Opinion

Poll: Do you support gun control?

Do you think the government should enact gun control laws? Tell us your opinion in the comments! You can find more info about gun control in Bella Ibrahim’s article from the March 2018 issue of The Vertical. Photo by Dean Hochman

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School Security

Featured photo: Victims of the recent Stoneman Douglas High School shooting are advocating for legislation to increase safety in public schools. (Photo credit: ABC News) By Michael Savo-Matthews (Business Manager) With the recent school shooting in Southern Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school, many teens have been led to question the security of the schools they attend. Students come to school expecting a safe environment where they can come to solely to learn and gain knowledge, but this can be jeopardized when emergency situations occur. It is very important that all students are safe and can feel comfortable in their learning environments. As senior Allie Pearson stated, “I think it’s very important to remember that Nease has an open campus. While we do have a main entrance, there are chain-link fences around the school that can easily be climbed, and the back of the school has no fence at all. If someone wanted to get into our campus, it would be pretty easy, so I think it is important for students and teachers to report when they see someone out of place.” One of the most important security measures we can take is to be prepared. It is always crucial that if a catastrophic event were to occur, students are ready and prepared to take action to protect themselves. Many teachers have gone over hypothetical situations with their students and what solutions could be best to protect the students. Sophomore Anamika Goswami points out when discussing what she believes to be important for the security of our schools: “For one, I think it’s important that most teachers are on the same page … just about every teacher had [this talk] with their classes about the recent school shooting and what to do in case one were to occur at Nease … I also must say that precautions such as the ones that were taken this past week, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, should occur on the regular. At least at the beginning of the year, each teacher should take time to give a detailed description of what to do in case a shooter came on campus.” As Anamika points out, consistency is crucial for these emergency situations. There are a few things that students can do to help prevent a situation like this from occurring at Nease. Students can speak up to the school board if they hear news of anything that could harm the student body to make sure that the situation does not escalate and become a real problem. In addition to this, students should make sure their opinions are heard when it comes to issues that can affect policy regarding an event like a school shooting. For example, if you have decisive opinions on gun control, and you want to see policy change in that area, speak up about those opinions. Attend a protest, email a local representative, or do whatever you think will make change happen. Recently at Nease there have been more security measures taken to protect students and lessen the likelihood of an event like the one previously mentioned from happening. We have had a new fence installed to make us a closed, more secure campus and to protect against intruders. Last year, with bomb threats that we had here at Nease around fourth quarter, there was a system in place that helped prevent students from writing bomb threats in the bathroom anonymously. There are many drills that we practice to prepare for an emergency situation, such as fire drills, tornado drills, and lock-down drills, which would be especially important in a situation like the one in Southern Florida.

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The Ugly Side of Beauty

By Bre Jarvis (Web Editor) If you’re like the average human being, you’ve probably found yourself at one time or another in the checkout aisle of a grocery store, flipping through an issue of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, or the like. And if you’re like 75% of teenage girls, you probably ended up feeling “depressed, guilty, and shameful” about your body after finishing. While we often hear that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s not hard to tell that magazines tends to portray women as scantily clad, free of blemish, and thin—very, very thin. What most don’t know, however, is that there’s a lot that goes on between the time a model is photographed and when their picture is plastered on the cover of a magazine. Utilizing modern technology such as Photoshop, professional photo editors transform real women into the idealized models that appear in the media through a process known as retouching. Virtually every photo that is published to a magazine or website undergoes retouching, and treatments vary from smoothing skin to slimming waists to changing body structure. While the fashion and beauty industries argue that some editing is necessary to improve the overall quality of photos, retouching is often taken too far. “Retouching is becoming more extreme,” says Henry Farid, a computer specialist from Hampshire. “They are no longer making perfect skin, they are making impossible human beings.” No real woman naturally looks like the women of the media—and yet, a recent survey revealed that 15% of 18- to 24-year-olds are convinced that the media’s portrayal of women is real. It comes as no surprise, then, that a consequence of retouching is decreased body image, particularly among young girls and women. Everyday women are bombarded by photos of celebrities that have been masterfully edited to possess ideal bodies. Even if they know that images displayed in the media have been altered, women are still affected by the standards of beauty they set. According to Jean Kilbourne, the edited photos displayed in the media “sell concepts of love, sexuality, of success, and perhaps most important, of normalcy. To a great extent, they tell us who we are and who we should be.” The fashion and beauty industries have ingrained into the minds of women everywhere that the type of body found on the covers of magazines—that is, a body with a thin waist, generous curves, and the notorious thigh gap—is the kind of body a woman needs to be accepted as beautiful and worthwhile. But since so few women actually possess a body shape that matches that of retouched models, many young girls are left disappointed with the way they look. In fact, at age thirteen, 53% of girls dislike their bodies, a percentage that increases to 78% by age seventeen. It’s no shock that as a consequence, women turn to unhealthy habits such as purging, starving, and excessive exercise in order to obtain the perfect bodies they see in the media. Perhaps the impossible standards set by retouched photos accounts for the striking number of women diagnosed with eating disorders—almost 10 million in the United States alone. More commonly, girls devote themselves to fad diets and exercise programs, obsessively monitoring their weight and calorie intake in the hopes of looking like their favorite celebrities. Retouching has contributed to a society that encourages girls to focus their lives on becoming the “perfect” woman—a woman that’s really no more than the end result of dodging and burning, cutting and pasting, airbrushing and toning. In real life, no woman fits the mold of perfectly thin or lusciously curvy. We have touching thighs, chubby cheeks, and belly pouches (and there’s nothing wrong with that). Those same “flaws” that society convinces women to get rid of aren’t flaws at all—just natural characteristics that make each of us unique. After all, wouldn’t the world be a boring place we all looked the same? Photoshopping women isn’t the only way or even the best way for advertisements to sell products. Many successful companies, including Aerie, Modcloth, and Teen Magazine, have recently ditched retouching in favor of advertising that celebrates natural beauty and diversity. Some countries have even passed legislation limiting the extent to which advertisers can digitally alter the appearance of models, while others have required labels for retouched photos. Let’s create a society that celebrates the thin and the chunky, the slender and the curvy, the delicate and the athletic. Let’s create a society that knows a woman’s worth extends beyond her appearance, a society that values character over calories, bravery over beauty, and wisdom over weight. Let’s create a society that doesn’t need to crop out half a woman’s body for her to be considered acceptable. Let’s create a society where retouching doesn’t exist.

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Don’t Gag the Press

By Bre Jarvis (Web Editor) “The Philippines’ slide towards illiberality is accelerating,” writes Washington Post writer Manuel Quezon III. The country has recently erupted in fear and confusion in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to denounce several news outlets. However, amid the protests and riots taking place in the Philippines, perhaps the United States can find itself in danger of the same fate. The freedom of the press, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, has recently come under scrutiny by various American political figures, particularly President Trump. “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want,” he said last October. Since the beginning of his presidential term, Trump has criticized several reporters and news publications, even threatening to sue or terminate them. These threats, in addition to his mission to “take a strong look at our country’s libel laws”, have evoked anxiety in journalists who fear that the president may attempt to infringe upon their First Amendment rights. Other Americans have argued that alteration to laws concerning press freedom because is necessary because the freedom of the press is too flexible, allowing room for journalists to make false claims against important figures. Michael Savo-Matthews discusses in his article “Fake News” that political polarization has led many news corporations to bend the truth in order to favor one political side over another. In any case, Trump’s attitudes concerning the press freedom bring to light an important question: to what extent can—and should—the president alter legislation regarding the freedom of the press? According to the New York Times, President Trump does not possess the power to alter libel law, or law concerning defamatory statements. “Libel law is a state law tort, meaning that state courts and state legislatures have defined its contours … Changing New York Times v. Sullivan would require either the Supreme Court to overrule it or a constitutional amendment.” The First Amendment restricts Congress from passing any law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. Furthermore, the court case New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) established that all statements concerning public figures, even those that are false, are protected “unless the speaker lied with the intent to defame.” In other words, public figures like President Trump only hold the right to sue the publishers of defamatory statements if they can prove that 1) such a statement is false and 2) the said statement was either purposefully or negligibly published. However, this does not apply to opinions or valid statements. Still, the matter of “fake news” continues to divide Americans. Many Americans, demanding accurate news, hope for government intervention on the issue. On the other hand, many fear that such intervention is indicative of an oppressive government. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) writes, “The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing.” Extensive restrictions on press freedom could potentially deprive the public of the knowledge they are entitled to. As currently seen in the Philippines, abridging the freedom of the press is a slippery slope; When leaders are given the power to censor what the press can tell the public, democracy is put in danger. Concerning the New York Times v. Sullivan case, Justice Brennan said: “… we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” Don’t gag the press, one Filipino protestor wrote on a piece of duct tape that covered his mouth. While Americans fear the impending totalitarianism of foreign countries, we often overlook the tightening grip our own government has on one of our most valuable freedoms: the freedom of the press. Some limitations to press freedom, such as our current libel laws, are beneficial in providing the public with accurate news. But it is not the president’s job to enact such limitations, nor is it wise to give Congress full power in limiting the press. Whatever path our lawmakers choose, may the citizens of our country pledge to defend the right of journalists to publish truth, even the offensive and controversial truth. May we never aid in gagging the press. Whether or not you agree that action should be taken to prevent fake news, it’s crucial to become an informed reader of the news so you can determine for yourself what’s the truth. You can find a few strategies for doing so in “Fake News” by Michael Savo-Matthews in the February 2018 issue of The Vertical.

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Better Together

By Nicole Scarbrough (Sports Editor) There has never been a more distressed time period in modern history. America has become a nation divided by an extreme difference in ideologies, to the point where a simple discussion cannot be held between either dominant party. The agreement that the government deals with domestic issues isn’t unheard of to any political party, regardless of their respective belief system. But while our foreign affairs begin to escalate, remaining in national unity is imperative to pulling through and remaining in an extensive period of prosperity. It is common knowledge that the political system remains in possession of three political parties, all three feuding in one way or another: Republican, Democrat, and Independent. Though, out of a simple observation, one cannot help but notice that the three are more concerned about the social aspects of politics than the part that benefits the country in which they should be serving. Both main parties, Republican and Democrat, are equally guilty to this: the Democrats during the infamous Clinton Email Scandal and the Republicans during the Bush Administration are both examples of events that have further broadened the gaping bridge between civility and downright hostility. But what has become a desperate game of back and forth who-can-one-up-the-other has caused severe damage to the reputations of politicians — not to say that their own choices hadn’t caused enough damage either way. Recently, several serious allegations of sexual misconduct have hit influential personalities. From long-term television personality Matt Lauer to millionaire Harvey Weinstein, countless witnesses have come forward with incriminating suspicions, each of which have ended the careers of their suspects. On top of this, our current president has had a number of acquisitions. Although none have gone beyond rumors, they have brought on a few raised eyebrows and voiced concerns. Judging by the progress made by President Trump in the recent months, it is abundantly clear that the concerns have not been prioritized. The most recent presidential election was a trying time for U.S. politics as several truths about each candidate was brought forward, along with the lasting collusion investigation into Trump-Russia affiliations, as well as the leakage of trade secrets on Hillary’s side. With that being said, each candidate was playing dirty (in political terms anyway). Neither was innocent in using past affairs and mistakes to jeopardize the good fortune of the other. But the real consequences of this election weren’t broadcast for everyone to see: in reality, it was the American people suffering tremendously as a result of their lawmakers and/or potential lawmakers’ mistakes. Households with recuperating wounds, of which were opened by opposing political opinions, were reduced to arguments and disagreements over who was arguably the most promising candidate. In fact, according to a Huffington Post article written by Ariel Edwards-Levy, “Approximately sixty-six percent of those surveyed” during the election admitted to arguing about the results of the presidential race, and “About twenty-three percent of those was with a family member”. The duress has not stopped at the adult level. College students have rioted nationally in favor of politics, branching out from the election and instead raising numerous debates about the credibility of some of the most famous historical figures — not that the students cared much about the point of those figures. The more publicity their actions got from important political figures, the more the violence continued. In addition to this, many conservative lecturers were postponed from threats against their party, and an increased police presence was also evident. The imperative question remains: how long will this division remain until the American society comes to their senses? Forever? A few months? Years? In the end, the title doesn’t matter. So many have spoken out against issues regarding racism, labeling, sexism, and the freedoms that concern each. What does a political party matter when we are all members of the same country which will inevitably fall if cooperation is not ensured?

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