Meet the Candidates: Hannah Choi

Hannah Choi (’22) is running for the position of Community Outreach Liaison. 

Blueprint is committed to restoring the issues and vision to the center stage of this election. We’ve reached out to all declared Student Council candidates to hear about their ideas for the next school year. All responses received will be published prior to the start of voting. This post is neither an endorsement nor disapproval of any particular candidate.

1. Why are you running to be the Community Outreach Liaison?

I’m running because I have been a grade rep my entire time in HS and I wanted to get more involved in STUCO. I am running for the Community Outreach Liaison position specifically because I genuinely enjoy connecting with others and wish to incorporate everyone’s opinions as much as possible.

2. If elected, what do you see to be your role in the Student Council?

If elected, I envision my role in Student Council to be one that binds everyone together. I mean not just STUCO and the student body, but also everyone within STUCO. Grade reps are sometimes informed of plans later than officers since there are a lot of processes that must be undergone in officer meetings before the word is officially spread. I wish to help everyone be involved ASAP. I will also try my best to apply everyone’s opinions to improve STUCO socials and meetings. As the position encourages, I will reach out!

3. What makes you the best candidate for this position?

What makes me the best candidate for this position are my clear goals and spirit (both of which I will outline in my future updates!). I have also attended the AISA Leadership Conference (with other schools’ STUCOs) every year in my time in high school, which means that I not only have a lot of new ideas but also have a lot of experience in STUCO-related issues or approaches 🙂

4. In which area do you think our school and the student body face the greatest challenge? How will you work with this challenge?

I think the greatest challenge in our school and student body is the lack of adequate communication. For instance, town hall. Town hall is designed to be a judgment-free zone where students can vent about their problems so that STUCO can approach and try to solve them. However, every town hall, we discover that so many people are too shy to participate in it. So my solution is: an anonymous google form! This way the student body can still let STUCO know their problems, eat their lunch, and still be anonymous. If so many students feel comfortable submitting anonymous google forms on the KIS Anonymous Facebook page, I’m sure they will feel comfortable submitting google forms (just as anonymous) for STUCO as well!! 😉 For more references, I am addressing several other problems in my document coming soon!

5. What’s a secret talent that you have?

A secret talent that I have is my wild self in karaokes. Anyone I can went to karaoke with before can attest to this!^^^^^

Coronavirus: How students are questioning KIS’s safety

How is KIS reacting to the coronavirus outbreak?

December 31st, 2019 marked the official beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Only weeks later, the deadly virus had entered South Korea. 

For those who don’t know already, the coronavirus is a virus which targets mainly the respiratory tract. It is a part of a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The uproar of concern in the status quo is caused by the fact that coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans, and is quickly becoming a global epidemic. Currently, there is no known cure. 

The virus has, naturally, sparked great worry amongst the KIS community. Students have begun to wear masks in school on a daily basis, and many teachers have installed hand sanitizers and wipes in their rooms. One sophomore described how wherever he went—school, subway stations, or academies—he saw a majority of Koreans with their faces covered and heads down. 

“It’s almost like an apocalypse,” he said. “I hope this blows over soon.” 

The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused many students and parents to wonder if school would close down. Some students have jokingly referred to the prospect of no school, remarking that they hoped such an event would occur to avoid schoolwork. Others, however, have expressed more grave perspectives on the matter.

“I really feel like school should be shut down,” one worried junior remarked. “The coronavirus isn’t a joke. It’s a really dangerous virus. I don’t feel safe coming to school right now.” 

“I’m not just worried for myself, but also for my family,” said another student. “What if I contract the virus at school and unknowingly bring it back home? What then?” 

To try to quell these concerns, the school has enacted measures to keep the coronavirus out of KIS. For one, they have installed heat sensors at the B3 and HS first floor entrances which alert supervisors when someone with a body temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius enters the school. 

“This is to make sure that people with the symptoms of coronavirus don’t enter the school and potentially spread it,” said one supervisor. 

Another measure that the school has taken is to lower the standard degree of a fever from 38 degrees to 37.5 degrees Celsius. 

But even with all these preparations, students still feel uneasy.

“The school can’t afford to shut down, but can afford these fancy new machines? That just doesn’t make sense,” said a sophomore. 

Another student suggested online school. “We can just have school online. That’s what technology is for, isn’t it?” she said. “Sometimes people with corona don’t even show the regular symptoms. We’re just coming into school every day with the blind faith that we’ll be fine.” 

When asked if she felt as though the school was doing all they could to ensure her safety, she responded, “If they really wanted to keep us safe, they’d close school until this virus goes away, not make school a place where disaster is just waiting to happen.” 

When students feel as though their health and livelihoods are threatened, that is when the school must go above and beyond to allay those fears. 

— Lauren Cho (’22)

KIS’s New Badminton Team

A new sports team.

Juniors Peter Ha and Eric Kweon, after prolonged efforts to reinstate the KIS badminton team, have recently obtained approval from Athletics Director Mr. Vreugdenhil.

Badminton is now an official winter KIS sport for the first time in almost four years, and will be competing in assorted sporting events such as KAIAC and AISA, coached by either Mr. Ashok Shanishetti or Ms. Christy Yang. Each of the boys and girls teams will be admitting 10-13 members. Peter and Eric’s request for badminton to be classified as a varsity sport is under review by the administration. Those who are interested in joining the team can fill out this interest form.

–William Cho (’21)

 

 

Why are lunch prices rising?

It’s not greed. Really.

“Why are the prices rising?” ask many waiting in line in the cafeteria. They’re right— burgers, once well within ₩5,000, set us back ₩5,800, and Korean meals jumped more than ₩1,000 to ₩5,200 in a two-year span. As someone who had been at KIS since the entry of Hyundai Green Food as the school’s official caterer, I’ve felt the impact of the gradual increase of lunch prices. However, we tend to view these price increases as something unjustified that’s done merely for the increase of profits and in the spirit of greed. The economic trends in recent years offer sufficient explanation.

First, it must be established that Hyundai Green Food’s dependence on the Korean economy is significant. Despite the fact that the company tends to source its beef from Australia and certain types of rice from Vietnam, its ingredients are mostly grown or raised in Korea; fluctuations in prices of ingredients in Korea will most certainly impact Green Food. Since the 2000s, South Korea’s minimum wage has been steadily increasing until the past few years, where President Moon Jae-In’s economic policies in recent years have driven the minimal wage up in dramatic increments.

ROK Minimum Wage
South Korea’s hourly minimum wage. From tradingeconomics.com.

The first conclusion that can be drawn is that the Hyundai Green Food is probably paying higher wages to the cafeteria workers in order to keep up with the rising minimum wage. Of course, this change is advantageous for our cafeteria’s workers, but not for the company. Low-cost labor keeps its products and services cheap and accessible to a larger audience. Then, we must consider Green Food’s supply chain.

This supply chain involves agriculture and animal husbandry, labor-intensive fields of work that involve many unskilled laborers that are often paid low (sometimes, illegal) wages. Prices for agricultural and animal products are determined by numerous factors, the some of the most important of which are the production and circulation costs, both of which are directly impacted by the Moon administration’s wage increases. The produce and livestock companies that supply Green Food have to pay higher wages to the manual workers that grow and raise the products and the truck drivers that drive the food to wherever it needs to go; these wage increases ultimately drive the costs of food up due to the fact that companies increase prices in order to cover for the additional expenses the increased salary incurs. In summary, with every step of the food’s journey from the field to the cafeteria, the current economic situation forces increased expenditure by all the parties involved, a chain reaction which makes its way to us and forces us to pay more for lunch. So, to those that say that these price increases are motivated by corporate greed, here’s your answer. Don’t jump to conclusions.

— William Cho (’21)

Sources will be provided upon request.

Image: Hyundai Group

 

Town Hall Recap (Nov. 5)

A quick summary of Student Council’s Town Hall (Nov. 5).

The Student Council’s Town Hall on November 5 has been a productive forum in which students were able to honestly articulate their opinions on the current state of the school, ranging from policy on food ordering to the schedule system. Below are some concerns brought up by the students in attendance.

Contact time

It became apparent that the degree to which contact time activities are carried out by advisories varies dramatically. Multiple students stated that they wanted contact time to be spent more actively with engaging passion projects, but there was unanimous consensus that advisory time as work time is (generally) time well spent.

Grading systems

Students, as predicted, seemed to have strong opinions on this issue; the complaints reflected general dissatisfaction regarding recent changes in the grading system. Concerns were raised about the perceived effects of the grading system, namely the magnification of disadvantageous grades in the gradebook.

Food ordering policy

A student pointed out the need to clarify policy on food orders, pointing out a discrepancy between a statement by the administration and the KIS Student Handbook. The student stated that although the admin had announced last year that all food orders on campus by students during school hours would be prohibited, the Handbook maintains that food orders are allowed provided that a supervising teacher gives his or her approval. 

The schedule

The rotating schedule was criticized due to the fact that changes in the schedule for half days and other events set back progress made in class. A student noted that it was problematic that some blocks were well ahead in terms of learning of others.

Other assorted concerns

The students have agreed that they should be able to do anything they want (of course, as long as it is appropriate and in adherence to the Student Handbook and federal law), especially sleeping, during autonomous block.

Students had also brought up sports uniforms, notably the fact that their sizing is inconsistent and that their maintenance is insufficient. Specifically, the student athletes in attendance have complained that their uniforms, when they handed out at the beginning of the year, were frequently dirty, contained numerous holes and rips, and carried an unpleasant odor. 

Complaints were leveled at what many saw as “hypocritical” violation of the library’s ban on eating. Students noted that despite the fact that the library was designated (and heavily enforced) as a food-free zone, teachers would frequently eat in the library in direct violation of those rules.

Please address any comments or concerns to blueprint@kis.or.kr.

— William Cho (’21)

 

Extinction Strikes: Why the Youth Are Angry

From September 20th to September 27th, over 6 million people around the globe marched out into the streets to demand climate justice. With 2,500 events scheduled in over 150 countries, the protest turned out to be the largest climate mobilization in world history. The events were intentionally scheduled so that the United Nations Climate Action Summit (Sept 23rd) would be sandwiched between the two strikes, pressuring countries to take ambitious and transformative action.

The remarkable factor that distinguishes the climate strike from any other mass socio-political movement is that it is youth-led. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old from Sweden, spearheaded the movement when a couple of years ago, she sacrificed a day of school to stand in front of the Swedish parliament and protest. This solitary ripple has inspired a wave of global protests where the youth are taking charge. Many public schools have been supportive of the student strikersmost notably New York City’s public education system that excused 1.1 million students to join the strike.

hii

In South Korea, more than 5000 people joined the 9/21 Climate Emergency work strike, and 700 for the 9/27 School Strike. Although the turnout rate was lower than other countries, the strikes were the biggest climate mobilization in Korea’s history, indicating significant and meaningful progress in Korean environmental activism. Below is what a KIS student who participated in the strike had to say. 

“When it comes to climate change, people give up saying “What difference will I make.” But we need to realize that everyone can make a difference. Difference doesn’t mean solving the problem immediately. It means moving forward together.” -Alicia Lee (‘20)

The strike organizers chose the Korean government as their primary target, criticizing the administration’s defeatist claims that they were “already doing everything they could.” In response to the government’s investment in six new coal power plants, strikers gave the government a failing grade in the subject of climate action and demanded that politicians entirely halt coal investment starting from 2020.

During the UN Climate Summit, President Moon failed to announce substantial and concrete climate policy, instead making vague promises about ‘clear skies’ and increasing funding for environmental agencies. His response is lackluster at best, and detrimental at worst. It is far too late to enact tepid, small-scale policies such as “increasing funding.” Because behind its dismissive rhetoric that blames China for the entirety of its climate crises, Korea stands as one of the most environmentally careless nations. Korea is one of the top 4 ‘climate villains,’ a term referring to countries that have been most irresponsible and negligent about responding to climate change. It also is the OECD’s fourth largest emitter of CO2 and has the fastest growing rate of carbon emissions. And despite such outrageously deficient political action, there still seems to be a dire lack of urgency coming from the government. 

Behind closed doors, the government has continuously claimed that fulfilling the conditions of the Paris Agreement is realistically impossible and incompatible with economic development. It seems as if Korea’s environmental policies are a tool for advancing the country’s reputation in the global arena, not a genuine political issue of concern. What we need from politicians is simple: an acknowledgement of the climate crisis and the government’s role in aggravating it. Of course individual citizens’ efforts matter, but there is a firm limit to how much change can be incited solely through grassroots activism. In order for humanity to avoid extinction in the coming 50 years, there is no option other than bold, aggressive, and revolutionary political action. The younger generation deserves to live, and we aren’t going away until those in power value us over economic growth. 

– Yoora Do ‘20

Featured Image: Charles Park ’20

We Are Not the Enemy of the People

The Press doesn’t exist to be positive or to be liked. To shield our school from dissent, from questioning the status quo, from going against the orthodoxy for the sake of deterring negativity violates the very core of our purpose.

Chris Park is the former Editor in Chief of Blueprint. -Ed.

There is a global erosion of the understanding in the role of the press. We are the daily targets of Twitter rants by the President of the United States. He calls us the “enemy of the people,” a line autocrats around the world are too eager to echo—the same thugs who aren’t afraid to detain and murder journalists.

Over the past 10 years, 700 journalists have been killed. One of them was Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who wrote scathing articles about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Saudi government assassinated him and dismembered his body last October.

We are the Press.

We exercise and defend the first right of the People guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Our job isn’t to be liked or deliver feel-good news. We serve as the final line of defense in the corroded state of our democracy, holding in public spotlight every decision an elected body makes.

And that sacred duty starts with us here at our school. Perhaps it’s a bit conceited to fuse together principle so grandiose like the freedom of the press with a mere student newspaper. But even something one might consider trivial, such as student body election, is a microcosm of the larger democratic experiment that warrants a free press. With it should come the protection for the Press.

The piece published by Blueprint a couple of days ago laid out what the editorialist believed was missing from this year’s Student Council elections: a focus on issues. It never denigrated the hard work done by the student leaders in the past. The writer agreed that, in part, elections are a popularity contest: outreach efforts, be it through slogans, social media presence, or face paints, are important.  But it shouldn’t be the only part of it. An election is an application for the job, albeit more public than one we typically encounter.

Blueprint rarely publishes anonymous Op-Ed pieces, as one Facebook commenter noted. But we believed that publishing the article anonymously was the only way to deliver this important perspective to the school community, especially witnessing the level of vitriol in numerous personal attacks and threats made since. The original piece has now been updated, reflecting the authorship. We now ask for your discretion.

Since the publication of the article, a number of people have reached out to Blueprint thanking the writer for voicing a necessary perspective. As opposed to critics of the article who freely expressed their opinions on public and private media (and they have full rights to do so), supporters felt the need to keep their opinion hidden from the student body. We have a climate where free speech and expression are implicitly oppressed by the fear of blind criticism, and where students are so quick to dismiss opposing views that some were taking sides without even reading the article. This is an eerie reflection of the harshly polarized state of the current political climate, both in the United States and Korea, calling to mind how Republican commenters are treated on New Yorker articles or, conversely, Democrats on the Washington Times.

We take no position on whether the writer’s perspective was true, but we do take the position that it was a perspective and merits publication. It has turned out to be an important perspective, at that—evoking critical thought, debate, and discussion throughout the student body, perhaps inviting more intellectual engagement with the significance of student council elections than ever.

Regardless of which side of the debate you were on, the vast majority of the responses showed that our school was a community driven by passion. Democracy is a messy experiment, one full of vociferous and quarrelsome individuals unafraid to voice their opinions. And politics, at any level, can be awfully personal. Its results can determine our financial security or immigration status. Sometimes, as it was in this election, it’s our friend and family bravely taking on the challenge to run. It might seem unfair to have an “October-surprise” article ruthlessly excoriate those we are close to, but we need a place to have a frank and open discussion about the state our politics, no matter how personal.

A free press is an agent to drive that debate. We, of everyone, want a vibrant discussion on issues we bring forward and welcomed the comments and opinions shared since that article went online.

We, however, were disturbed by those who disputed our right to express, to question, and to publish, harassed our writers, and dismissed our work to simply be a desperate cry for attention. They are the very culprits in the global assault against a free press and are no better than the violent mass who assault journalists at Trump rallies.

Again, the Press does not exist to be positive or to be liked. To shield our school from dissent, from questioning the status quo, from going against the orthodoxy for the sake of deterring negativity violates the very core of our purpose. Blueprint, as the only student-run newspaper at KIS, should and will continue to diligently carry out our duty to the People.

We stand by our decision to publish the controversial piece a couple of days ago. Not because we necessarily agree with the piece, but because, we, as a school, need to maintain the integrity of the Press.

Featured Image: Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Jennie Yeom (‘20) and Hope Yoon (‘19) contributed to this article. Jennie Yeom is the current Editor in Chief. Hope Yoon is a former Editor.

The Fundamental Problem with Student Council Elections

When we vote for a candidate’s name instead of his or her skills in this fashion, our election is really no better than the half-baked candidacy of “Make America Great Again,” one driven entirely by personal popularity, professing vague promises that even supporters themselves cannot define.

The Blueprint Editorial Board encourages candidates to demonstrate that the StuCo elections are actually more than what many people believe it to be.

This article has been revised to reflect its authorship and input from readers.

The election to decide the direction of our student body is tomorrow, but we know very little about the candidates running aside from their catchy slogans. That’s it. Apparently, the only thing to know about almost every candidate is who can write the best catchphrase. But who cares? Tomorrow’s election will entirely depend on how popular someone is.

Admittedly, voter outreach using campaign posters around the school and on social media is a useful tool. It helps candidates publicize their candidacy and draw attention to their individual campaigns. However, what most candidates fail to understand is that witty posters are not the only, nor the most important, part of a campaign to lead this school; posters should merely be a means to an end. (An exception to what I just said is in the race for the Creative Director position, where a good poster shows off creative ability and is therefore both important and effective. But I digress.) Many have solely relied on their campaign posters as an instrument of campaigning, and only three—out of twelve—candidates so far have publicized their qualifications, plans for the future, and/or vision for the school and the school body.

The use of campaign posters without the other hallmarks of campaigning — clarification of platform positions, community outreach, debates, etc. — is a recent trend that hints at something more alarming: that most of these candidates are confident that they will win solely by virtue of their popularity. As trivial as this might seem — “Who cares if this election is a popularity contest? They’ll still do their jobs!” — it’s important to recognize that, for most KIS students, this is the first time we will be voting, one of our first experiences with the democratic process. That this entire election seems mostly based on popularity doesn’t really encourage real political engagement.

The unspoken rule of elections states that voters should vote for the candidates who present the best plans, goals, and/or qualifications. Why, then, aren’t we learning more about these candidates? Why haven’t there been more rigorous discussions about goals and plans for how to achieve them? I suspect candidates don’t often worry about engaging in a political process due to their confidence in their voters/friends. They know that a sizable portion of the student body will vote for them unconditionally despite the fact that they have no idea why the candidate should win. Why should they push to be more thoroughly vetted?

Because it matters to the integrity of our student government. When we vote for a candidate’s name instead of his or her skills, our election is really no better than the one that promised to “Make America Great Again,” which was driven entirely by personal popularity and vague promises that even supporters themselves could not define.

Of course, I must acknowledge that many of the candidates have included something of substance in their posters. I applaud that effort. But many of those statements are rather vague and noncommittal; most are merely campaign slogans, one-liners that are supposed to capture the essence of a candidacy that is so much more than one line. Taken together, all of this leads to a lack of faith in the StuCo elections.

That we have a serious problem here is evident when people pass off running since they are “not going to win anyway.” While some might dismiss this as mere apathy, it actually reveals the darker truth that we perceive the election as a popularity contest, and this attitude brings immeasurable harm to our school and our conception of democracy, affecting our civic participation down the line. Too many people in the past have attempted to run for Student Council positions and put immense amounts of time and effort into campaigning just to be beaten by someone more popular than them. It seems that we, as a student body, have grown to accept that no amount of qualifications or careful planning can beat popularity.

I encourage the candidates to engage with the political process and demonstrate that the StuCo elections are actually more than what many people believe it to be.

– William Cho (’21)

The Problem With College Rankings

1. Introduction

I did it for four years and hated myself for it. Every new college that I heard of, I would google the same thing: “X University rankings”. And after the couple milliseconds it takes for Google to pull up an arbitrary figure to answer my impatient call, I would make an instant judgement upon the school, a multi-building, multi-department institute with thousands of people, dozens of programs, and a myriad of pros and cons I couldn’t possibly fathom in that moment.

I did that for four years, hated myself for it, and kept doing it. I kept doing it because it made things so easy. The prospect of having all those colleges lined up from zero to one hundred right before my lazy eyes was convenient and compelling. How could it not be? Comparing schools becomes as easy as 2nd-grade math. The warring higher education system of an entire nation is laid to rest under my scrolling thumb. It’s irresistible sometimes.

Further research and rational thinking weakened the grip college rankings had on my mind, and by the time I was actually getting results back from schools, I cared much less about that label. That’s not to say I didn’t care at all—but I believe I struck the right spot of caring only as much as I should. So I put together this article to organize my thoughts and knowledge on the matter, as a final plea to those juniors now heading into this scary and often toxic process: try to keep the rankings out of sight, out of mind.

 

2. The Flawed Logic of Those Magical Numbers

The first truth is that ranking colleges is not possible. Well, it might be possible to say Harvard is a better school than Idaho State University. But what I’m talking about is the kind of rankings that some Korean parents are prone to see: like how Johns Hopkins is ranked 4 spots higher than Vanderbilt, or that UCLA is “tied with” Washington University in St. Louis. Surely anyone could see the ridiculousness of perceiving based on rankings alone that “JHU is better than Vanderbilt” or “UCLA is the same as Wash-U”. That’s plain silly.

Did you know that colleges is not the only thing that U.S. News & World Report ranks? Their various “rankings” provide them with most of their website traffic. Some of their other lists include “100 best jobs” (software developer is #1) and “world’s best places to visit” (Paris takes the top spot). They attempt to use objective measures such as pay or job satisfaction for jobs and hotel quality for travel destinations, but you don’t hear anyone claiming that everyone should try to be a software developer and everyone should go to Paris, because that would be stupid. Career paths depend on personal preferences and so do travel destinations. I don’t doubt that software developers make lots of money and have stable jobs. I don’t doubt that the vast majority of Paris tourists end up loving the city. But that doesn’t mean the so-called “rankings” dictate what jobs or cities are objectively superior over others and therefore should be preferred by everyone. (Cartographer is ranked #18, by the way, and I’ll be damned if as many people fought to become cartographers as people fight to get into Notre Dame, which is apparently the 18th best university in the U.S.)

It’s the same for colleges. Of course academic reputation matters. But ranking metrics can only take into account measures for which there is an objective scale of bad to good. This includes things like student-faculty ratio (the smaller the better) or average SAT score (higher the better). It makes sense to compare these things, but it also means there is no way to compute factors such as school size, athletic involvement, or location. Some people want to go to school in an idyllic, secluded rural town, while some cannot stay away from a booming city. Some can’t stand the snow, some can’t stand being surrounded only by white people, some can’t stand not having frats to join, and others couldn’t care less. Of course rankings can’t take all these things into account—because it’s a matter of difference, not superiority. And at that point, how much weight should these numbers hold? Maybe Idaho State is better than Harvard. Maybe a student from Idaho simply wants to study close to home. Maybe a student has more financial aid from Idaho State. Maybe (hold onto your hats) the student simply doesn’t want to study at Harvard. That student’s choice is as valid as any other’s. 

3. The U.S. News & World Report: Shadows & Corruptions

If you’ve delved into the college process a little bit, you’ve probably noticed there’s more than one set of rankings. Times Higher Education, Niche, Forbes… all may sound familiar. But the end-all-be-all trump card of college rankings is the list by U.S. News & World Report that I’ve been referring to. It is cited the most, referred to the most, and generally taken as the standard set of rankings. So let’s delve into this one in particular to point out all the shady spots.

They tinker with the methodology every year so people pay attention to changes in their rankings. Ultimately, they’re just trying to get people to buy their magazines. So they weigh various factors slightly differently so that universities end up “moving” a few spots each year, when nothing inherent about those schools have changed at all—but, gasp, it causes such a buzz if Stanford “goes down” two spots!

They contribute to pushing tuition up. Their methodology gives more points to colleges that spend more money per student. Because schools care so much about ranking higher on the list, they spend more money and raise tuition to cover the costs.

Colleges game the system. Because the list is so well-read and highly regarded, it encourages unethical activity among colleges just to rank a little higher. Claremont McKenna was slammed in 2012 when they admitted they had been submitting false SAT scores to publications such as U.S. News. Even outside of such outrageous acts, colleges are pushed to do things like turn away capable applicants on purpose to increase yield or aggressively encourage applications just to turn away more people, because of course, brownie points for lower acceptance rates.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. A whopping 20% of their rankings are based on “expert opinion”, which is basically high school counselors and academics ranking the schools according to their personal view. This is supposed to reflect general academic reputation. Well, guess what, most of those people’s perception of academic reputation is derived heavily off the U.S. News list. And that’s supposed to contribute to… the U.S. News list.

This only begins to scratch the surface of what’s wrong with the methodology and general system. The worst thing, though, is that it contributes to a sense of status anxiety and encourages toxic competition, which most high schools don’t need any more of. Some things can’t be perfectly quantified—among those things are university quality and the amount of emotional distress college rankings cause across the globe.

If you’re still not convinced what a sham college rankings are, I would encourage readers to read this article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell (it’s lengthy but enjoyable, well-written, and potentially eye-opening): https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/02/14/the-order-of-things

4. What Can Rankings Actually Be Good For?

Let me push pause on the angry-senior-mode bashing. To be fair, college rankings can be a useful tool for students or parents for which the American higher education scene is completely foreign. It provides a rough sketch of what well-known institutions are out there, and perhaps can serve as a starting point for a student beginning to research colleges if they know close to nothing to begin with. Besides, if the rankings were indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy of vague reputation level and nothing more, even that could be useful. Much of society functions based on “vague reputation level” anyway, and I am not here to discount the potential importance of name value.

Beyond that, however, it is essential the college search process remains trained onto its authentic purpose: to provide a home for a student that will intellectually and socially nurture a young adult for four years. That task is much more complex than a numerical list may suggest, and it is critical that juniors entering the process keep their priorities in mind. So rankings, while sometimes useful, need to take a back seat in the decision process. The strength of specific programs, campus setting, athletics, greek life, weather and location—ideally, all such things would be considered.

5. The Bigger Issue: at KIS, We’re Bred To Care

Besides the inherent flaws in the attempt to rank colleges, the KIS climate exacerbates these limitations to turn them into active problems. If no one cared about rankings, they would be harmless. They could be like a Buzzfeed list of “26 best rom-coms of all time”—entertaining to read, a source of inspiration in times of boredom, but recognized for its subjectivity and holding close to no authority on the actual subject at hand. That wouldn’t harm anyone.

But the way some KIS students and parents respond to rankings can be harmful. Acronyms like “HYPS” schools (which is really nothing but an arbitrary set of four very well-known schools that are very different from one another) or the Ivy League (again, eight schools that share an athletic league and not much more in common) float around casually, there is a toxic trend of parental bragging rights (or shame, on the negative end of the spectrum), and the general frenzy drives some families to spend tens of thousands of dollars on consulting services that guide and sometimes near-falsify student resumes. SAT cheating scandals. College essays “heavily edited” (basically drafted) by outsiders. Gossip on who’s applying where. Pressure not to apply so others have a better chance. In terms of college admissions culture, we should be ashamed of ourselves. There is a certain irony in how the brightest people fight for spots at schools that are considered the pinnacle of higher education, and that in this fight, students and parents end up going down and dirty, stooping to their lowest levels.

We can do better. I know it. We can do better than working ourselves into hysteria and stressing each other out.

So what happens if, perhaps, you chased your own idea of a good school instead of trusting a random magazine’s idea of one? A quick interview with ’18 KIS alum Judy Jahng revealed that when she first wanted to apply to Northeastern, she did not have much support from the people around her, since it was ranked lower than what they thought she should aim for. But she knew her priority in a college education was getting real-life work experience and access to career opportunities, found Northeastern’s co-op program, applied, was accepted, and chose to enroll. This is an example of someone that took a step away from obsessing over rankings and found what was right for her.

I don’t have an absolutely bleak outlook on this. In fact, most people I know in my class have been pretty careful about rejecting rankings when other factors were clearly more important. But the culture of putting emphasis on prestige has definitely been tangible throughout the process and a stressor for many.

6. Moving Forward

Sadly, I am one of the biggest beneficiaries of this name game. It would make me a liar if I claimed I haven’t perceived the changes in how people treated me after being accepted into universities. It would make me a pretentious liar if I claimed that didn’t make me feel good sometimes. I’ve been hired as a tutor without having to present further qualifications or proof of experience. The least I could do is be honest about it.

Here is the real takeaway I hope to leave you with: as KIS students, we live in an inherently privileged bubble. It’s a community of internationally educated students who can afford the hefty tuition of a private high school and eventually a degree from a foreign university. The bubble drives many people here into insanity, picking at the difference between a “top-20” and a “top-30” school. But the world is much wider and life is much less predictable than our bubble may suggest. Less than 7% of the global population ever graduates from college. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that we’ve simply been conditioned to care so deeply about certain things because we’ve been part of a small, self-selecting group for so long, but that it’s also within our power to step away from that. 

I write this thinking of the juniors I care about. I write this as a plea, knowing college rankings will, for all the wrong reasons, deeply bother or deeply motivate some of those individuals that I love and wish a happy future for. I wish I’d stopped caring about rankings much sooner than I did and I wish the same thing for my underclassmen. This is also a plea for all students to stop judging others based on the ranking of the school they end up going to. It has no bearing on how happy they will be on campus come this fall. It has no bearing on their strength of character. It has no bearing on their future success.

I guess it’s easy for me to write this, having had fortune on my side during the college process. But as I face an impending final decision on which school to commit to, I know that if I was the kind of person to choose the school that’s “ranked higher” for that sole reason, I would never have gotten into either of those schools in the first place. I got into those schools at least partially because of my genuine desire for education and self-betterment, for recognizing what my unique needs are, and to me, college rankings are an antithesis to those things.

-Jisoo Hope Yoon (’19)

Featured Image: Yale University

World Autism Awareness Day: In a World of Their Own

World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2nd where people all over the world come together to spread awareness of autism.

April 2, the World Autism Awareness Day, is celebrated all over the world to raise awareness of the people with Autism Spectrum disorder throughout the world. This year, the theme is “Assistive Technology and Active Participation.”

This year’s theme keeps in mind the significant role that technology plays in the development of people of all different form of disability, including autism. Technology not only is important to the development of individuals, but it also ensures people with disabilities are guaranteed basic human rights such as the individuals’ freedom and help them participate as a full member of society. This theme acknowledges the fact that assistive technology is expensive and inaccessible to the large population with autism.

Although the term “autism” could be heard frequently, most people are not fully aware of what autism really is. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder that affects how people express themselves, communicate with others, and understand the world around them. According to Autism Speaks, this spectrum disorder can vary in degrees and everyone is different.

Autism Awareness Day gives us a chance to have a better understanding of the world around us and our community. Given the fact that about one in fifty-nine children worldwide has autism, it is very likely that you will meet someone with this disorder. Instead of assuming and making stereotypes, we should make the effort to get to know more about them.

One of the clubs in KIS, Light It Up Blue, advocates this cause and seeks to find ways to spread awareness about autism both inside and outside of our school. In order to find more about what we could do to spread awareness and participate in the World Autism Awareness Day, we asked the club officer, Joshua Choi (12), some questions.

Q: Why should we care about autism?

A: We should care about autism because it is a much more common disorder than most people think it is. It is very likely that you will meet or work with someone with autism in the future.

Q: Are there some ways we could do to spread awareness inside our school?

A: Some ways we can spread awareness in our school are to hang posters around the school. However, we think that the best way would be to have a guest speaker come and speak about Autism, which would be more difficult to organize. We can also pass out small fact cards in the morning to frequently remind people about autism.

Q: How should we treat people with autism?

A: We shouldn’t bully people with autism. Since they can be more sensitive to loud noises or bright lights, we should try to view a situation from their perspective and be ready to support them if they do not feel comfortable.

Q: Is your club doing anything for the World Autism Awareness Day?
A: Our club made a post on the KIS 2018-2019 facebook group, promoting the website that we made. Be sure to check out the website!

Ignorance can lead to misunderstandings and in order to stop those from happening, it is important for us to care and treat them with equal respect. The first step is to take part in this day and look at the community around you!

– Jenna Jang (‘22)

credits: www.investorplace.com