly interact with other members of society, whether it be family or friends.

Phones and computers have no doubt helped better society’s way of life. These types of technology help connect people from around the world, get ideas and information out to the masses, and help make work more organized and efficient. However, the introduction of phones and laptops at a young age can negatively affect the recipient of this technology, by hindering a child’s ability to evolve into a creative important and developmentally sound person.

Bullying in the 21st Century

Words: Madhu Lal

Bullying and social interaction essentially go hand-in-hand. Almost everyone in our society has either experienced or encountered bullying at least once in their life. Many classes in schools have been created to help discourage kids from bullying. The consequences of bullying have also become harsher than they would have been ten years ago. Despite the best efforts of schools, bullying is still an epidemic that is spreading in schools. The Harford County Examiner reported in 2013 that, “Around half of teens have been the victims of cyber bullying.” Cyber bullying is a new form of bullying, which in some aspects can be seen as more dangerous than physical bullying.

Before the introduction of social media networking and texting, victims of bullying would be able to seek refuge at their homes, knowing that they could escape the perils of school bullying after the last bell rang. Most of the bullying going on in the past was face-to-face and took place in school. Bullying was a short lasting thing; once you graduated from that school, you were able to forget the bullies and move on and progress throughout life.

Victims in our generation are not as fortunate as the kids of the past. The introduction of texting, Facebook, Twitter, and Ask.fm have given bullies the opportunity to harass their peers, even when they aren’t in school. Victims are now not able to escape the misery they associate with school; they are followed around by streams of vicious texts and messages throughout the day and into the night. For our peers being ridiculed by others, there is no escape or safe haven they can go to in order to escape the vicious remarks.

As a result of 21st century bullying, lives are being shattered. Instead of the bullying being confined to schools, as it was in the past, bullying is now carried onto the Internet. There, the information stays permanent. Even though the information may be false, future colleges and employers may see the rumors or photos a bully has posted about the victim. As a result of seeing misleading information regarding the victim, that person may be turned down from job opportunities or denied from colleges.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of cyber bullying please contact an administrator or adult immediately, or visit the cyber bullying dropbox on the Centennial website (www.centennialeagles.org).  To learn more about cyber bullying and how to prevent being a victim, visit stopbullying.org.