Monday, September 25, 2023

Student news roundup, Illinois, Oct. 12


Here’s our weekly roundup of Illinois student news reports for the seven days ending Monday, October 12, 2020.

E-learning update

Students have had to adjust to the pandemic and e-learning in many ways, and the effects of all this remote learning are still unknown. Teachers, too, have adapted, and in one southern Illinois community, they have had their eyes opened about students’ home lives, reports Riley Brandhorst in The Terrier Times at Carbondale Community High School. “I have known there are students who’ve had difficult home lives, but now I’m in their homes and I am hearing it first hand,” a second-grade teacher in the district is quoted as saying. “So being actually in their homes and hearing the way their parents speak to them is really hard. For example, if I call on a student to un-mute to answer a question and their parent is screaming at them that they’re gonna beat their ass, then I’ve just exposed all my other students to that.”

In addition to the mute button, students also have control over their own cameras. Since it can be hard to gauge students’ understanding of material being taught without seeing at least their faces, the staff at Plainfield Central High School has asked that all students leave their cameras on during e-learning, according to a report in The Fielder student newspaper.

Six hours a day with the camera on can be a challenge, especially if students are getting their e-learning in their beds. Max Feldman at Lake Zurich High School has some advice for students about taking a little nap in the afternoon and writes in The Bear Facts. “The downside is if you sleep for too long—and I think that really the maximum is probably about 20 or 25 minutes—you’re going to have some deep sleep, and that’s going to disrupt your nighttime sleep,” he quotes health teacher Elizabeth Garcia as saying. “So, as a rule, I kind of recommend to people it’s better if you limit your napping and maybe have people help you wake up or set alarms so that you don’t throw off your rhythm too much.”

Dilemmas and solutions for e-learning … in the arts

Taking a little nap is one solution to some of the challenges of e-learning, but there are others. Zaina Mohammed reports from Huntley High School about students in an art class, which is perhaps best taught with hands-on instruction, who are rising to the challenges of remote learning. “It is harder because it is difficult to relay art techniques through Zoom,” she quotes one sophomore as saying in The Voice. “We do our best by screen sharing but even through that, students have a hard time learning the techniques and paying attention.”

On the other hand, an art teacher at Limestone High School in Bartonville is taking advantage of the remote learning platforms to bring professional artists into her classroom to talk about the subject, allowing students to explore occupations in the art field. “I hope it is impacting the students in a positive way,” Makenzie Clarken quotes art teacher Lisa Bentley as saying in The Limelight. “They are able to give a new perspective that might inspire a student to try something that could impact the rest of their lives.”

For students in the performing arts, such as plays, band, and orchestra, performances have been adjusted due to the pandemic, reports Kevin Sigrist at Kaneland High School in Maple Park. The marching band, for instance, typically has “five parades, four to five football games, four to five competitions” every fall, he quotes director Aaron Puckett as saying in The Kaneland Krier. “This year we are not doing any of those normal performances. We are looking to do some outdoor playing at some senior citizen living facilities. We did one in Sugar Grove, and it was very well received.” The fall play at the middle school in the district is being performed outside, with a very small number of people in the live audience, and recorded for a later broadcast.

The drama club at West Chicago Community High School is adhering to CDC guidelines in their rehearsals and performances, which can be a challenge, according to a report by Leslie Najera-Rivas in The Wildcat Chronicle. Students wear masks; they put on radio plays when they can; but none of that is easy. “I feel like one of the major things about drama and performing is being with each other and like connecting with each other and going off of each other’s energy,” one junior was quoted as saying. “So having this separation from Zoom … you don’t really get the same feeling.”

And although there won’t be a Homecoming dance this fall at Palatine High School, the marching band’s drumline produced a video for Homecoming Week, brought to us in The Cutlass student newspaper:

… in foreign language

The arts may present major challenges with online learning, but other subjects have issues as well. According to a report by Emma Gramm in The Omega at Downers Grove North High School, difficulties of learning a foreign language over Zoom include the natural anxiety of speaking out students have even in a classroom, not being able to converse with friends in hallways, technology glitches that make audio less than clear, and using Google Translate to look up foreign language expressions and sentences. “Specific problems I am facing have to do with cheating,” one Spanish teacher was quoted as saying. “This year, unfortunately, writing almost has to go out of the window because it is very easy to translate everything and find all the answers online. I am trying to find other ways around this.”

… in clubs that are usually hands-on

Extracurricular activities also have a reduced capacity for success with remote meetings. At Grayslake North High School, the Environmental Club has been unable to spread the word about environmental issues as effectively as they would in a non-Covid year, reports Victor Martinez in The Knight Times. “Now it’s difficult to spread awareness without being in person with posters and other stuff like we normally do,” one junior club member was quoted as saying. “One big thing is spreading awareness about the small things, like bringing your own water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles.”

Another activity where interpersonal interactions are important is the “dine and discuss” event, hosted by the Student Voice Committee at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, Jessica Velazquez reports in Metea Media. One topic they’ll be discussing is e-learning: How can teachers help students, and vice versa, during the pandemic? “This will be a safe environment where students can talk about their opinion and how e-learning is going for them,” the committee’s social media director is quoted as saying. “We want to facilitate a safe discussion where students from all educational levels can communicate and come up with better ways to go about e-learning.”

Presidential election info

The vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris drew attention from many student news sites across the country last week, prompting a great deal of writing about the debate itself, the presidential debate last month, and the candidates themselves:

In the Supreme Court of the United States

In the world of President Donald Trump, many Americans think the winner of the 2020 election should appoint the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement, and polling collected by The Economist shows that Amy Coney Barrett is the most unpopular Supreme Court nominee in recent history. Skylar Penland, Sophie Burns, and Olivia Ostrowski at Hinsdale Central High School explain why she’s such a “controversial” nominee:

“This fall’s pace of major events with long-term consequences is unlike anything I have ever seen,” they quote social studies teacher Christopher Wilbur as saying in The Devil’s Advocate. “The controversy around Judge Barrett’s nomination is in a lot of ways a microcosm of America right now: This controversy has shown how polarized and distrustful the factions in American politics have become. … If confirmed by the Senate, [she] would help shape a lot of judicial rulings on issues that people are really passionate about.”

Pointing out the apparent hypocrisy on the part of Senate Republicans, Muhammad Arshad at Schaumburg High School opines that Judge Barrett should not be confirmed. He writes in The Saxon Scribe: “If these rules applied to Merrick Garland, they should apply to Judge Barrett. Confirming Judge Barrett would be hypocritical and betray the precedent [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell had already set. Now Republicans have stated that no Senate of the opposing party has confirmed a justice in an election year. They are playing semantics.”

Black Lives Matter

But while the confirmation process for the Supreme Court nominee appears to be a political struggle, one completely apolitical struggle is the fight against prejudice and racism, brought to the attention of the nation in recent years by the huge Black Lives Matter movement. The Acorn Collective, a group of Glenbrook students and alumni, started two online petitions calling on the district to remove the student resource officer and to promote racial inclusivity in the school, specifically in curriculums and hiring practices. The petitions drew mostly positive feedback but also too many racist, homophobic, and transphobic remarks for the paper’s editors to take. “When political conversations take place, especially online, participants must take care to respect, consider, and listen to each other’s opinions,” says an op-ed in The Torch student newspaper.

But sometimes, schools make an effort to teach about racism or systemic racism and the effort backfires. At Lane Tech in Chicago, a lesson about the BLM movement had a global focus, and students criticized if for not focusing more the local community, writes Finley Williams in The Lane Warrior. “You should start with something that you can analyze a lot better, and I feel as though we should have started within our own school,” one student was quoted as saying. “If you’re going to try to talk to students about racism and try to talk to them about the problems in the world, have them turn a mirror on themselves first, on their peers, before they try to turn it on the rest of the country.”

One place where the conversation about racial injustice was all local was at Lyons Township High School. Grace Regan, a junior at the LaGrange school, was particularly moved by the BLM movement and organized a protest over the summer to bring the message of police brutality to her Western Springs community, writes Adriana Serrano in The Lion Online. “We all have to be a part of a solution towards racial inequality and racial injustice,” she quoted Ms Regan as saying. “I’m really hoping that it’s helping people realize what they can do using [their privilege] and amplify voices of people of color or those people whose voices can no longer be heard.”

Black girls at a south suburban school are taking it a step further and getting creative, reports Faith Lee in The Voyager, the student newspaper at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. The head speech coach and drama director at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Sadé May, created “Black Girl Chronicles,” a comedy show “by Black girls for Black girls,” and promoted it via social media, seeking creatives of color. During this time of protest and riots, “it is very important that we have Black people both in front of and behind the camera,” she was quoted as saying. “It is important that they hear our perspective.”

In-depth analogy: law enforcement and the Catholic Church

Regarding police brutality, Hazel Booth at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville finds a police brutality analog in the way the Catholic Church once covered up the sexual abuse of children, as reported by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. “You’ve surely heard someone say ‘Oh they’re not all bad, it’s just a few bad apples’ in response to calls for police reform or to defund the police,” she writes in The Echo. “Defenders of the Catholic Church relied on that argument to justify handling sexual abuse allegations internally, where they could offer victims meager or nonexistent sums, silence them and make promises they had no intentions of keeping.”

Voters urged to vote

We move now to the northern suburb of Winnetka to hear yet another perspective on the upcoming election. In an opinion piece for The New Trier News at New Trier High School, Connor Caserio urges voters and even those too young to vote to educate themselves about the election and the issues facing the nation. “Just because Democrats dominate politics in Illinois and the New Trier area, that does not mean you should not pay attention to these issues,” he writes. “And if you are old enough, vote. That is a duty and a privilege.”

Volleyball team in quarantine

A dominant issue in the re-election campaign of Mr Trump has been how he handled the Covid-19 pandemic—and his personal handling of it as well. At Hinsdale Central High School, members of last year’s sophomore girls’ volleyball team had to suspend their workouts and season for two weeks when one player became infected with the coronavirus, reports Natalia Berti in The Devil’s Advocate.

As students return to in-person instruction, at least for a few days a week in many Illinois school districts this month, most districts are including procedures and protocols to keep students as safe as possible as the pandemic still affects their lives, reports William Tong at Naperville Central High School in The Central Times. “Wash your hands often, wear your mask, watch your distance,” he quotes the school nurse as saying. “Stay home if you’ve got symptoms. This is not the time to be the hero.”

Seeking a vaccine

Many rumors and other news stories have been floating around about a vaccine. The most thorough and informative explanation I have read was written by Carl Zimmer in The New York Times. Zainab Talha at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn wonders where a vaccine might be and when we can get access to it in The Independent. She provides a fairly thorough explanation herself, describing the process of vaccine development and approval.

Halloween movie review

While we’re spending all this time in our homes, many students have turned to Netflix, which recently released the Adam Sandler comedy Hubie Halloween. It’s a “delightfully stupid Halloween comedy,” writes Andrew Benoit in Drops of Ink at Libertyville High School.

Luca Hatzopoulos at Niles West High School in Skokie essentially agrees with Mr Benoit, calling the film “a hilarious take on Halloween” despite being a little on the typical Adam Sandler side of comedies: corny, dumb, and cliché. “I also felt sympathetic for Hubie (Mr Sandler) because of the way he was treated during the entire movie,” she writes in The Niles West News. “He was taken advantage of, bullied, scared, and chased. It made me realize that just because someone is so nice and selfless, you shouldn’t take advantage of them because they could have their own problems going on that you are unaware of.”

Nobel Prize in Physics to a U Chicago Lab School alum

Finally, we congratulate Andrea Ghez, a 1983 graduate of the University of Chicago Lab School, on receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics. Along with Reinhard Genzel, she is credited with “the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.” Reporting is by Amanda Cassel in The U-High Midway.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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